Period Pieces Art Nouveau Jewelry

Period Pieces

Silver Scarab Cuff Links

February 13, 2020 3:06 pm
Estate Jewelry : Silver : Art Nouveau

Silver Scarab Cuff Links

  Art Nouveau design had a brief but important popularity from 1895 to 1905. L'Art Nouveau was introduced in Paris and spread like wildfire. Several U.S, companies leaped on the bandwagon, among them the Newark, N.J. Unger Bros.  The company made pocket knives and specialty hardware starting in 1878.  In 1880, a new designer joined the company and silver Art Nouveau jewelry was added. They became famous--and collectible! Their designs were largely die-stamped pieces that have the look of repousse work. Art Nouveau began to lose popularity and the company retired this jewelry in 1910. By 1915, the style was no longer popular.

The maker's mark for Unger Bros was interlaced initials plus 925 sterling stamped on each piece.

[References:  Warman's Jewelry, Christie Romero, 2002  American Jewelry Manufacturers, Dorothy Rainwater, 1988]

In our catalog:

Golden Art Nouveau Lavalier

February 11, 2020 3:59 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold : Art Nouveau

Golden Art Nouveau LavalierGarnet/glass doublets were a common substitution in the Victorian age when amethyst was one of the most valuable gemstones.  A garnet/glass doublet is an assembled stone consisting of a thin crown of garnet, usually almandine, fused or glued to a colored glass pavilion.  They were developed to imitate amethyst, peridot, tourmaline, and other transparent gems popular in the last half of the 19th century. Amethyst in particular was scarce and expensive.  Russia was the major source of amethyst until it was discovered in Brazil in the nineteenth century, causing the price to drop. These imitation stones were developed before 1840, and manufacture continued until after World War I.

Why garnet?  Garnet fuses easily to glass and is harder than glass, so the garnet cap protects the top of the 'stone' from scratches.  And, even though the garnet is red, the cap is so thin that doublets can be made in any color, even colorless.  Looking at the stone from the top, the color is determined by the color of the glass.

The easiest way to identify a doublet is with a magnifier.  Tilt the stone back and forth and look for the difference in luster of garnet and glass.  The join between garnet and glass is often not at a regular distance from the girdle of the stone.

The following description of doublet manufacture in the Jura Mountains just after World War I is from Webster [1994]:

After the day's work and our evening meal, a small pile of doublet moulds were put on the kitchen table, together with a packet or two of thin slices of garnet, and also a mound of glass squares.  Everyone sat down to their respective job, even neighbours who called in to pass the time with us.  Some put in the garnet, others would place a piece of glass on top.  The moulds were made of baked clay, measuring about 16 in by 10 in with a number of indentations depending upon the size of doublet required.  Actually it was a very pleasant way of passing an evening, refreshments were ad lib and the conversation always interesting and amusing.GarnetCap Friday was an important day, the kiln was stacked with prepared moulds, the fire lit and heated to the correct temperature.  Next morning the moulds having cooled were removed.  The rough doublets were then sorted into their different colours and sizes ready to be given to the local craftsmen who cut them in their homes.  [Webster, R,  Gems: their sources, descriptions and identification,  Butterworth-Heinemann, Fifth edition 1994  pp458-460]

Egyptian Revival Pin

November 4, 2019 1:38 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold : Victorian

Egyptian Revival Pin

Victorian England.  High Society. The Grand Tour!

High-born young English gentlemen traveled.  And brought home souvenirs.  And sparked waves of popular design...fads, in a word.  It was the age of revivals.

Popular history says there were two waves of Egyptian Revival.  One occurred in the late 1900s after the opening of the Suez Canal. The other was sparked by the discovery and excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Sphinxes, scarabs, lotus blossoms, falcons, vultures, serpents, hieroglyphs, ankhs, The Eye of Horus  adorned all manner of jewelry and home decoration.

In the late 1800s, Egyptian Revival jewelry seems to have been a discrete fashion.  In contrast, in the 1920s Art Deco jewelry designs owe much inspiration to the popularity of Egyptian motifs, even when the pieces are not overtly Egyptian.

This pin is a charming piece, with an opal flanked by birds. It is a small watch pin, very Victorian in size and function.  It would be a great addition to your collection.

In our catalog:

Diamond Art Deco Engagement Ring

August 11, 2019 5:03 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold : Deco

Diamond Art Deco Engagement Ring

8 Things You Need to Know About Buying Gemstones/Jewelry

Blog post originally appeared on Jenny Andersen’s blog 8/10/19

1.         The Four Cs for buying diamonds are pretty well known by now, but just in case you missed the memo:

Carat    Size of the diamond by weight. Here’s a link to a great chart showing what different cuts and sizes look like: size chart. Just remember that size isn’t everything! Some people prefer a smaller, more sparkly (yeah, technical term) stone to a larger, duller one.

Color   Ideally, white diamonds are colorless. This is measured by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) on a scale of D to Z, D being colorless. Most people don’t detect faint amounts of color in a stone; the usual threshold of visibility is around K to L. Fancy Color diamonds are another matter.  The more color the better!

Cut       The amount of sparkle a cut stone has depends on the cut. Angles between facets and precise alignment of facet junctions can best be judged by a gemologist. Note that older/less modern cuts can be very charming, and really sparkly, especially in candlelight.

Clarity  Inclusions, cracks, feathers, the list goes on. If you can see stuff (another technical term) with your naked eye, you may want to move on to a better stone. Clarity is graded from Flawless (and really expensive) down to I3, which means not only can you see the problems, but they affect the integrity of the stone.

2.         Size matters. Some sizes are more popular and are priced accordingly, especially for diamonds.  For example, a one carat stone may cost more per carat than a stone that weighs 0.89 or 1.21 carats. (Numbers selected at random to illustrate smaller or larger.)

3.         These days, many—most?—stones on the market are treated in some way. It’s good to know what the treatment was, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy.  Reputable jewelers reveal treatments.

4.         To look more knowledgeable, hold a jeweler’s loupe, that funny little magnifier, close to your eye and move the stone closer until it’s in focus.

5.         ‘Peridot’ is pronounced ‘PERidoh’. Chalcedony is pronounced ’kalSEdony’.

6.         Identifying a stone by color is not reliable.

7.         The ‘big’ precious stones are diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Semiprecious stones are often gorgeous and much easier on the pocketbook. (Mostly.)

8.         Don’t try to fake knowledge you don’t have!

White Opal Necklace

September 22, 2017 7:01 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold

White Opal Necklace

Opal is a birthstone for October.  (Time to get a birthday present, maybe?)

Technically, opal is not a mineral, but is referred to as a mineraloid because it does not have an ordered internal structure. Instead atoms in a regularly repeating lattice, opal is made up of spheres of silicon dioxide.  This does not mean it isn't valued and beautiful in jewelry!

The play of color in precious opal comes from the refraction of light from the spheres.  Precious opal has play of color and these stones can be classified by the color of the background:  black, white, and crystal (clear) are the most common terms.  Fire opals rarely have play of color but are a stunning orange color.  Other desirable opals that lack play of color can be green, rose, or yellow.

In our catalog: