Category Archives: Antique Jewelry

Olivia Wilde’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Olivia Wilde's Vintage 1920s engagement ring with this Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring with Authentic Art Deco green glass accents. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Olivia Wilde’s Vintage 1920s engagement ring with this Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring with Authentic Art Deco green glass accents. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Olivia Wilde’s engagement ring made a big splash when she first stepped out with it in early 2013. She and actor Jason Sudeikis confirmed their engagement to the media on January 12, 2013.

People‘s First Capture


On January 15, 2013, People captured shots of the ring, which Olivia offered coyly while on the set of The Third Person in Rome, Italy.

Those early shots were so blurry, but People went ahead and made a guess that the ring featured “a large, elevated brilliant-cut diamond.” They did learn one detail from Ms. Wilde’s rep. They wrote, “…the bauble is an antique.”

It is hard to discern whether they meant that the entire ring is antique, or if one of the stones is an antique.

At Second Glance


Our next glimpse of her ring came in the form of, again, blurry pictures at a Knicks game the following month. The shots from the game were still too far away to get a clear look at the ring.

It was definitely round, and there was more than a hint that People got it wrong on their first guess. With a mild hint of color and a sense of more than one stone in the ring, it was becoming evident that we might have a unique style to ogle over.

Third Time’s A Charm

In March 2013, two sources confirmed that Ms. Wilde’s engagement ring actually features a round diamond surrounded by a halo of emeralds. It turns out that the actress went fairly unconventional on all counts–a small diamond, emerald accent stones, and yellow gold (as opposed to the far more popular platinum or white gold).

This is about all we got, until Ms. Wilde made her big reveal to Lucky magazine, posted online in May of 2014. In addition to opening up about being someone’s ‘hall pass’,  activism, and the perks of pregnancy, Olivia also shared the scoop on her engagement ring.

The Big Reveal

By her own report, Ms. Wilde’s engagement ring is a vintage ring with a story that placed it in Paris around 1921. “I love imagining the story of this ring. Who had it?” said the actress as she turned it ’round and ’round on her finger.

“Jason said it reminded him of my eyes, which is very sweet,” she said of the slightly aqua-colored emeralds surrounding the central diamond.

One Last Luscious Tidbit

We received one last luscious tidbit after Jennifer Aniston spilled some beans to Alicia Quarles of E!Online. “Somebody helped [Jason] on the ring, in fact,” she said. “Not me, but my fiance did…He just guided him in the right direction.”

And there you have it! Straight from the mouth of a fellow Hollywood superstar, Justin Theroux helped guide Jason Sudeikis to find the perfect ring for his bride-to-be.

How would you like to have some celebrity advice when you’re set to pick out your girl’s ring? Would your sweetheart like a vintage ring like Olivia Wilde’s engagement ring?

History + Characteristics of Rose Cut Diamonds

Capture the Essence! of Antique Rose Cut Diamonds with this Blue Sapphire Engagement Ring with Rose Cut Diamond Accents in 18k White Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Antique Rose Cut Diamonds with this Blue Sapphire Engagement Ring with Rose Cut Diamond Accents in 18k White Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

A magnificent 1.89-carat, oval-cut blue sapphire is set in an elaborate diamond-studded halo-type three-stone setting. Crafted in solid 18k white gold with milgrain detail, this ring is further decorated with two beautiful rose cut diamonds flanking either side of the sapphire. The overall effect is antique royal elegance.

The rose cut is traditionally an antique cut dating as far back as the 16th century. This cut produces a flat-bottomed diamond with a varying number of triangular facets meeting together at a tipped crown. The earliest rose cuts were produced in Brabant and Antwerp, though a number of them were cut in Charleroi, as well.

Beginning with three or six facets in a single row around the stone, the number soon increased to 12 with two rows of facets. Though the extra facets increased the brilliance of the diamond, the light remained lost in the depths of the stone. Eighteen-facet rose cuts became popular during the 1800s, and with their increased popularity these cuts were soon chosen for larger stones. This allowed for the development of the full rose cut with 24 facets.

The most distinguishing features of a rose-cut diamond are their flat bottoms and their dome-shaped crowns with facets which meet at a central peak in the center. On close inspection, they almost appear to be set upside down. A variation on the cut, called the Double Dutch Rose, features 48 facets and forms two back-to-back hemispheres.

These rose cut diamonds offer a touch of something beautifully old nestled right alongside something exquisitely blue.

If your sweetheart savors tradition and history, this beautiful engagement ring will surely touch her heart.

Three Old European Diamonds Rest in a Setting Fit for Royalty

Capture the Essence! of Antique Hand Engraving with this Antique Victorian Three-Stone Diamond Ring in Yellow Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Antique Hand Engraving with this Antique Victorian Three-Stone Diamond Ring in Yellow Gold. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Three carats in exquisite white diamonds grace this magnificent turn-of-the-century three-stone ring. The central diamond is an Old European, 1.52-carat diamond with an H/VS2 grade. Accenting this central beauty on either side are two Old Euro diamonds totaling an additional 1.58 carats. Made in the early 1900s, this ring is crafted of solid 18k yellow gold which has worn well for its years.

This dazzling beauty rests in a setting fit for royalty. Three elaborate prong settings, featuring no less than 9 prongs per stone, rise to the occasion of supporting the diamonds, while the shoulders boast a beautiful design fashioned by lines of white enamel painted upon the deep grooves cut by a hand engraving tool.

Under the skilled hand of a turn-of-the-century goldsmith, a graver was held at a shallow angle. As the steady hand pressed the tool forward, its sharp point sliced out a minuscule channel of gold. Stroke by stroke, the channel was deepened with tender precision. Slow and steady, the hand of the master goldsmith rushed not.

Stroke by stroke, line by line, the design took shape beneath his hand. He smiled, satisfied with his work which would one day hold those beautiful diamonds. Did he know that his work would endure beyond his lifetime?

When he finished his part, he passed the band along to the skilled hands of the enameler. The trained painter in the art of fusing glass and silver, picked up his tools and applied layer after layer of white vitreous glass. The piece was then fired to fuse the enamel to the gold, and voila we have the ring you see here.

Unique Engagement Rings for the Vintage Bride

One of the most compelling reasons to choose an antique or vintage engagement ring is that they are often truly one-of-a-kind. Made between 50 and 100 years ago, many of these lovely rings are handcrafted, and even those that feature die stamped bands are often mounted with hand-cut stones. To add to their appeal, antique and vintage rings often come with a reasonable price tag and a host of unique gemstones to choose from. Here we present a selection of exclusive antique and vintage rings that would serve as beautiful alternatives to a diamond engagement ring:

Antique Natural Amethyst and Seed Pearl RingThis gorgeous antique ring is a bold choice for today’s vintage bride. This may be best chosen for a European bride who will wear her wedding band on her right hand, as its bolder profile may inhibit the addition of a second ring. Featuring a stunning 14-carat, oval-cut natural amethyst, this ring is crafted of solid 14k white, green, yellow, and rose gold. With intricate floral designs and filigree decorating the entirety of the band, and tiny cultured seed pearls framing the upper and lower rims of the stone’s surround, the overall effect is one-of-a-kind vintage romance.


Vintage Filigree Ametrine Ring 18k White GoldHere we have an incredible work of vintage art in solid 18k white gold with intricate filigree. Centering a magnificent 6.5-carat, emerald-cut ametrine, this showstopping ring pulses with dazzling color, tapering from brilliant purple to brownish-yellow. According to legend, ametrine is a gift fit for a queen. The first European specimen was reportedly brought to Spain by a conquistador who received it from a Bolivian princess as a bridal dowry. He wisely gave it to his Queen upon returning to his homeland.


Vintage Opal Cocktail Ring with Black Enamel AccentsHere we offer a spectacular opal ring set princess style with nine round cabochon opals in a tiered fashion. The ring is accented with black enamel on the head and shoulders, while the lower gallery features beautiful openwork in solid 14k yellow gold. Opals were also a royal favorite, worn frequently by Queen Victoria. Representing hope, faithfulness, loyalty, and happiness, opal offers a special treasure to today’s vintage bride. As opals are sensitive to heat and other elements, it is advisable to take extra care when cleaning them and also to remove them while gardening or doing housework.


A History of Transitional Diamonds

Look Right Here! at this Vintage 1-carat Transitional Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Look Right Here! at this Vintage 1-carat Transitional Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

The story of diamond cuts is a fascinating look at the evolution of industry. In previous posts, we’ve explored a history of early cuts, as well as the primary characteristics of a number of these early cuts.

At this point in the timeline, it’s time to take a look at the history of transitional cut diamonds. These diamonds are unique in that they fall outside the parameters of the Old Mine and Old European cuts of the 1800s. Similarly, they do not quite measure up to today’s standard Modern Round Brilliant.

Transitional-cut diamonds typically bridge the gap between antique and vintage. Direct descendants of the Old European Cut, these progressive cuts saw an evolution toward a larger table, a lower crown, and a smaller culet than previous cuts. However, unlike later brilliants, the girdles of these stones remained unfaceted.

These cuts were the invention of those cutters under the watchful eye of Henry D. Morse. Mr. Morse owned the first American diamond cutting operation. His passion for diamonds led to the first cuts specifically designed to unlock the beauty of these stones. For this reason, many refer to Transition Cuts as Early American Cuts.

These cuts, also sometimes called Early Modern Cuts, are considered precursors to both the Modern Round Brilliant and the Ideal cuts. Using the newly-invented steam-powered diamond lathe, Mr. Morse and his team sought to standardize proportions for cutting diamonds. Mr. Morse was a true pioneer, and as such these transition diamonds feature a wide range of proportions, angles, and facet numbers. Since they were hand faceted without uniform parameters, these stones are truly one-of-a-kind.

One could call this transition the trial-and-error phase, for that is essentially what these diamonds represent. While symmetry and consistency were the goals, it would take some time for the cutters to work out all the angles. Ultimately, it would be another 30 or 40 years before the work represented by Mr. Morse and his men would be adopted into mainstream use, thanks in large part to the mathematical analysis of Marcel Tolkowsky.

As is often the case, these practice cuts are now a significant piece of diamond-cutting history. Transitional diamonds are special, and we celebrate whenever we find a fine specimen from such an important time in jewelry history. Currently, we have a number of gorgeous engagement rings featuring transitional diamonds. We invite you to browse our selection. Don’t forget to make an appointment to view these remarkable pieces in person.

A Brief Look at Early Diamond Cuts

Look Right Here! at this Heirloom Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Look Right Here! at this Heirloom Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

It was George Frederick Stras, a Parisian jeweler, who perhaps deserves a fair portion of the credit for launching the greatest period of innovation for diamond cutting in the world. In the late 1700s, a time during which candlelight prevailed, Mr. Stras discovered a method for applying metal backings to fake glass gems. The flash of light sparkling off these imitation gemstones sparked a craving among society’s ladies for more sparkle. For the first time in history, diamonds had a rival.

As the glittering light of thousands of tiny glass stones tantalized the eyes of beholding women, diamond merchants scrambled for a way to maintain their competitive edge. Cutters began to experiment beyond the Rose and Table cuts so prominent in that day. These cuts suddenly appeared dull and drab in comparison with the sparkling faceted glass being sold for a fraction of the price of diamond jewels.

The Table Cut was developed during the 14th century. This cut featured one facet, a slice right across the top. This octahedronal cut emphasized a diamond’s clarity and luster, but failed to release any of the stone’s brilliance.

The Rose Cut was developed in the 16th century. A Rose-cut diamond might have between 3 and 24 facets, with a flat bottom and a dome-shaped crown. Named for its resemblance to a budding rose, the Rose Cut was the first diamond cut which allowed light to pass into the stone and refract in a flash of brilliance.

Amid the flurry of activity following Mr. Stras’s invention, diamond cutters soon developed the Old Mine Cut. This cutting style features a high crown, a small table, and a fairly large culet. This style was developed in the early 1800s and maintained its popularity until the late 1870s, when the steam-powered diamond lathe was introduced by Henry D. Morse’s company.

The lathe made bruting possible, a precise method for creating a thin, round girdle on a diamond. The precision of this machine made symmetrical faceting possible. The resulting new cut, named the Old European Cut, maintained the small table, high crown, and larger culet characteristic of the Old Mine Cut, while at the same time presenting a symmetrically round outline.

These beautiful diamonds remained popular through the 1930s, tapering out in favor of the modern Transitional Cuts which soon gave way to the Modern Round Brilliant Cuts which remain the most popular cuts today.

These early diamond cuts represent the majority of diamonds found in antique engagement rings. If your gal loves romance by candlelight, any one of these dazzling antique cuts will thrill her to bits. We invite you to make an appointment with us soon to view our selection in person.

Christie’s London Sale Features Several Theodor Fahrner Pieces

Works by Theodor Fahrner. Photo Credit: Christie's.
Works by Theodor Fahrner. Photo Credit: Christie’s.

Collectors of Theodor Fahrner jewels will not want to miss Christie’s upcoming Kensington “Jewellery” sale, scheduled to begin September 4, 2013, at 10:30am. These three pieces were made by the renowned German manufacturer and represent the firm’s early 20th century signature designs.

Though the firm was actively involved in the production of jewelry in Pforzheim, Germany, between 1855 and 1979, it would be during the early 1900s that the name Theodor Fahrner would become established as a leader in jewelry innovation and design.

During these years, Fahrner designs were characterized by the use of gilded filigree and marcasite, a favored substitute for diamonds from the Georgian period through the end of World War I. Credited with establishing a national jewelry arts identity for Pforzheim, Fahrner collaborated with many different schools of design and effectively marketed their jewelry internationally through the distributors Murrle Bennett & Co., whose center was in London.

Fahrner strove to remain abreast of current fashions, so their design styles range from Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Retro, and on into the 1970s, changing with the times. This wide variety of styles, coupled with their faithful use of hallmarks (a circled TF and/or “Original Fahrner”), makes Theodor Fahrner a boon for collectors.

And right now, the place to be for such collectors is Christie’s London in just two days. For more information on placing bids or visiting the pre-sale exhibition, we invite you to visit Christie’s website.

History and Characteristics of Illusion Settings

EGL Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring in Platinum


This antique illusion-set platinum engagement ring features a 0.8-carat, EGL-certified, Old Mine cut diamond. The central stone is mounted in a discreet prong setting, which is embedded within a fluted ring of platinum. The slender shank of the ring is accented with three single-cut diamonds on either side.

Illusion settings incorporate a ring of fluted metal, usually platinum or rhodium, which surrounds the girdle of the diamond, thereby making the diamond appear larger. Also called monture illusion or mirage setting, the revival of the illusion setting in the 1860s is credited to a Parisian jeweler, Oscar Massin (b. 1829).

Mssr. Massin is actually quite famous in jewelry circles for his contributions to the burgeoning Art Nouveau movement in the late 1890s. During the 1870s and 1880s, he perfected the tremblant and pampille techniques, which are now most associated with Nouveau Cartier and Tiffany pieces.

In 1878, Oscar Massin, exhibiting as an independent at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, was awarded a Grand Prix for his diamond lace-work tiara. The previous year, he exhibited naturalistic botanical jewels, likely set en tremblant.

As his reputation grew, Tiffany & Co. extended to him an offer to join their firm as a designer. Though he declined, strains of his masterful techniques with diamonds appeared in Tiffany’s exhibits the following year, and Clare Phillips, author of Bejewelled, supposes that he may have sold individual designs to the firm.

Though Mssr. Massin has fallen a bit into obscurity, his contributions to the history of jewelry continue on, particularly in this lovely illusion set diamond ring.

Gypsy Settings: Popular Among Men Since the 1880s

Vintage Mens Gypsy Set Diamond Wedding Band


The brilliant diamond in this 1940s vintage mens wedding band is mounted in a classic gypsy setting, complete with the star-shaped engravings typical of 19th century “gypsy rings”.

To make a gypsy setting, a goldsmith first drills a precisely calibrated hole into the band of the ring. He then presses the gemstone into the hole up to its girdle. After taping the stone and mounting to protect them, he rims the stone with a ring of molten metal and gently taps around the stone at 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and 3 o’clock.

He continues tapping gently at these points until the metal firmly hugs the stone, which appears nearly flush with the mounting at this point. As the metal begins to harden, he may use a chisel to add the star-shaped design flourishes. This was common practice for gypsy rings at the turn of the 20th century.

The gypsy setting is one of the most secure settings for gemstones. As such, it has been favored by men since its inception in the late 1880s. According to an 1884 issue of the Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, while the gypsy ring had been in fashion among men for quite some time, ladies were beginning to wear them in the quintessential Victorian three-ring fashion:

“Gypsy rings, with the stones deeply imbedded in the gold, which were originally intended only for gentlemen, are now as often chosen by ladies. As a whole, these are not so massive as those worn by gentlemen. They are rounded bands of gold and may have a ruby, sapphire, cat’s-eye or any other stone in the center with a diamond on each side. The stones are so buried in the gold that only the surface shows.” {1}

At this same time a new trend was emerging, one so novel that it was called odd in the same issue of the Jewelers’ Circular. “Rings of hammered platina* with a brilliant diamond in gypsy setting are odd looking, as the metal resembles silver somewhat.” {2} Since yellow gold was still the fashion of the day, platina was most definitely out of place.

As time progressed, both white gold and platinum became widely used for crafting rings for both men and women. What once appeared odd became highly fashionable and remains so to this day. With the resurgence in popularity of antique and vintage engagement rings, the gypsy setting proves a wise and fashionable choice in wedding jewelry, especially for men.

The classic lines of the design, long associated with masculinity, offer a sophisticated way for men to include a little dazzle in their wedding bands. And the security afforded by the gypsy setting makes it an ideal choice for men who use their hands a lot, especially if their work requires the use of tools or heavy equipment.

How about it, men? Would you choose a gypsy set wedding band?

*Platina is a native alloy of platinum with paladium, iridium, osmium, etc.

1. “Cause and Effect.” The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 15, No. 1 New York, February, 1884, p. 4.
2. Ibid., p.

Antique Celebrity Jewelry: Empress Josephine’s “Burning of Troy” Opal

Black Opal. Photo Credit: Queen of Gems.
Black Opal. Photo Credit: Queen of Gems.

This stunning black and red stone, with a hint of green at the very edges, is a stunning example of a high-quality black opal, and possibly affords a glimpse of what it must have been like to gaze upon the most glorious opal known to man at the turn of the 19th century.

Though currently lost to public record, this famous opal of which I speak once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte I’s beloved Empress Josephine de Beauharnais. Called the Burning of Troy opal, there appears to be no photograph or drawing of the (alleged) 700-carat stone, but there is much discussion about it throughout the historical record.

The Burning of Troy draws its name from the fabled flashing blaze of fire which was said to have burned so brightly within its belly that it appeared to sizzle upon its surface. Though no one contests the existence of this illustrious gemstone, the journey of the Burning of Troy opal once it left Empress Josephine’s possession is shrouded in mystery. Considering how frequently it’s discussed*, very little seems to really be known about it. Unfortunately, as is the case with many historied gemstones, the sparse accounts inspire far more questions than answers.

Until the 20th century, historians believed the opal hailed from the Czerwenitz Mines of Hungary, where most of Europe’s opals were mined. However, experts now agree that the black-backed black opal had to have come from Honduras, which makes its journey into Napoleon’s French hands even more intriguing. While many of the jewels Napoleon gave to his wife came from Italy as gifts or spoils of war, so far this writer has been unable to confirm when or where Napoleon acquired the stunning black opal.

Historians also agree that after Empress Josephine’s death in 1814, the gemstone was “lost” for nearly 100 years. In all likelihood, it wasn’t lost, but instead kept safe among the other heaps of jewels she bequeathed to her children upon her death.

It makes sense that this opal would not have been worn publicly by subsequent heirs, as it was their general custom to keep these precious gems in display cases in the palace. Furthermore, the popularity of opal waxed and waned with the superstitions of the times. Her granddaughter-in-law, Empress Eugenie, the logical choice for who possessed it during its time of obscurity, was terrified to wear opals and would most certainly have kept it under lock and key.

Current historians relate that the fiery black opal reappeared in Vienna, Austria, sometime before World War I, where it was supposedly purchased from an anonymous seller by the city. These same historians relate that city officials were offered 24,000 lira* for the gem at the end of World War I. Despite their depleted financial state after the war, the Austrians held onto their prized opal. According to the accounts, they would hold onto it for at least another 20 years, after which, at the outbreak of World War II (1939), the opal once again appears to have vanished without a (public) trace. The glorious stone has remained hidden from public view since.

I am intrigued by the histories of the Burning of Troy written between 1878 and 1917. They call into question current historical “facts,” and leave in their wake many more unanswered questions, and an enticing trail to follow at some point in the future. Here are some excerpts from the time:

“The Empress Josephine’s opal, called the Burning of Troy, from the innumerable red flames blazing on its surface, was considered to be the finest stone of modern times, but its present owner is unknown.” ~Excerpt from The British Quarterly Review, 1878.

“In the Museum of Vienna is an opal of extraordinary size and beauty, for which Lira 50,000 has been refused.” ~The next sentence in The British Quarterly Review, 1878.

“The largest opal in the world reposes in the Imperial Cabinet in Vienna. It is uncut, of 3,000 carats, and was found in the Czerwenitza Mines of Hungary, where the finest opals come from.” ~Excerpt from The Mentor, 1917

“The Empress Eugenie was one of those who had a dread of the opals’ evil influence. Perhaps she connected with it the ill-fate of another Bonaparte Empress, Josephine, who owned the most wonderful opal of her time. So brilliant were its fires that it was called The Burning of Troy.” ~Excerpt from the same article in The Mentor, 1917, two paragraphs later.

Both accounts represent topical discussions of opals in general, and both reference the opal on display in Vienna and The Burning of Troy opal as if they are completely separate. Note that the one writer refers to the opal on display in Vienna as a 3,000-carat opal, whereas the Burning of Troy is (fairly) well documented as (at least believed to be) a 700-carat stone. Note also that the the dates line up sufficiently to draw a reasonable conclusion that the two stones might be the same stone, though there is a huge discrepancy in the size of the stones in question.

So far, this researcher has been unable to discern whether these stones truly are one and the same, or whether a writer (or more than one writer) made a huge leap and merged two opals into one; something which is so easy to do when piecing together fragments of history to make a whole.

*Some accounts claim 50,000 lira were offered. It is hard to know which is the correct amount.