Fabergé Aventurine Quartz Handseal

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A two-color gold-mounted egg-form aventurine quartz handseal on brilliant translucent green enamel base.

Fabergé, St. Petersburg, ca. 1900.

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Tags: quartz

A Pebble in the Rough – Scottish Jewelry in the Victorian Age

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Antique Scottish Stickpin

Queen Victoria was so enamored of the Scottish landscape that she and Prince Albert purchased a Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, in 1852. The royal family soon adopted Highland dress in the form of tartans and jewelry. Such jewelry came from the land itself, often called “Scotch pebbles”, from the use of native hardstones.

Commonly used stones, often mounted in silver, included bloodstone, carnelian, polished agate and granite, citrine, garnet, pale amethyst, and jasper. Cairngorm, a smoky yellow quartz, from the Cairngorm Mountains, was the most favored stone. Victorian Scottish Sgian Dubh Brooch

Brooches were among the most popular forms of Scottish jewelry. The Scottish dirk, or dagger, was a recurring design motif, evidenced by our sgian dubh brooch, covered in a previous blog post. Other common designs included the Saint Andrew’s cross, butterflies, anchors, and love knots.

Circles were also common, like our agate, bloodstone, and citrine open ring, or penannular, stick pin (pictured above).  Our stickpin is an abstraction of the generic Scottish-ring brooch, which usually featured a pinhead in the form of a thistle. Such brooches are inspired from the penannular brooches with thistle-headed pins of the Viking period (793-1066) found in Ireland and Scotland, and were used to fasten garments.

In the Victorian age, Scottish jewelry was often worn with tartan costumes for ice skating. In our own age, they are suited for everyday wear, no matter your intended activity (or lack of plaid).

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Collecting Animals – Fabergé

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Faberge Golden Quartz Lion

On your expedition to our menagerie, you will find an assortment of Fabergé animals. These hardstone carvings do more than mimic nature, but capture the personalities of individual animals.

Fabergé applied this attention to detail to a number of hardstone animal portraits, most notably his famous commission from King Edward in 1907 to replicate all of the domestic and farmyard animals of the British royal family’s Sandringham estate. Wax models were made from life, amounting to more than a hundred different figures. Fabergé received many commissions for portraits of adored domestic pets, his clientele appreciating such commitment to accuracy.

Fabergé’s lapidary studio broke away from the dry realism of traditional hardstone carvings, remaining loyal to detail but imbuing his creatures with whimsical charm. First, a wax model was made. Then, stones were selected based one what best conformed to a particular animal’s characteristics and sculptor-stonecarvers carefully noted poses and often exaggerated certain features. A reputation for this sort of attention to detail significantly distinguished Fabergé from his competitors.

Fabergé’s animal creations were quite representative of the animal kingdom, comprising domestic and farm animals, wild creatures, and insects and reptiles. You’ll find a selection here, in Animals As Art: Wearable and Collectible.

‘Eureka!’ California Gold Rush Buckles

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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 27 – California Gold Rush Buckles

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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!’