Jewelry History

Well written and referenced articles on Jewelry History.
  • Carmeltazite the World's Newest Gemstone

    Carmeltazite, the newest gemstone discovered in Israel. Carmeltazite, the newest gemstone discovered in Israel. Also known as Carmel Sapphire.


    The world's newest gemstone, Carmeltazite, was found in Israel near Mount Carmel. The mining company Shefa Yamim found the new mineral in their corundum mines.

    Not surprisingly, they named it after the location it was found - Mount Carmel - and three distinctive minerals that comprise it - Tanzanite, Aluminum, and Zirconium.


    The Great Discovery

    While the International Mineralogical Association registers new minerals every year, Carmeltazite caused a sensation. To date, the mine in the Haifa District of Israel remains the only source of the new gemstone.

    Its rarity and potential as a gemstone prove exciting news for the mining company and the jewelry industry. The gemstone forms within veins of corundum (sapphire). Experts believe Carmeltazite and its host sapphire formed deep beneath the earth, near the crust-mantle boundary.

    At a depth of nearly 18 miles, extreme heat and pressure forced fluids out of the molten corundum. From these free-agent fluids, a new mineral formed. Together, Carmeltazite and sapphire erupted into the earth's crust through the many volcanic vents in the region.

    Eons later, Shefa Yamim discovered the metallic black-green veins running through the larger blue sapphire vein. The mining company recognized an important opportunity and sent the specimens for analysis. After that, the Mineralogical Association approved its registry as a new mineral.


    Carmeltazite Characteritics

    The Mineralogical Association classified the new stone as a complex zirconium-aluminum-titanium-oxide. It also contains trace amounts of scandium, calcium, and magnesium.

    While it shares a similar chemical composition to rubies and sapphires (corundum), Carmeltazite possesses properties uniquely its own. In the rough, it ranges from black, to blue-green, to orange-brown.

    In light of the similarities it shares with its blue sapphire host, Shefa Yamim patented the new gemstone with the name Carmel Sapphire.

    From the beginning, they hoped to market it for jewelry. On February 26th, the mining company announced a collaboration with jewelry designer Yossi Harari.


    The Heaven On Earth Collection

    In addition to Carmeltazite, Shefa Yamim has discovered 30 more unique gemstones in their mines. Yossi Harari worked closely with leaders of the mining company to design a suite of jewels using these exciting new gemstones.

    Harari designed 31 jewels using the new gemstone minerals. Of course, Carmeltazite, as their Carmel Sapphire, features prominently in the suite of jewels.

    He designed and handcrafted each jewel in the Heaven on Earth Collection in 24K 'Gilver'. An alloy combining 24K gold with oxidized silver, Gilver provides a gorgeous setting for the exceptional jewelry.

    Conceived with the historicity of the Hebrew Promised Land, the jewels resonate with a Mediterranean aura. Following ancient goldsmithing techniques, Harari fashioned each piece by hand in his Istanbul atelier. He drew inspiration from the sacred sites of Israel, as well as from archeological Mediterranean jewelry of old.

    Working without the use of casts or molds, Harari ensures the uniqueness of each jewel. Every piece in the collection merges the modern with the ancient. Two of the rarest and newest gemstones on earth, Carmel Sapphire (Carmeltazite) and Moissanite, establish the collection as truly Heaven on Earth.


  • Iolite History + Characteristics

    Iolite Cocktail Ring Estate Natural Iolite Domed Cocktail Ring. Click here for more details. Photo ©2019 EraGem Jewelry.


    Iolite is a fairly new gem classified in the cordierite family. As such, it is a silicate mineral gemstone with magnesium, iron, and aluminum. Though cordierite has been around for a long time, iolite has only been known since the 1700s.


    Iolite History

    Named in 1912, iolite actually held popular sway in jewelry before that. Throughout the 1700s, the blue crystal adorned jewelry in Europe. However, it seems to have fallen out of fashion for reasons unknown to me.

    In 1996, an American geologist by the name of W. Dan Hausal discovered the bluish-violet cordierite in Palmer Creek, Wyoming. Since then, Palmer Creek remains an important source for the stone.

    In fact, the largest known iolite crystal was discovered there in Grizzly Creek, Wyoming. This magnificent crystal weighs more than 24,000 carats. An astonishing find.

    Iolite elicited its name from the Greek word ios, which means "violet." Not surprisingly, it most commonly forms in hues of blue, ranging from pale to dark blue, often with a violet tinge. This beautiful gemstone also forms in shades of yellow, brown, gray, and green.


    Iolite Properties & Characteristics

    Possibly the most interesting characteristic iolite displays is its pleochroism. Pleochroism refers to the way light reflects off the surface of the crystal. A pleochroic gemstone appears to be different colors when looked at from different angles.

    Sometimes referred to as dichroic, the gem may appear light blue from one angle and completely transparent from another. Some specimens even demonstrate three colors at different angles. Indeed, iolite demonstrates more visible color changes than most other pleochroic gemstones.

    As mentioned before, iolite hails from Wyoming in the United States. Deposits also surfaced in Connecticut (USA), Australia, Canada, Norway, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar, Namibia, and Brazil.


    The Compass Stone

    The waters of the Arctic Sea are frigid. The cold temperatures combined with a sunny day often lead to what the locals refer to as sea smoke. Actually a misty vapor, sea smoke obscures the sun and other landmarks even on a clear day.

    In the time of the Vikings, when sailors navigated the Arctic Sea by sun and stars, this sea smoke created a problem. The Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou first proposed that the Vikings solved this navigation issue with the use of iolite.

    By reading the Sagas and other Viking texts, Ramskou learned that the Vikings used a special "sunstone" to filter out the haze and locate the sun. He proposed that whatever this Compass Stone was, it had to be available locally, and quite abundantly.

    With its powerful pleochroism and its abundance in Viking territory, iolite fit the bill. Since Ramskou first proposed the notion, gem experts commonly refer to iolite as the Compass Stone.

    Of course, no one knows for sure which stone the Vikings used. However, modern navigational experiments have proven that iolite would work to locate the sun in sea smoke conditions in the Arctic. Therefore, it remains a strong contender.

  • The Tiffany Diamond at the Oscars 2019

    Lady Gaga wearing the Tiffany Diamond at the Oscars 2019

    Photo Getty Images. Tiffany for Press 2019.


    The Tiffany Diamond remains the iconic diamond for Tiffany & Co. For the past five decades, it has remained behind glass at the Fifth Avenue store. That is, until last night, when it graced the red carpet for the first time on Lady Gaga's beautiful neck.


    The Tiffany Diamond

    First discovered in the Kimberley Mines of South Africa in 1877, the massive Rare Fancy Yellow Diamond began as a 287-carat rough stone. Purchased in 1878, by Charles Lewis Tiffany, the diamond emerged from the rough at the hands of Tiffany's diamond cutter, George Frederick Kunz.

    Kunz, who described the stone as "smoldering," coaxed its brilliance out of the rough by employing the timeless cushion cut. For many years, it remained in quiet repose in the Tiffany vaults.


    Jean Schlumberger's Darling

    In the 1950s, the Tiffany Diamond captured the imagination of Jean Schlumberger, whose exciting designs have graced many a red carpet. Schlumberger designed a suite of settings for the Tiffany Diamond.

    The most famous is the Ribbon Rosette necklace in which the fancy yellow diamond graced the neck of Audrey Hepburn in 1961. He also drew an elaborate feather-type clip set with white diamonds, a floral motif bracelet, and a swag necklace for the yellow rock.

    It remains unclear whether these designs were ever realized. A final Schlumberger drawing for the diamond came to life after his death, Bird on a Rock. Unfettered by the confines of a metal setting, the yellow diamond served as a perch for a fanciful diamond-encrusted bird.


    Public Appearances

    While it remains the hallmark of the Fifth Ave. store display, the Tiffany Diamond has only been worn three times.

    Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse wore the diamond for the first time in 1957. That year, Mrs. Whitehouse chaired The Tiffany Ball, a charity event which raised funds to preserve 17th and 18th century buildings in Newport County.

    The next time, it appeared on the neck of Audrey Hepburn. In 1961, the Breakfast at Tiffany's actress wore the yellow stone in the Schlumberger Ribbon Rosette necklace.

    Producers used the photos taken that day for publicity for the film. Although Hepburn did not wear the necklace in the film, it made a small cameo appearance in a glass case.

    That was the last time the Tiffany Diamond was worn in public. Until last night, when it shimmered with Lady Gaga on the red carpet at the Oscars.

    In her beautiful tribute to Audrey Hepburn and the legendary history of the Tiffany Diamond, Lady Gaga shone with her own radiance, as well.

    ~by Angela Magnotti Andrews

  • Keshi Pearls History + Characteristics

    Assorted Keshi Pearls Assorted Keshi Pearls. Photo license: Creative Commons.


    Keshi pearls owe their name to the poppy seed. These small, oddly-shaped pearls actually represent the byproduct of the cultured pearl industry. Their unique characteristics, of course, make them a favorite among collectors.


    Characteristics of Keshi Pearls

    First of all, keshi pearls are non-nucleated. While non-nucleated pearls sometimes form naturally as a result of intrusion, primarily they form only when intentional nucleation fails.

    To create a cultured pearl, a technician carefully implants a small piece of mantle, sometimes called a button, into a mollusk. Sometimes, early in the process, pieces of this inserted mantle tissue fracture, causing the formation of separate pearl sacs without solid nuclei.

    This results in the formation of a small, flat, oddly-shaped pearl. Without a nucleus, these pearls are comprised completely of nacre. As such, they form in a variety of colors and radiate with intense luster. These happy accidents used to happen en masse, particularly in the early days of Japan's Akoya pearl production.


    Japanese Keshi Pearls

    In the 1920s, the Japanese began culturing Akoya pearls. After the first harvest, they discovered numerous tiny pearls they called keshi, a Japanese term that means "poppy."

    Though they hesitated to discard these highly lustrous nacre treasures, they also desired to spare themselves the tedium of sorting, stringing, and marketing these seed pearls.

    Fortunately, Indian tradesmen swiftly bought out the Japanese supplies of keshi pearls, knowing full well their Arab customers would believe they grew naturally. Not surprisingly, their story sold, as did the pearls.

    In truth, these small pearlescent wonders are not considered natural pearls, as they are an unintended consequence of pearl cultivation.


    What's In A Name?

    Cross-cultural controversy continues in the labeling of keshi pearls. The official use of the term keshi, sanctioned by the gem trade industry, refers only to those non-nucleated nacre formations which arise from the culturing of saltwater pearls.

    However, some use the term to describe freshwater non-nucleated pearls, as well. While this label may technically fit, industry leaders prefer the use of other terms for freshwater occurrences.

    The Chinese adopted the most recent use of the term in their freshwater practices. Chinese freshwater pearl culturing includes a practice called second (or subsequent) harvest. Once a mollusk produces its first cultured pearl, technicians typically implant a second nucleus.

    This time around, the mollusk produces nacre at a much slower rate. This slower rate of production often results in somewhat flattened baroque shapes. The Chinese adopted the term keshi to describe these second harvest pearls.

    Today, true keshi pearls occur far more rarely. Current practice includes the use of x-rays, which allow technicians to observe the rejection of a nucleus early enough to intervene. Re-nucleation usually prevents the growth of a keshi pearl.

    Of course, their rarity now renders them a collector's dream.

  • Köchert Tiara Sold at Sotheby's for $251,000


    Diamond tiara, Köchert, circa 1901 Diamond tiara, Köchert, circa 1901. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.


    This gorgeous diamond tiara was designed by the House of Köchert in 1901. Made as a gift from the Emperor of Austria to his great-niece the Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, it recently sold for more than $251,000 at Sotheby's.

    The Köchert tiara featured prominently as part of Sotheby's Royal Jewels of the Bourbon Parma Family auction held on November 14th.  Sotheby's described it as a small tiara, or bandeau, made by the esteemed jewelers and accompanied by a beige leather case. They confirmed that it was given to the Archduchess by her great-uncle as a wedding gift.


    Archduchess Maria Anna

    Maria Anna was born in January 1882, in Austria-Hungary. She belonged to the Teschen branch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a royal family famous for their love of diamonds.

    By birth, she held the title of Archduchess of Austria, as well as the title of Princess of Bohemia, Hungary, and Tuscany. Upon her marriage to Prince Elias of Bourbon-Parma in 1902, Maria Anna added the title of Princess of Bourbon-Parma to her repertoire.

    Sadly, all of Prince Elias's siblings were declared mentally incompetent. In their stead, he served as regent for the ducal claims of Parma. He also held guardianship of his five disabled siblings.

    Held in esteem by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, he entered the Order of the Golden Fleece as a knight in 1907. His marriage to Maria Anna resulted in eight children, only one of whom married.

    Their daughter Infanta Alicia of Spain, Duchess of Calabri had three children. She died in 2017, in Madrid. On her wedding day, Alicia's mother, the Archduchess of Austria, wore the Köchert tiara as a choker.


    An Exquisite Tiara

    This beautiful petite choker features a stunning array of pave-set, collet-set, and round-cut white diamonds. The central cluster, as well as the side motifs are detachable.

    The foliate design culminates with a central sweeping affair that resembles an Art Deco-style plume. Given that the tiara was made 20 years before this era begins, one wonders if its designers at Köchert could be called tastemakers.


    Pioté et Köchert

    Indeed, Köchert served as tastemakers for the European scene for decades. The history of this esteemed jeweler begins with a goldsmith's workshop in Vienna. Owned by a Frenchman, Emanuel Pioté, this shop gains renown for its techniques in gold and enamel.

    In time, a Baltic German applies to work with Pioté. Jakob Heinrich Köchert learned the skill of setting large pieces of jewelry during his apprenticeship in St. Petersburg.

    Over the next decade, Emanuel and Jakob fashion spectacular jewels which blend French, Russian, and Austrian styles. Their designs captivate the attention of the Austrian Emperor, Joseph Franz I.

    In 1831, the Emperor commissions the duo to create a gold box as a gift for the Turkish Ambassador. The following year, the Emperor of Austria bestows upon them the esteemed title of Imperial and Royal Court Jeweller.

    In the meantime, Jakob marries Emanuel's sister-in-law. Now connected in business and family, their partnership blossoms into Pioté et Köchert.

    In 1844, Jakob's son Alexander Emanuel joins the company. Experts credit Alexander with taking the atelier beyond its borders, establishing it as one of the leading jewelers in Europe.


    The House of Köchert

    Emanuel's involvement seems to slip into oblivion, and at some point unknown to me the House of Köchert stands alone. Upon his father's death, Alexander applies for and receives the title of Royal Jeweler, a title the family holds onto until the empire dissolves in 1918, at the end of World War I.

    Although this marked the end of Habsburg rule, Köchert continued supplying sophisticated jewels to the royals and nobles of Europe. In 1880, Alexander's sons Heinrich and Theodor take over the company. After that, in 1922, Theodor's sons Erich and Wilfried assume the reigns.

    At the present time, Christoph, Wolfgang, and Florian, representing the 7th generation of the Köchert family, continue producing distinctive pieces in their ancestral workshops in Vienna.

  • The Key Features of Art Deco Engagement Rings

    Art Deco Engagement Rings Old Cut Diamond w/ Colored Accents Art Deco Engagement Rings never go out of style. This ring features an Old Euro Cut Diamond with Colored Accents. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Art Deco engagement rings continue capturing the eye of brides everywhere. From celebrities to models, from businesswomen to housewives, women from every walk of life are captivated by Art Deco style.

    This magnificent Art Deco engagement ring features an exquisite 1.68 carat old European cut central diamond. The diamond grades J in color and VVS2 in clarity. Its sparkle is breathtaking.

    Crafted of platinum, this antique ring features 14 single cut diamonds and 14 lab created blue sapphires set in amazing floral filigree. This ring epitomizes the key features of Art Deco engagement rings.


    The Art Deco Period

    Art Deco describes the design aesthetic of the period between 1920 and 1935. This design style emphasizes the marriage between art and modern industry.

    It represents a departure from natural lines and organic muses, such as flowers, fairies, and fauna. Instead, designers drew inspiration from modern inventions and archeological discoveries.

    Such inventions included the steamship, airplanes, steam engines, and automobiles. Archaeological discoveries included ancient Egyptian relics, as well as Central American and African tribal art motifs. In particular, these archaeological discoveries introduced an infatuation with geometric shapes for both gemstones and filigree designs.

    In addition, Art Deco artists found inspiration in Oriental artwork, as well as in Cubism and Fauvism. These artistic approaches further encouraged the use of geometric lines and designs.


    Art Deco Engagement Rings

    Drawing upon these same influences, jewelry designers fashioned numerous Art Deco engagement rings in keeping with these aesthetic principles. In the medium of metals and gemstones, a few key characteristics stand out for engagement rings made during this period.

    Platinum and white gold, platinum in particular, proved itself superior to yellow gold for Art Deco jewelry. For one thing, it is stronger than yellow gold. The intricacies of filigree and other delicate metalwork held up better in platinum. Platinum withstood the impact of daily wear better than yellow gold with these delicate designs.

    In addition, a new supply of platinum, discovered in South Africa in 1924, allowed jewelers to continue feeding the demand for platinum jewelry. For centuries, royals around the world preferred the contrast of white metals and diamonds to the warmer yellow gold.

    Of course, yellow gold found favor in some royal courts. However, by Edwardian times, platinum was the metal of choice. It remained so for many more years following.

    Today, platinum continues to shine as the metal of choice for many brides. This is not surprising, as not only does platinum retain its beauty and shine day after day, but it is lightweight and extremely durable.

    Perhaps you are in the market for an Art Deco engagement ring. If so, we offer a few pointers for ensuring that your engagement ring is an authentic antique from the 1920s or 1930s.


    Tips for Choosing Art Deco Engagement Rings

    1. True Art Deco engagement rings are fashioned from platinum or white gold.
    2. In its natural state, white gold from the 1920s appears grayish, as opposed to yellowish in tone.
    3. Art Deco settings include intricate filigree and other designs etched directly into the metal.
    4. Designs will be geometric with symmetry and clean lines.
    5. Central stones are primarily diamonds cut in Old Euro, cushion, Asscher, or transitional cuts.
    6. Many designs include smaller colored gemstones, primarily blue sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
    7. These smaller gemstones may be synthetic without detracting from the value. This is the only period in which synthetic accent stones are fairly equal in value to their natural counterparts.
    8. Accent stones are cut in specialized geometric shapes, particularly calibre-cut, baguette, trapeze, half moon, and triangular.
    9. Jewelers often set accent stones in channels so they would essentially sit right next to each other, creating a seamless, mosaic design aesthetic.
    10. In this fashion, gemstones created the outlines and contrast for beautiful and intricate geometric designs.
    11. Certain semi-precious stones grew in popularity during the Art Deco period, including black onyx, coral, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and jade.
    12. Art Deco motifs included Egyptian symbols, lotus blossoms, Mughal carvings, Chinese dragons, Parisian arabesques, and more.

    If you desire more help in choosing an Art Deco engagement ring, we welcome you to visit our Bellevue showroom. Just give us a call to make an appointment.

  • History + Characteristics of Palladium

    1930's Art Deco Old Euro Cut Diamond Engagement Ring Palladium 1930's Art Deco Palladium Engagement Ring. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Palladium is a noble metal in the same family as platinum. Though it was discovered in 1802, by the chemist William Hyde Wollaston, he did not take credit for the discovery until several years later.


    Palladium History

    In July 1802, Wollaston made note of his discovery in his journal. The following month, he named the metal after the asteroid Pallas which was discovered in March that year.

    Wollaston's discovery began with crude platinum unearthed in South America. Upon arriving at his lab, Wollaston dissolved the ore in aqua regia, following which he neutralized the solution with sodium hydroxide.

    He continued the process of separating the different metals within the ore. Finally, he added mercuric cyanide to form palladium cyanide. When heated, pure palladium separates completely.

    Surprisingly, Wollaston introduced this new metal in a strange way. He made arrangements with a London mineral dealer to offer a quantity of the metal for sale. To advertise the metal, Wollaston circulated anonymous handbills describing the metals unique properties.

    This unprecedented approach brought suspicion from other prominent chemists. One, Richard Chenevix, proclaimed the metal to be an alloy of platinum and mercury.

    Once again choosing to remain anonymous, Wollaston offered a reward of 20 guineas to anyone who could produce synthetic palladium. No one came forward to claim the reward.

    Finally, in 1805, Wollaston spoke about the process of isolating the noble metal, as well as illuminating its unique properties. He saved his big reveal for the end of his presentation, surprising everyone with the news that he was the anonymous discoverer of the metal.


    Palladium Sources and Uses

    Generally this noble metal forms in the same zones as nickel, copper, silver, gold, and platinum. Considered a byproduct of these metals, it's actually rarer even than its cousin platinum.

    The most abundant source throughout history has been Russia. However, it is also found in Montana (USA), Ontario (Canada), South Africa, South America, and Australia. Today, Canada and South Africa provide most of the commercial-grade palladium.

    Obviously, its used as an alloy for making fine jewelry. However, its primary commercial application is the manufacture of catalytic converters. In fact, as palladium grows scarcer, recycling will emerge as a primary source for all uses.

    As the price of gold and platinum rise, and as the availability of platinum declines, palladium has experienced a revival in Chinese jewelry in particular. A lustrous white metal, it holds up beautifully under the rigors of daily wear.

    In recent years, palladium received its status as a precious metal. In 2009, the industry agreed upon a new hallmark for it. Stamped with the number 950, the hallmark bears the head of Pallas Athena to distinguish it from platinum.

    We would love to show you our selection of palladium jewelry. Please give us a call to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.

  • Sotheby's Presents Jewels from the Royal Bourbon Parma Family

    Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl - Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl. An important offering in the Sotheby's auction of Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.


    On November 12th, Sotheby’s Geneva proudly presents one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to come to auction, the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family.


    The Bourbon Parma Family

    Descendants of King Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperors, as well as Pope Paul III, the Bourbon Parma family extends back to nearly every important ruling family in Europe.

    The illustrious lineage includes Kings and Queens of France and Spain, Emperors of Austria, and of course the Dukes of Parma (Italy). In particular, this collection hails from notables such as Queen Marie Antoinette and King Charles X of France.

    Queen Marie Antoinette’s Pendant

    Pictured above is Lot 100 from the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family. The exquisite royal pendant features a slightly baroque natural pearl which measures an astonishing 15.90 x 18.35 x 25.85mm. To put this into perspective, the pearl is nearly the size of the tip of an adult’s thumb.

    The pearl hangs suspended from a single oval diamond by a diamond-studded bow motif. At one time, Marie Antoinette wore this pendant suspended from her three-string pearl necklace. At that time, the pearl and bow formed the pendant, while the single oval diamond served as the clasp for that same necklace.


    A Royal Provenance

    According to Sotheby’s, an account written by Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting describes a night at Tuileries Castle in March 1791. Preparing to flee the country, Marie Antoinette packed her collection of jewels, including all her pearls, in cotton and tucked them safely in a wooden chest.

    She arranged for the chest to depart for Brussels. A trusted advisor, Count Mercy Argentou, received the chest and sent it on to Vienna to Marie Antoinette’s nephew, the Austrian emperor.

    As we already know, Marie Antoinette did not make it safely out of France. She, her husband, and her children were taken prisoner instead.

    The following year, in 1793, Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI, were executed by guillotine. Their son died while imprisoned. Their daughter, Marie-Therese remained in captivity in the Temple Tower.

    The Tower, once a medieval fortress built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, held Marie-Therese captive for three years.

    During her captivity, the princess knew about her father's execution, but remained unaware of the fate of the rest of her family. She lived alone in the tower, asking over and over to see her mother. On the wall of her room, she supposedly wrote:

    “Marie-Thérèse Charlotte is the most unhappy person in the world. She can obtain no news of her mother; nor be reunited to her, though she has asked it a thousand times. Live, my good mother! whom I love well, but of whom I can hear no tidings. O my father! watch over me from Heaven above. O my God! forgive those who have made my parents suffer.”


    Marie-Therese's Liberation

    On the eve of her 17th birthday, Marie-Therese was finally liberated, exchanged for six French prisoners. She traveled t to the home of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, in Vienna. After many years of moving from country to country, and after marrying her cousin Louis-Antoine, and after becoming a widow, she finally settled in Vienna.

    At some point, she was given the chest of jewels her mother secreted out of France. Upon her death, Marie-Therese bequeathed the jewels to her daughter, Marie Louise.

    Marie Louise, second wife to Napoleon Bonaparte, kept the jewels safely in her family’s treasury throughout the tumultuous reign of her husband. Finally, after 200 years, the jewels reach the public eye once again, by way of her direct ancestors, the Bourbon Parma family of Italy.

    The auction begins on November 12, 2018. For more information, visit Sotheby's website.

  • History + Characteristics of Paraiba Tourmaline

    GIA Certified 6 Carat Paraiba Tourmaline Ring

    GIA Certified 6 Carat Paraiba Tourmaline Ring. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    This exquisite ring is set cathedral style in platinum and features a gorgeous paraiba tourmaline. A halo of diamonds surrounds the electric blue stone. The cathedral and shoulders feature accent diamonds, as well.

    The stone features a cut cornered rectangular mixed cut gemstone. The GIA certified stone is a Paraiba tourmaline weighing 6 carats.


    History of Paraiba Tourmaline

    First discovered in the 1980s, paraiba tourmaline is primarily associated with the State of Paraiba in Brazil. For many years Hector Dimas Barbosa followed a hunch. Digging hole after hole in the hills of Paraiba, he knew he would eventually find something different.

    Eight years later, friends of his unearthed a handful of exquisite tourmalines in shades never before seen. Unfortunately, Barbosa missed the discovery.

    He stayed home that day, recovering from an illness. Though he certainly lamented missing the first glimpses, he no doubt swelled with pride at the news. He never gave up, and he found what he was looking for even though no one else had ever seen it before.


    Paraiaba Tourmaline Sources

    For a time, paraiba tourmaline was found only in the State of Paraiba. That vein lasted about five years before the stampede of excavators depleted the hills of the gorgeous gemstone.

    At some time, shortly after Barbosa’s discovery, miners discovered a cache of similar tourmaline in Rio Grande do Norte, a Brazilian state adjacent to Paraiba. Eventually, these unique tourmalines showed up in a few other places, including Mozambique and Nigeria.

    Geologists propose that these discoveries in these seemingly distant places is not surprising. Much evidence exists that at one time South America and Africa belonged to the same continent.


    The Unique Properties of Paraiba Tourmaline

    That being said, certain but subtle differences exist between the tourmaline found in Brazil and the tourmaline found in Africa. Nonetheless, the industry calls all of it paraiba tourmaline.

    The classification results from the significant unique properties that separate paraiba tourmaline from other tourmaline species. The most significant difference is the color.

    Most species of tourmaline come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, violet, blue, yellowish green, green, and more. Paraiba tourmaline also comes in hues of green, blue, and violet. However, the saturation of color in paraiba is second to none. In fact, most paraiba tourmaline appears to glow from within, radiating in almost neon green, blue, and violet.

    The chemical component responsible for this almost unworldly color saturation is copper, sometimes paired with manganese. Paraiba tourmaline is the only tourmaline with copper intrusion in the crystal structure.

    Copper is responsible for the startling blues and greens, while copper with manganese causes violet and reddish tones. The higher the concentration of copper intrusion, the more vivid the colors paraiba radiates.


    A Classification Debate

    With the influx of paraiba from Africa, experts continue debating over the classification of copper tourmalines. Some feel that the name paraiba should remain exclusive to those from the eponymous state in Brazil.

    Others, however, argue that all copper tourmalines should be called paraiba. These experts base their position primarily on the fact the chemistry of the stones from all locations is essentially identical.

    Furthermore, although the tectonic plates shifted away from each other millions of years ago, the veins in Africa and Brazil are likely one and the same.

    In February of 2006, at the International Gemstone Industry Laboratory Conference, industry leaders declared paraiba tourmaline as a label for copper tourmaline varieties, regardless of origin. A couple months later, the International Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee agreed to accept this new definition of terms.

    Hence, most international gemological laboratories label all copper-bearing tourmaline as paraiba, regardless of whether it came from Brazil or Africa. While some frown upon this adoption, for the most part the industry celebrates the influx of more of this scintillating tourmaline variety.

  • History of the Fantasy Cut

    Fantasy Cut Aquamarine & Diamond Pendant by Anthony Gerard

    Fantasy Cut Aquamarine pendant with diamonds and yellow gold. By Bernd Munsteiner. Click here for details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Magnificence is the perfect word for Fantasy Cut gemstones. This spectacular 11.30 carat aquamarine was hand cut by the father of the Fantasy Cut, Bernd Munsteiner.


    Bernd Munsteiner

    Raised in the gemcutting capital of the world, Idar-Oberstein, Bernd Munsteiner learned the intricate techniques and time-honored principles of faceting gemstones. However, at a time when tradition came under fire in every other aspect of life, Munsteiner turned the traditions of gemcutting on their head.

    Rather than polishing away the natural rough or cutting along standard lines and forms, Munsteiner looked at stones in a completely different way. Instead of maximizing carat weight and cutting along ideal patterns, he played with the light and made his cuts on the backside of his gems.

    These negative cuts, sometimes deep slices into the gemstone, opened up a whole new world of light play within the stones. His geometric wonders transcended the boundaries of fine jewelry, catapulting his new cuts into the realm of sculpture and art.


    The Fantasy Cut Receives Mixed Reviews

    At first, Munsteiner's Free Cuts met with disdain in the industry. This did not prevent some of his fellow artisans from learning the techniques he devised. Dieter Lorenz, John Dyer, Michael Dyber, and others followed in Munsteiner's footsteps.

    Of course, the establishment rejected this new approach to gemcutting, the first new technique to emerge since the Middle Ages. However, the trade publications chose to include these emerging artists and their jewelry in their pages. Circulating internationally, these trade journals launched the Fantasy Cut into popular demand.  Today, these exquisite works of art have been purchased by collectors, dealers, jewelers, and even museums.

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