The Timeless Allure of Peridot

Capture the Essence! of Peridot with this Solitaire Green Peridot Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Capture the Essence! of Peridot with this Solitaire Green Peridot Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Peridot has been found in meteorites, in silicate rocks rich in iron and magnesium, in the lava intrusions which burst forth from the earth’s mantle, on the moon, and on Mars. It is the only gem-quality form of olivine, a common mineral composed of iron, magnesium, and silica, and it is one of the few stones (including diamonds) which form deep within the mantle of the earth. Although olivine is abundant on the earth, the gemstone peridot is fairly rare, and it comes in only one color, green.

Individual stones can range from yellowish-green, to olive green, to dark olive-green, to brownish-green. The most desired color is the verdant dark olive-green. The intensity of color of peridot is directly proportionate to the amount of iron in the crystal structure. The higher the iron content, the more intense the green.

The first recorded source for peridot was the mines on Zabargad Island (St. Johns Island), east of Egypt in the Red Sea {4}. Much later, deposits were discovered in multiple locations around the world, including Myanmar (Burma), China, Pakistan, Norway, and the US, with Arizona leading the pack in commercial production.

The richest source in Arizona is the mine on the San Carlos Reservation, where resident Native Americans are the only people allowed to mine the gemstones. From the reservation, nearly 90% of today’s commercial production are sold to local dealers before reaching the world market {5}.

Peridot is associated with good fortune, success, and peace, and it is thought to sooth anger and attract love {1}. According to Hawaiian legends, these lovely gemstones were the hardened tears of the volcanic goddess Pele {3}.

During the middle ages, Crusaders fell upon the mines on Zabaragad and brought numerous peridot to Europe for the purpose of decorating “religious relics and other important ornaments of high-ranking Catholic officials” {2}. One in particular, reported to be several hundred carats, adorns the shrine of the Three Magi at the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

This gorgeous 3.11-carat, oval-cut natural peridot, is a fine specimen of the gemstones timeless allure–the perfect choice for a woman who appreciates rich history and nature’s rare perfections.


  1. Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry. “Peridot Facts, Information and Description.” Accessed April 18, 2014.
  2. Bohs, Natlie. “P is for Peridot,” Jewels du Jour Blog, August 8, 2013.
  3. Examiner. “Myths and Legends About Peridot, the August Birthstone.” Accessed April 18, 2014.
  4. GemSelect. “Peridot Gemstone Information.” Accessed April 18, 2014.
  5. USGS. “Peridot.” Accessed April 18, 2014.
  6. Wikipedia. “Peridot.” Accessed April 18, 2014.

Greek Tradition Calls for Blue Sapphire and White Diamond Engagement Rings

Capture the Essence! of Greek Romance with this Designer Ritani Blue Sapphire & Diamond Halo Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Capture the Essence! of Greek Romance with this Designer Ritani Blue Sapphire & Diamond Halo Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

In 2010, Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark married his bride, Tatiana Blatnik. In photos of the event, Tatiana wears a simple gold band on her right ring finger and a stunning cabochon sapphire surrounded by a halo of white diamonds on her left ring finger. In this one photo we see a vast treasury of Greek tradition.

According to Orthodox Greek custom, a man is first expected to visit his intended’s father and ask permission to propose. Once permission is granted, a date for their engagement is set. Relatives and close friends are invited to attend a lavish party at which a priest is present to bless the engagement rings. After the blessing, the priest places the rings on the bride and groom’s left ring fingers.

Tradition would dictate a simple gold band for the man and the woman, although many modern Greek brides choose iconic engagement rings, such as diamond halos or diamond solitaires. However, when it comes to royalty, the Greeks have their own tradition: Sapphires and Diamonds. In part, this is because the jewels of royals are passed down from one matriarch to the next, as was the case with Tatiana.

Nikolaos gave his intended a ring passed down to him from his mother, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. She, in turn, had received it from her mother, Queen Ingrid of Denmark. Queen Anne-Marie wears her own sapphire engagement ring, a beautiful double-sapphire ring. The blue cabochons are surrounded by diamonds and mounted on a wide band, likely of platinum.

According to Victoria Finlay, author of Jewels: A Secret History, the Greek custom of wearing sapphires may date back to the legend of Prometheus. You may recall reading about Prometheus’ affront to Zeus when he stole fire from the God-King and gave it to humans. As punishment, he was bound by chains to a rock and nightly traumatized by a bird of prey until Heracles killed the bird. After this rescue, Prometheus was freed, but he was forced to wear a symbol of his punishment at all times–a ring of chain with a piece of the stone to which he’d been bound.

According to Finlay and others, this stone was quite possibly a blue sapphire (or perhaps lapis lazuli). The color blue was symbolic of the hottest flames of fire, and as symbolized in the colors of the Greek flag, the blue of sapphire represents vigilance, truth, loyalty, and perseverance, all requisite virtues for a happy, healthy marriage. And to pair a blue sapphire with the white of diamonds (white symbolizing peace and honesty) is the pinnacle of Greek symbolism.

Propose at the Maypole: May Day Proposal Ideas

Maypole in Brentwood, California.

Maypole in Brentwood, California.

Spring is a lovely time to celebrate your love with a proposal of marriage. Does your sweetheart love flowers? Does she enjoy community celebrations and ribbons of many colors? If so, you might consider finding a community nearby that hosts a May Day celebration. At many of these community gatherings, you will find festive music, ribbons of color strung from the top of a maypole, happy dancing, and lots and lots of flowers.

Whether you’re planning a public or private proposal, May Day celebrations offer enchantment, beauty, and merriment, which will guarantee rich memories amid a very romantic and happy celebration. Traditions surrounding May Day include May Baskets (flower-filled baskets left anonymously on doorsteps), Maypoles (poles from which colorful ribbons are stretched for Morris dancing), and the crowning of the May Queen. Based on these traditions, I offer here a few ideas to inspire your May Day proposal:

  1. May Basket. Purchase a small, but exquisite basket and place the ring box at the bottom. Fill in the space around the ring with your sweetheart’s favorite treats. Weave fresh-picked wildflowers into the handle and heap a handful more into the basket, on top of the treasures at the bottom. Choose a time when you know your sweetheart will be home, preferably in the morning after she’s had her shower and coffee. Place the basket quietly on her front porch, ring the doorbell, and run just out of view. May baskets are typically left anonymously, so make sure she doesn’t see you. If she takes the basket inside, no problem. In fact, that might be perfect. As soon as she’s back inside, sneak up onto the porch and kneel in front of her door. Believe me, when she finds that ring box she will open her door to find you.
  2. May Basket Treasure Hunt. Perhaps you want to milk the May basket idea a bit. Instead of placing the ring box in the basket, you can hide the first of a number of clues to find you. We recommend making yourself the object of her search, rather than actually hiding the ring outdoors. This scavenger hunt could end at the community park where the May Day festivities are taking place, or it could end in a secluded place the two of you love. If you choose a secluded place, spread a picnic of her favorite lunch foods. Consider hiding the next clues in favorite places you frequent together. If you enjoy a special bistro, museum, or gallery, hide your clues with your hosts or hostesses at these locations. The more human interaction she has along her journey to find you, the more memorable the day will be. Knowing that you’ve coordinated with people who are part of your story will mean a lot to her. If you prefer a more public spectacle, read on.
  3. May Day Celebration–The Public Spectacle. Whether you choose to send your sweetheart on a treasure hunt to find you, or whether you text her with a meeting place, be sure she winds up at your community’s May Day celebration (or the one in a town nearby). Before the big day, speak with the festival coordinator in order to determine the perfect time to make your move. If your town crowns a May Queen, perhaps you can arrange for your sweetheart to be chosen, or for her to receive an honorary crown (and you on your knees) just after or just before the true queen is crowned. If there is maypole dancing, find a way to incorporate your proposal during the final moments of the dance. You could also arrange for a special appearance by horse-drawn carriage. This way, you can pop the question in public and then whisk her away to a picnic lunch by carriage, where you can celebrate in private.

Whichever way you choose to go with your May Day Proposal, you absolutely cannot go wrong with lots of flowers, special treats, and of course, you on your knees holding the ring!

Vintage Celebrity Marriages: Lisa Fonssagrives + Irving Penn

This photo is of Lisa Fonssagrives with an unidentified man. The image was taken by Edgar de Evia at the Rhinelander Mansion in 1950, the year Lisa married Irving Penn. It is uncertain whether the man pictured is the model's husband, but it's possible. Photo © Edgar de Evia, available for use under the Creative Commons license.

This photo of Lisa Fonssagrives with an unidentified man was taken by Edgar de Evia at the Rhinelander Mansion in 1950, the year Lisa married Irving Penn. It is uncertain whether the man pictured is the model’s husband, but it is possible. Photo © Edgar de Evia, available for use under the Creative Commons license.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Love between artists can be fiery and tumultuous, but for retro-era model Lisa Fonssagrives and iconic photographer Irving Penn love seems to bear all the marks of compatibility, collaboration, and enduring commitment.

While many may argue that being a fashion model is hardly an artistic endeavor, anyone who has read anything about Ms. Fonssagrives will think twice about believing such hogwash. Described by those at Vogue as “one of the most elegant women ever to wear a dress” {8}, the Swedish dancer-turned-model employed her keen knowledge of the intricacies of photography (gained from a previous marriage to dancer/photographer Fernand Fonssagrives) and her rigorous training as a dancer to infuse every one of her poses with electric energy and vivid dynamism.

“I was a sculpture all my life,” she said once, and Vogue agrees: “Fonssagrives turned her body into an exquisite sculpture” {8}. It is no wonder, then, that Irving Penn, a consummate photographer, who by 1948 was changing the face of modern photography, fell for the “exquisite blonde,” whom he placed as his central figure, a white goddess among lesser goddesses in blacks and grays and whites, in the first photo he ever took of her–his ’12 Beauties’ portrait for Vogue, shot in 1947.

Two years later, a reporter from Time Magazine sat in on another photo shoot, commanded by the great Irving Penn in a “dazzling bright room high above the late summer landscape of Manhattan’s Central Park” {1}. The article begins with quotes from Irving Penn; however, the true focal point of the article was none other than the sculpted beauty, Ms. Fonssagrives.

That year, her image graced the cover of the esteemed magazine, and in the write-up the reporter was among the first to elude to the burgeoning romance between two artistic equals–a photographer and his model/muse. ”The ecstatic monologuist [Penn]…” grew “breathless with excitement” as he coached the Swedish artform into a pose which appeared “uncomfortable but graceful…as though some preposterous comedy plot compelled her to be completely at ease while leaning against an exceedingly hot stove” {1}.

One year later, Lisa and Irving would tie the knot in a ceremony eluding the public eye. An envy of today’s uber-public celebrities, Lisa Fonssagrives and her lover enjoyed a lifetime of rare privacy longed for by today’s trendsetters. For this reason, the only hint we have of what kind of passion they shared lies in their own fervent approach to artistry and their enduring affair while fully mixing business with pleasure for 42 years.

Anyone who has worked alongside their spouse, let alone been at the direction of their spouse in their work, knows this must have required a tremendous amount of mutual respect, shared passion, and deep commitment to each other and to their art.

They remained together until death parted them in 1992, when Lisa Fonssagrives died from pneumonia at age 80. Though she retired from modeling only two years after she and Irving were married, she went on to make a name for herself in clothing design and sculpting.

Her clothes were featured in advertising campaigns (shot by her husband) for DeBeers and Plymouth, and her lingerie and loungewear were carried by Lord & Taylor {8}. Her sculptures went on exhibit in 1983 and 1986, in one-woman shows at New York’s Marlborough Gallery {8}.

In 1958, Irving Penn was named one of the World’s Greatest Photographers by Popular Photography, and in 1985 he won the Hasselblad Award {7}, given to photographers “recognized for major achievements” {2}. He continued to sear Vogues pages with his breathtaking, minimalist craft until his death in 2009.

Life Magazine, in 1960, wrote that Penn, in his attempt to “create a new kind of fashion picture,” also managed to create “a new, austere style that influenced all modern photography” {5}. His work in platinum garnered him a show at MoMA in New York in 1975, and in 1980 a collection of his nude portraits were shown at the Marlborough Gallery in New York {7}.

Before his retirement from Vogue, Irving Penn captured the portraits of Kate Moss and Nicole Kidman. In fact, his very last cover photo was of Nicole Kidman posing to promote her movie The Stepford Wives (2004). The year prior, Nicole Kidman had the privilege of sitting with “the industry’s greatest photographers–Penn, Annie Leibovitz, Craig McDean, and Helmut Newton–for Vogue’s September issue” {7}. After her session with Mr. Penn, the actress “collapsed into the corner of the elevator” and exclaimed, “You encounter a different realm” with Penn {7}.

In July 2007, Anna Wintour dedicated that month’s entire issue to Irving Penn, who turned 90 that month. Two years later, Ms. Wintour dedicated another issue to the legendary photographer. In the December 2009 issue, Ms. Wintour wrote, “He changed the way we saw the world, and, in particular, our perception of what is beautiful” {7}. His last assignment for Vogue appeared in the August issue, “a still life of dark-spotted bananas for a story on the signs of aging” {7}. That October, the passionate artist passed away at the ripe old age of 92.

I wonder if his camera sat on a bedside table next to his only other true love, Lisa Fonssagrives.


  1. “Advertising: Billion-Dollar Baby,” Time Magazine, September 19, 1949.
  2. Hasselblad Foundation. “The Hasselblad Award.” Accessed April 12, 2014.
  3. “Times Topics: Irving Penn,” The New York Times, last updated October 7, 2009.
  4. Marter, Joan M., ed. “The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art,” Volume 1, p. 58.
  5. “Penn’s People,” Life Magazine, November 14, 1960.
  6. Saroyan, Aram. Door to the River: Essays and Reviews from the 1960s Into the Digital Age, Boston: 2010.
  7. Voguepedia. “Irving Penn.” Accessed April 12, 2014.
  8. Voguepedia. “Lisa Fonssagrives.” Accessed April 12, 2014.

French Bridal Ring Traditions

Capture the Essence! of French Romance with this Antique 1930s Engagement Ring featuring Old Euro and Old Single Cut Diamonds. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Capture the Essence! of French Romance with this Antique 1930s Engagement Ring featuring Old Euro and Old Single Cut Diamonds. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Very little seems to be written about the exchange of bridal rings in France. What little there is appears somewhat contradictory without traceable reference sources. The few bits of information available are intriguing enough, however, to warrant a brief post on French bridal ring traditions.

According to Planet Wedding, the French exchange wedding rings which are engraved in such a way that when they’re united on the wedding day they form a complete whole. The bride’s ring features her name and part of the wedding date, and the groom’s ring bears his name and the remainder of the wedding date. The source of this information is not provided in Planet Wedding’s book.

Though the custom of wearing diamond engagement rings is extremely popular in the US, it appears that the French are not as inclined to choose diamonds, and when they do, according to one resident, they opt for smaller sizes, ranging from 0.3 – 0.4 carats. The source of this tidbit, a woman from America who married a Frenchman, reports that among her French friends the choice in wedding bands tends toward simple bands or mixed-stone rings {cited}.

As reported by Expatica, the French are believed to opt for three interwoven bands of varying colors. Again, no reference point is offered for this information and a search on Google for multi-colored French wedding bands directs the seeker to Cartier, creator of the famed Cartier Trinity Rings. It is not clear whether this is truly French tradition, or whether this is simply one French company’s brand of romance.

According to Vicki Howard, who wrote the book Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Traditions, the custom of exchanging wedding rings in France was tied up in the liturgical practice of the prevailing religious tradition, French Catholic. She notes that the first account of both men and women donning rings during the wedding ceremony appears in the 16th century. She makes no mention of the traditions surrounding the engagement ring in French culture.

The most credible source for information on current French bridal ring practice comes from the author of the blog, Becoming MadameIn a guest post written for EmilyintheGlass, this American woman describes her firsthand experience of planning a French wedding according to her family-to-be’s strict French traditions. As she notes, these traditions may not be customary to all of France, but they certainly were important to her new Catholic French family.

She first discusses the tradition of the engagement ring. While her fiance opted for what the French call a “Hollywood proposal,” where he got down on one knee and presented her with a ring, this gesture was completely lost on his mother, who was “less than pleased” to discover that she was wearing her engagement ring prior to the customary les fiançailles. This event is a formal party during which the parents of the bride and groom meet for the first time over a hearty feast and the couple is blessed during Mass. This is also the traditional time for the presentation of the engagement ring.

According to French tradition, a betrothal is proposed by a simple question posed by the man, “Will you marry me?” If the woman accepts, then the man must don white gloves before asking her father for permission. Once consent is granted, announcements are made and the couple goes out together to purchase the engagement ring, a gift presented by the man in front of their families during the les fiançailles.

While ring bearers are not a part of the traditional French wedding ceremony, there is a custom akin to American bridal shows called Salon du marriage. During these trade fairs, couples can choose their wedding attire and stationery, sample the wares of various caterers, hire their music and photography, and even choose their wedding rings.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, our Madame left out the “little” detail of exchanging the wedding rings, but she did share the delightful tradition of une Pièce Montéea pyramid made of “small, golden, cream-filled balls called les choux mounted with caramel glaze.” This is the stand-in for the many-tiered wonder we call a wedding cake, and it sounds absolutely delightful to me!

Choose the Sparkle of Diamonds Set A’Jour

Capture the Essence! of Vintage à jour with this Antique Old Miner Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring with Ornate Filigree. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Capture the Essence! of Vintage A’Jour with this Antique Old Miner Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring with Ornate Filigree. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

This exquisite antique engagement ring features a 1.04-carat Old Mine Cut diamond set à jour in an elaborate filigree setting of white gold. The French word a’jour means “open to daylight” and describes perfectly its application in antique jewelry. Not to be confused with filigree, which is also a strong characteristic of this ring, à jour refers not to the rich carvings decorating the crown and shoulders of this lovely ring, but to the particular way this diamond has been set.

The term is widely applied in writings of the late 1800s and early 1900s, often in regard to rings, but not always to the setting of stones. In his treatise, On Some Finger Rings, of the Early Christian Period (1870s-1890s), Charles Drury E. Fortnum writes of a Roman key-like finger ring which features twelve fluted portions which have “a central square piercing, in which one letter of the inscription is reserved in the metal, and from which the ground is entirely cut away (decoupe-à-jour)” {p. 36}. Clearly he is describing a type of carving and not a stone setting.

Writing in 1917, gemstone expert George Frederick Kunz, in his book Rings for the Finger, describes a number of “episcopal rings listed on this inventory were set with sapphires bordered with small gems, one of them having a ‘black sapphire’ set à jour, and held in place by claws” {p. 274}. One can just picture a cathedral style setting on an elaborate bishop’s ring with a large dark stone held in place by four claws, open to the light on all sides.

More recently, the term has been applied to carvings discovered in ancient burial mounds in Turkey between 1950 and 1973. In the volume dedicated to the discoveries made in these grave mounds, Rodney S. Young describes an inlaid screen which was framed by “an elaborately carved horizontal panel secured in place by three dowels…” This panel was “carved à jour from a single piece of soft light-colored wood…” {Three Great Early Tumuli, p. 180}.

According to Lang’s Jewelry Universtiy, the à jour stone setting style was developed in the 18th century, but was not widely adopted for use in rings until the Victorian Era. Prior to this time, gemstones were safely ensconced in closed back settings which covered the entire pavilion. These tight enclosures impinged the movement of light through the diamonds, significantly inhibiting the fire and brilliance of the stones.

Notice in this ring that the diamond is completely unencumbered, save for the delicate bezel-type setting which hugs the stone just around its girdle. Thanks to this marvelous open style, light is free to enter through the top, the bottom, and even a fair portion of the side of this diamond, allowing the stone to emit a greater brilliance than that of a diamond of equal size and clarity set in a full bezel or a closed cathedral prong setting.

If your intended loves light and color, this ethereal antique ring is the perfect choice to pronounce your forever love.

Yellow Sapphires Make Happy Brides, Just ask Jenny McCarthy


On April 16, ‘The View’ watchers, and their hosts, were surprised suddenly when co-host Jenny McCarthy made her big reveal. It began as an update on the “Date My Dad” episode. She reported that her dad was very happy, having made a love match with the final woman he dated from the show. “…[H]e’s very happy, because he’s happy for me, because…”

She flashes her left hand front and center, her face taut with pent-up excitement, and announces, “…I just got ENGAGED!!!!!!”

Screams peel through the audience, as her co-hosts share their raw astonishment, all except Whoopi Goldberg, who seems to have known something was up. After dancing around and hugging her co-hosts, and lots and lots of shouting, Ms. McCarthy succeeds in calming everyone down just enough so she can share “how it happened.”

Over the weekend, she and boyfriend, Donnie Wahlberg, sat on the couch whispering sweet nothings. At one point, Donnie left the room. Soon after, Jenny’s son, Evan, appeared and handed her a card with the word ‘Will’ on it. Confused, she watched him run back out of the room. A few moments later he returned with another card which read, ‘you’.

“He ran away, and I knew what was happening, and I just started crying,” the happy star said. Her son ran away and returned again with a card that read, ‘Mary’ (yes, spelled with one ‘R’). After departing one last time, Evan returned with Donnie, who wore a t-shirt with the word ‘Me?’ printed on it, holding the ring.

“…and he got down on his knee and he said…’Will you marry me?’….and in that moment Evan yelled, ‘I have another dad!” she said, tearing up again. As she shares their very private moment, the audience erupts in squeals again as Donnie comes sneaking through the back to take hold of her from behind in a loving embrace, planting several romantic, but somewhat awkward kisses upon her lips.

The couple first met on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live,” in 2012. Nearly a year later, Jenny told Bethenny Frankel that she thought Donnie was married when they first met and decided not to approach him.

“It wasn’t until he did my talk show,” she said. She was preparing to interview him on air on March 29, 2013, and asked her crew if he was attached. When she found out he wasn’t, she took the plunge. After enticing him to spill all his dirty secrets on VH1, she slipped him her phone number.

“I didn’t call,” Donnie told Jenny’s co-hosts on ‘The View’ six months later. After two weeks, they got together for their first date and talked for six hours. “I got to see who she really is, and she’s a wonderful woman. She’s very smart, she’s very intelligent, she’s a great mom,” he said.

After scoring 100% on their Newlywed-style game, their fate was sealed. Now, she’s wearing a gorgeous halo-style engagement ring complete with a knockout square-shaped yellow sapphire surrounded by diamonds. The shank of her platinum (or possibly white gold) band also glitters with diamonds, much like the sparkle in her cornflower blue eyes as she talks about her lover.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Greek Orthodox Wedding Rings


Capture the Essence! of Greek Orthodox Tradition with this elegant 18k Gold Antique Wedding Band. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Capture the Essence! of Greek Orthodox Tradition with this elegant 18k Gold Antique Wedding Band. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

During a Greek Orthodox wedding, the exchange of wedding rings is a significant part of the ceremony. The bride and groom wear their rings as they approach the altar. The bride wears her engagement ring on her left ring finger, and both wear their wedding rings on their right ring fingers.

In accord with one of the prayers in the Greek Orthodox Betrothal Service, the rings are placed on the right hand in observance of the rings of power, authority, and pledge worn by the Biblical figures Joseph, Daniel, and the prodigal son, who was given a ring to wear on his right hand as a symbol of compassion and celebration for his hoped-for return. The right hand symbolizes the establishment of truth and the source of strength, as well as the power and authority required to fulfill a pledge of commitment.

After the priest explains the sacrament of marriage, the profound mystery of two becoming one while yet remaining unique individuals, he begins the very important blessing of the rings. Using the rings to make the sign of the Cross on the groom’s forehead and then the bride’s forehead, he repeats the following declaration three times: “The servant of God…(groom) is betrothed to the servant of God … (bride) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He then reverses the order, beginning now with the bride’s forehead and the bride’s name, blessing the union three more times. He then places the rings once again on the bride’s and groom’s right ring fingers.

Next, the couple’s koumbaro (sponsor), a role filled in modern times by the best man or maid of honor, then steps forward to perform the exchange of rings. Crossing his/her hands, the koumbaro takes hold of the groom’s ring in his/her right hand and the bride’s ring in the left. Then, s/he slips the rings off their fingers and transfers them to the hand of the other person, back and forth three times. This exchange is made to symbolize that both lives are now interwoven, that one person’s strengths will compensate for the weaknesses of the other, and that together their lives will be richer than if they were lived apart.

It has long been the custom of Greek couples to choose simple gold bands to serve as their wedding rings. Though some Greeks living abroad have been known to move the rings from their right hands to their left hands after the ceremony, others maintain the custom of wearing the wedding bands on the right hand. Princess Tatiana of Greece has been seen wearing on her left hand her sapphire and diamond halo engagement ring with an elegant diamond eternity band and a simple gold band, though on her wedding day she was wearing only her engagement ring on her left hand and a plain gold band on her right.


Beads of Gold: Technique in Granulation

Admire the Technique! in this Vintage Italian Bracelet Charm. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Admire the Technique! in this Vintage Italian Bracelet Charm. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

This spectacular vintage Italian charm pendant features cultured pearls and five faceted oval-cut amethysts. Crafted of 18k yellow gold, this beautiful piece features exquisite metal work, including authentic filigree and granulation techniques.

Careful inspection reveals a multitude of tiny golden beads crowning the floral embellishments lining the central arches of this charming jewel. These tiny spheres represent countless hours of detailed labor on the part of a highly skilled goldsmith.

Called granulation, this technique of fashioning minuscule metal orbs and soldering them in place on another piece of metal hails from the Sumerians, the ancient civilization believed to be the first of all true civilizations. Revived and perfected in the 7th and 6th centuries BC by the illustrious Etruscans, this technique has been used off and on throughout jewelry history.

Metallurgists will tell you that when small pieces of metal are heated to their melting point they will refashion themselves into tiny spheres, much like individual dewdrops of water will do on the surface of a leaf.

Today, goldsmiths use a number of methods to create these golden wonders. The first involves cutting narrow fringes along the edge of a thin sheet of metal and then trimming them off to form tiny individual squares. Another involves the use of a mandrel, a cylindrical rod around which very thin wire is coiled. As the wire spools off the mandrel, the jeweler will cut it into very small jump rings.

Once these tiny pre-spheres are fashioned, they are coated in charcoal powder. Next, the bottom of a crucible is doused with more charcoal powder, and the small pieces of coated metal are sprinkled evenly across the powder, much like seeds are sown in the ground. Another layer of charcoal is added, followed by more bead seeds, until the crucible is filled three-quarters of the way up. The crucible is then placed in an oven, and as the container grows hotter, the metal pieces begin to melt and form into tiny spheres. Once cooled, they are cleaned with water or acid and prepared for soldering.

The goal is to produce fairly evenly-sized beads measuring between .14 mm and 3.5 mm in diameter. The smaller the beads, the harder they are to fashion, which is why the Etruscan designs inspire so much intrigue. These remarkable relics feature the tiniest of beads, fashioned several centuries before the dies for super fine wires were invented. One historian, Jochem Walters, proposes that the Etruscans achieved such minute results by melting coarse gold filings in layers of powdered charcoal.

On this beautiful piece, the beads are on the large side, probably fashioned from larger-gauge wire which was cut and fired in the fashion described above. The overall effect is crown-like, with the tiny beads mirroring the rounded pearls and the orb-style top-piece. This piece represents a stunning example of vintage Italian craftsmanship.

Spotlight on Milgrain Technique in Engagement Rings

Admire the Technique! in this IGI-Certified Princess Cut Diamond Engagement Ring with Milgrain Details. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Admire the Technique! in this IGI-Certified Princess Cut Diamond Engagement Ring with Milgrain Details. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

This delectable engagement ring is crafted of solid 18k white gold with accents in solid 14k gold. The central stone is an exquisite D-color, Princess Cut diamond weighing in at 0.97 carats. Mounted cathedral style in a four-prong setting, this magnificent diamond is flanked on either side by four round brilliant cut diamonds totaling another 1.37 carats.

The top of the ring’s tapering shank is crisply etched in a scalloped design, and the edges are finished in the milgrain technique, giving the ring an antique look and feel. Milgrain, derived from the French word millegrain (meaning ‘thousand grains’), is most often seen on the edges of rings and can take the form of teeny-tiny beads or a series of serrated grooves resembling the edges of coins.

Special tools are used to imprint the desired edging pattern into the rings. One such tool, called a knurling tool, consists of small rolling wheel attached to the end of a handle which, when rolled along the edges of the shank, produces a beaded appearance. Another such tool features a chuck-holding handle with several different attachments which, when rolled along the edge, produce different effects, including decorative beads or fine rows of cuts.

These hand techniques were the only ones available to early-century jewelers. Today, however, jewelers can make use of 3D-CAD programs to execute the milgrain effect. These programs include a milgrain decoration which is added as a decorative feature. The finished design is then sent to a special printer which fashions a 3D wax model of the ring which can be cast in metal die form. Goldsmiths pour molten alloys into these dies to form casts of the ring parts which when dried and cooled are assembled prior to setting the stones.

No matter how the milgrain technique is executed, the results are similar to applying a frame around a finished painting. This framework adds another dimension to the piece, highlighting certain design elements such as the gemstones or, in this case, the hand engraving on the shank of the ring.