Period Pieces Art Nouveau Jewelry

Period Pieces

Edwardian White Gold and Amethyst Brooch

September 1, 2017 6:42 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold : Edwardian

Edwardian White Gold and Amethyst Brooch

By the time Edward became king of England in 1902, he and his wife Alexandria had been established as leaders and influencers in fashion.  Edwardian fashion diverged from the Victorian styles that had dominated England for decades, in part because of technological advances in lighting and  metallurgy.  Yellow gold gave way to white metals as platinum became popular, and use of this metal inspired fine detail in the metal work.

The introduction of electric light vitalized the diamond market.  Diamonds shone brilliantly when viewed in the new, whiter light as opposed to the older, yellowish gas lighting.  This lighting also showcased the new, more delicate fashions with softer fabrics and paler colors.  These fashions were meant for diamonds and paler gemstones, such as diamonds, amethyst, and peridot.

Popular jewelry motifs and styles included Alexandria’s favorite stars, crescents, and dog collars as well as open, graceful bows, many pearls, garlands, and bar pins.


In our catalog:

Signed Art Nouveau Buckle

August 31, 2017 12:32 pm
Estate Jewelry : Silver : Art Nouveau

Signed Art Nouveau BuckleUnger Bros was a well-known and successful Newark firm that made silver jewelry and accessories up until 1910.  One of their specialties was die-stamped work that imitated repousse.  (The piece shown here is solid silver, however.)

The company was founded in 1872 and went through a number of changes in management and name before switching to the manufacture of airplane parts in 1914, and being sold in 1919 [American Jewelry Manufacturers, Dorothy T. Rainwater, Schiffer, 1988].

Unger Bros made a wide variety a wide variety of Art Nouveau pieces, jewelry, buckles, pocket knives, belts, cuff links, match safes, dresser vases....the list goes on and on.  This belt buckle is a splendid example of their work.



Unger Bros Scarab Cufflinks

February 15, 2017 9:16 pm
Estate Jewelry : Silver : Art Nouveau

Signed Antique Scarab Cufflinks

One of the most successful American makers of Art Nouveau jewelry (and other items) was Unger Brothers of Newark New Jersey.  There were five Unger brothers; the company underwent a number of name and leadership changes after its inception in 1872.  Originally makers of gold jewelry, they switched to silver to take advantage of the popularity of Art Nouveau design.  Philip Dickinson married into the family in 1880 and was responsible for many of the firm’s fine designs.  The company ceased jewelry manufacture in 1914 and switched to airplane parts.

One of the goals of many American makers of Art Nouveau jewelry was to make it affordable.  To this end, Unger Bros (and other companies) made die-stamped designs that mimicked repoussé work.  These pieces have diagnostic flat backings and are light in weight.  And very, very beautiful.

Much Unger work is still available.  They were known for pins, necklaces, belts, etc.  featuring designs of ladies and flowers—typical Art Nouveau—as well as charming and unusual items like these beetle cufflinks, as well as bulldogs, Indian heads, opossums, and bats.

Amethyst and Pearl Art Nouveau Lavalier

February 3, 2017 6:38 pm
Estate Jewelry : Gold : Art Nouveau

Amethyst and Pearl Art Nouveau Lavalier

This is not an amethyst!  This pretty lavalier is set with a garnet/glass doublet.

And what, you ask, is that?  Well.  A garnet/glass doublet is an assembled stone consisting of a thin crown of garnet, usually almandine, fused or glued to a colored glass

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.  Queen Charlotte owned an amethyst bracelet which was valued at £2000 at the beginning of the 18th century and only £100 two hundred years later.

Why use garnet?  Garnet is the only stone which will easily fuse to glass.  Garnet has a hardness approximately equal to that of amethyst, and greater than that of glass, so the garnet cap keeps 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.

Art Nouveau Lavalier

February 1, 2017 6:58 pm
Estate Jewelry : Other Metals

Art Nouveau Lavalier

Synthetics and Imitations

When is a gem not a gem?  When it's a synthetic or an imitation.  Are those the same?  Nope.  Synthetic gemstones are man-made, but have the same chemical composition and structure as the natural gem.  Imitations are just that...some other substance that looks like (to some extent at least!) and pretends to be the nature-created gemstone.  

Historically, gemstones have been an easily portable form of wealth.  We've all heard stories about refugees fleeing with diamonds sewn into hems.  Since gems are easily portable and of high value, it inevitably follows that some people will try to pass of imitations or synthetics as the real thing.

But, this is a big but, synthetics and imitations are not intrinsically bad.  It's only when they're made/sold with intent to deceive that the whole business of right and wrong comes into the equation.  Sometimes a substitute 'gem' is the result of ignorance and sometimes it's a good idea.  Way back when, all green gems were known as emeralds, even though there are many other green gems.  And one of the rubies in the British Crown jewel collection, the Black Prince's Ruby, has long been known to be a spinel.  And think of the many elegant ladies who have had their jewelry copied with not-real stones to deter thievery!

One of the very popular imitations, rampant in Victorian times, was the garnet-glass doublet.   Some families spent their evenings working together to pour glass into  gemstone-shaped molds that had a very thin slice of garnet in the bottom.  When cooled and taken from the mold, voila, a gemstone!  The bulk was inexpensive glass, and the flat top, known as the table, hard, scratch-resistant garnet.  The garnet slice in these doublets is so thin that the color of the gem depends on the color of the glass.  Amethyst and peridot were the most popular and many lovely pieces of jewelry held these doublets rather than the real thing.

And sometimes just plain glass was used as an imitation, as is the case in this pretty Art Nouveau lavalier! 

In our catalog: