• The Language of Birds

    The Language of Birds

    The Victorians assigned symbolism to many things and birds in jewellery held a nuanced and precise meaning. Below is an overview of this meaning.


    Both swallows and bluebirds had a special meaning for seafarers because these birds were the first sign that land was near. Swallows were thought to lead ships home and prevent them from being lost. The meaning assigned to these birds became to be ‘safe home’, or ‘to safely return home’ and so they were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey. They also symbolised ‘heart and home’  and were associated with faithfulness. ‘Messengers of Venus’ was another assigned meaning. Flying birds in general were thought to represent the soul.


    Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch


    Aesthetic Movement (Late Victorian) ‘Sweetheart Brooch’. Swallows are known to mate for life so were therefore often given to one’s sweetheart. Brooches with the swallow motif are often known as ‘sweetheart brooches’.


    A blue bird or swallow with a wishbone was  a common design, signifying ‘Wish for lasting love’


    Doves have carried the meaning of hope and peace since ancient times.  During Victorian times, they were often shown with the word pax (the Latin word for peace) holding an olive branch in their beak. The dove was a symbol of faith and was meant to represent The Holy Spirit.  The French ‘Saint Esprit’ or ‘Holy Spirit dove’ could often be depicted descending from heaven to earth with wings spread. Doves were often pavé set with turquoise, which was meant to bring luck to the wearer. When the dove held a heart in its beak, it symbolised love.


    Victorian Turquoise Pavé dove bangle. Currently for sale at Elder and Bloom.


    A bird’s claw meant ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Praying for you.’


    In Victorian times, actual bird’s claws were sometimes turned into brooches. (One of these will never be sold by Elder and Bloom!)


    A phoenix represented renewal, resurrection, rebirth and immortality.


    Art Nouveau Phoenix locket. Previously sold by Elder and Bloom. For more information see here.


    Swans were symbolic of ‘purity and grace’.


    Late Victorian swan brooch. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.


    The meaning of the humming bird was ‘God’s Tiny Miracle’


    Victorian Hummingbird pendant. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.


    The pheasant was thought to symbolise nobility, virtue and refinement.  It also evoked the spirit of the countryside.


    Victorian pique pheasant brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom.


    Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage


    Victorian ‘love bird’ brooch.


    Blackbirds were worn during mourning.


    Victorian Blackbird mourning brooch.


    A crow or raven meant ‘Protection of friends’.


    An owl represented vigilance and wisdom.


    A peacock represented immortality, beauty and knowledge.


    An eagle represented nobility, strength, courage, wisdom and power.


    Feathers signified ‘obedience’ and could imply the obedience of a wife to her husband or to God.


    Parrots and birds of paradises were also often depicted but I have yet to discern the symbolic meanings.


    Victorian parrot pendant with real feathers.

    See also:

    The Language of Stones

    The Language of Flowers

    © 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.


  • Jewellery of the 1925 Paris Exhibition

    Jewellery of the 1925 Paris Exhibition

    The Paris 1925 Exhibition was an international exhibition devoted to the decorative arts. With it was born the spread of the movement which we now know as ‘Art Deco’.


    The Paris Exhibition was France’s demonstration to the world that it continued to be the greatest nation as far as the applied arts were concerned and, in particular, fashion and luxury goods. Britain and Italy also played leading roles at the exhibition. Germany and the USA were conspicuously absent.

    Modernism and originality were emphasised. The term ‘Art Deco’, however, was not coined until the 1960s. At the time, people thought of the Art Deco style as simply ‘modern or contemporary’ style or ‘style moderne’.


    Three design companies were prominent at the exhibit. These were: Cartier, Després and Van Cleef & Arpels. All of these companies are now considered defining forces behind the Art Deco style.  At the exhibit, Van Cleef & Arpels won a grand prix for a half-open rose in diamond-studed rubies and emeralds. Cartier, however, had the highest status, showing their work separately from the other designers in the Pavillon de l’Élégance, instead of in the main Grand Palais. Other companies were Fouquet, Chaumet, Dusausoy, Lacloche Frères, Linseler & Machack, Boivin, Mauboussin, Mellerio and Ostertag. Jewellery artists included Raymond Templier, Paul-Émile Brant and Gérard.


    Platinum and chromium-plated metal made a strong appearance in keeping with the theme of ‘modernism’.  Other popular materials included rubies, onyx, lacquered silver, jade, enamel, rock crystal, gold, lapis lazuli and diamonds. Flattened silver necklaces were presented by Després. Emeralds were showcased in the form of a spectacular shoulder necklace by Cartier with a matching diadem and brooch. It incorporated three enormous Mughal emeralds. (It remained unsold as it seemed it was too lavish to be worn by anyone.)


    The Cartier Timken necklace, designed in 1925. It is one of the most important examples of Cartier jewellery from the Art Deco era. It is set with three rare Mughal emeralds carved on the front and reverse weighing 71.91ct, 30.27ct and 29.21ct, sapphire beads, buff-top cabochon sapphires, emerald beads and diamonds


    Black and white jewellery was prevalent, in particular Cartier pieces of pavé diamonds and dyed onyx. This showcasing of pavé went on to greatly influence costume jewellery styles. Monochrome styles continue to be strongly associated with Art Deco.


    Art Deco Theatre Bag. Elder and Bloom.


    Stars and geometrical themes were featured.


    Baskets of fruits and flowers made from carved gemstones dazzled the exhibition visitors. (See also ‘Tutti Fruitti.’)


    Falcons, lotus flowers, snakes and winged female figures were showcased.


    Art Deco Snake Bangle. Elder and Bloom.


    Dragons, chimeras, Buddhas and pagodas made a strong appearance.


    Art Deco Theatre Bag with Chinese Motifs. Elder and Bloom.


    The Paris 1925 Exposition has gone on to be considered the apex of Art Deco style and has forever brought French design to the forefront of the applied arts. How marvellous it must have been for those who love beauty and style to stroll past those dazzling exhibitions! Because of the 1925 Paris Exposition Art Deco design spread throughout the world and has continued in its immense popularity to this day with no sign of abatement.

    See also: https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/03/12/art-deco-motifs/

    © 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.




  • Green Gemstones

    Green Gemstones

    Antique emerald and pearl gold ring. Elder and Bloom.

    Below you will find a list of green coloured gemstones that may be encountered in antique and vintage jewellery.


    This is a yellowish green to bluish green beryl.

    Green Tourmaline

    There are several green colored varieties of tourmaline and they can be referred to as ‘verdelite’ or ‘chrome’ (a rich green to sightly yellow-green tourmaline) or ‘paraiba’ (a light to deep green to blue green shade of tourmaline).


    This is a yellow green to green gemstone.

    Green Zircon.

    This can be green to yellow-green to gray-green in colour.


    In daylight alexandrite can be bluish to blue green and in artificial or evening light violet-red. Discovered around 1834. (For more about alexandrite, one of my favourite gemstones, see here).


    A pale green to yellow green transparent gemstone.


    A type of chalcedony.


    This is a yellow green to blue-green to gray-green corundum

    Demantoid Garnet

    This is a variety of yellow-green to emerald- green garnet. Discovered in 1868. For more about garnets, see here.

    Tsavorite Garnet

    This is a yellowish green to bluish green variety of garnet. (As far as I know, tsavorite is not found in jewellery dating before 1971.)

    © 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.

  • Red and Pink Gemstones

    Red and Pink Gemstones

    Here are all the red and pink gemstones that one is likely to come across in antique and vintage jewellery.


    This is a bluish red to range-red corundum


    Jugendstil Pendant. Elder and Bloom



    This is a pinkish red variety of corundum (basically a less colour saturated form of ruby).


    Annular brooch with pink sapphires. British Museum AF.2702


    There are several varieties of garnet. For more information see here. 


    Victorian Garnet Earrings. Elder and Bloom.


    Red Spinel can be red to brownish red and pink



    Vintage red spinel earrings. Elder and Bloom.



    This is a pink variety of tourmaline and can be all shades of pink



    1860s Brooch with Pink Tourmaline. V & A Museum M.21-1979.


    This is a pink to orange pink beryl (discovered in 1910)




    This is a pink to violet-pink variety of topaz that is created by heated golden brown topaz.


    Pink Topaz and Diamond Ring 1800 -1 869. V & A Museum 1309-1869



    This is a brownish red to deep, dark red zircon


    Reddish-brown zircon ring. 1850. V & A Museum 1282-1869


    This is a red to bluish red to orange-red beryl

    Discovered in 1904



    Red Beryl or Bixbite Estate Brooch.


    This is a violet-pink to pink-violet spodumene

    Discovered in 1902



    Kunzite and silver brooch.


    This is a red to violet-red tourmaline

    First discovered 1822


    Rubellite Estate Ring.

    © 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.


  • Black Materials

    Black Materials

    Here is an overview of the different black materials used in vintage and antique jewellery.



    Jet is fossilised wood. For more information see here.


    Simple jet bead circa 1910. Elder and Bloom.


    Onyx is a variety of chalcedony. For more information, see here.


    Victorian Onyx pendant locket. Elder and Bloom.


    Berlin iron is made from cast iron and delicate wire pieces. For more information, see here.



    Germany, Cast iron earrings. c. 1820-1830 V&A Museum


    Enamel is fired ground glass. In theory, almost all methods of enamelling can produce black items but generally it is en grisaille, niello and taille d’epargne which are known for being worked in black. (Technically, niello work is not true enamel but is usually classified as such)

    For more information, see here.


    Niello work.


    Gutta Percha is a type of rubber derived from the gum of Asian trees. It is usually molded rather than carved and mould lines can be visible when examined carefully. When rubbed vigorously, it gives off an acrid, rubber smell. It is very flexible and durable and can produce a wide variety of jewellery items. Upon close inspection, you can see that it is actually brownish-black. Popular through the mid and late Victorian era, it made its debut at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


    Gutta Percha Brooch.


    Vulcanite is vulcanised India rubber formed using sulphur. It was first patented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanite is almost always moulded, as opposed to carved. It is actually white and can be dyed to produce a variety of colours, often in imitation of coral and tortoiseshell. Most commonly, however, it was dyed black and used in mourning jewellery as a substitute for jet. Over time, black vulcanite usually turns dark brown. It is lightweight and warm to the touch. It will develop a sheen with polishing but is never as glossy as jet. Like jet, it will leave a brown streak on porcelain or unglazed tile.



    Victorian Vulcanite cameo pendant.


    French jet is black or very dark red glass. It can sometimes be backed with foil or attached to a metal setting but is most commonly found as beaded necklaces. It first made its appearance in the early part of the 19th century but came into its own in the 1860s when the techniques to produce it were perfected. It was produced in France, Germany, Austria, England and what is now the Czech Republic. It is cold to the touch and heavier than jet and has a distinctive glitter. Sometimes it is roughly moulded or carved to further simulate jet. Upon close examination, it can often be identified by tiny chips. If you gently tap it against your teeth, you should be able to identify the chink as glass.


    French jet necklaces. Elder and Bloom.


    Like jet, bog oak is fossilised wood. It is usually mined from the bogs of Ireland and is not necessarily oak but can be fir, yew or pine. Similar in feel to jet, it is lightweight and warm to the touch but generally has a more matte finish. It was used from the early 1800s and grew in popularity after 1852 when techniques involving heat and pressure were invented to mold it and create detail. It can be carved or moulded. It is generally found in mourning jewellery as a substitute for jet but can also often be found with Irish motifs in the form of souvenir jewellery.


    Victorian bog oak brooch.


    With age, tortoiseshell can darken enough to appear black. See here and here.

    Tortoiseshell pique pendant. Elder and Bloom.

    © 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.
  • The Edwardian Era

    The Edwardian Era
    Although King Edward’s reign spanned the years 1901-1910, when referring to jewellery, the Edwardian Era generally means the years 1901 – 1915.  Stylistically, Edwardian era jewellery can also be said to have begun much earlier, during the last years of the Aesthetic Era. The Edwardian era also occurred simultaneously to the French Belle Epoque Era and is also known as The Garland Era due to the prevalence of the iconic garland motif (see under ‘Motifs’ below).
    The designs of the Edwardian era jewellery were light and airy, influenced by the fluid lines of Art Nouveau whilst still based on traditional motifs. Edwardian era jewellery is perhaps the most ethereal and feminine jewellery of all and can be seen as a rejection of the ostentatious and stuffy designs of the Victorian era. Edwardian jewellery’s emphasis on light coloured materials can also be seen as a reaction to the previous century’s obsession with black mourning jewellery.


    Platinum quickly became the most important metal during this era. Prior to 1903, platinum was usually backed with gold. However, in 1903, the invention of the oxyacetylene torch and its ensuing high temperatures enabled pieces to be made solely from platinum. The strength and malleability of platinum allowed pieces to be created, often using pierced open work and filigree, that were both very fine and delicate whilst at the same time very durable.  Because of the adaptability of platinum, the new decorative technique of millegraining, in which extremely tiny bead like details are added to the edges of jewellery, emerged during this period.

    The most popular gemstones were diamonds and pearls.  Amethyst, turquoise, sapphires, garnets and opals were all popular stones. Jewellers experimented with new cuts such as calibré, baguette, marquises and briolettes.




    Princess Alexandra

    Although the choker style necklaces, known as ‘dog collars’, were popular in France around 1865, the fashion boomed in England around 1880 when worn by Princess Alexandra. (It is said she was covering up a scar on her neck.) The styles of these tight fitting necklaces ranged from elaborate platinum pieces to wide rows of pearls to black velvet or or moiré, often with a central design in the form of a plaque, a garland, a flower or a buckle.


    This is a necklace comprised often of fine chain links but not necessarily with two parallel pendants suspended at slightly different heights. This type of necklace began to be popular around 1900.


    Sautoirs were very long necklaces, often ropes of pearls or beads or chains with gems. They often had a fringed tassel at each end. They were worn wrapped multiple times around the neck or loose and falling past the waist. (This fashion continued in earnest in the Art Deco era).


    Risqué Edwardian Lady wearing a sautoir necklace and an aigrette.


    The Edwardian era is typified by the craze for all white jewellery. The beautiful pierced or filigree platinum and diamond pieces are said to have complimented the new electric lighting perfectly and corresponded with a focus on evening events, the theatre, dinners and elegant cruises.




    Around 1910, white jewellery began to be mixed with black ribbons, black enamel, jet or onyx. These jewels could be worn whilst still observing mourning etiquette.


    These were very fine, netted necklaces made of platinum, often set with diamonds.  They covered the neck and shoulders and flowed to the bodice. Cartier named them draperie de décolleté.


    Edwardian lady wearing a résille necklace.


    Earrings in this era grew larger and longer, often dangling, designed to move and flow and catch the light. Again, there was an emphasis on platinum, diamonds, filigree and millegrain work.


    Edwardian lady. Note the dangling, flowing earrings and the aigrette. She is also wearing a ‘fringe’ necklace, a style popularised by archaeological revival.


    The fashion for wearing many bracelets at a time fell out of favour. Bracelets were more delicate and refined than ever.


    Tiaras were lighter and more elaborate as platinum allowed for more intricate and fine designs.  Towards the end of the 1910s, bandeaus started to be worn across the forehead. The meander tiara, with the Greek key motif, was also popular.


    Edwardian lady wearing a bandeau.


    Aigrettes became all the rage and were worn extensively by the well to do and even, at times, by ordinary woman.


    Rings were worn stacked, often on nearly every finger. They often had a central stone surrounded by other smaller stones.


    Buckles, usually associated with the early Victorian and Georgian era, and slides, were worn at the waist to emphasis slender waistlines.  They were also attached to ribbons and worn around the head instead of tiaras or aigrettes.


    Edwardian Lady appearing to have a buckle in her hair.


    Parures were no longer in fashion as women wore jewellery of different designs and styles.  The lines between what was worn during the day and what was worn during the evening blurred as a more relaxed approach to jewellery emerged.



    Textile inspired motifs such as garlands and ribbons, bow knots, tassel and fine lace work motifs became extremely prevalent. The garland was such an ubiquitous motif that the Edwardian era is often referred to as ‘The Garland Era’.


    A garland motif Edwardian Era platinum, diamond and topaz brooch Christie’s Sale 8127


    Cartier designers took inspiration from the historical architecture of Paris, whilst other designers sought inspiration from the 18th pattern books and records which began to be published around 1850.


    Inspired by performances such as the Russian Ballet’s Schéhérazade in Paris, tastes turned to all things oriental.  Colourful gems, peacock feathers and Indian flavoured designs took centre stage.


    Although very different in style and materials and manufacuring, The Edwardian aesthetic developed simultaneously to the Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts movements, as well as the German Jugendstil movement and other related design movements. They can all be seen as sharing a rejection of the oppressive past and an embracing of freedom and fluidity. This wonderful explosion of elegance, freedom and feminine expresson came to a sudden end with the outbreak of the World War 1, four years after the death of Edward VII. Jewellery manufacturing almost ceased entirely during this period. Precious metals became very hard to come by and platinum, being sought after by the weapons industry, was rarely used until after the war.  We have yet to see a return to the exquisite sensibilities of the Edwardian era, although many have continued to wear and revere the styles.

    © 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.