Black Opal and Diamond Cluster Ring

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Black opal and diamond cluster ring mounted in platinum.

English, ca. 1950

(opal approximately 10.4 cts)

$42,000

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Tags: diamond opal platinum

Fire Opal and Diamond Ring

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Mexican Fire Opal ring set in platinum with diamond-set shoulders.

American, ca. 1950

$8,500

Fire Opal and Diamond Ring, sideFire Opal and Diamond Ring, back

Antique White Opal and Diamond Pendant

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Large pear shaped cabochon white opal set in an old mine diamond cluster mount with a diamond set bail in the form of a bow.

English, ca. 1890.
Length: 2 1/4 in. incl. bail
(opal approx. 25.64 cts)

$15,000

full view, Antique White Opal and Diamond Pendantadditional view, Antique White Opal and Diamond Pendant

Black Opal and Diamond Earrings

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Pair of black opal and diamond earrings with triangular tops set in platinum.

Marcus and Company
American ca. 1910
Length 1 ¾ inches

$27,000

These earrings appear in our Ear Candy exhibition video series.

Black Opal and Diamond Earringsback view, 1920s Diamond Drop Earrings

ALVR Blog: Opal-Essence

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main view, black opal ring

Opal is the birthstone for October, but we think this gem should be celebrated year round! Opals are truly a wonder to behold. A hydrous variety of silicon dioxide, it’s composed of tiny silica spheres bonded together with silica and water. Known for their brilliant flashes of color, this optical phenomena is the result how the silica spheres are layered within the stone, scattering the light in different directions.

Opals come in a brilliant range of colors, including orange, yellow, red, green, blue, and purple. White opals are the most common. Found in Hungary, white opals feature flashes of color against a white, almost translucent, ground. Black opal, one of the more prized forms that is  mined in Australia, exhibits a play of color against a dark ground. Fire opal, so named for  its bright yellow, orange, or red background color, is primarily found in Mexico and Ethiopia.

Opals have been revered for centuries. Because the colors of other gems can be found in opals, the Romans considered opal to be the most precious and powerful of all gemstones. In the Middle Ages, opals were believed to bring good luck by embodying the virtues of all gemstones.

Although admired since ancient times, the reputation of this luminescent gem darkened in the nineteenth century. In this period, opal lost its luster thanks to the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s 1829 novel, Anne of Geierstein. In the novel, the character Lady Hermione wears an opal with supernatural powers that changes color according to her mood. After the opal is sprinkled with holy water, it loses its color, leaving her ill, and the following day, reduced to ashes. Scott’s decision to use the gemstone as a supernatural life source must have been inspired by the flashes of color seen on an opal when it’s exposed to light. Misunderstanding of this optical phenomenon, along with the stone’s delicate nature, inspired awe and superstition.

Unfortunately, Scott’s artistic license had consequences for the opal market, rendering this once lucky stone to be quite the opposite. In fact, within one year of its publication, sales of opals decreased by nearly 50% and remained low for the next twenty years. Superstition arose from a misunderstanding of opal’s delicate nature. They rank 5.5 to 6.5 out of 10 on Mohs scale of hardness, making opal more fragile than other stones. Because of their high water content, they’re particularly sensitive to sudden climate changes. While Sir Walter Scott exaggerated this sensitivity, it should be noted that the stone can crack under dry conditions, or rapid changes of temperature.

Like Sir Walter Scott, nineteenth-century American poet Hannah Flagg Gould was inspired by opal’s lifelike qualities. In her 1845 poem “The Opal,” she describes the stone as “the gem with the burning heart,” referring to the luminous spot that changes position in the light. Her interpretation is more optimistic than Scott’s, implying that the stone is imbued with holy light:

Gem with the burning heart,
That, as a living soul,
Pervading Every Part,
Gives beauty to the whole,
What angel’s hand thy bosom lit,
With the bright spark enkindling it.

Published in 1845, the poem illustrates opal regaining favor by mid-century. However, at the time of the Crimean War, old superstitions returned briefly when the stone was blamed for giving soldiers bad luck. In subsequent decades, attitudes warmed as more opal deposits were discovered, rekindling the opal market. This was particularly so later in the century when, in 1877, black opal was discovered in New South Wales, Australia. Queen Victoria also played a significant role in restoring opal’s reputation. She loved to wear them and was known to give them as gifts. She gifted opal jewelry to each of her five daughters as wedding presents and loved to give opal rings to many of her friends. 

In this age opals are revered once again. So long as it’s taken care of, the burning heart endures.

Art Nouveau Gold and Opal Pendant by Georges Fouquet

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Art Nouveau white and black opal, plique-à-jour enamel tree of life pendant with boulder opal drop, set in 18k gold.

Georges Fouquet, French, ca. 1910.
Pendant length: 3 inches, width: 2 1/4 inches
Chain length: 18 7/8 inches with option to lengthen another 3 inches

signature detail, Art Nouveau Gold and Opal Pendant by Georges Fouquetwith chain, Art Nouveau Gold and Opal Pendant by Georges Fouquet

ALVR’s Mark Schaffer on Antiques Roadshow!

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ALVR’s Mark Schaffer recently appeared in Hours One and Two of Antiques Roadshow filmed at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX. Hour One features his appraisal of a 1970s black opal ring in a diamond ballerina setting, now available for viewing on the Antiques Roadshow website:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/season/24/san-antonio-tx/appraisals/black-opal-ring-in-diamond-ballerina-setting-ca-1970–201902T28/

In Hour Two, Mark appraised a pair of fancy diamond earrings. Watch this appraisal with the following link:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/season/24/san-antonio-tx/appraisals/julius-cohen-yellow-diamond-earrings-ca-1970–201902A16/

Cocktail Rings – Glitter on the Rocks with a Twist

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Prohibition era (1920-1933) cocktail parties rekindled a love for statement jewelry as part of a new genre of festive adornment consisting of cocktail dresses, aprons, hats, and, of course, flashy cocktail rings. Our collection includes a range of examples from the Art Deco era to the later twentieth century. The taste for these party rings continues on today, often as a favorite accessory on the red carpet.

Fancy Sapphire Ring

 

Women attending cocktail parties showed off the new fashions, and in doing so, their newfound liberties. Often bought by a woman for herself, cocktail rings were a testament to a woman’s increasing autonomy and individuality.  One can easily imagine an elegant, au courant lady tapping her glass while wearing our Art Deco diamond and sapphire pinky ring. An oversized cocktail pinky ring such as this could easily be worn on either the right or left hand.

Ruby, Diamond, and Platinum Art Deco Ring

Our 1930’s diamond cocktail ring in the form of a shield with a ruby in the center reflects the predominant taste for ‘white’ jewelry – the effect of diamonds on platinum, but the central ruby adds just a touch of flare.

Black Opal Ring

Our 1950’s black opal and diamond cocktail ring makes quite the statement. The oblong form of the ring is well suited to be worn on the pointer finger and could never be confused with one intended to signify betrothal.

Cartier Bombé Ring

Our 1960’s diamond bombe ring embodies Cartier’s assurance as a seasoned jewelry house in both their designs and materials. The oversized diamond ring has over 12 carats worth of diamonds but it is more than just a display of intrinsic value – the traditional bombé form is elevated by the subtle striping of the princess and round-cut diamonds.

The cocktail ring transformed over the decades into the perfect statement piece suitable for all occasions. We have many styles to choose from, everything from aquamarines to entirely diamond rings. Please feel free to either come by the gallery to see our entire selection or email us!

For all our ALVR Blog posts, please click here.

Taking Liberties with Arts and Crafts Jewelry

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Knox Arts and Crafts Necklace

The necklace pictured is from the ‘Cymric’ line of jewelry sold at the London retailer and design firm Liberty & Co.  ‘Cymric’ jewelry capitalized on the aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement, but disregarded most of its founding principles.

Liberty & Co. aided in spreading the Arts and Crafts jewelry style across greater echelons of British society. Launched in 1899, the ‘Cymric’ line featured the typical characteristics of Arts and Crafts movement jewelry and appeared to be handmade, but was actually mass-produced. While some details still required hand finishing, cheaper machine processes were used whenever possible. Manufactured by Haseler of Birmingham, these high quality pieces were a fraction of the cost of their handmade Arts and Crafts equivalents.

Much of the line’s success can be attributed to the painter, teacher and designer of jewelry and metalwork, Archibald Knox (1864-1933). From 1897 to 1912 Knox designed not only jewelry but also a wide array of silver, pewter, carpets and textile designs for Liberty. As Liberty’s chief designer, Knox infused the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with Celtic inspiration from his native Isle of Man. His elegant adaptation of Celtic interlace became one of the most distinctive characteristics of the line. ‘Cymric’ jewels were produced in both gold and silver and often set with turquoise, blister pearl or mother-of-pearl or decorated with enamel. This blister pearl, opal and gold necklace ca. 1900, designed by Archibald Knox for Liberty and Co. illustrates many of the key characteristics, materials and techniques found within the ‘Cymric’ line of jewelry.

The chain and gold pendants on this delicate necklace were mass produced, while the setting of the opals as well as the pearls required expert hand finishing. Though not entirely handcrafted, the integrity of the design attests to the clever hand of its creator.

For all our ALVR Blog posts, please click here.