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ALVR’s 2020 Catalog
Saturday May 16th: our final weekend hours until the fall
Saturday, May 16, 2015, will be our final Saturday until the fall. Summer hours begin from May 23.
October 18 – Linking Past and Present
Utilitarian and decorative, cufflinks have an interesting background. For much of history men’s shirt cuffs were hidden beneath outer garments, as their exposure was considered indecent. This began to change in the sixteenth-century when ruffles, the antecedent to the modern cuff, appeared on men’s dress. In the following centuries men began to adorn their wristbands with buttons, but it was the starched cuffs of the mid-nineteenth-century that necessitated an easier fastening solution, heralding the era of the cufflink. In fact, shirts with attached buttons were fairly uncommon, ensuring the widespread use of this accessory
Common among the middle and upper classes from this point onward, cufflinks were a welcome addition to the Victorian gentleman’s rather limited repertoire for sartorial expression. A range of whimsy in cufflink designs allowed a man to show a bit of his personality through common themes like playing cards and sports.
In the mid-nineteenth-century guide The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness, author Cecil B. Hartley makes the following recommendation concerning jewelry:
“Let it be distinguished rather by its curiosity than its brilliance. An antique or bit of old jewelry possesses more interest, particularly if you are able to tell its history, than the most splendid production of the goldsmith’s shop.”
Antique cufflinks provide the gentleman of today with both curiosity and brilliance to enhance his wardrobe, and perhaps, more importantly, a story on his sleeve.
October 11 – Employee Recognition Jewelry
This bracelet features five gold and enamel charms depicting various Ford motorcars, the reverse engraved with each model’s name, dates, and production numbers. The link bracelet is by Tiffany & Co. and the charms are by O. C. Tanner, a Salt Lake City firm established in the 1920s.
While a student at the University of Utah Obert C. Tanner began selling high school and Mormon seminary class pins, soon expanding to include high school awards and club pins. In 1945, the company branched out to include employee recognition awards, a novel idea at the time. Tanner managed to persuade corporate executives to see the benefits of such awards, arguing that ‘recognizing and motivating employees with beautiful, quality emblems would promote better employer/employee relations.’
We have yet to encounter similar bracelets and welcome any commentary. Have you seen anything like it before?
October 4 – Kvas: Drink of the People
Kvas, a mildly alcoholic drink made from bread, has a long history of being a drink of the common people. The recipe involved soaking leftover dark bread in hot water and left to ferment for a few hours, adding honey, fruit, or sugar for sweetener as desired. Kvas was cheap to make and the yeast provided nutritional benefits to an otherwise limited diet, so becoming a staple for the Russian peasantry.
In the 19th century it became more popular than in earlier times, even enjoyed by the nobility on occassion. The degree of ornament applied to these kvasniki, pitchers for kvas, hints at the newly elevated status of the beverage. Of the askos form, modeled after ancient Greek goat-skin containers, they recall a renewed interest in classical art. In the second half of the nineteenth-century, applied decorations like flowers or bright red coral, as seen here, became fashionable. These decorative yet functional vessels attest to how a simple beverage transcended class boundaries, to the extent that the Russians, in the words of Pushkin, “like fresh air they loves kvass”.
September 27 – California Gold Rush Buckles
Remnants of the golden dream, these buckles of California gold commemorate the state officially joining the Union in 1850. The design includes imagery from the California coat of arms. On the left, the goddess Minerva sits with a grizzly bear at her feet, referencing how California, too, came fully formed, having no territorial probation.
In an 1854 history of the state, one author notes how “the plain traveller [sic] from the east will notice the profusion of rich jewelry worn here by every class, and by both sexes.” Naturally, the adventurers headed west to seek their fortunes included jewelers. Through the jewelry companies they formed they aspired to deflect attention from the jewelry centers of the east and provide the entire Pacific coast with jewelry from San Francisco.
It was not uncommon for the forty-niners to send relics of their labor to loved ones left behind. Those with the tools and time fashioned nuggets into rings, crosses, and other pieces of adornment. Others sent small amounts of gold for family members to have made into wearable relics by their local jeweler.
An assortment of jewelry also catered to tourists encouraged to take away natural specimens as souvenirs. California jewelers met the demand with a variety of trinkets including combs, brooches, and rings, which became quite popular in the early 1850s. Much of these mementos proudly displayed clusters of nuggets and incorporated gold quartz into the design. These buckles are a bit unusual in their apparent break from tradition. Collectors are sure to be struck by their historic and aesthetic value, ready to exclaim, ‘eureka!’
September 20 – Vinaigrettes: Making the Nineteenth-Century Fragrant
Vinaigrettes are small boxes containing sponges infused with vinegar kept beneath a perforated cover. Worn to cure fainting spells or to cure a headache, they were popular from the seventeenth- through the nineteenth-centuries. They could also provide relief from unpleasant smells by supplementing the vinegar with additional fragrances like orange, mint, lavender, rose, and spices.
Also implements of flirtation, vinaigrettes appear in Victorian literature, usually with a gentleman suitor coming to aid a faint or headache-stricken lady as seen in this excerpt from Samuel Warren’s 1841 novel titled Ten Thousand a-Year:
Then, after a moment’s pause of irresolution, he gently drew her to the sofa, and laid her down. Supporting her head and applying her vinaigrette, till a deep-drawn sigh evidenced returning consciousness. Before she had opened her eyes, or could have become aware of the assistance he had rendered her, he had withdrawn to a respectful distance, and was gazing at her with deep anxiety. It was several minutes before her complete restoration—which, however, the fresh air entering through the windows, which Gammon hastily threw open, added to the incessant use of her vinaigrette, greatly accelerated.
Antique Snake Bangle
Gold bangle in the form of conjoined snakes with emerald eyes biting a center ring of diamonds.
French, ca. 1900
September 13 – Symbolism in Snake Jewelry
Snakes have adorned humans since antiquity, their coils naturally forming rings, bracelets, necklaces, and armbands. While designs remained constant, the snake’s symbolism evolved over the last 6,000 years. In antiquity, serpents represented wisdom, eternity, and the form of a guardian spirit. Through much of the nineteenth-century they symbolized everlasting love, but by the fin-de-siècle they came to be seen as a symbol of sinister danger.
In 1840 Albert presented Queen Victoria with an emerald-set engagement ring in the form of a snake biting its tail, a symbol of eternal love. At the time it was customary that an engagement ring feature the wearer’s birthstone. Symbols of love and romance were recurring themes in the jewelry Albert designed for her. A true romantic of her age, Queen Victoria’s love of symbolism made snake jewelry an enduring motif throughout her reign. So precious was Prince Albert’s initial token of affection that Queen Victoria is buried with the ring that inspired a renewed fashion for serpents.
Our collection includes snake jewelry ranging from the early nineteenth-century to the mid-twentieth demonstrating the wide range of meanings and styles as illustrated on our Pinterest board:
September 6 – The Smirnoff Schtof
This shtof, the Russian word for vodka bottle, features the Russian Imperial Eagle and the dates 1877, 1886, and 1896, marking the increasing prestige the Smirnoff distillery achieved, including the right to use Russian coats of arms, becoming Purveyor to the Tsar, and the numerous awards received for quality and variety at international exhibitions between 1874 and 1897. The back of the bottle features the inscription “SUPPLIER TO THE IMPERIAL COURT, PETER ARSENTEVICH SMIRNOV”
Vodka, derived from the Slavonic word for water, voda, acquired a particular status living up to this root meaning. It has been said that vodka was “the elixir of life, the living water” of the Russian people, becoming both socially and economically vital.
The blue glass of the bottle plays on these water references, perhaps intending to speak to the superior purity former serf Pyotr Smirnov sought when he began distilling vodka in 1864. The quality of his product, coupled with his marketing genius and the strategic shaping of his personal image, allowed Smirnoff to become Russia’s most prestigious vodka brand. Today, the brand is equally highly regarded in the United States, providing Americans with an elixir of life of superior quality.
August 30 – Christopher Pinchbeck and the People’s ‘Gold’
This snuffbox and necklace are made of pinchbeck, a brass alloy imitating gold. The snuffbox commemorates the 1745 Jacobite Rising, culminating in the victorious Battle of Culloden. The repoussé cover depicts a scene from the battle. The necklace, made circa 1880, features multi-colored hardstone and glass panels in pinchbeck rocaille frames. While a little over a century separates these pieces, they share a curious and ingenious history.
The English clockmaker Christopher Pinchbeck (1670-1732) observed that brass containing between 12 and 15 percent zinc strongly resembles gold and so invented the alloy that bears his name in the 1720s. High gold hallmark standards of 18 and 22 carats at the time confined fine metalwork to the wealthy, but through his genius, Pinchbeck now brought ‘gold’ to the people, catering to those of modest means for whom precious metal objects were inaccessible.
But the alloy also appealed to the wealthy, using it to make copies of their valuables for traveling. Necessary travel accoutrements like buckles, watches, and sword-hilts made of pinchbeck could deter the attention of highway robbers.
These pieces exhibit the many benefits of the material. First to note is their luster despite their age. Pinchbeck has superior wearing quality and retains its bright color, unlike other imitation gold metals. Also, because pinchbeck is lighter in weight than gold, larger pieces, like this necklace, are easier to wear.
Christopher Pinchbeck was very guarded about the true contents of his alloy. The clockmaker had a fondness for spectacle, making musical clocks and automata among other objects. Thus, it is not surprising the true formula of his namesake metal remains a mystery. He passed it on to his son, and so true pinchbeck is said to have died with him, as others struggled to duplicate it accurately. However, as this necklace attests, later concoctions did succeed in replicating the pinchbeck of the previous century.
Antique Gold and Enamel Playing Card Dress Set
14K gold and enamel playing card dress set comprised of Aces cufflinks and matching four studs.
Continental, ca. 1915