• Port Townsend to Host Local Jewelers at the Second Annual Steampunk Festival Next Weekend

    Clockwork Beetle's "Flesh Vanishing" Brooch Clockwork Beetle's "Flesh Vanishing" Brooch

    Next weekend, the Brass Screw Confederacy will transport Port Townsend visitors to "somewhere between 1881 and a time that may yet be" {cited}. Take a step into an alternate Victorian dimension, where the imagination roams unfettered against a backdrop of steam-powered machines, madcap inventions, and extraordinary costumes.

    Highlights of the festival include Magic and Mayhem at the Pope Marine Building, a Masquerade Soirée at the Cellar Door, a contraptional Fashion Show, a Hootenany which promises otherworldy performances, a Zombie Hunt, and the Bazaar of the Bizarre.

    The Bazaar of the Bizarre, which is free to the public, opens June 8, 2013, at the American Legion Hall. Milling among the bodgers (Steampunk artisans and vendors), visitors will find three impressive Washington jewelers vending their wares in true Steampunk style.

    The show leader is Clockwork Beetle, from Kenmore, who calls herself a professional trouble and jewelry maker. Her pins, brooches, and necklaces are crafted with "a large dose of whimsy" drawing heavily from hours spent "haunting estate and garage sales, antique and thrift stores" {1}.

    Nearby, you'll discover the meditations in art of Port Townsend jeweler, Lelah Wright, owner of Dancing Silver Designs. Prominent in her display will be her signature piece, the Eternal Spiral Pendant.

    "The ancient symbol of the spiral represents the flow of our lives and the cycle of nature. It points inward while maintaining a fullness and richness in its deep movement. The flow of silver in my designs represents the inevitable dance our lives take on...[reminding] us of our higher, more creative connection" {2}.

    And somewhere around the corner, you will encounter UncommonWork. Jeweler and artist Shane Miller finds her inspiration in nature's textures, metal's dark patina, and history's narratives. She views each of her pieces as a miniature sculpture and hopes that the story she began in the making of the piece will carry on in the heart of the person who purchases it.

    Steampunk jewelry enthusiasts will not be disappointed in the variety and ingenuity offered by these fine craftsmen. Indeed, Port Townsend's Steampunk Festival promises a barrel of fun for all participants. To order tickets and for more details, we invite you to visit the Brass Screw Confederacy online.

    1. Quotes taken from Clockwork Beetle's Etsy profile.
    2. Excerpt from "About" on DancingSilverDesigns.com.

  • The Black Prince’s Ruby

    The Black Prince's Ruby. Photo Credit: Intec2000. The Black Prince's Ruby. Photo Credit: Intec2000.

    by Angela Magnotti Andrews

    Though definitely not the most beautiful of gems, the Black Prince’s Ruby has a history which has bestowed upon it incalculable value and prominence in the Imperial State Crown.

    Although it’s value is likely greater than most known rubies, the Black Prince’s Ruby is not actually a ruby. Reported to have been mined from the balas ruby mines near Afghanistan, this blood-red gemstone is actually a spinel (magnesium aluminum oxide).

    Prior to the 18th century, spinels and rubies were considered interchangeable in name and value. However, once geologists understood the chemical differences between the two rubies moved into a class of their own.

    The Black Prince’s Ruby first surfaced in Spain in the 14th century, where several minor kings (most of them brothers) were engaged in combat against one another. The fighting was vicious, and victory was short-lived for each of them.

    The famous stone is documented to have begun its journey to the Tower of London in the possession of Abu Said in Spain, who lost it to his brother Don Pedro in what sounds like an ambush. Soon after his victory over Abu Said, Don Pedro fled (with the gemstone) from another brother, Henry, to Bordeaux.

    In Bordeaux, Don Pedro engaged the assistance of Edward of Woodstock, who was more than happy to help him defeat Henry in exchange for treasure, including the spinel.

    It was this same Edward of Woodstock from whom the stone inherited its now-famous name. Though he does not give an explanation, other than that “some writers name him [such]", Edward’s nickname, The Black Prince, was first documented by Richard Grafton in his book titled, Chronicle of England.

    The gem seems to have fallen off the radar for the next fifty years, only to reappear in yet another king’s possession, this time Henry V of England. King Henry mounted the gemstone in his battle helmet, and although he lost part of his crown and nearly his head, he and the famed stone remained firmly established in England in 1415.

    In subsequent years, the "Ruby" passed through the hands of several kings and should have met its doom when Cromwell melted down and sold the entire royal treasury in 1649. However, it is reported that Charles I sold the gem before this most destructive event.

    Though the amount he sold it for is in dispute, it resurfaced in 1660, when an unknown party sold it to Charles II. The gem narrowly escaped robbery and fire in subsequent years and has resided in several different crowns over the years. In 1821, it was set into the Imperial State Crown for George IV’s coronation and resides there to this day.


    1. Grafton, Richard. Grafton’s Chronicle; or, History of England. London: J. Johnson, et. al., 1809.
    2. Bowersox, Gary W. and Bonita E. Chamberlin, Ph. D. Gemstones of Afghanistan. Tucson: Geoscience Press, Inc., 1995.
    3. Oldershaw, Cally. Firefly Guide to Gems. Toronto: Firefly Books Ltd., 2003.
    4. Hughes, Richard. Ruby & Sapphire. Bangkok, Thailand: RWH Publishing, 1997.
    5. Wikipedia. "Spinel." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinel.
    6. Mineral Gallery. "The Mineral Spinel." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://www.galleries.com/Spinel.
    7. Wikipedia. "Black Prince's Ruby." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Prince's_Ruby.
    8. Ferrebee, Wayne. "The Black Prince's Ruby." ferrebeekeeper blog. Posted September 27, 2010. Accessed June 11, 2012. http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-black-princes-ruby/.
    9. Ruby-Sapphire. "The Black Prince's Ruby." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-black-princes-ruby/.

  • Prominent Features of the Imperial State Crown

    Queen Elizabeth II wears the State Imperial Crown at the State Opening of Parliament. Photo Credit: The Royal Firm. Queen Elizabeth II wears the State Imperial Crown at the State Opening of Parliament. Photo Credit: The Royal Firm.

    by Angela Magnotti Andrews

    In 1937, the Imperial State Crown had weakened and fallen into disrepair from constant use. That year it was remade, and in its current state is home to over 3,000 diamonds, as well as many other precious gems including rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls.

    It features four fleur-di-lis with rubies as centerpieces, alternating with four cross pattee, three of which are inlaid with centerpiece emeralds. From these four crosses rise diamond-paved half-arches accented with pearl acorns, which commence at a diamond-studded monde on which a Maltese cross rests regally.

    This uppermost cross has as its centerpiece the first of four of the most famous gemstones in the British Collection, St. Edward's Sapphire. Moving down the arch from the monde, we come to the second famous gemstone, the Black Prince’s Ruby. This infamous spinel serves as the centerpiece for the central cross pattee.

    The band of the Imperial State Crown features a delicate, nearly floral design in which the central pieces are alternating emeralds and sapphires, two of which also claim the title of famous gemstones.

    Just beneath the Black Prince’s Ruby rests the Cullinan II, the fourth-largest polished diamond in the world. Finally, opposite the Cullinan II on the back of the band, the Stuart Sapphire rests beneath a cross pattee.

    Clearly priceless in its historical significance, the Imperial State Crown remains a piece of the British Regalia (the coronation ceremony jewels). Traditionally, it is used during the coronation ceremony and is worn by the Sovereign for the Opening of Parliament each year.


    1. Official Website of the British Monarchy, The. "The Crown Jewels." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://www.royal.gov.uk/the%20royal%20collection%20and%20other%20collections/thecrownjewels/overview.aspx.
    2. Wikipedia. "Imperial State Crown." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_State_Crown.
    3. Royal Exhibitions. "St Edward's Crown." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://royalexhibitions.co.uk/crown-jewels-2/royal-regalia/.

  • Christie's Hong Kong Auction: A Sale that Merits Special Mention

    Photo © EraGem* Photo © EraGem*

    A Sale that Merits Special Mention

    A single cabochon emerald forms a sugarloaf clasp which connects a line of shimmering old European-cut diamonds in graduating size. Smaller baguette diamonds rest snugly between the brilliant white stones.

    Eight larger Euro-cut diamonds hang from the central baguette diamonds, and seven gorgeous emerald cabochons drip from these central stones. This magnificent necklace, made by famed Paris jewelers Boucheron, is expected to fetch $3-5 million at Christie's Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels {Lot 1655}.

    The prestigious international sale will feature over 290 impressive jewels which are expected to realize over $74 million. According to a number of prestigious gemological institutes, several of the pieces offered in the sale "merit special mention and appreciation" {cited}.

    A Magnificent Diamond Necklace

    One such piece is a 75.36-carat briolette-cut diamond, the largest of its kind ever to grace an auction floor. Appearing as a large drop of water suspended in motion, the dazzling gem cascades from a small purple-pink marquise-cut diamond.

    This massive diamond is the apex of a rosary style chain of 18k rose and white gold made up of numerous tiny white briolette-cut diamonds. This necklace, whose central diamond has been classified as the largest type IIa, Flawless/Internally Flawless, D color diamond the GIA has graded to date, is expected to sell for $8.5-12.5 million {Lot 1706}.

    In a League of His Own

    Famed sculptor and jeweler Wallace Chan is renowned for his innovation in jewelry design and technique. Mastering the art of titanium has earned him a reputation as an innovator. His genius with the crude metal endows his creations with an immortal quality.

    Christie's presents for sale tomorrow a multi-gem titanium necklace hand crafted by the native Chinese designer. Carved from an arresting black opal with tremendous play of color, the mythological sun god appears to face into the wind.

    The necklace is covered in sculpted flames infused with vari-cut pink and yellow sapphires, rubies, and yellow diamonds. This stunning beauty will more than likely garner more than the estimated price of $230-350,000 {Lot 1610}.

    Nature's Rarest: Padparadscha

    Neither a ruby nor a sapphire, padparadscha is an extraordinarily rare form of corundum characterized by its pinkish-orange hues. The presence of iron (which colors rubies red) and chromium (which colors sapphires blue) guarantees a "delicate interplay of pink and orange hues" that "make this gem one of nature's rarest" {cited}.

    Collectors attending the Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale are in for a treat when they feast their eyes upon a 73.98-carat, oval-shaped padparadscha ring. Scientists from the Gübelin Gemmological Institute report that the Sri Lankan (Ceylon) stone "displays a homogenous orange-pink colour...[with] a finely proportioned cut causing many internal colour reflections" {cited}. This majestic ring is expected to command $1-1.5 million during tomorrow's auction.

    A Veritable Feast

    Christie's Hong Kong sale may prove the most noteworthy sale of the season, and it has been a great season. If you haven't seen their catalog, I highly recommend scrolling through it online.

    These few pieces I've mentioned may steal the show in terms of rarity and value, but they provide only a small taste of the feast the auction house will set out for collectors and investors tomorrow afternoon.

    *More About Photo: Magnificent emeralds and diamonds sit atop a sculpted platinum filigree under gallery and shoulders. This stunning ballerina engagement ring features a centered 2-carat emerald cut green emerald.

  • Jubilee Celebration: Diamonds

    Queen Elizabeth II wearing her diamond. Fringe Brooch. Photo Credit: Order of Splendor Blog. Queen Elizabeth II wearing her diamond Fringe Brooch. Photo Credit: Order of Splendor Blog.

    by Angela Magnotti Andrews

    Diamonds are the quintessential gemstone of queens, and Queen Elizabeth II certainly prefers them over other gemstones. Beginning at the end of June*, Her Royal Majesty has graciously agreed to allow The Royal Collection to host an exhibit of some of the most exquisite historical diamond jewelry in the United Kingdom.

    Some of these pieces from her personal collection have never before been shown in public, making this a historical jewelry event in and of itself.

    More than a static display of glittering jewels, the Jubilee Celebration will be a lesson in jewelry history spanning nearly 200 years. Among the most exquisite jewels from Her Royal Majesty’s personal collection is Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch.

    Made in 1856 by Garrard & Co., this brooch was bequethed to HRM Elizabeth II by the Queen Mother upon her passing in 2002. Featuring a large emerald-cut diamond surrounded by 12 smaller (but still substantial) brilliant-cut diamonds, this portion of the piece is detachable and can be worn with or without the nine graduated chains inset with diamonds.

    Another of Her Majesty's personal items has seen a number of transformations since she first received it as a birthday gift on April 21, 1947.

    Presented to Princess Elizabeth on behalf of the Government of the Union of South Africa, the South Africa necklace was designed in a repeating pattern of a large brilliant diamond followed by a smaller brilliant-cut diamond, a baguette diamond, and another smaller brilliant-cut diamond. These stones graduate in size, culminating with a 10-carat diamond center stone.

    On April 18, 1947, Princess Elizabeth visited the Big Hole Mine with her parents (George VI and Queen Elizabeth I), where she met Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, Chairman of the De Beers Consolidated Mines. Sir Oppenheimer gave the Princess a 6-carat diamond, which was later used to make a detachable snap-piece for the South Africa necklace.

    The stunning necklace underwent its final transformation in 1952, when six of the larger diamonds, as well as the snap-piece made from the De Beers diamond, were removed in order to fashion the bracelet that now completes the Queen’s South Africa necklace and bracelet set.

     *Slightly modified from the original article published on June 11, 2012 on Jewelry-History.com.


    1. Royal Collection, The. "Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration." Accessed June 8, 2012. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/summer-opening-of-buckingham-palace-diamonds-a-jubilee-celebration.
    2. Royal Collection, The. "Queen Victoria's Fringe Brooch." Accessed June 8, 2012. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/diamonds-a-jubilee-celebration/queen-victorias-fringe-brooch.
    3. Royal Collection, The. "The Queen's South Africa necklace and bracelet." Accessed June 8, 2012. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/diamonds-a-jubilee-celebration/queen-victorias-fringe-brooch.
    4. Tert.am. "Queen Elizabeth' collection of jewels revealed for first time." Posted May 5, 2012. Accessed June 8, 2012. http://www.tert.am/en/news/2012/05/05/elizabeth/.
    5. Kauri, Vidya. "Queen's diamonds to go on display for Diamond Jubilee." National Post. May 16, 2012. Last modified May 16, 2012. Accessed June 8, 2012. http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/16/queens-diamonds-to-go-on-display-for-diamond-jubilee/.
    6. Wikipedia. "De Beers." Accessed June 8, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers.
  • Cornelia Goldsmith to Exhibit at JCK's Las Vegas Show Next Week

    Cornelia Goldsmith JCK Heart Brooch by Cornelia Goldsmith. Photo Credit: The Jewelry Loupe.

    Even as I write, Cornelia Goldsmith is preparing for the biggest jewel and gemstone show in the West, the JCK Las Vegas. Ms. Goldsmith draws her inspiration from nature. Butterflies, trees, birds, and sea life are transformed into carefully crafted brooches and pendants. Bracelets and necklaces, resplendent with carefully faceted diamond, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, are fashioned with techniques in granulation, die-forming, and chain making.

    Ms. Goldsmith creates every piece by hand, often perfecting one piece while experimenting with shapes and design features for another one. Her passion and attention to detail are evident in every one of her jewels, and I guarantee a visit to her booth at JCK Las Vegas will not disappoint.

    JCK Las Vegas is hailed as the jewelry industry's leading event. Hundreds of vendors from around the world will share their wares in the luxurious Exhibitors Venue at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

    Visitors will feast their eyes upon lavish displays of gemstones and premier design jewelry. The Couture Show promises delectable celebrity jewels from Red Carpet designers Sutra, Norman Silverman, Arunashi, and Sethi Couture. The JCK Luxury Exhibit will host top bridal designers, including Simon Kay, Simon G, Ritani, Tacori, and Verragio.

    Alongside these top-notch jewelers, visitors will find shocking discounts on gemstone offered by top wholesalers, like the Kimberley Diamond Company. Dealers will be on standby to answer any and all questions about their stones and their practices. Be sure to inquire as to the origins of their stones. Public interest in conflict-free and sustainable mining practices is only increasing.

    While the majority of JCK shows are open only to those in the jewelry industry, a few of the ancillary shows are open to the general public. These include the GLDA Las Vegas Mirage Gem & Jewelry Show, hosted by the Gem & Lapidary Dealers Association. This show opens Monday, May 27, and runs through May 30th.

    The GLDA boasts that "every imaginable gemstone" will be on display in hundreds of booths featuring jewels from around the globe {cited}. Expect deep discounts on estate jewelry, gemstones, accessories, and more. Be sure to bring cash, as the terms of this show are Cash & Carry.

    The Las Vegas Bead Renaissance Show assures "a shopping experience for anyone who wishes to explore their creative side" {cited}. Exhibitors will display and sell beads made from all kinds of materials, including Lucite, precious metals, precious and semi-precious stones, and crystal. This exhibit is free to the public and opens Friday, May 31st at 10am. The show will be hosted at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino through Sunday, June 2nd.

    If you're a jewelry enthusiast planning a trip to Las Vegas between May 27 and June 3, 2013, I highly recommend attending part or all of the exhibits on display at the JCK Show. Members of the jewelry industry have access to all events. Learn more and register at JCK's website.

  • Imperial State Crown: An Introduction

    Imperial State Crown. Photo Credit: Mimi's Corner. Imperial State Crown. Photo Credit: Mimi's Corner.

    by Angela Magnotti Andrews

    The current Imperial State Crown shown here was modified from its original form for Queen Victoria in 1838. This beauty weighs two pounds, stands 12 inches high, and is adorned with some of the most famous gemstones in the British Empire.

    Although George IV petitioned Parliament for permission to use his favored State Diadem for his coronation ceremony, his request was denied. In 1821, at the time of his coronation, it was customary for the State to hire the gemstones from Rundell & Bridge at a rate of 10% of their actual value (£6,525).

    After the ceremony the gems were removed, and the Imperial Crown's empty frame was placed on display among the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, where it still resides today.

    Queen Victoria also had hopes of wearing the George IV Diadem in lieu of the heavier Imperial State Crown. While she was able to wear the smaller crown for most of the service, it was the Imperial State Crown which was placed on her head once she was robed in purple and seated on St. Edward’s Chair.

    The last to wear the Imperial Crown was Queen Elizabeth II, who was reported to have worn the crown for her everyday tasks throughout the few weeks prior to her coronation. Wearing the crown for tea, for reading the paper, and for conducting business at her desk afforded her the opportunity to grow used to standing tall beneath its great weight (nearly 2 pounds).


    1. Hartop, Christopher. Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell & Bridge 1797-1843. Cambridge: John Adamson for Koopman Rare Art, 2005.
    2. Wikipedia. "Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_of_Queen_Elizabeth_II.
    3. Wikipedia. "Coronation of George IV." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_of_George_IV.
    4. Fashion Era. "Rehearsals for Movement and Make Up." Accessed June 11, 2012. http://www.fashion-era.com/coronation_dress.htm#Rehearsals for Movement and Make Up.

  • History and Characteristics of Tension Settings

    Gelin Abaci Tension Set Diamond Solitaire Ring


    There is no doubt that the focal point of this solitaire engagement ring is the elegant diamond. Visible from nearly every angle and open to the light on nearly every facet, this half-carat diamond appears to hover within its white gold mounting as if it were a hologram.

    Designed by GelinAbaci, renowned for their exquisite tension-set fine jewelry, this diamond engagement ring is a pristine example of this spectacular setting.

    The gemstone is held in place, not by prongs or grooves in the metal, but by two points of spring-loaded compression. While the stone is the central focus of  a tension-set ring, it is the metal that receives the most attention during the crafting stage.

    How Do They Do That?

    The metal must be malleable, but tough as nails. This rules out many conventional metals, including conventional gold and silver alloys, which are too soft to withstand the pressure. Most tension rings are made from specialized alloys. While these can include yellow gold, platinum and white gold are more typical.

    These specialized metallurgical combinations are cold-worked, hardened, then heat-treated in order to maximize their strength. Once the metal is perfected, the jeweler will calibrate the shank of the ring to the specific gemstone. This is the most important part of the setting process, as imperfect calibration will lead to failure.

    Once the measurements are made and the metal is cut to perfection, the band is  then spring-loaded, the gemstone is set in place, and the metal is released to grab hold of the stone. The force pressing against the stone in a tension ring is generally 12,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

    This is a tremendous amount of force, which makes it an impossible setting for gemstones with a Mohs hardness of less than 9.0. Even stones of hardness 9.0 or greater must be free of inclusions, as even the slightest bit of weakness in the stone will cause it to shatter under pressure.

    History of Tension Rings

    Friedrich Becker, an employee at the German-based jewelry firm Neissing, began experimenting with the concept of tension settings in the late 1960s. In 1979, Herr Becker's vision was realized when he applied lateral pressure to hold a diamond between a spring-hardened, 35-gram, 18k-gold (75% pure gold; 25% special alloy metals for strength) ring that hugged the finger like a fat donut.

    This prototype was adapted by American jeweler and metallurgist, Steven Kretchmer, who patented a solution to the bulky appearance of the tension set rings. In 1987, his platinum alloy "Plat/SK" allowed for a lighter-weight band without sacrificing strength.

    At the same time, Mr. Kretchmer was experimenting with spring-loading techniques. In 1992, he secured patents for his method of applying spring pressure to his special alloyed metals. Given the technical difficulty and expertise required to craft a true tension-set ring, only a few jewelers have truly mastered the art.

    Myths & Knock-Offs

    This dynamic mounting style has generated a fair amount of buzz regarding its fragility. With only two points of contact on the gemstone, it appears a risky business for a diamond. Many people wonder, Is my stone really secure?

    Actually, experts agree that tension settings are just as secure, if not more secure than traditional 4-prong settings. Prongs are made of tiny drops of metal, often out of gold or platinum. Over time, the metal wears down and must be replaced. Sometimes prongs snag on clothing and bend or become misshapen, thereby compromising a gemstone's security.

    Aside from a direct blow, a well-made tension ring is nearly indestructible. The key phrase here is "well-made". There are many tension rings on the market, and some of them are made with inferior alloys, deficient spring-loading technique, and imprecise gemstone calibration.

    As you can imagine, a knock-off tension ring is hardly worth the savings you might find in the marketplace. When it comes to tension rings, purchase only from the best. Among them are the aforementioned Steven Kretchmer and Niessing, but also GelinAbaci, Danhov, and MDTdesign, with GelinAbaci leading the pack in world production.

    With any of these names you can be assured of the fire, brilliance, and security the tension setting has to offer.

  • Diamond Jubilee Exhibitions: Treasures from the Royal Palace

    Mosaic Easter Egg by Peter Carl Faberge, 1914. The Royal Collection, copyright 2012, HM Queen Elizabeth II. Photo Source: History Extra Magazine. Mosaic Easter Egg by Peter Carl Faberge, 1914. The Royal Collection, copyright 2012, HM Queen Elizabeth II. Photo Source: History Extra Magazine.

    by Angela Magnotti Andrews

    Treasures from the Royal Palaces is a special exhibition* celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The exhibit officially opened on March 16, 2012, with public displays in the Queen’s Gallery of Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland).

    Though a large portion of the collection features paintings from old masters as well as drawings from Leonardo da Vinci, a significant array of jewelry, gemstones, and jeweled decorations is also on display.

    Among the jewels, visitors will find several cameos from the Hellenistic period (1st and 2nd century BC), acquired by King George III from the collection of Consul Joseph Smith of Venice in 1762. These ancient cameos appear to have been reset as gold gold during the late 1700s. The cameo collection also includes carvings from Imperial Rome, Northern Italy, and England, all from the 1700s.

    One of the most beautiful displays of jewelry is a parure (jeweled necklace with matching earrings and brooch), which has an equally beautiful history. Exquisitely fashioned in 1899, this beautiful ensemble was made of enamelled gold, pearls, rubies, and emeralds, and was originally given as a gift, by Mary, Queen of Scots, to her faithful attendant, Mary Seton.

    Ms. Seton’s family maintained ownership of the matching jewels until they were sold at auction at Christie’s in 1894. The daughter of the new owner, Lilias Countess Bathurst, gave the set to Queen Mary during George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935.

    Probably the most impressive jeweled item on display at the Queen’s Palaces is the Mosaic Easter Egg, one of the most ornate of the Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs. The Mosaic egg was commissioned in 1914 by Tsar Nicholas II for his wife, Tsarina Alexandra (grand-daughter of Queen Victoria).

    Designed by a woman, Alma Theresia Pihl, the egg was hand crafted with tiny individual squares cut precisely out of platinum. Into each perfectly calibrated slot a square-cut gemstone was inlaid by hand. Set with rubies, sapphires, demantoid, garnets, diamonds, and pearls, this beautiful egg harbored a surprise, which was revealed on Easter morning 1914, when Tsarina Alexandra opened it for the first time.

    The Surprise featured an enamelled medallion bearing the Russian (Romanov) Imperial Crown made out of diamonds and platinum. On the front of the medallion the five Romanov children were carved in profile, and on the back a Victorian-style basket of flowers sits surrounded by the names of their children.

    *This article has been modified slightly from its original publication on June 9, 2012 on Jewelry-History.com.


  • Designer Spotlight: Ritani

    Ritani Bridal Set Featuring a Stunning Blue Sapphire


    A gorgeous 1.3-carat oval-cut natural blue sapphire rests regally above a double band replete with micro-set natural white diamonds. Upon close inspection, the diamonds set in micro-pavè's characteristic honeycomb pattern reflect a mesmerizing brilliance.

    This stunning designer bridal set belongs to Ritani's "Endless Love" collection. The Endless Love collection has become synonymous with Ritani's mastery of the micro-pavè technique. Rings from this collection feature dynamic central stones set in intricate bands of white gold, palladium, or platinum. Each band is paved entirely in tiny white micro-set diamonds along the entire rim of the band.

    While micro-pavè is a derivative of the ancient pavè setting, it requires a higher level of precision than its namesake. Where pavè works with varying sizes of diamonds, micro-pavè demands minuscule diamonds of uniform size, usually between 0.7 and 1.2mm. These tiny stones are tilted at an angle of 60 or 90 degrees and set in at least two, often more, interlocking rows.

    The resultant honeycomb pattern accounts for the velvety texture that catches the light in the same fluid way that rich fabrics do. It is a contemporary technique, made available no earlier than the mid-1970s, when machine-cutting allowed for micro-cut stones.

    At the point of its inception, the task of micro-setting was laborious and time-consuming. Very few gem-setters took the time to perfect the skills required. Therefore, micro-pavè jewelry was exclusive and expensive. With the onset of computer-aided gem setting, this beautiful technique is now bountiful in the market.

    However, if you desire the fluid artistry that is possible with authentic micro-pavè, then you will want to be alert to the hallmarks of true micro-set stones {1}:

    1. Stones will be uniform in size and shape and arranged in perfect rows.
    2. Stones will be set densely together without separations between the rows.
    3. The honeycomb pattern will be uniform and unbroken.
    4. The paved surface will be smooth to the touch and curved.
    5. The beads of metal holding the stones in pace will be even and precise, without excess metal encroaching upon the stones.
    6. The entire surface texture will appear smooth and crystal clear.

    Many low-end manufacturers have found ways to 'cut corners' on the process and deliver machine-made jewelry with a similar effect. Alas, these knock-offs are rife with flaws. When you buy a Ritani micro-pavè ring, you can rest assured that you're investing in the best.

    Not only have they mastered the intricacies of the craft, the New York-based design firm has made a name for themselves by creating extraordinary bridal jewelry infused with "timeless appeal and remarkable beauty" {2}.

    1. Leon Mege, "Micro Pavè" http://www.leonmege.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=111.
    2. Harper's Bazaar, September 2005, p. 70.

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