Art Deco Topaz and Diamond Earrings

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Pair of precious topaz  pendant earrings with round and baguette diamonds, set in platinum.

American, ca. 1930.

Length: 1 3/4 in.

Not available

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Tags: diamond platinum topaz

1960s Red Topaz and Diamond Cluster Ring

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Oval modified brilliant cut gem red topaz and diamond cluster ring set in 18k yellow and white gold.

English, ca. 1960.

$13,000

This item is available for purchase in the ALVR shop.

additional view, 1960s Red Topaz and Diamond Cluster Ringtop view, 1960s Red Topaz and Diamond Cluster Ring

Victorian Imperial Topaz and Diamond Earrings

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Articulated Victorian pendant earrings set in silver and gold with old-mine diamonds and suspended pear-shaped Imperial topaz centers.

English, ca. 1870.
Length: 3 1/4 inches

$68,000

These earrings appear in our Ear Candy exhibition video series.

main view, Victorian Imperial Topaz and Diamond Earrings

Arts and Crafts Necklace and Earrings by Dorrie Nossiter

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Necklace and earrings comprising natural seed pearls and mixed gems, including citrine, aquamarine, topaz, and alexandrite, set in gold and gilded silver. With removal brooch/pendant.

By Dorrie Nossiter, English, ca. 1930
Earrings L: 1 3/4 inches
Necklace L: 16 inches
Brooch/pendant L: 1 3/4 inches

Dorrie Nossiter (1893-1977) was an English jewelry designer working in the Arts and Crafts movement. Her work is characterized by floral motifs with curved lines and colorful gemstones. She studied at the Municipal School of Art in Birmingham from 1910-1914. She exhibited at London’s Walker Galleries from 1935-1939 and was among four women featured.

Detail view of earringsDetail view of necklace

Arts and Crafts Earrings by Dorrie Nossiter

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Arts and Crafts earrings made of natural seed pearls and mixed gems, including citrine, aquamarine, topaz, and alexandrite, set in gold and gilded silver. These are part of a suite including a necklace with removable pendant brooch.

By Dorrie Nossiter, English, ca. 1930
Earrings L: 1 3/4 inches

Dorrie Nossiter (1893-1977) was an English jewelry designer working in the Arts and Crafts movement. Her work is characterized by floral motifs with curved lines and colorful gemstones. She studied at the Municipal School of Art in Birmingham from 1910-1914. She exhibited at London’s Walker Galleries from 1935-1939 and was among four women featured.

main view, Arts and Crafts Earrings by Dorrie Nossiter

Antique Multi-Gem Maltese Cross Brooch

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Antique diamond and multi-gem Maltese cross pin, set with an emerald center stone, pink topaz, peridot, and Madeira topaz.

English, ca. 1800.
Width: 1 7/8 inches

$24,000

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.

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Mistress and Muse, Lady Hamilton and the Maltese Cross

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Antique Pink Topaz Maltese Cross

The Maltese cross originated as the symbol of the Knights of Malta, otherwise known as the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights of St. John. Because of its beautiful form, as time went on, it morphed into the popular jewel we know today. This was in great measure due to Lady Emma Hamilton, mistress of Lord Horatio Nelson, who received one in 1800 from the Russian Emperor Paul I.

She frequently wore the cross at balls and other events, and soon, Maltese crosses, worn as pendants and brooches, were in vogue, with the trend peaking in the 1830s and 1840s.  Though mainly set with diamonds, designs also used carved hardstones like agate and chalcedony. The form evolved over the years in accordance with current fashions, but never becoming unrecognizable. Our diamond Maltese cross is an example of the liberties taken with evolving nineteenth-century fashion.

Maltese Diamond Pendant

Lady Hamilton’s life was a succession of scandals. Her origins as a courtesan, coupled with her reputation as a woman “no man can resist” rendered her not highly regarded in English society. Quite beautiful, she was the muse of many artists. In fact, she is thought to be the most painted woman in all of British history. Mistress and muse, history acknowledges her with another term: trendsetter.

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A Ruby Is To A Sapphire as an Emerald is to an Aquamarine

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 Gemstones come in traditional colors. However, these “traditional” colors are usually not the only colors that exist for these gems. Often some of the most interesting colors are used in antique jewelry.

A corundum by any other name is still a corundum when red, it is called RUBY. When it is blue, it is called SAPPHIRE. Sapphires need not, however, be blue – any color of the rainbow will do except red. Corundum also can have a natural ‘star’ in it depending on the angles of the silk-like inclusions. Shown here are many of the varieties of corundum. The ruby contains chromium and aluminum while blue sapphires contain titanium and iron. Iron and aluminum will give the sapphire yellow, and purple sapphires have chromium, titanium and aluminum

A garnet – in any other color – is still a garnet – when it is red, it is understood. However, in the nineteenth century (during the reign of Alexander III of Russia 1881-1894) the green variety was discovered and was called ‘demantoid’ (demon-like) because they thought that the devil had changed the color. (The most popular myth for the origin of the name is ‘diamond like’, something quite far from actuality.) This green is due to calcium and iron. Today there are other green varieties as well as other reddish varieties such as the ‘hessonite’ shown here (upper left). The hessonite garnet contains calcium, the pyrope contains manganese and the almandite contains iron.Gems 2

A diamond is a diamond is a diamond – and is probably one of the most commonly used gems in jewelry manufacturing through the ages. However, as can be seen from the pieces shown here, the color can be dramatically different. You can have bright yellows to black to green, blue and even pink and red. The colors of diamonds are seemingly endless. When nitrogen is present, you get a yellow diamond; and when you have boron, you get a blue diamond.

Pearls – coral – turquoise – topoz – spinel – shown in the picture. There are numerous other materials which man has used throughout time; these include turquoise used in both the snake necklace (English circa 1845) and the diamond cluster ring (English 1880). Turquoise was popular not only in Europe (usually Persian in origin) but also in the United States with the ever increasing interest in Native American and Hispanic cultures – especially in the Southwest.

Gem 3The seas have also provided us with materials which have been widely used, and still are to this day. These include, among others, coral, which is the skeletal remains of a sea animal colony built up from calcite with a color that can vary from light to dark orange to red. The example shown here is a coral and diamond brooch carved as a rose (English circa 1885). Another example is the scarab brooch, which comes from Russia at the end of the 19th century. The pearl also comes in a variety of colors and shapes. This is shown by the two necklaces of golden pearls pictured bottom right. The different colors of pearls are caused by impurities that can exist in the water. The shape of the pearl itself is also not always uniform, and sometimes a piece of jewelry is created around this baroque shape. An example of this is the snail brooch (English circa 1950). The other type of pearl shown in this picture is the ‘pink pearl’ or ‘conch pearl’. These pearls come from the conch shell mollusk around the Florida Keys, producing pearls like the ones used in the marquise shaped diamond cluster ring (English circa 1890).

Gem 4The spinel was for many years confused with the ruby and known as ‘spinel rubies’. The reason is that they are found with the corundum gems in the gravel beds of Burma and Ceylon. Spinel also comes in a variety of colors including orange, yellow and blue, however, the most prized color being a transparent red. (Square-cut spinel and diamond ring)

Topaz, or precious topaz as it is sometimes known, is the color of sherry wine and was widely used during the Victorian period and earlier. It also comes, rarely, in a rich red color (diamond cluster ring).

Beryl: aquamarine and emerald are two varieties of this stone. Both are beryl, as is a wonderful pink variety called ‘Morganite’.

Therefore, a ruby is to a sapphire as an emerald is to an aquamarine!

Georgian Jewelry (1714 – 1837)

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Georgian jewelry was produced in England around the time of the reigns of King George I to King George IV, 1714 to 1837.  Early Georgian style was heavily influenced by French Rococo. There are few pieces of Georgian jewelry still intact today: Not only was precious jewelry enjoyed only by a very limited few such as royalty, aristocracy and the very wealthy, but also were gemstones and gold often re-used and re-fashioned into later designs due to difficulty in obtaining raw materials.

Georgian jewelry is characterized by the use of what are known today as “semi-precious” stones in closed-back settings with floral or scroll motifs. These stones, such as garnets, topaz, aquamarines, amethysts etc, cut into early faceted gems, were very desirable and hard to obtain at that time. Gold work was often very simple. Stones were cut with few facets, making the stones appear glass-like. Eventually, more fully faceted diamonds started to become prevalent.