• À jour

    À jour

    À jour is a term used in jewellery manufacturing which describes an open backed setting that allows the light to shine through the gemstone, enhancing the scintillation, brightness and colour. À jour settings are not found prior to 1800 when nearly all gems were mounted with closed backs.

    The term à jour is from the French word for ‘day’.

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    Victorian earrings with À jour settings. Elder and Bloom.

     

    Please note: Plique à jour is a type of enamelling that incorporates an open background which is filled with transparent enamel.

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

     

  • Lapis Lazuli

    Lapis Lazuli

    Lapis Lazuli has been loved since antiquity for its intense, vibrant cobalt blue colour. It can be flecked with either white or gold (calcite or pyrite).

    A metamorphic rock, mainly composed of the mineral Lazurite, it usually originates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia or Chile. It is also mined, to a lesser extent, in Italy, Mongolia, the United States and Canada.

     

    Below you will find some of the many applications for Lapis Lazuli in antique and vintage jewellery:

    Pietre Dure

    Lapis Lazuli is also one of the principal stones used on Italian Pietre Dure (micro-mosaics). 

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    Necklace, 1808, Pietra dure, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, gold. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    Acrostic

    The Georgians and the Victorians, with their passion for acrostic jewellery (‘The Language of Stones’) used Lapis Lazuli to represent the letter ‘L’ for ‘Love’.

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    Acrostic Pendant. 1830. V&A Museum.

    Cameo and Intaglio

    Many beautiful examples can be found of Lapis Lazuli used in cameo and intaglio. 

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    Lapis Lazuli Cameo. 1580-1600. Italy. V&A Museum.

    Arts & Crafts

    The Arts & Crafts movement designers favoured Lapis Lazuli as the stone fitted in with their ‘beauty before perceived value’ philosophy.

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    Arts and Crafts Pendant 1903. May Morris. Set with variety of stones, including lapis lazuli. V&A Museum.

    Art Deco

    Art Deco Jewellery designers prized Lapis Lazuli as it suited their vibrant, bold styles.

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    Art Deco Lapis Lazuli Diamond Gold Earrings. Elder and Bloom.

    Cartier stands out as a design company who loved to use Lapis Lazuli during the Art Deco era.

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    Lapis Lazuli Brooch. Cartier 1920-1930. V&A Museum.

     

    Imitations

    There are four other stones that can be mistaken for Lapis Lazuli. These are:

    1. Dyed Jasper or Howlite. It will have the cobalt blue colour but will not show the white or golden patches. (Known as ‘Swiss Lapis’).
    2. Sodalite, which is one of the components of Lapis Lazuli, looks similar but the color is much paler.
    3. There is a synthetic spinel which also imitates Lapis Lazuli. (Known as ‘Gilson Lapis’). This looks very similar but does not have the same random patterns shown in natural Lapis Lazuli.
    4. Azurite is not as hard and has a darker tint.

    Tip: To see if a stone has been dyed, try removing the colour with acetone.

    Final note:

    Lapis Lazuli has, of course, been used as a paint pigment since the late Middle Ages and has been a favourite of many of the great artists. This beautiful painting by Vermeer showcases not only Lapis Lazuli as a paint pigment but also a style of pearl earring from the era.

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    ‘The Girl With a Pearl Earring’. Vermeer.

     

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

    Sources / Further Reading:

    http://www.langantiques.com/university/Lapis_Lazuli

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapis_lazuli

    https://hyperallergic.com/315564/lapis-lazuli-a-blue-more-precious-than-gold/

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  • Jewellery of the Great Exhibition, 1851

    Jewellery of the Great Exhibition, 1851

    The Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations (aka ‘The Crystal Palace Exhibition’) opened on May 1st in 1851. It was the first and most well known of many subsequent world fairs. It showcased the peak of achievement and modern technology from the British Empire as well as many other countries. It was considered a celebration of industry, arts and culture and was one of the most colourful events of the Victorian Romantic Era. 

    The exhibition took place in a purposefully designed building in the Hyde Park area of London. The building was made of glass and iron and resembled a giant greenhouse. Although some doubted its safety, it was considered by most to be an architectural marvel. It became known as ‘The Crystal Palace’ and had an area of about 19 acres or 772,284 square feet.

    The exhibition itself must have been a true wonder to behold. It brought sights normally reserved for the elites to the average person. There were literally miles of amazing things to see – from manufacturing machinery to engines and steam hammers and boilers. There were inventions and discoveries, musical instruments, furniture, fine textiles, pottery, laces, clocks, toys, colourful glass and much more.

    The jewellery and the precious materials which were displayed at the exhibition drew much attention and went on to influence a whole generation of designs with repercussions to this day.

    Below is an overview of some of these displays. This is not meant to be a conclusive list but, rather, an impression.

    The Great Diamonds

    
On proud display were two of the greatest diamonds ever discovered. The 280 carat Koh-i-Noor, meaning the ‘Mountain of Light’, was, in 1851, the world’s largest known diamond. It was acquired in 1850 as part of the Lahore Treaty. Also on display was the Daria-i-Noor, one of the rare pale pink diamonds in the world. It was 177 carats.

    These stupendous diamonds must have been a breathtaking sight for the average Victorian who would not necessarily have been exposed to diamonds in their everyday life, let alone ones of this size. The effect must have been to spur on a greater desire for diamonds in the general populace.

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    A.W.N. Pugin’s Medieval Court

    The designer A.W.N. Pugin presented a ‘medieval court’ complete with fixtures, furnishings, art and fine textiles.

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    Pugin’s ‘Medieval Court’.

    As part of this breathtaking display he also presented a range of jewellery resplendent with gothic and ecclesiastical motifs, blue and green enamel work, pearls, turquoise and cabochon garnets in medieval style settings along with quatre-foils and other architectural inspired details. This line of jewellery appealed to the romantic nature of the Victorians who were in love with a perceived lost history, the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the notion of honour and courtly love. Pugin’s range caused an explosive revival in enamelling techniques and medieval influenced styles.

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    Pugin Brooch A. W. Pugin, born 1812 – died 1852 V&A museum

    George Waterhouse’s Celtic Revival

    The early 8th-century Tara Brooch, discovered in 1850, was the finest known Irish penannular brooch. It was exhibited by the Dublin jeweller George Waterhouse along with a display of his fashionable Celtic Revival jewellery. These Celtic Revival designs would have appealed to the romantic nature of the Victorians and their reverence for the perceived beauty of the deep past.

    This line of jewellery went on to inspire generations of Celtic influenced styles. Queen Victorian presentation of gifts of Scottish Jewellery at the Exhibition’s  Opening Ball gave further impetus to this trend.

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    Drawing of the Tara Brooch

    Wedgewood Cameos

    Wedgewood, of course, is famous for his jasperware cameos. Even though they began to be produced in 1769, they were showcased at the Great Exhibition and catapulted to popularity as a way to bring relatively inexpensive cameo jewellery and the neo-classical styles to a those who had previously only been able to admire from afar.

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    Wedgewood Cameos.

    Sunar Indian Jewellery

    Gold ornaments and silver enamelled handicrafts fabricated by the Sunar caste from Sind, British India, were given much attention. These exotic and ornate pieces went on to inspire a taste for Indian influenced jewellery and ornamentation that continues to this day.

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    Sunar ornaments.

    Gutta Percha

    It was at the Great Exhibition that the rubber gum based material Gutta Percha made its debut with a diverse range of products displayed by The Gutta Percha Company. Gutta Percha was one of the first natural plastics, a lightweight, adaptable material which became popular for jewellery in the 1850s and throughout the 1860s and 1870s.

    The Crystal Place catalogue of 1851 had this definition, ‘The Isonandra Gutta, the source of the gum, known as gutta percha, one of the most useful substances introduced into the arts during the present century.’

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    Gutta Percha Brooch

    Primitive Jewellery

    There were many pieces of jewellery on display crafted by pre-technological peoples from far-flung locations. These exotic materials and simple designs certainly went on to have a great influence on the styles of the era.

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    Shell Necklace, Displayed at the Great Exhibition, 1851. Oyster Cove, Tasmania, before 1851. Trustees of the British Museum.

    Devaranne’s Cast Iron

    Devaranne is recorded in 1828 as a manufacturer of cast-iron wares and in 1850 as owner of a cast-iron foundry. In 1825 he was asked to supply cast-iron wares for a Parisian firm of goldsmiths. He showed cast-iron jewellery at the Great Exhibition in 1851 (Art Journal illustrated Catalogue, 1851, p. 37).

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    Devaranne Cast Iron Brooch.

    Nature Motifs

    Also in evidence were many floral and nature themed motifs as the Victorian movement of ‘Naturalism’ emerged as a counterbalance to the growth in industry and technology.

    The Art-Journal Illustrated Catalogue said, ‘The taste for floral ornament in jewellery has been very prevalent of late and it’s a good and happy taste, inasmuch as an enamelled leaf or floret of brilliant colour is an excellent foil to a sparkling stone. We have scarcely seen the designs for jewellery at any period more tasteful, elegant, and appropriate than they are at the present day.’

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    Plate 24. Group of jewellery selected from the costly and elegant assortment exhibited by Messrs. Hunt and Roskell. Jewellery in the Great Exhibition from the 1851 Illustrated London News.

    As an interesting side note – William Morris, the renowned British Arts and Crafts philosopher and designer, is reported to have visited the Great Exhibition and been appalled by what he saw. He found the technology ‘dehumanising and ugly’. The exhibition was, no doubt, an impetus for him as he developed his anti-industrialisation philosophy and iconic designs.

    For many others, The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a source of inspiration that continues to this day.

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

    Other Reading / Sources

    http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/g/great-exhibition/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Exhibition

    http://www.victorianweb.org/art/design/jewelry/gere/3.html

    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/100717

    http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=81341&partId=1

    http://victorianweb.org/history/1851/20.html

    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O74972/brooch-a-w-pugin/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tara_Brooch

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OfMHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA123&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4

     

  • Onyx

    Onyx

    Onyx, with its sleek and glossy beauty, has long been sought after for use in jewellery. It  is often thought of as being pure black but in reality it is usually banded white and black or banded white and brown.  It can come in a variety of other colours, such as shades of white, green and red, but these colours are not generally found in jewellery usage.

    Onyx is a variety of chalcedony. It can be differentiated from agate because the bands in onyx are parallel whereas in agate they are curved. Onyx is cool to the touch, quite heavy and has a highly polished and glossy finish.  For this reason, it can sometimes be confused with French Jet. 

    The demand for pure black onyx has traditionally outstripped the supply so most all black onyx is dyed.  This is why most black onyx has such an even finish. A trained eye can tell the difference between dyed and natural onyx under a loupe by looking for uneven surface colour.

    Victorian Era 

    Black onyx was particularly revered by the Victorians, especially during the Grand Era 1861-1880. The Victorians of this era loved all black materials and the fashion of wearing mourning styles went far beyond that which was necessary.  They created a wide variety of jewellery items from all black onyx, including lockets, pendants, brooches and earrings. They also mixed it with coral, turquoise, seed pearls and rubies.

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    Victorian onyx and rose gold earrings. Elder and Bloom.

    Art Deco Era

    Black onyx was also especially beloved in the Art Deco era as the stone lent itself to the bold and stark minimalism of the Machine Aesthetic. Jewellery designers used contrasting materials such as coral, jade or diamonds to further accentuate the beauty of the black.

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    Art Deco Diamond, Jade, Platinum and Onyx earrings. 1stdibs

    Theodor Fahrner was a well known Art Deco designer who used onyx in many designs.

    Cameo

    Onyx is also one of the most popular materials for cameo as the bands are ideal for creating contrasting relief images. Sardonyx is the name for the brown and white banded variety of onyx that is often used for cameo and intaglio.

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    Sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Augustus. British Museum.

     

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

    Sources / further reading:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onyx

    http://www.langantiques.com/university/Onyx

    http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/onyx