Renaissance Revival Plique-à-jour Enamel and Moonstone Cross Pendant

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Renaissance revival gold pendant cross set with …

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Tags: enamel gold moonstone

Antique Tiffany & Co. Carved Moonstone and Diamond Brooch

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Carved moonstone and diamond brooch set in platinum. The moonstone  is of exceptional size, measuring 1-3/4 inches in diameter.

Tiffany & Co, New York, ca. 1905.
Diameter: 2 inches

other view, Carved Moonstone and Diamond Brooch by Tiffany & Co.

1920s Moonstone and Diamond Cufflinks

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Cabochon moonstone and diamond double cufflinks, set in platinum.

Cartier, Paris, ca. 1920.

$30,000

other view, 1920s Moonstone and Diamond Cufflinks

Moonstone Intaglio Bracelet of Senator William Benton and Children

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18k gold bracelet with moonstone intaglios depicting Connecticut Senator William Benton and his four children. Benton was an avid art collector and ALVR client. Read more about him and this bracelet here.

Designed by Izabel Coles, moonstones carved by Beth Benton Sutherland
18k gold mount most likely by Herman Koechendoeffer
American, ca. 1940
Length: 7 inches

open, Gold and Moonstone Intaglio Bracelet

Vintage 1960s Moonstone Bracelet

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Cabochon moonstone, onyx, and diamond bracelet.

American, ca. 1960.
Length: 7 inches

$24,000

ALVR Blog: The Benton Bracelet

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Gold and Moonstone Intaglio William Benton Bracelet

18k gold and moonstone bracelet.
Designed by Izabel Coles & carved by Beth Benton Sutherland
18k gold mount most likely by Herman Koechendoeffer
American, ca. 1940

History comes full circle with this personalized piece of Americana: a bracelet commissioned by Connecticut Senator William Benton (1900-1973). Benton was an avid art collector and ALVR client.

This 18k gold and moonstone bracelet speaks to Benton’s artistic appreciation. A gift to his wife, the five moonstones feature carved intaglios of Benton and his four children (Charles, John, Helen, and Louise). That these moonstones are so exquisitely carved demonstrates remarkable craftsmanship. Moonstones are as popular today as they were then and are typically cut en cabochon.

Also of note: by calling this “the Benton bracelet,” we refer to both patron and artist. The intaglios were carved by Benton’s cousin, esteemed gem carver Beth Benton Sutherland. She specialized in intaglios carved in moonstone and had a reputation as the best portrait carver. She was particularly known for her skill in capturing the countenances of children and her carved portraits were highly coveted. She began collaborating with designer Izabel Coles in the late 1920s, a partnership that lasted into the 1960s. Their work was exhibited in many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which still has one piece on exhibit: a carved moonstone of philanthropist Edward S. Harkness, made as a gift to his wife in 1929.

While Benton Sutherland made lasting impressions quite literally through her art, Senator Benton also left his mark on the world.  During his term he was among the first to speak out against Senator McCarthy, which ultimately led to McCarthy’s censure in 1954. Outside of politics, the bibliophile, media guru, and art collector had an industrious career in both advertising and publishing, shaping media as we know it.  He introduced sound effects and other innovations to radio programming, and Encyclopedia Britannica achieved unprecedented success under his direction.

A longtime benefactor of the University of Connecticut, the school renamed its art museum in Benton’s honor in 1972.

History comes full circle with Benton’s intaglio bracelet, sealing the memory of a noted patron and collector at ALVR.

ALVR Blog: All Jewelry is Costume Jewelry

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Mid Century Orchid Brooch

Moonstone, diamond, and ruby brooch in the form of an orchid, set in platinum.
By  Alfred Philippe, head designer for Trifari and previously worked for Cartier and V.C.A.
American, ca. 1940
Length: 2 3/8 in.

The vintage brooch pictured above bears remarkable resemblance to the “Jelly Belly” orchids designed by Alfred Trifari orchidPhilippe for Trifari (pictured right), the leading producer of costume jewelry in the twentieth century. In contrast to the platinum, moonstones, diamonds, and rubies in ALVR’s brooch, Philippe’s “Jelly Belly” orchid, patented in 1944, features gilded silver leaves, lucite petals, and rhinestones.

These brooches may differ materially, but they equally demonstrate quality craftsmanship and creative design.  These shared characteristics reference a turning point in jewelry history when the Great Depression of the 1930s propelled fine jewelers to lend their skills to the costume jewelry trade.

Trifari patent

Alfred Philippe was one such designer and the best-known example of the transition. In 1930, after working as a master craftsman for Cartier and Van Cleef and Arples, he became head designer at Trifari where he remained until 1968. His background in fine jewelry elevated his costumed creations to anything but, applying the same high end designs and techniques – like using delicate settings, top quality materials, and setting stones by hand.

Philippe applied his expertise to Broadway and Hollywood, creating exclusive designs forTrifari flower stage and screen. But his most famous commissions came from the White House where First Lady Mamie Eisenhower wore Trifari jewels to the 1953 and 1957 Presidential Inaugural Balls.

These high profile commissions helped elevate costume jewelry to the same level of its fine counterpart, but we would argue that they are one and the same. In fact, the phrase “costume jewelry” is an anglicized version of the French phrase “bijoux de costume,” meaning, jewelry for a costume.  Therefore, whether you’re wearing diamonds or rhinestones, moonstones or lucite, it is all the same: all jewelry is costume jewelry.

For all our ALVR Blog posts, please click here.

References:
Miller, Judith. “Faux Real: Trifari Costume Jewellery.”  The Telegraph. August 12, 2013 (accessed June 9, 2017)
Trifari Sterling ‘Alfred Philippe’ Jelly Belly Orchid Pin (or Pendant)” N&N Vintage Costume Jewelry. (accessed June 9, 2017)
Vintage Trifari Costume Jewelry.” Collectors Weekly. (accessed June 9, 2017)

A Thimbleful of History

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collection of thimbles

Antique thimbles are trinkets most often of precious materials, as beautiful as they are functional, imbued with both sentimental and intrinsic value. While they originated as sewing implements, over the centuries their decorative features evolved to complement their new functions as fashionable gifts, status symbols, and tokens of affection.

In the preindustrial era, the significant amount of domestic sewing made thimbles and other sewing implements common household possessions. Over time, they became increasingly valuable. For example, by the sixteenth-century, silver thimbles were listed in wills and other legal documents.

In this period, decorative thimbles became fashionable gifts, a trend believed to be set by Elizabeth I of England (1558-1603) when she gave a gem-set thimble to a lady-in-waiting. For centuries it was customary to include thimbles and other sewing tools in a bride’s trousseau, a tradition that carried into the nineteenth-century. Thimbles given by a lady’s fiancé usually featured inscriptions like ‘A token of regard’ or ‘Forget-me-not.’

Gold and Enamel Thimble

Gold Directoire period French thimble with black and white enamel border.

As thimbles became more valuable, they became more decorative. In the fourteenth-century, French goldsmiths began making decorative thimbles. By the sixteenth-century, thimble decoration became more distinctive, consisting of relief designs, foliate scrolls, and mottoes. The finest thimbles were mostly gold.  Other materials varied by region. Glass thimbles came from Venice and Bohemia and wooden thimbles came from Germany and Austria.

Gold and Turquoise Floral Thimble

English 18k gold thimble with with turquoises, pearls, and gold scrolls set in an elegant floral pattern. Mid-nineteenth-century.

The production of porcelain thimbles began in the eighteenth-century by a number of factories, but thimbles from the Meissen factory remain the most revered and sought after by collectors. Porcelain thimbles share common decorative motifs like flowers, birds, silhouettes, landscapes, fishing or hunting scenes, pastoral scenes, harlequinades, and chinoiseries. Rims are often scalloped or crenellated.

porcelain thimbles

Left: English Bilston Battersea thimble with multi-colored floral sprays on a white ground. 1765.
Middle: Meissen porcelain thimble with early pruncing and a wide border of flowers. Mid-eighteenth-century.
Right: Meissen porcelain thimble with chinoiserie decoration. 1735-40.

Gem-set thimbles featured an array of gemstones like moonstone, amethyst, jade, topaz, sardonyx, coral, onyx, turquoise, carnelian, and moss agate. Some were thought to have apotropaic qualities specifically for protecting eyesite, a fair concern for a seamstress. Moss agates protected the eyes, as well as sardonyx, which offered the added bonus of defending witchcraft. Turquoise thwarted eye disease and poison.

Antique Gold and Turquoise Thimble

English 18k gold thimble set with seven turquoises within a floral scroll decorated border with scalloped edge. Ca. 1840.

Today, thimbles still make excellent gifts and are avidly collected. Also, if one happens to be in search of a protective amulet, by all means, consider a thimble.

For all our ALVR Blog posts, please click here.