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.


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.


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

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


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.


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:





Elder and Bloom reopens!

Elder and Bloom reopens!

Thank you for your patience everyone! The brand new Elder and Bloom Etsy Shop is now officially open and I am in business once again. (Many of you will remember my company’s previous incarnation – Pippa Tree Vintage. I hope you like the new branding and the new name!)

Here is a taste of what we have for sale so far. Only ten things thus far but they are beautiful things… and there will be hundreds more beautiful treasures being listed in the coming days and weeks.  This is only a small beginning. Click on the images below to be taken through to the shop.

Let the fun begin!

May 28, 2017



There are five main methods of production for creating  metal based vintage and antique jewelry. It is important to have a basic understand of these so you can more accurately understand how a piece was made. This also helps in aging the piece.

These techniques are:


Throughout history, most jewelry has been created by hand. Hand fabrication can be defined as when a piece is made by hand from start to finish, usually at a bench. The process of hand-fabrication encompasses a large variety of other techniques, including but not limited to, filigree,  appliquégranulation, cannetille, enamellingrepoussé and chasing.


This is when the piece is made from a mold, often rubber. The mold can be created from the original piece of jewellery or from a wax replica.


This is a manufacturing technique patented in 1769 by John Pickering.

Die struck or stamped pieces are created using a moveable force made of steel (the ‘male’) and an immoveable hardened steel die (the ‘female’). The metal that will become the jewellery is placed between the male and the female and assumes the form of the die.


This technique was first patented in 1840 and was popular until the end of the 1800s. It has experienced a revival in contemporary jewellery (which is why many Victorian electro-formed pieces can look uncannily modern).

Electro-formed jewellery is created by taking a mandrel in the form of the desired jewellery piece (the mandrel can be made from almost anything but most commonly is wax or metal). This mandrel is then coated with a metallic solution which is placed in a bath of electrolytic solution. This creates a negative charge that allows positively charged gold to be deposited on it in a very fine layer. The original mandrel is then melted away.

The result is lightweight, hollow gold coloured pieces of jewellery.



This is a process for making costume jewellery which uses a white metal alloy of tin, lead, bisuth, antimony and cadmium. The higher the quantity of tin, the greater the quality of the piece.

The mold is placed on a spinning caster and the metal is poured into the spinning old. It is usually then electroplated.


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.

Resources / further reading:





Gold Testing with a Tri-Electronic Tester

Gold Testing with a Tri-Electronic Tester

Many pieces of antique gold jewellery (particularly from the Georgian era or pieces which are handcrafted) are unmarked and therefore gold testing is necessary. This article is a practical guide to using an electronic gold tester made by TRI electronics (I personally have the GXL-18 model.).  

This is my decimation of the information in the TRI Electronics user manual which I hope makes a good quick reference for those interested.  HOWEVER – PLEASE ALWAYS REFER TO THE MANUFACTURERS INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FINAL SAY ON HOW TO USE THESE TESTERS. 



The procedure for testing can be shortened to the following easy to remember four words:


For more details, see below: 

1) Load the polyethylene gel tube in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

2) Connect the following:

a) The black wire to the sensor’s plug outlet.

b) The black and red wire connector to the display unit.

c) The red wire to the testing plate.

3) Turn the unit ON. The unit should now read ‘G-XL-18 READY TO TEST…’

4) Selecting a point to test: 

a) Make sure the point to test is close to BUT NEVER TOUCHING the alligator clip.

b) Do not allow the gel to touch the alligator clip as this will corrode it.

c) Thoroughly clean the testing point with the eraser.

5) The First Part of the Test

  1. Place a tissue, paper towel or rag under the tip of the sensor.
  2. Hold the sensor in a vertical position with the nozzle down.
  3. Twist the Rotary Cap counter clockwise, one click at a time, until a drop of gel appears.
  4. Wipe this first drop of gel away.
  5. Turn again (usually one or two clicks) until more gel appears.
  6. Touch the sensor to the selected area of the test object.

6) Select a gold colour button. 

Depending on the visible colour of the metal you are testing, select one of the following buttons on the unit (see manual for diagram of button locations):





7) Keep the sensor in a vertical position for about 5 seconds. This is is when the gold value is calibrated.

8) The karat value and European Standard are displayed on the instrument. (Tip: Write this down with a pen and paper you keep to hand, along with your reference for the item).

9) Turn off the instrument.


1) Electronic tests are not infallible.  If you achieve a result which is outside of expectations then retest in a different location after cleaning your equipment and your item and use new gel. Keep testing until you get a consistent result. Always make a note for the customer if you are selling gold items tested with an electronic tester explain that the test is not infallible and should be seen as a guide only. 

2) Be careful with fine chains. Very fine chains  can be crushed by the dispenser. Avoid pressure with fine gold chains whilst keeping gel contact. It’s recommended to get the results of two or three tests.

3) Be aware of air bubbles. Sometimes air bubbles with give a high or low reading. Always retest and apply common sense to the results of your readings.

4) Clean Tip. A clean tip is essential for an accurate reading.

a) If you are not using the gold tester more than once a week it is advised that you remove the gel tube from the sensor and store it to keep the gel from drying out.

b) Before replacing the gel, whether with a new tube or with one previously removed, clean thoroughly with SC-10 Cleaner Kit. 

c) If the tester has not been used for over a week, clean the tip with the plastic cleaner provided by inserting the tip into the nozzle of the sensor.

d) If gel drops are not dispensed by rotating the twist cap, clean the sensor with the SC-10 Cleaner Kit. 

5) Solder areas and heavy castings with unevenly dispersed metal can give false readings. Always retest in different areas of the piece.

6) Italian Gold may be waxed and can give a false reading. If you suspect the metal may be waxed, clean the testing area with heavy erasing or with nitric acid (only a drop is required).

7) Skin oils can give a false reading. In heavily worn pieces clean the testing area first with the eraser or with non-acetone nail polish remover.

8) Plated Gold. Usually a tiny scratch or a pin prick will allow gel penetration to the base material on plated pieces. If this is not sufficient, two or three tests are recommended with a thorough eraser cleaning in between. If the item is gold plated, the karatage will decrease with each testing. A solid gold piece will not decrease with each test.

9) Dispose of the drop of gel following each test. 

10) Use every other gel drop for best results. 


12) When removing the cable from the sensor, do not pull the wire! Pull the plug itself to avoid damage. 

13) Testing objects larger than the Alligator Clip. In this instance, unhook the red wire from the testing plate and proceed with the test as per instructions but with the tip of the red wire touching the object.

14) Do not retest the same spot without eraser cleaning.

15) Refer to the manual for full care and maintenance of the tester and follow their recommendations.  


1) Problem: Brown spot on test surfaces

Solution: Rub the spot with eraser

2) Problem: Display unit reads “NOT GOLD”

Solution: Check the wire contacts and the connections

3) Problem: Display has no reading

Solution: Check batteries or switch to converter or change the wire set.

4) Problem: Inaccurate or different readings

Solution: Keep gel away from alligator clip

5) Problem: Gel does not come out

Solution: Clean sensor nozzle and check gel tube and replace if empty.

6) Problem: Sensor’s rotary cap is hard to turn or is tight.

Solution: Check gel tube and replace if empty.

7) Problem: Changed or reduced karat value on the display from previously.

Solution: Check gel tube and replace if empty.

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.

Cartier Collections – Trinity de Cartier


The Cartier Trinity Ring is a signature design of the world renowned Parisian jewellery company (1847 – Present). It was first created in 1924 by Louis Cartier. The beautiful interlocking white, yellow and pink gold bands have since gone on to inspire many other Cartier pieces, including bangles and necklaces, incorporating the same basic interlocking design.

The ring was adopted by the French artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau and has been favoured by many other high profile people. At the time, the simplicity of the design was in juxtaposition to the more outlandish Flapper aesthetic.

The three bands of the Trinity design are said to represent whatever the wearer chooses but  ‘Fidelity, Friendship and Love.’ is one popular interpretation.

Sources / further reading:





Getting Clear on Antique and Vintage Eras and Terms


It’s vitally important when buying and selling vintage and antique items that the exact eras are understood and accurately described. I know it’s something that I, as a vintage and antique seller, have made mistakes on in the past.  I am working all the time on being more precise in my descriptions and understanding.

I have written this post as a reference for myself and for other buyers and sellers.  For the purposes of this post, I am sticking primarily to Anglo-centric definitions, although it is also useful to have an understanding of German and French definitions of era, for example, if you are buying or selling items from those countries. I will cover terms for those nationalities, as well as for North America specifically, in future posts.


Style versus Era.

It is vitally important to be clear on whether something is actually of the era or just of the style (for example, if something is described as ‘Art Deco’, is the meaning that it was produced between the years of 1920 – 1940 or does it mean simply that it is Art Deco in style? If it is the latter, then it could feasibly have been produced in contemporary times.  How often have you seen something described as ‘Victorian’ only to realise the seller meant ‘Victorian in style’ (which, by the way, is not a very accurate term as the Victorians had a vast array of styles).  I will write some separate posts in the future about recognizing the difference between the different styles (for example the characteristics of Art Deco style versus Art Nouveau style, but for now this post is concerned with defining eras and terms).


This refers to an item which is definitely 100 years old or older. (If in doubt, it is better to stick with the word ‘vintage’). ‘Antique style’ is a meaningless term that is used too often.


This is any item that is less than 100 years old but older than 20 years old (there is some debate about this and some people say that ‘true vintage’ is over 50 years old.)


* PRE-GEORGIAN ERA – This refers to anything from before 1714

* GEORGIAN ERA – This refers to the era between 1714 – 1837

* VICTORIAN ERA – This refers to the era between 1837 – 1901

The Victorian era can further be divided into:

* Early Victorian – 1837 – 1860 (Romantic Period)

* Mid-Victorian – 1861 – 1880 (Grand Period)

* Late-Victorian – 1880 – 1901 (Aesthetic Period)

* ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT ERA – 1894 – 1923

* ART NOUVEAU ERA – 1890 -1910

* EDWARDIAN ERA – 1901 – 1915

* ART DECO ERA – 1920 – 1940

* RETRO  – 1940 – 1959

* POST-1959 is usually defined by decade.


Here are some other, less technical terms you will see to describe antiques and vintage eras. I will update these as I think of more (If you can think of any others please let me know 0r if you think I’ve got anything wrong, please tell me).

* GRAND TOUR ERA (This usually refers to the years between 1800 – 1830, although the Grand Tour began in 1611)

* TITANIC ERA (This refers to the years 1910 – 1912)

* FLAPPER ERA (This usually refers to the 1920s, although flapper fashion continued throughout the 1930s and there have been many revivals.)

* DOWNTON ABBEY (This usually refers to the years after 1912 and into the 1920s.)

* SWING ERA or BIG BAND ERA  (This usually refers to the years between 1935 and 1946)

* MOD ERA (This usually refers to the early to mid sixties)

* BEATNIK ERA (Usually refers to 1950s to mid-1960s prior to the hippy era)

* HIPPY ERA (Usually refers to 1960s and 1970s, but usually means the late 1960s and early 1970s)

Sources / Further reading:




Bust of a young woman, head turned to right, looking downwards; with aigrette, pearl necklace and fur-trimmed jacketEtching and engraving

Bust of a young woman with aigrette,
France. c 1725-1800
British Museum

Within the context of antique jewelry, the term aigrette refers to a jeweled hair or hat decorative piece that would have originally held a feather or plume. ‘Aigrette’ is French for egret, a type of heron. Originally an Indian fashion, aigrettes were worn on turbans as far back as the 12th century.

aigrette, for a turban
Antique Indian Aigrette

Sketchbook - Designs for jewellery by Arnold Lulls; Design for an aigrette with three plumes

London, c. 1585-1640
Design for an aigrette
V&A Museum

By the late 17th century the style had spread to Europe, no doubt brought back by the colonialists.  By the mid-1700s aigrettes became shaped like stylized feathers or plumes and were originally nearly always set with diamonds.  Around 1800 colored stones became popular and aigrettes became somewhat more accessible for ordinary people.  The Georgians loved aigrettes as they went so well with their wigs and elaborate hairstyles.

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat).  1794Hand-coloured etching

The Three Graces of 1794.
Satirical Print.
British Museum


Portugal, c. 1750-1760
Chrysoberyls and silver aigrette
V&A Museum


France, c. 1810
Aigrette with diamonds, turquoises, an emerald and other coloured stones
V&A Museum

Aigrette; gold, in the form of flowers and a feather, tied with a bow, with a trembler butterfly; dished closed-back, set with flat-cut garnets.

England, c. 1726-1775
Aigrette in the form of flowers and a feather tied with a bow and with a trembler butterfly. Gold with a dished closed-back and set with flat-cut garnets.
British Museum

The aigrette fell out of fashion for most of the 1800s but experienced a revival by the end of the century.  With the fashion for large hairstyles and Rococo flavored styles, the aigrette was once more in favor.  Often, they would be set en tremblant and they were considered perfect for wearing to balls and parties. Feathers in general became a very important fashion accessory and hats were often covered in them, with or without aigrettes.

Lady with aigrette c. 1890

1913 La coiffure française illustrée by Wintz from Coiffure francaise illustrèe

1913 La coiffure française illustrée by Wintz from Coiffure francaise illustrèe

1913ca. Hat with Aigrette by Mela Koehler (at AllPosters)

1913ca. Hat with Aigrette by Mela Koehler


Belle Epoque Diamond Aigrette
France, c. 1910
Christie’s Sale 3506

By the 1920s the popularity of the aigrette was at a height.  The ‘flapper’ girls loved to wear aigrettes with headbands and their signature short bobbed hairstyles.  Once usually only with a feather or plume motif, an aigrette might now have another motif: flowers, birds, crescents or shooting stars. Nowadays, we often think of the aigrette as a particularly ‘Art Deco’ fashion.

La Vie Parisienne Art Deco 1926 Pretty Lady with Umbrella by Leonnec

La Vie Parisienne
Art deco 1926 Print
Albion Prints

George Barbier (1882 – 1932)

George Barbier (1882 – 1932)

Sources / further reading: 




Hair Work Jewelry

A bracelet of bright haire about the bone

John Donne (1571-1631)

When a contemporary person first learns about the use of human hair in antique jewelry, most respond with one of several emotions.  Generally, we feel a mix of revulsion, disgust, amusement and curiosity.  Using human hair as a wearable commodity in this way is completely alien to our modern sensibilities.  What I find most interesting is how our response points to the differences between our modern culture and that of the Georgian and Victorian eras.  They were altogether a more sentimental and intimate people; affection, love, family loyalty and passion were at the center of their worldview. Wearing hair was a symbol of deep affection, union and love between people.

Victorian Sisters

Victorian Sisters. The one on the right is wearing a hair work bracelet on her wrist.

Human hair has unique properties which enable it to last for thousands of years. References to hair being used in jewelry can be traced back to Shakespeare’s time and no doubt existed before.  However, hair work truly flourished during Victorian times with its height being from the 1840s to around 1890. Hair was worn as love tokens, to symbolize family connections and as mourning jewelry.  The surviving pieces from the late 18th century and early 19th century were usually made with hair from living people and used as inlays for rings and for pendants and lockets. Locks of hair were often kept in special compartments on the back of brooches, pendants, rings, pendants or watch fobs and it is not unusual to be surprised by finding hair tucked away somewhere in an antique piece. It was only later, after Albert’s death, that pieces began to be primarily made as mourning items using hair taken from the dead.

From the 1760s to 1810, hair was mixed in with sepia and painted on to ivory. This was called Sepia Hair Painting and pieces were custom created to  individual requirements. Chopped hair and glue was also used on ivory and sometimes vellum to create designs. Victorian hair work jewelry was often produced at home in the living room and was considered an appropriate past time for both ladies and gentlemen, although primarily ladies. By the late 1850s, doing hair work was as popular as crocheting or tatting.

Bracelet of four hollow chains of woven and plaited hair twisted together and terminating in engraved gilt mounts and a clasp of a wheel-like openwork gilt roundel set with a Canadian ten-cent piece of 1871 and decorated on the front with blue enamel.
British Museum.

There were two ways of working with hair.  One was called ‘Palette work’ and it was created on an artists palette. It was most appropriate for small pieces and popular motifs included Prince of Wales feathers, landscapes and flowers.  The other method was table work, involving a table and bobbins, which was similar to lace making or the Japanese braiding known as kumihimo.  However, pieces were more often made to order, with lockets containing hair being the most popular. As glass replaced faceted crystal, hair could be placed underneath with less expense.

During the 19th century, hair work was very much part of popular culture and had spread across Europe and America, being particularly prominent in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France and across Bohemia.  In some countries, it appears to be more of a domestic craft, in others it was more of a high art.  In 1858, fashion magazine La Belle Assemblè referred to the French hairwork artist Limmonièr with the highest of praise. There was even one reference to ‘the saintly white hair of the aged’ making beautiful jewelry. Although hair work has been said to have come originally from Germany, rather than hair work appearing to emerge from a specific place, it seems that hair work was a spontaneous folk invention across many countries. The American hair work industry thrived during the 19th century and particularly during The Civil War and survives even today as a traditional folk art.

But hair work was not just for ordinary people, it was also beloved by royalty.  Empress Eugenie of France was “was touched to tears when I gave her a bracelet with my hair”, wrote Queen Victoria upon presenting her with a bracelet made from her own hair.

“As the hair is the only part of our beloved friends which can be kept in memoriam, it is natural that we should desire to preserve the treasure in some manner that will testify our appreciation of its value…” -Ladies’ Fancy Work, 1876.


Pearl and green paste gold locked with braided hair
V&A Museum


Italy, hair, cameo, gold bracelet
V&A Museum

The finished pieces of hair, whether made at home or by professional hair workers, were then sent to a goldsmith who would make jewelry fittings for them.  Increasingly, however, pieces were ordered via mail order to be made from beginning to end. Customers could select a design from a catalog, send in the hair they wanted used, and receive the finished product some time later. Hair worked jewelry was a common gift for loved ones.  It was not considered proper for a young lady to give or receive gifts from a man unless they were betrothed; however, gifts of hair were considered acceptable so long as they were not jeweled. Many besotted young men had their lover’s hair woven into watch chains so they could contemplate her several times a day.

Godey’s Lady’s Book was  one of the leading mail order company in the business, as well as the National Artistic Hair work Company.  The 1867 Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work by Mark Campbell is the most well known book about hair work technique.


A Hair Feather Design from the National Artistic Hairwork Company’s Catalog


Hairwork necklace detail
Gift of Andrea Tice


Hairwork necklace
Gift of Andrea Tice

The history of hair work can be seen to reflect the rise of industrialism.  In the beginning, made at home or by individual artisans, hair work resisted the homogeneous and shallow commerciality that other jewelry was succumbing to.  However, the market demanded a supply of inexpensive, ready made goods that didn’t require the individual attention that hair work demanded.  By 1908, Sears was advertising their services with the disclaimer, “We do not do this braiding ourselves. We send it out; therefore we cannot guarantee the same hair being used that is sent to us; you must assume all risk.” People started to get disenchanted with hair work because of these kinds of worries and because of the general overly-commercial feeling of the industry which had once been so much about sentimentality.  Stories of unfortunate European peasant girls being shorn bald for the hair trade abounded.  When stories of hair being taken from rotting dead bodies emerged, the public lost patience.  Demand for hair work plummeted to zero within a few short years.  By 1925 the hair work industry was completely at an end.

Although it is debatable whether or not the taste for wearing human hair will ever make a true comeback, the surviving hair work pieces are considered very collectible and are remarkable works of art and history.


Bracelet, chased gold, carved malachite and micromosaic with a band of woven hair
c.1825-1850, Italy
V&A Museum

Victorian Woman

Victorian lady wearing hair-work cross

Hair work designs from Godey’s December 1860 issue

Sources / further reading:









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.


1450 – The table cut for diamonds is first introduced


1471 – The first French cut diamonds are introduced


1500 – The first Rose cuts begin


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


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


1912 – The Baguette Cut from Cartier


1919 – The American Cut or ‘Ideal Cut’ introduced


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: