Birthstones

Birthstones

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.  ~George Eliot

A birthstone is a gemstone that is said to represent a specific birth month. Gemstones have long been thought to contain meaning and power and these properties are said to be accentuated when worn by someone born in the corresponding month.

The idea of birthstones is thought to have been inspired by the story of Aaron in Exodus who wore twelve gemstones in his breastplate representing the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve gemstones came later to represent the twelve months of the year in popular culture.

The allocations of birthstones have fluctuated throughout history and vary according to region, country and source. There is also debate concerning the names of gemstones throughout history and how these relate to the gems we know today (obviously, there are no lab records so we cannot always verify which precise gemstone was being referred to).

According to the American Gemological Association, the following are the agreed upon birthstones. These allocations have been consistent since 1912, with Tanzanite being recently added for December. In brackets beneath some of these, I have put some other even more traditional correlating stones.

JANUARY

Garnet

FEBRUARY

Amethyst

(Pearl)

MARCH

Aquamarine

(Bloodstone or Red, Yellow, Orange or Brown Zircon possibly referred to as Jacinth or Hyacinth in ancient times).

APRIL

Diamond

MAY

Emerald

JUNE

Pearl  

Alexandrite

(Agate or Cat’s Eye)

JULY

Ruby

(Coral)

AUGUST

Peridot
Sardonyx
Spinel

(Moonstone)

SEPTEMBER

Sapphire

(Chrysolite)

OCTOBER

Tourmaline
Opal

NOVEMBER

Topaz
Citrine

DECEMBER

Turquoise
Tanzanite
Zircon

Please also see my previous post ‘The Language of Stones’ where I discuss the tradition of ‘acrostic’ jewellery.

© 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.

 

 

Natural Materials

Natural Materials

The wide variety and beauty of the natural materials used in vintage and antique jewellery is staggering. It seems jewellery designers never cease in their inventiveness. Here is a list which I believe is comprehensive or almost comprehensive (there is bound to be something I have left out).

I have excluded metal as that seems to deserve it’s own separate list.

 

Amber

Animal parts (ie Rabbit Foot)

Bog Oak

Bone

Butterflies and insects

Cinnabar

Coral

Flower and Plants

Gems & Gemstones

Hair

Horn

Ivory

Jade

Jet

Marcasite

Pearl

Sea Shell

Stone (Mosaics)

Tortoise Shell

Tooth

Tusk

Wood

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’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 & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Gemstone Settings

Here are the main types of gemstone settings:

Prong or claw setting

Usually four to eight prongs (but can be many more and sometimes only two).  Prong tips can be rounded, oval, flat or v-shaped.

This is the most common type of setting.

Ring

Europe, c. 1800-1869
Ring, faceted hessonite garnet
V&A Museum

Bezel or Semi-Bezel Setting

 A metal rim or collar completely encases the sides of a stone with the rim extending slightly above the stone.

In the case of a semi-bezel, the metal does not go all the way around the sides of the stone.

One of the oldest types of settings.

  • Ring

    Mid 19th century
    Ring, peridot intaglio set in gold
    V&A Museum

Channel Setting

Continuous row of stones set in straight line into a metal channel, with no metal inbetween.

 

Diamond eternity ring, Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry.

Crown Setting

A crown setting is in reality a type of prong or claw setting which looks like a crown.

Ring

Europe, c. 1800-1913
Ring, demantoid garnet, set in gold
V&A Museum

Pave or Bead Setting

The gemstones are set very close together so that no metal shows from underneath.

Brooch

England, c. 1860
Brooch, pave set turquoises with brilliant cut diamond
V&A Museum

Inlay Setting

This is when the gemstone is embedded into a hollowed out place in the metal.

Ring

England, c. 1800-1830
Ring, gold set with rubies.
V&A Museum

Flush Setting (also called ‘Burnish Setting’ or ‘Gypsy Setting’)

This is the same as an inlay setting, but the stone and the metal are level.

Illusion or Invisible Setting

Several stones are laid side by side with no metal in between.

Grooves in each stone fit into a metal frame which is hidden from view below the surface.

 

Art Deco Diamond Bracelet

Image Courtesy of Lang Antiques

Tension Setting

This is a relatively new type of ring setting where the metal is used to hold the stone in place, suspended between the open shank.  Small groves are made into the metal to hold the stones in place.  First developed in the late 1960s.

Tension ring.JPG

Bar Setting

Stones are set between bars of metal. I have been unable to find an example of this used in antique jewelry.

À jour

Please see here. 

Sources / further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tension_ring

http://www.theauroragems.com/jewelry-information/type-of-gemstone-settings

http://guide.diamondpriceguru.com/diamond-and-ring-basics/ring-settings/choosing-a-diamond-ring-settings/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonesetting

Special Gemstone Effects

Special Gemstone Effects

 

 

Fire

The ability of the stone to draw light apart into its constituent colors. (Seen in diamonds).

Schiller or ‘Play of Color’

Interior of stone shows flickers of color when it is moved in the light. (Seen in opals.)

Fluorescence

Ability of stone to turn ultraviolet light into visible color.  (Seen in some diamonds and rubies)

Labradorescence

A flash of blue and golden color when the stone is moved in the light. (Seen in Labradorite).

Change of color

Appearing as different color in different lights. (Seen in Alexandrite and some tourmalines.)

Iridescence

Rainbow effects, includes schiller and labradorescence. (Seen in mother-of-pearl and some agates and obsidian).

Opalescence / Adularescence / Milkiness

Subtle iridescence caused by scattering of light.  (Seen in opal, moonstone, some agate and milky quartz).

Aventurescence

Inclusions that create internal sparkles. (Seen in quartz / aventurine).

Chatoyancy / Cat’s Eye

A bright reflective line in the stone. (Seen in Tiger’s Eye, Cat’s Eye).

Asterism

When the cat’s eye effect shows in two or three directions at once. (Seen in star sapphire / corundum).

Sources / further reading:

http://geology.about.com/od/gems/tp/gemeffects.htm

http://www.overabillion.com/top-gemstones.html

https://www.rocksandco.com/?task=rocksBookSecond&action=gemstoneSpecEffects

 

Art Deco Carved Gemstones

The Art Deco era of jewelry design (1920-1939) had a variety of motifs and took influence from many sources. Carved gemstones, using jade, onyx, coral and a variety of other precious and semi-precious gems, were another popular feature of jewelry during the era.  Carving gemstones is an ancient tradition and a highly skilled craft.  Carved gemstones are also known as ‘engraved gemstones’ and are either cameo, with the design projecting out, or intaglios, with the design projecting inwards.

Here are some examples of Art Deco carved gemstone jewelry below.

A PAIR OF ART DECO CORAL, DIAMOND AND ENAMEL EAR PENDANTS

A PAIR OF ART DECO CORAL, DIAMOND AND ENAMEL EAR PENDANTS
Christie’s Sale 5968

An Art Deco jadeite jade and diamond brooch/pendant

An Art Deco jadeite jade and diamond brooch/pendant
Christie’s Sale 6968

AN ART DECO CORAL, DIAMOND AND ONYX BROOCH

AN ART DECO CORAL, DIAMOND AND ONYX BROOCH
Christie’s Sale 5388

A pair of Art Deco jade and diamond earrings

A pair of Art Deco jade and diamond earrings
Christie’s Sale 4920

~AN ART DECO DIAMOND, CORAL, JADE AND RUBY BROOCH

AN ART DECO DIAMOND, CORAL, JADE AND RUBY BROOCH
Christie’s 2306

**AN ART DECO EMERALD, DIAMOND AND MOTHER-OF-PEARL BROOCH

AN ART DECO EMERALD, DIAMOND AND MOTHER-OF-PEARL BROOCH
Christie’s

AN ART DECO SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND CLIP BROOCH, BY CARTIER

AN ART DECO SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND CLIP BROOCH, BY CARTIER
Christie’s Sale 1272

Brooch

New York, c. 1920-1930
Brooch, platinum, lapis lazuli, diamonds and black onyx
V&A Museum

Carved ruby, emerald and diamond pin, Cartier, Paris, circa 1930
Sotheby’s Important Jewels

Sources / further reading:

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Art_Deco_Era_Jewelry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engraved_gem

http://www.artbabble.org/video/getty-museum/art-gem-carving

Rock Crystal

Rock Crystal is clear, colorless quartz valued for its clarity and colorless beauty.  Since antiquity, is has been used extensively in jewelry, particularly before the invention of plastic and the widespread use of glass.  The word ‘crystal’ comes from the Greek word ‘krystallos’ which means ‘ice’.

Rock Crystal is ‘real crystal’ as opposed to ‘glass crystal’ which is also called crystal. Rock crystal is warmer to the touch than crystal cut glass and will also have a very different sounding ‘clink’ if touched to the teeth.  If you have crystal glass and rock crystal side by side, it is generally easy to tell the difference.  Also, rock crystal is doubly refractive whereas glass is singular. Real rock crystal is approximately four times more valuable than glass so it is important to be clear on the difference.

Rock Crystal can be faceted, carved or cabochon and has a wide variety of uses in jewelry. Below I have listed some of the many ways in which rock crystal has often been used in antique and period jewelry.

Stuart Crystals

From 1650 through the Georgian era, flat topped rock crystals with faceted sides called Stuart Crystals were produced in commemoration of King Charles I. Stuart Crystals could be combined with hair-work and were used in rings, pendants, earrings, cufflinks and clasps.

Carved Rock Crystal Quartz Stuart Crystal Pendant with Profile of Charles I. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Rock Crystal used as protective transparent cover for lockets, hair, photos, carvings and other keepsakes

Rock Crystal can be found in many mourning, memorial, keepsake and sentimental jewelry items throughout the Georgian and Victorian era.

Brooch

England, c. 1775-1800
Brooch with gold, pearls, hair under rock crystal
V&A Museum

Pendant

England, c. 1817
Pendant, gold, enamel, rock crystal, and diamonds set with a miniature and with three small curls of hair under crystal
V&A Museum

Protective covers for watches

Many watches in the Georgian and Victorian era can be found with rock crystal protective covers.

Watch

England, c. 1800
Gold and rock crystal watch
V&A Museum

Rock Crystal Cameos, Seals and Intaglios

Throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras, rock crystal can be found in many cameos, seals and intaglios.

Seal

England, c. 1750
Seal with rock crystal intaglio
V&A Museum

Foiled Rock Crystals 

Like any gemstones or paste, rock crystals could be foiled. Foiling increases their sparkle. Foiling was popular especially during the Georgian era. Foiled rock crystals were used in pendants, brooches, bodice ornaments, necklaces, rings, buckles, buttons and earrings. Foiled rock crystal would often be used along side foiled paste.

Bodice ornament

England, c. 1760
Bodice ornament with foiled rock crystals and paste
V&A Museum

Rock Crystal used without other materials

Although rare to find it without other materials, rock crystal can be stunning when used completely by itself, as with this unusual piece below.

Ring

Europe, c. 1900-1950
Carved rock crystal ring.
V&A Museum

SIMPLE ROCK CRYSTAL SETTINGS

Beaded necklaces

Worn in the Victorian through the Art Deco period, simple real rock crystal bead necklaces were popular.

rockcrystal

Rings

Open backed rock crystal set ring were often cut and set in a similar fashion to diamond rings.

Ring

Europe, c. 1850
Rock crystal and gold ring
V&A Museum

Set in silver

Rock crystal lends itself well with being set in silver and there are many examples.

Necklace

France, 1790-1805
Necklace with rock crystal set in silver and gold
V&A Museum

Pendant

France, c. 1750-1800
Pendant, rock crystal set in silver.
V&A Museum

Edwardian / Belle Epoque Era

Rock Crystal was popular during the Edwardian / Belle Epoque Era because colorless gems and materials were very much in fashion. Rock Crystal would often be set with diamonds in platinum.

A SUPERB BELLE EPOQUE DIAMOND AND ROCK CRYSTAL BOW BROOCH, BY CARTIER

BELLE EPOQUE DIAMOND AND ROCK CRYSTAL BOW BROOCH, BY CARTIER
c. 1910
Christie’s Sale 2121

Art Deco era

Rock crystal was popular during the Art Deco era, and there are many examples of geometrically carved rock crystal from the time.  It was valued because it went well with the all clear or white look which became very popular towards the end of the 1920s. It is common to find rock crystal set with diamonds as well as in platinum.

Bracelet

France, c. 1920-1930
Gold, enamel and rock crystal bracelet
V&A Museum

Ring

Art Deco era ring, rock crystal, diamond
V&A Museum

  • A Mauboussin rock crystal and antique- old- and baguette cut diamond Art Deco brooch c. 1925.
    Bukowskis Auction

    AN ART DECO ROCK CRYSTAL, DIAMOND AND ONYX BROOCH, BY GEORGES FOUQUET


    AN ART DECO ROCK CRYSTAL, DIAMOND AND ONYX BROOCH, BY GEORGES FOUQUET
    Christie’s Sale 1991

    AN ART DECO EMERALD, DIAMOND AND ROCK CRYSTAL BRACELET, BY SUZANNE BELPERRON
    Christie’s Sale 1991

Sources / further reading:

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Rock_Crystal

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/506100/rock-crystal

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aoa/r/rock_crystal_skull.aspx

http://books.google.de/books?id=Zxr5tZF8GPQC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=rock+crystal+antique+jewelry&source=bl&ots=Y1KGPbxSDc&sig=PjA9iVHrHbrcBj3bb_v4z8WtsOU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WkguUaqYEsGOtAbi44DQDg&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=rock%20crystal%20antique%20jewelry&f=false

http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/the-aesthete/2012/05/suzanne-belperron-sothebys-sale

Foiled Gemstones

Hair Ornament/Brooch
Enameled Gold, Garnets, Foiled Rock Crystals, Pearls
1840-1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Foiling is a way of using tinted and silvered copper sheets to enhance the back of gemstones.  The gemstone jewelry of the early Georgian era prior to 1800, was typified by it’s use of foiling. Even though the Georgians had already developed the open back mounting for gems, it was very rarely used until 1800 when à jour settings started to become popular. (À jour literally means in French ‘to the day’ and is loved because it allows the light to shine through a stone.)  As we have developed the mathematics and the technology to properly cut and mount gemstones, foiling gemstones has become a redundant art-form. Although used in other eras, foiled gemstones have come to be seen as a signature element in early Georgian jewelry and is one of the signs to look for when evaluating the age of a piece.

Bodice ornament

England. c. 1760
Bodice ornament, rock crystals and paste (glass) with foiled settings in silver.
V&A Museum

Foiling gems produces a more intense, rich color and enables diamonds to twinkle in the candlelight; before the advent of electric lighting this was particularly desirable.  Foiling acts as a light reflector.  Quality gemstones were in less abundant supply in times past; foiling was an excellent way of transforming less than high quality stones into more desirable ones and also for matching stones as the foiling was also a coloring agent.  It was also a way of creating a stronger, more noticeable look, suitable for aristocracy and officials.   Foiling does tend to tarnish with time so unfortunately we rarely see the original full beauty of very old foiled gemstone jewelry unless it has been restored. 

Brooch

England, c. 1830
Gold with grainti decoration, set with a green paste, garnets and green foiled aquamarines
V&A Museum

Other materials apart from metal sheets were also used to foil the back of gemstones.  These included: peacock feathers, butterfly wings, colored silk thread and engraved metallic foils. Glass and paste glass could also be foiled.

Pendant - Cupid the Earth Upholder

Scotland, 1902
Gold and enamel pendant with foiled glass, Anna Traquair
V&A Museum

Earrings

Earrings, gold set with pierced pearls and foiled garnets
Italy c. 1820-1880
V&A Museum

“The possibility of temporarily masking the color of yellow diamonds has, in recent years, frequently led to fraud,” Max Bauer. c. 1890.

Unfortunately, less honest jewelers did often use foils to fool consumers into believing that gemstones were something they were not.  For example, a green tinted foil back could be used to make a peridot a deeper shade of green and convince the purchaser that it was an emerald. It is for this reason that nowadays foiling gemstones is generally considered fraudulent unless there is disclosure. The 1974 edition of Shipley’s dictionary of gems and gemology writes that foiling came in three categories, and the last two of these were fraudulent.  These were: genuine foil backs in order to improve the performance of a gemstone; false foil backs in order to give a different color to a gemstone so to mimic another and imitation foil backs which were the same as a false foil back, but applied to glass. By 1920, the art of foiling had completely gone out of favor because of the association with fraud.  Nowadays, there are just a few specialists who use the art for restoration work.

What I find interesting about this is how attitudes have really changed; the contemporary mind cares about the objective value of a gemstone whereas in days gone by the apparent beauty of the stone was all that really mattered.  This really comes down to the ‘purpose’ behind jewelry; in the Georgian era jewelry was often very much about displays of grandeur and wealth. In other words, all about external appearances.  In the modern era, we very much like to know that something is not a fake, even if it appears exactly the same, we are concerned with truth and objective value. With this in mind, other ways of treating gemstones to be aware of include ‘tinting’ (this was when color was applied to the setting or directly to the gemstone), ‘waxing’, which increases transparency, ‘mirroring’, which involves putting a colorless mineral in the bezel which then acts a reflector and ‘coating’, which involves using similar substances to those used for optical lenses.  ‘Coating’, is against the law unless there is full disclosure and is yet another thing for gemologists to be wary of.

Sources / further reading:

The popular jewelry motifs of the Georgian era were wonderful and varied; please look at my post ‘The Major Motifs of the Georgian Era’ to learn more.

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Georgian_Jewelry:_1714-1837

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Gemstone_surface_enhancements

http://www.ehow.com/way_5892286_copper-foil-method-gemstone-pendants.html

Diamond cuts and major diamond inventions from 1330 to now

Diamond cuts - diamond shapes and names

Commonly referred to contemporary diamond cuts, shapes and names

Here I am going to list the history of diamonds cuts and major inventions from 1330 to present.  This is relevant to the understanding of antique and period jewelry and helpful for giving more clues to evaluating the age of a piece.

1330 – The earliest evidence of diamond cutting, Venice.

The point cut.

pointcut

1450 – The table cut for diamonds is first introduced

tablecut

1471 – The first French cut diamonds are introduced

frenchcut

1500 – The first Rose cuts begin

rosecut

1700 – The Peruzzi cut (early version of 58 square brilliant)

peruzzi

1840 – Steam power first used for diamond cutting (Amsterdam).

1878 – Patent for platinum-tipped prongs for setting diamonds.

1886 – Tiffany solitaire diamond setting

1891 – Power driven machine for cutting diamonds patented.

1900 – The diamond saw invented.

1902 – The Asscher Cut

Asschercut

1912 – The Baguette Cut from Cartier

baguette

1919 – The American Cut or ‘Ideal Cut’ introduced

peruzzi

1933 – The invisible setting (or serti invisible) is patented by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.  It is introduced in USA in 1936

1952 – Strontium Titanite simulant diamond is introduced 

1960 – First synthetic diamond patented by General Electric, (introduced to market for jewelry 1970)

1960s – Princess Cut introduced

Princess_cut_thumb copy

1985 – synthetic diamond production begun by major companies, Sumimoto and De Beers

Sources / further reading:

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/A_History_Of_Diamond_Cutting

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Brilliant_Cut

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_cut

The Opal

“When nature had finished painting the flowers, coloring the rainbows, and dyeing the plummage of the birds, she swept the colors from her pallette and molded them into opals.” Du Ble

The precious opal has something mysterious, otherworldly and enchanting about it. Those who fall for the allure of the opal tend to fall in love wholeheartedly and make it their favorite gem. Beloved by the ancients, praised by Shakespeare and treasured by all, there are few who have not been enamored with this astonishing gem.

Unfortunately, however, opals had a very bad beginning in popular 19th century culture.  In 1829, a novel called Anne of Geurstein by Scott was published.  In it the character, Lady Heromine, wears an iridescent opal in her hair.  When she dies tragically, suspicions fall on the mysterious forces of the opal. Consequently, few through out the late Georgian, early and mid Victorian eras would wear opals.  Even Princess Eugenie refused a gift of opals from Napoleon.

Queen Victoria, perhaps being more pragmatic, worked hard to change the opal’s image and more or less succeeded, although some of the earlier superstition still remains even today.  She even gave opals as wedding gifts.  Around 1871, an opal field was found in Australia and it was really only after this date that opals became widely accepted.  The late Victorians and Edwardians loved opals and it is more often from these times that we find antique opal pieces.

Necklace

c.1900
Necklace enameled set with opals
Marcus and Co.
V&A

Brooch

c.1900
Brooch, gold, opal
Marcus & Co
V&A

Pendant

c.1920
Pendant with silver, opals, glass, tourmalines
V&A

Kinds of opals

When we talk about opals, there are really three distinct kinds.  These are:

1) Precious opals.  This is the kind most people know.  Precious opals have a fabulous iridescence (an ‘opalescence’) to them which mean they appear multicolored in different lights.  They can express every color in the visible spectrum. White is the most common color for opals but they can also be clear, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive and brown.  Black with red is the rarest type of opal.

2) Fire opals.  These are not opalescent but rather are orange and most valued when they are clear.  The Mexican water opal is a type of fire opal and is light brown or colorless.

3) Common opals.  These come in a variety of colors which are called wood, agate, honey, milk and moss.  Again, they do not have ‘opalescence’.

There are also ‘floating opals’.  These are in fact precious opal chips put in a small glass housing containing glycerin.  The chips should move when you shake the housing. Floating opal jewelry can be quite sought after and collectible when it is genuinely vintage. It was first produced in 1922. Care must be taken that it is not actually synthetic opal or some other stone. The better pieces are marked by the maker.

Art Deco Necklace of Floating Opals

Art Deco Necklace of Floating Opals
Sold by Georgian Jewelry
(click on picture to go to site)

Opals are around 10%  water and have an amorphous cell structure.  Because of this, they can lose their iridescence over a long time if they are not stored in a moist environment. Opals were first synthesized in 1974.  There are some processes of producing glass which can appear like opal at first sight.

Opals can be faceted and carved and there are some amazing examples of this from The Art Nouveau era and The Arts and Crafts Movement.

Brooch/pendant, carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yg, platinum, c. 1890, a circ carved opal depicting a sea nymph, rising/setting sun with circ-cut diamond center, and ocean waves, with grad oe diamond border above and demantoid-set yg foliate wreath border surmounted by two stylized fish below, three hidden pendant loops, sgd

Brooch/pendant with carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yellow gold, and platinum, c. 1890. A carved opal depicting a sea nymph with ocean waves by Marcus & Co.

Valuation

When considering the quality of an opal, the intensity, distribution and number of colors present are all important.  The best stones are semi translucent.  Ideally, the color play should be visible from arms length.  The more colors there are the better.  Black opals being rarer are more valuable, as is a red or orange color play.

Sources / resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opal

http://www.gemstones-guide.com/Opal.html

http://imageevent.com/vintagegems/floatingopalsquickguide

Garnets

Most people associate the name ‘garnet’ with the dark red varieties, (pyrope, almandine or, possibly, rhodolite.) Garnets, however, actually come in many colors and have a wide variety of names, which I have listed at the bottom of this post.  Often garnets will even be a combination of these colors and not always fall clearly into one variety. (The classification of garnets is actually quite complicated  and the term covers over ten different gemstones so I will be revisiting this post when I’ve gotten further with my gemology studies to go more indepth).

During the Victorian era, particularly during the mid and late Victorian era, (1856-1900), dark red garnets were extremely popular, particularly pyrope  garnets with their deep, blood like color.  The Victorians of that era of course loved all things dark colored and garnets were considered appropriate for mourning attire. Garnets were very often rose cut and could be set in gold or silver, but very often they were set in a low carat gold alloy (ie tombak). Garnets were thought to cure blood disorders and to prevent bad tempers.

A group of 19th century Bohemian garnet jewellery

A group of 19th century garnet jewellery, circa 1890
Christie’s sale 4824 27 March 2012, London South Kensington

Necklace

London, England c. 1870
Necklace with gold, almandine garnet carbuncles
V&A Museum

The word ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word ‘granatas’ meaning pomegranate.  It is easy to see, when you look at pomegranate seeds, how the association could have been made.  The word ‘pyrope’ comes from the Greek word for ‘fire like’. Pyrope garnets are also often referred to as ‘Bohemian Garnets’ because they were so often mined in Bohemia.  (However, the name ‘Bohemian Garnets’, although extremely widespread, is considered a misnomer according to the Gemological Institute of America.  Other misnomers include Colorado ruby, Arizona ruby, California ruby, Rocky Mountain ruby, Elie Ruby, Bohemian carbuncle, and Cape ruby.)

Pyrope garnets and almandine garnets are very difficult to tell apart by eye and are frequently mistaken for each other. Pyrope garnets under a microscope will display fewer inclusions so are generally considered to be slightly more valuable but not greatly so.  Often, red garnets are actually a mixture of both pyrope and almandine and this is another one of the reasons for the confusion.  I have also noticed that even the major auction houses and museums don’t always try and name the exact variety of the garnet if it is red and will simply just refer to it as ‘garnet’.

Ring

Europe c. 1850
Ring with cluster of almandine garnets in gold mount
V&A Museum

AN ANTIQUE DUTCH GARNET NECKLACE

Dutch garnet necklace c. 1850
Christie’s Sale 3002,
Amsterdam Jewels and Watches, 18 April 2012

Victorian garnet bracelet with rose gold and seed pearls.

Other kinds of garnets, such as this hessonite garnet (more of a brown-orange color) were used less frequently.

Ring

Europe c.1800-1869
Faceted hessonite garnet ring, set in gold
V&A Museum

Demontoid garnets, with their amazing bright green color, are considered to be the most desirable and valuable kind of garnets used. (Tsavorite and Uvarovite are also bright green and valuable but are extremely rare and generally not found in antique jewelry).

It is easy to mistake demontoid for the less valuable stone peridot so please check carefully.  Misnomers for demontoid garnets are olivine and Uralian emerald.  Demontoid garnets were not discovered until 1868 in the Ural mountains of Russia so you will not find a piece older than that. (They were discovered by the same person who discovered Alexandrite).

The name ‘demontoid’ comes from the French ‘diamant’ meaning ‘diamond’.  Demontoid garnets have astonishing luminosity that rival diamonds.  It is very rare to find a demontoid garnet in a large carat so be very wary if you come across one. They have not yet been synthesized. Famed Russian jeweler Carl Fabergé was an enormous fan of demontoid garnets and really brought them to the fashion forefront. They are also associated with Tiffanys of the late 19th century. Demontoids very much appealed to the naturalistic aesthetic of the era and are found in many higher end late Victorian and Art Nouveau pieces, often, in the case of Art Nouveau pieces, to represent foliage.

Brooch

Demantoid, pearl and gold brooch.
USA. c.1900
V&A Museum  (American buyers were known to prefer a more toned down version of Art Nouveau style).

Antique Demantoid and Diamond Spray, opal bug

Detail of Fabrege Antique Demantoid Garnet and Diamond Spray Brooch, opal bug
English, 1870

Namibian demantoids, discovered more recently, are not considered as desirable as Russian demontoids and lack a signature ‘horsetail’ inclusion.  It is interesting that in the case of demantoids, the inclusion is considered as something desirable. Namibian demontoids will not be found in antique pieces. There are also a lot of imitation glass garnets on the market, in all colors.  Also, garnet jewelry is still produced and is very popular to this day, often with antique styled settings, so it is important not to be mislead if you believe you are buying an antique piece. Synthetic garnets are not commonly used in jewelry.

If you are purchasing a piece of antique garnet jewelry check carefully to see if any of the stones are missing.  Also, check to see if they are set properly (with a prong or claw set) or glued in as this will affect the value.

Garnet names and colors:

  • Almandine   Red with Violet Tint
  • Andradite    Yellow, Green, Brown & Black
  • Demantoid   Bright Green
  • Melanite       Opaque Black
  • Topazolite     Lemon-Yellow
  • Grossular   Green, Yellow, Copper-Brown
  • Hessonite   Brown-Orange
  • Tsavorite    Intense Green
  • Leuco Garnet  Colorless
  • Mali  Yellow-Green to Yellow-Brown
  • Hydrogrossular  Translucent to Opaque Green, Pink, White
  • Malaya  Pinkish, Reddish, Yellowish Orange
  • Pyrope  Dark Red to Reddish Orange (blood red)
  • Rhodolite  Purplish Red to Reddish Purple
  • Spessartine  Yellowish Orange to Red-Brown
  • Mandarin  Orange-Yellow
  • Uvarovite  Emerald Green

Sources/ Further reading: (please be sure to also look at my sources in the drop down menu at the top of this page).

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

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Garnet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrope

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garnet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demantoid

http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=108:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14

http://www.collectorfinejewelry.com/buyers_guide_demantoid.htm

http://books.google.de/books?id=Jm3FwBiHaI4C&pg=PA162&lpg=PA162&dq=garnets+first+synthetic&source=bl&ots=mmB_fr5bch&sig=uhqUWrJzUi-6Lj8lF5OI5g7GmGA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=t_D-UKWHD5CJhQeoyYDYDw&ved=0CGsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=garnets%20first%20synthetic&f=false

http://www.ehow.com/about_6506978_difference-between-manmade-natural-garnet.html

http://www.modernjeweler.com/online/article.jsp?siteSection=1&id=345&pageNum=1