Welsh Gold

a painting of two women in traditional dress against a mountainous landscape
William Dyce, Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting (1860)

Welsh Gold is considered to be among the world’s most sought after and valued gold because of its scarcity and beauty.  It comes from two areas of Wales, one in North Wales, in the areas of Barmouth, Dolgellau and Snowdonia and the other area is in South Wales, in the valley of River Cothi at Dolaucothi. At present, there are only three companies licensed to work with pure unmixed Welsh Gold (one is listed in the links at the bottom of this page).

It currently sells for approximately $1500 ounce.  There are no active gold mines currently in Wales, so all Welsh gold comes from a diminishing supply.  It is illegal to prospect for gold in Wales.

Misconceptions.

There are a number of misconceptions about Welsh Gold.  One is that it is naturally Rose Gold in color.  This is simply due to copper and gold having often been a popular alloy throughout the ages, especially in Britain.  In its natural state, Welsh Gold is either the usual yellow gold color or it can be somewhat whitish as it can be found alloyed with silver in its natural state (this is called electrum). However, I have also read that Welsh Gold used to be naturally alloyed with copper and it is only in recent years that it is always purified so I am not certain of the truth.  Regardless, Welsh Gold is not actually much different in chemical composition from gold from anywhere in the world.  It is perhaps simply the psychological appeal of having gold from Wales that gives it its value.

The other very widely spread misconception is that jewelry commonly sold as ‘Welsh gold’ contains more than a tiny percentage of Welsh gold.  Often it is literally just a touch of Welsh gold and the rest is gold bullion.  Watch out for the words ‘presence of Welsh gold’ and ‘contains Welsh gold’.  A genuinely pure Welsh gold item is very valuable and rare.  In contemporary jewelry, a piece with 10% Welsh gold is about the highest percentage available.

Assay Marks

When only gold of Welsh origin is in the piece, it will have this assay mark (Aur Cymru):

The Aur Cymru stamp is three feathers:

As with other British gold pieces, you will also see:  The Goldsmith Makers Mark, The Assay Standard Hallmark, The Assay Office Mark and The Date Letter.

The Welsh Dragon Mark on a piece means that Welsh Gold is ‘present’ but it doesn’t say by what percentage.

hm-dragon

Other unique marks you will see will be makers marks of Welsh jeweler’s but they do not mean that the gold is purely Welsh gold, only the AC mark will mean that.

Royal Connections.

Since 1923, Welsh Gold has been favored by the British royal family which has consequently enhanced the value of Welsh gold even further.

Kate Middleton wearing her engagement ring

Kate Middleton wearing her Welsh Gold engagement ring.

Sources / further reading:

http://www.clogaugoldmine.co.uk/#

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

http://www.welshgoldplc.co.uk/pages/assayinfo/index.html

http://www.kelvinjenkins.co.uk/WelshGold.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-13196514

http://www.ecouterre.com/kate-middletons-royal-wedding-ring-is-made-from-repurposed-local-welsh-gold/

http://www.wartski.com/

http://americas.visitwales.com/news-and-features/hiraeth-for-beginners/welsh-gold/

http://www.rhiannon.co.uk/

http://www.rhiannon.co.uk/faq

Parures

A parure is a complete matching set of jewelry, usually consisting of a brooch, a ring, a bracelet, a pair of earrings and a necklace.  Some parures can have many more pieces and can include matching tiaras, diadems, stomachers, aigrettes, sevignes and buttons. Wearing an entire parure is referred to as ‘en suite’. The word ‘parure’ comes from the French ‘parer’ meaning ‘to adorn’.  A demi-parure has less pieces and usually consists of two or sometimes three pieces, often a necklace and matching earrings.

Parures have been popular since the 1600s.  They reached a height of popularity in the Napoleonic era and are especially associated with France, although  other European nations also owned them. Although more of a Victorian concept, parures can be found into the Art Deco era.  Because of the number of children people used to have, parures were frequently divided out in inheritances and it is rare to find a complete parure.   A complete set is considered more valuable when sold together than its individual parts.

Parures

AN ANTIQUE GOLD PARURE

AN ANTIQUE GOLD PARURE
Comprising a sculpted gold necklace of foliate motif; two bracelets, a brooch, a pair of ear pendants and a tiara en suite, circa 1830, necklace 17½ ins., bracelets 7 ins., with French assay marks, French importation marks and maker’s marks, in a red leather fitted case (6)
Christie’s Sale 2694

AN ANTIQUE PINK TOPAZ, ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND GOLD PARURE

AN ANTIQUE PINK TOPAZ, ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND GOLD PARURE
Comprising: a comb tiara set with a fringe of oval pink topazes to the openwork gold, blue enamel and diamond decoration; a necklace/choker with removeable links supporting a detachable plaque brooch and topaz pendant; a pair of earrings with detachable pendants (may be added to necklace/brooch combination); and a brooch with pendant hoop, all of neo-classical and foliate design, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1840
Christie’s Sale 1368

PARURE OR ET ARGENT ET BROCHE CORAIL, PAR JEAN DESPRES

Parure of Gold and Silver and Coral by Jean Despres
c. 1928-1975
Christie’s Sale 5557

Demi-Parures

AN ANTIQUE FER DE BERLIN DEMI PARURE

AN ANTIQUE FER DE BERLIN DEMI PARURE
Christie’s Sale 3026

A Victorian coral demi-parure

A Victorian coral demi-parure c. 1850
Christie’s Sale 8127

A Victorian gold and amethyst demi-parure

A Victorian gold and amethyst demi-parure
Christie’s Sale 6423

Tortoise Shell

A LOT OF EIGHTTEN TORTOISESHELL OBJECTS

19th and early 20th century tortoise shell objects
Christie’s Sale 2811

Tortoise shell objects are made from the outer blades covering the upper shell of the Hawksbill turtle and the Loggerhead turtle.  Fortunately, it has been illegal to produce tortoise shell jewelry since the 1970s.  The beauty and rarity of real Tortoise Shell is, for me, tempered by its sad history.  In order to buy or sell Tortoise Shell legally, it must be at least a hundred years old and a genuine antique, or to have originated from a private collection (for example, if you get left some Tortoise Shell jewelry as an inheritance). But do double check the laws in your own country as they differ.

Testing Tortoise Shell.  

Other materials such as celluloid, Lucite, Bakelite, horn, bone and plastic can all be mistaken for tortoiseshell, especially if looking at pictures alone.  In order to identify genuine Tortoise Shell, apply a hot pin to a hidden spot; if the resulting smell is similar to burned hair and a black spot is left, it is likely to be Tortoise Shell.  If there is a plastic smell it is not Tortoise Shell. You can also run it under hot water to see if it gives off a plastic smell.  Another way to tell is have a look at the markings; real Tortoise Shell is not regular in it’s marking and will have a distinctive luminosity when held to the light.  There will also be a slight unevenness to it that cannot be found in molded materials.  Upon close inspection, one can often see fine knife marks where the tortoiseshell was carved by hand.

Colors

Most Tortoise Shell is the dark brown or reddish-brown variety with translucent amber high-lights but it can also be a uniform dark brown with no amber. Generally speaking, the older and more well worn the piece, the darker the Tortoise Shell, even appearing quite black in very old pieces. Tortoise Shell can also be  the ‘Blonde’ or ‘Demi-Blonde’ variety in which case it will not be dark, but will still darken with age.  Blonde Tortoiseshell is rarer and is considered more valuable and can range from an even pale yellow to a deep amber color. Tortoise Shell can also be stained different colors.

A GEORGE III GREEN-STAINED TORTOISESHELL TEA CADDY Christie’s sale 6853

AN ENGLISH BLONDE TORTOISESHELL DRESSING TABLE SET  
Christie’s Sale 4888

A SPANISH COLONIAL TORTOISESHELL AND SILVER MOUNTED DOMED CASKET 18th century
Christie’s Sale 4607

Tortoise Shell is very pliable and can be formed into many shapes with heat. It can also be carved and inlaid (piqué). Tortoise Shell was a very popular material throughout the 18th, 19th and first part of the 20th century.  It had an enormous variety of uses in jewelry, household objects and accessories.  Here are just some examples below:

Hair Ornaments

Three Belle Epoque diamond-set tortoiseshell hair combs

Three Belle Epoque diamond-set tortoiseshell hair combs c. 1910
Christie’s Sale 8644

Comb

France, c. 1875
Tortoiseshell, hinged copper-gilt, applied decoration and filigree
V&A Museum

ANTICO PETTINE IN TARTARUGA E CORALLI

Hair comb with coral 19th century
Christie’s Sale 2521

Fans

Fan

Bangles

Brooches

Brooch

Europe, c. 1825
Brooch, tortoiseshell, decorated with gold cannetille work, turquoises and a pearl
V&A Museum

Boxes

An enormous variety of boxes, from snuff boxes, to trinket boxes, to jewelry boxes to tea caddies were created with Tortoise Shell.

A REGENCY TORTOISESHELL COFFER-FORM TEA CADDY,

A REGENCY TORTOISESHELL COFFER-FORM TEA CADDY.
Christie’s Sale 2458

Cigarette Holders

Cigarette Holders were all the rage during the Art Deco era (1920-1940)

An Art deco gold, enamel and tortoiseshell cigarette holder, by Cartier
Christie’s Sale 5657

Dog Collars

A TORTOISESHELL DOG-COLLAR WITH GOLD INLAY
Christie’s sale 5467

Dressing Table Sets and Traveling Boxes

Popular with both gentlemen and ladies.

A SILVER-MOUNTED TORTOISESHELL TRAVELLING DRESSING TABLE SET
Christie’s Sale 5680

Canes

A GROUP OF WALKING CANES
Christie’s Sale 5902

Card Cases

Piqué

Perhaps the most popular use for tortoise shell was piqué, which involved the delicate inlay of gold and silver. Every type of jewelry, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and brooches, were produced throughout the Victorian era with this fine technique.

pique-earrings

Earrings, tortoiseshell inlaid with gold and silver (piqué posé), English, ca. 1850. 

Photo copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Victorian Pique Pendant Antique Inlaid Delicate Real Gold Silver Tortoiseshell English Black Vintage Rare Collectible Flowers Fine Necklace

Mid to late Victorian Piqué single earring, converted into a contemporary pendant.  Note the typical circular design with geometric motif.

Sources / further reading:

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

http://www.ebay.com/gds/TORTOISESHELL-Real-or-fake-How-to-tell-the-difference/10000000012067858/g.html

http://www.conservation-housekeeping.co.uk/blog/24-antique-tortoiseshell-ivory-bone-a-mother-of-pearl

http://www.nre.gov.my/Biodiversity/BioD%20Knowledge/CITES_Briefcase-10_Tortoiseshell_Identification.pdf

Types of Bracelets

Armlet

This is a bracelet that is designed to be worn on the upper arm.

File:Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.PNG

Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz with Armlet
by Jozef Maria Grassi in 1802.

Articulated

This is a bracelet made of many moveable segments, for example a snake-link or panel bracelet.

Bracelet

Italy, c. 1860-1880
Gold, hinged panels with applied wire and granulated decoration
Castellini
V&A Museum

Bangle

A bracelet made of a single piece with no segments or joins.

Bangle

Paris, c. 1925
Lacquered brass
V&A Museum

Buckle

The buckle can be functional or decorative.  Popular motif in Victorian era.

Victorian Buckle Braclet
Morning Glory Antiques

Chain

Bracelet

Cyprus, 18th century
Silver with enamel
V&A Museum

Charm

Charm bracelet

USA. c. 1800-1900
Gold, enamel, hardstone, glass and photographs.
V&A Museum

Cuff

A bangle that does not fully go around the arm.

Bracelet

India, c. 1850
Enamelled gold with diamonds.
V&A Museum

Hinged Bangle

Bangle

London, c. 1867
Gold and painted enamel with diamonds
V&A Museum

Jarretiere

This is a strap bracelet made from flat, broad links with a buckle fastener, mordant and occasionally a slide. First popular in the mid-1800s.

Bracelet

Line

Bracelet

New York, c. 1925
Platinum set with diamonds and sapphires
V&A Museum

Link (or Curb Chain)

Bracelet

England, c. 1835
Stamped gold
V&A Museum

Manchette

This style of bracelet was designed to look like cuff and were fashionable in Paris in the 1850s and 1860s before spreading to England.

Bracelet

England, c. 1860
Gold, with turquoise and pearl decoration
V&A Museum

Plaque

Bracelet

UK, c. 1780-1800
Copper gilt plaques with painted enamels
V&A Museum

Slide

A bracelet with a fastener resembling a buckle but does not have a fastening pin.

(Is also used to describe bracelets with Victorian or Victorian retrospective slides on two chains.)

AN ANTIQUE DIAMOND, ENAMEL AND GOLD BRACELET

ANTIQUE DIAMOND, ENAMEL AND GOLD BRACELET c. 1850
Christie’s Sale 2398

Strap

Flat articulated bracelet, usually with a buckle fastener.

Bracelet

England, c. 1820
Coloured gold, diamonds and rubies
V&A Museum

Tennis (type of line bracelet)

A bracelet with stones (often diamonds) in closely packed settings, creating a single line.

Bracelet

Paris, c. 1925
Platinum, diamonds
V&A Museum

Lockets

A locket can be defined as a receptacle in which a photograph, a lock of hair, a portrait or other sentimental or religious item or memento can be contained.  Lockets can be closed, or open with the memento either exposed or protected under glass, plastic (in more recent times) or rock crystal. Usually worn as pendants, lockets can also come in brooch, ring or possibly bracelet form. Lockets were extremely popular in the Georgian and Victorian era, appealing to the romantic, loving and extremely sentimental nature of the people of those eras.  Lockets continued to be popular right up until the late 1950s.  Although still worn today, they are now somewhat less ubiquitous. Here are some different types of lockets below.

Painted Miniature Lockets

Although hand-painted miniatures were more popular before the first daguerrotype photographs were patented in 1839, they did continue to be popular into the early part of the 20th century.

Locket

England, c. 1816.
Locket, enameled gold set with a miniature
V&A Museum

Miniature - Double-sided locket containing two portrait minitures of unknown girls

England, c. 1904
Pendant, watercolor on ivory
V&A Museum

Photographs

The first daguerreotype photograph was patented in 1837. Wearing photographs of loved ones in lockets soon became very popular and continued until the present era.

Locket

England c. 1891-1892
Silver, with photograph
V&A Museum

Hair

Hair belonging to loved ones, alive or deceased, could be incorporated in jewelry in a variety of ways.  It could be worn inside the locket, or in a special compartment in the back, or woven or braided to create the jewelry itself, or used in tiny paintings, often on ivory.

Locket

England, c. 1784
Engraved and enamelled gold set with seed pearls and hair
V&A Museum

Locket

England, c. 1750
Gold with openwork set with garnets enclosing a painting on ivory incorporating hair, the back set with agate
V&A Museum

Memorial Lockets

There are many surviving examples of memorial lockets for the dead, particularly from England.  Many of them have names and the dates of death.  They first emerged around 1760. The lockets of that era were often bought ready made and then customized for the individual.  Neo-classical themes were common, in particular cherubs, urns, plinths and obelisks. Angels and weeping willows were also common motifs. Hair from the deceased person was often incorporated. Later on, simpler memorial designs, such as the winged heart below, became popular.

Locket

England, c. 1775-1899
Engraved gold with enamel, ivory painted in watercolour with a miniature, gold wire and pearls
V&A Museum

Late Victorian Mourning Locket, Christie’s Sale 5936

Locket Brooches

Lockets were often worn as brooches, either open or closed.

Locket brooch

USA, c. 1850
Gold, rock, locket brooch
V&A Museum

Lover’s Eyes Lockets

Lover’s Eyes Jewelry were popular in the Georgian era. These were a truly charming and very compelling form of jewelry in which a miniature portrait of a loved one’s eye was worn in a pendant or as a brooch.  Genuine Lover’s Eye jewelery is very much a collector’s item today.

Locket

England, c. 1800
Gold set with pearls
V&A Museum

Religious

Religious motifs were popular in lockets.

Locket

France, c. 1700-1794
Locket, Enameled Gold
V&A Museum

Navette Shaped

Navette shaped jewelry is associated with the Georgian era, but has continued to be popular until today.

A Victorian gold, diamond and enamel locket pendant

C. 1890
Gold, diamond and enamel locket pendant
Christie’s Sale 5380

Enamel

There are many examples of beautifully enameled lockets.

Locket

Paris, c. 1867
Locket, gold and cloisonné enamel
V&A Museum

Locket

Europe, c. 1850-1900
Enamelled gold (émail en résille sur verre)
and baroque pearl
V&A Museum

Neo-Classical

Classical Motifs and Micro-mosaic were popular in lockets.  Much of it was brought back from Italy during the ‘Grand Tour’ era.

Locket

Rome, c. 1860
Gold, Micromosaic locket
V&A Museum

Padlocks

Lockets in the form of padlocks were popular since at least 1840 and probably before.

Locket

England, c. 1840
Locket, gold, turquoise, ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst and diamond
V&A Museum

Heart-shaped

Heart-shaped lockets have been especially popular for a very long time. Earlier heart-shaped jewelry had a tendency to have longer hearts with less of a pronounced indentation in the top.

A victorian locket and chain

C. 1850, Heart Shaped Locket and Chain.
Christie’s Sale 5893

Locket

England, c. 1775-1800
Locket, gold set with seed pearls
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/tips/loverseyes.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Lover%27s_Eye_Miniature

Fans

 ‘Women are armed with Fans as Men with Swords, and sometimes do more Execution with them’.  The Spectator, 1711

Portrait Of A Lady with a Fan - James Tissot

Portrait Of A Lady with a Fan – James Tissot

Throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras, up until the First World War, hand-held fans were considered a indispensable lady-like accessory.  Made from an endless assortment of hand-painted silk, lace, feathers, fabrics, vellum, bone, shell, mother of pearl, tortoiseshell and ivory, as well as often being adorned with jewels and fine inlay, fans may not have been strictly speaking jewelry but there were certainly worn, collected and admired in the same fashion.   They were often worn as bridal and bridesmaid accessories and there are also many examples of small, children’s fans, often for flower girls and bridesmaids.  Many fans displayed a strong Asian design influence.

Although fans may have had some practical purpose in warm climates, generally speaking they were held for show and displays of opulence. Fans were often associated with flirtation and scenes of pastoral dalliance were a popular subject for their decoration. Cupid often appears in French and English 18th century fan decoration, alluding to the role of the fan as an instrument of romance and flirtation. A fan was an important accessory for a wealthy woman, particularly when in formal attire. The fan was an important tool in non-verbal communication. The manner in which a lady held and moved her fan conveyed her feelings toward those around her and could display boredom, disapproval, flirtation and shyness, among other nuanced expression. This is referred to as ‘The Language of Fans’ and was practiced by some as a developed art-form.

Although not often carried today, antique and period fans are considered collector’s items and are coveted for their artistry and beauty.

Lady with Fan - Gustav Klimt

Lady with Fan – Gustav Klimt (1917)

Parts of the fan:

The Leaf: this is the part that’s most visible to the eye, and the source of the most decorative expression for fan makers.  It is usually creased so that it compacts when the fan is closed.

The Monture: this includes the sticks, the ribs and the outside guards.

The Pivot or the Head: this is the part that anchors the bottom of the fan.

Decorative Sticks

The sticks of the fans could often be highly decorative with delicate piercing or carving work which gave the appearance of lace or filigree. They could be made from bone, ivory, shell, mother-of-pearl, bamboo, wood, celluloid, lucite, tortoise-shell, and, later on, Bakelite and plastic. Many fan sticks were produced in China for import into Europe. The wide, closely spaced ivory sticks of this hand-painted fan below are typical of the 1750s:

Fan

France, c. 1750-1760
Fan, gouache on vellum, with carved and pierced ivory sticks and guards.
V&A Museum

Souvenir Fans

During the period 1750-1790. the English Upper Classes brought back souvenir fans when they went to Italy on their ‘Grand Tour’. England also produced many souvenir fans throughout the 18th and 19th century, such as this ladies ‘Traveling Fan’ decorated with hand-colored maps:

Fan mount - The Ladies Travelling Fan, of England and Wales

UK, c. 1788
Fan, Engraving and soft-ground etching on paper, coloured by hand
V&A Museum

Fan

Rome, c. 1770-1780
Gouache painted on vellum, carved, inlaid and pierced ivory
V&A Museum

Brisé fans

These had no fan leaf and are made of fan sticks held in place by a silk cord or ribbon.

The sticks of brisé fans are often exceptionally decorative.

Fan

France, c. 1775-1800Fan
Tortoiseshell pierced work, gilding and painting
V&A Museum

Painted Fans

Many fans were as finely hand-painted as masterful wall art and indeed many were replicas of famous works. Lithographed fans were also popular, as well as printed and hand-colored fans.

Fan

Great Britain, late 18th century.
Fan, tortoise shell, vellum, water-color and gilt
V&A Museum

Fan

France, c. 1900
Silk painted with gouache, applied mother of pearl, sequins, mother of pearl inlaid with gilt, pierced and painted, brass
V&A Museum

Fan

France, 1760-1770
Gouache on vellum, with insertions of cotton net; carved ivory sticks and articulated guards
V&A Museum

Feathers

Feathers were a popular material for fans.  During the Victorian era, ostrich feathers dyed in a rainbow of colors were popular, particularly black. During the later part of the 19th century, the use of feathers could be taken to quite an extreme and whole stuffed birds would sometimes be used, despite many protests from conservationists and nature lovers of the time.  The fashion for whole birds reached a height in the 1880s.

Fan

Brazil, c. 1880s
Stuffed bird, feathers, wrapped silk, ivory, glued beetle
V&A Museum

Fan

China, c. 1935
Feather with bone
V&A Museum

Lace

Many fans were made from hand-made lace, often very finely made and representing hours of labor. Machine-made lace was widely available to everyone through the second half of the 19th century.  However, the fashion for high quality hand-made lace saw a boom in the 1890s and 1900s, peaking between 1895 and 1905. During the 1850s and 1860s, black Chantilly-style lace was immensely popular, much of it made in France.

Fan leaf

England, 1878
Hand-made Bobbin lace fan leaf
V&A Museum

Fan leaf

France, 1899
Chantilly lace fan leaf.
V&A Museum

Embroidery

Embroidery is seen on many fans throughout both the 18th and 19th centuries.  Between the years of 1850 to 1900, machine embroidery was developed and soon rivaled hand-embroidery in popularity.  In the 1870s and 1880s, fans and dresses were usually made of the same matching fabric.

Fan

UK, 1880-1890
Machine-embroidered satin in silks, edged with bobbin lace, backed with silk, mother-of-pearl, metal
V&A Museum

Fan

UK, c. 1820-1830
Silk appliqué, hand-embroidered with copper-gilt thread and spangles, insertion of silk net, with carved and pierced ivory sticks and guards decorated with silver foil
V&A Museum

Handscreens

The handscreen was another form of fan. Women generally used them indoors to protect their faces from fireside heat. Handscreens were often produced in pairs and placed one on either end of the mantlepiece.

Fan

France, 1870-1880
Gauze, applied paper, silk and, carved and pierced ivory handle
V&A Museum

Chinese Fans

Towards the end of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century, Chinese fans became popular.  These generally had a rounded shape and didn’t fold. The early ones were hand-painted and the later ones were printed.

Fan

China, 19th century
Embroidered silk appliqués on gilt thread gauze, tortoise-shell and bamboo frame with enamel plaques
V&A Museum

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Fans

Fan

Paris, c. 1911
Printed and hand-coloured paper, with painted silk, bone, metal and silk thread
V&A Museum

Fan

Paris, c. 1920-1929
Printed paper and wood
V&A Museum

Novelty Fans

During the first part of the 20th century, many novelty fans were created.  This bird shaped fan below is a typical example. Cat’s heads and butterfly shapes were also created.

Fan

UK, c. 1910
Textured paper painted with gouache, and cedar wood
V&A Museum

Advertising

As the use of fans declined for personal use in the 20th century, designers and businesses increasingly used them as a medium for advertising and self-promotion. The asymmetrical shape of this fan below is typical of the 1950s.

Fan

France, c. 1950-1955
Hand-painted paper and with wooden sticks
V&A Museum

Fan cases

The fan cases themselves were also often highly decorative, created to match the fans.

Fan case

China, c. 1880-1930
Velvet weave fan cases
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://www.fanassociation.org/

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/accessories/handfans

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/guest-column-the-secret-language-of-antique-hand-fans/

Damascene

Damascene is a technique for surface decoration that involves the inlaying of gold or silver wire or foil into grooves cut into the surface of metal, usually bronze, iron or steel.  The result is similar to Niello and also is reminiscent of Pique work.  Real Damascene work is made with 18k or 24k gold; ‘faux-Damascene’ is not usually made with real gold or silver and is mass produced. (Damascene work also has a variety of other applications besides jewelry which I am not going into here.)

European and Middle Eastern Damascene Work

European Damascene work originated in Damascus, Syria and was taken to Spain by the Moors. The name ‘Damascene’ came about because the English were reminded of the tapestry patterns of Damask silk. Toledo, Spain has been the center for this kind of work in Europe since the Middle Ages.   Toledo Damascene work is also known as ‘Toledo work’ or ‘Damasquinado de Oro’ or ‘Damasquino’.  Toledo work is usually made with a steel base and gold foil worked into the engraved cuts. A bluing compound is then used to darken the background and gold plating is done on the other surfaces. The back of Toledo Damascene jewelry pieces are finished in gold metal.  Mycenae, Greece is also a center for Damascene work as well as of course Damascus itself.

Toledo Damascene generally has one of two traditional and distinct types of motifs; the Arabesque or geometric designs, and the Renaissance motifs, displaying variations of birds and flowers.

Renaissance Motifs in Toledo Damascene Work

Typical Damascene Toledo Work.

Arabesque Motifs in Toledo Damascene Work

Damascene Arabesque Keychain Gold
Typical Damascene Arabesque Motif

Zougan

Damascene type techniques are also done in Asia, particularly in Japan where is is known as Zougan or Shakudo.  Zougan work in Japan is particularly found in Kyoto where it a traditional craft and has its origins in sword-making. This kind of Japanese Zougan work appears to have originated in China and developed independently from European Damascene work.  As Japanese motifs are popular in European jewelry evaluating the origin of a piece of Damascene is not always straight forward and other factors must be considered besides the motif.  Asian Damascene work can be extraordinarily fine. Hair-ornaments are one popular application for this kind of work.

Tsuba, Kyoto, late Edo period

Sources / further reading:

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

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

http://www.aimjewelry.com/damascene.htm

http://vintagejewelrylane.com/information/Damasceneinformation.htm

Nunome-Zogan – a blink into traditional Japan

http://www.damascenejewelry.net/content/4-about-damascene-jewelry

Jade

” An ancient Chinese legend tells us that even within the earth jade and gold are worlds apart, that they repel each other, since gold is of the material realm and jade is of the spirit.” Gump, p.15-16

There are two different minerals which are called Jade; these are Nephrite and Jadeite.  Jadeite is the rarer and more sought after mineral, particularly when it is translucent.  Nephrite comes in a variety of greens, yellow, reds, black and soapy white.  Jadeite has more color variations and can be blue, lavender, black, mauve, pink, white, grey and green in colour. Both Nephrite and Jadeite are remarkably hard and tough materials.  Emerald green (also called ‘Imperial Jade’) is considered by many in the West to be the most desirable color; in the East, white or fine yellow with a delicate pink undertone are generally the most sought after colors.

Earrings

France, c. 1825
Earrings, gold, jade, chrysoprases and rubies.
V&A Museum

Jade can be referred to by its type according to the level of enhancement it has had.   These types are:

  • Type A – refers to jade has not been treated in any way apart from waxing.
  • Type B treatment involves using chemical bleaches and/or acids and impregnating jade with a clear polymer resin. This results in more transparency and colour. Infrared spectroscopy is the most accurate test for the detection of polymer in jade.
  • Type C jade has been artificially stained or dyed. Can be a dull brown and translucency is usually lost.
  • B+C jade  has been both impregnated and stained.
  • Type D jade refers to a composite stone such as a doublet comprising a jade top with a plastic backing.

There are a variety of tests to verify the authenticity of jade, as well as the type and the grade.  Evaluating jade is a fine art that many specialists devote themselves to so I’m not going to attempt to go into this too deeply; I have put links at the bottom if you would like to look further into this.  As a rule of thumb though, the more translucent and strong and even the color is, the higher the value of the jade is likely to be.  One quick test for real jade is to hold it up to the light: real jade will have fine, tendril like inclusions.  Of course, the very highest quality jade of all is like glass and won’t have any visible inclusions at all.

AN ART DECO JADE AND DIAMOND RING

An Art Deco Jade and Diamond Ring.
Christie’s Sale 3026

BRACELET ART DECO ONYX ET JADE, PAR JEAN FOUQUET

BRACELET ART DECO ONYX ET JADE, PAR JEAN FOUQUET
Christie’s Sale 3506

Another rule of thumb, when evaluating a simple jade bangle, is to note whether or not is is rounded or flat edged; if it is flat edged, it is unlikely to be from prior to 1950, if it is rounded, it is more likely to be old, although not necessarily so.

Flat-edged jade bangle, probably contemporary.

Antique Chinese Jadeite Jade Bangle Bracelet 19th Cent

Rounded jadeite jade bangle from the 19th Century. Rounded bangles are not necessarily antique.
Image from ‘Trocadero – The Incurable Collector’.

Jadeite mostly comes from: Myanmar (Burma), Canada, China, Guatemala, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and Russia. Nephrite mostly comes from: Alaska, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, Taiwan.  ‘Russian jade’ is the trade name given to a type of spinach-green nephrite

Although jade is traditionally a material associated with China and other Asian countries, European jewelry of the 19th and early 20th century also made use of jade.  The Victorians often liked to couple it with chrysoprases or cannetille work, whilst the Art Deco era designers often carved it and combined it with other stones and materials such as coral and amethysts to incorporate in floral and ‘Giardinetti’ brooches.  Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts era designers also liked to use jade as the rich, vibrant colors appealed to the sensibilities of the time.  The Art Deco era also used jade in Asian flavored designs and would often combine jade with rich enamel work.  Here are some examples below:

Earrings

New York, c. 1920-1930
Gold, enamel and jade earrings
Tiffany
V&A Museum

Necklace

France, c. 1825
Necklace, gold, jade, chrysoprases and rubies
V&A Museum

Brooch

France, c. 1925.
Brooch, platinum, diamonds, carved coral and nephrite jade, black onyx and enamel
V&A Museum

Brooch

Scotland, early 20th century
Brooch, silver, partly gilded, with abalone, turquoise, jade and citrine
Mary Thew
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-Jade-Is-Real

http://www.gemselect.com/gem-info/jade/jade-info.php

Buckles

A buckle is a fastener that attaches at one end of a strap allowing the other end to pass back through in order to secure clothing, shoes and other objects. Throughout the nineteenth century, highly elaborate buckles were worn on wide belts.    Buckles were also an indispensable decoration on  the shoes and also knees of gentlemen throughout the eighteenth century.  Shoe buckles and knee buckles would often be matching.  Making buckles became a highly skilled craft and were mass produced in almost every metal. Buckles reflected the status of the wearer as well as the occasion. Some buckles were very expensive and would be made from gold or silver, set with gems and have fine enamel work.  Buckles set with pastes and also bright cut steel were common.  By 1790, shoe buckles began to fall out of use, except as part of ceremonial or court dress.

Shoe buckle

London, c. 1790
Buckle, Silver, bright-cut and granulated with steel
V&A Museum

Shoe buckle

England, c. 1760
Shoe buckle, silver set with pastes
V&A Museum

Knee buckle

London, c. 1780
Knee buckle, gold
V&A Museum

Shoe buckle

England, c. 1800
Buckle, earthenware, painted with enamels and iron prongs.
V&A Museum

Pair of shoe buckles

England, c. 1776-1820
Pair of shoe buckles, cut steel mounted with jasperware plaques
Wedgewood
V&A Museum

Buckle

Paris, c. 1900
Buckle, silver
V&A Museum

Mizpah

Mizpah is from the Hebrew “watchtower”.  It comes from a passage from Genesis in the Bible: “And Mizpah;for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another”.  The word mizpah and sometimes the accompanying passage were engraved on many jewelry items during the Victorian era.   Often, the engraving would be subtle and only visible upon inspection.  But more often, the words would be the main feature of the jewelry item.  Mizapah jewelry can be found in both gold and silver or other metals. Antique Mizpah jewelry is considered to be highly collectible.

Typical Mizpah brooch.

Typical Mizpah brooch in gold

Sources / further reading:

http://www.ultimate-moose.co.uk/mizpah/mizpah2.htm

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

http://www.ultimate-moose.co.uk/mizpah/mizpah2.htm

http://antiquesavenue.hubpages.com/hub/Mizpah-Jewelery-A-lovers-gift