BMJ Blog

How to Begin Your Own Antique Jewelry Collection

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Mary Hood | 2 Comments

How to Begin Your Own Antique Jewelry Collection | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

The ladies of Downton Abbey surely have the best jewelry on television!

Antique jewelry draws us in for many reasons. Often, there’s an interesting story accompanying an older piece (and it’s not very difficult to imagine a fascinating back story, either!). Moreover, some antique jewelry may be of better value and quality than similar jewelry made or reproduced in the current retail market.  And then there are those of us who simply like the look of older pieces (especially after a few episodes of Downton Abbey). From wherever your love of antique jewelry comes, with the right resources, you can start your own special collection.

Edwardian 14K White Gold Filigree Ring
Pro Tips for Starting an Antique Jewelry Collection

Shopping for and collecting antique jewelry can be more complicated than it may initially seem. Peter Shemonksy, an appraiser for Antiques Roadshow recommends jewelry collection amateurs begin with “a passion for learning, an inquisitive mind, knowing how to ask the right questions, a good visual memory, patience, and some money.” If you’ve got that thirst for knowledge, the first step is to consult the best resources.

Know Your Stuff

Shemonsky recommends familiarizing yourself with Understanding Jewelry by David Bennett and Danielle Mascetti and Warman’s Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide by Christie Romero. Full of beautiful illustrations, both books will help you learn about important style eras and jewelry designers. Warman’s Jewelry includes a price guide, which likely will not perfectly match current market prices, but it may give you a general pricing guideline. After learning about trends in jewelry, you may find that there’s a particular time period you’d like to focus on in your jewelry collection.

Understanding Jewelry

Warman’s Jewelry

The next thing to look for is a professional-quality 10x triplet magnifying loupe. This small tool that fits in your pocket will help you see detail like you’ve never seen it before. A magnifying loupe can help you decipher tiny engraved text and possibly even distinguish a counterfeit from the real thing.

How to Begin Your Own Antique Jewelry Collection | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Triplet Magnifying Loupe

Get Social

Once you’re ready to put your knowledge to use, get some hands-on experience with actual jewelry. Shemonsky recommends “getting friendly with one of the jewelry specialists and inquir[ing] about the pieces you are interested in, even if you may not be at the point where you’re ready to buy.” Both jewelry specialists and antique vendors are seeking to build relationships with possible clients, he explains. If anyone doesn’t seem interested in answering your questions (within reason, of course!), move on to a vendor who’s eager to talk about their offerings. Local jewelers, especially those who specialize in antiques or estate items, are another good resource. If you do find a piece that you’d like to purchase, Shemonsky advises to always ask this question: “Is it authentic and is it in original condition?”

Inspect Pieces Carefully

Before buying, handle a piece yourself and closely inspect the back (magnifying glass in hand!). Is there a jeweler’s signature? A stamp indicating the karat of metal? Pay special attention to the craftsmanship or any repair work. Does the quality of work on the back match the quality of that on the front? Shemonsky explains that there are several lower-quality reproductions of antiques on the market, so be wary: “it is easy to copy style, but copying craftsmanship is very expensive and not cost-effective in today’s market. So think with your eyes and compare with your brain.”

How to Begin Your Own Antique Jewelry Collection | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Antique Pearl Bracelet, Dated 1862, Natural Saltwater Pearl

Stay True to the Reason You Started the Collection

In any artistic realm (music, visual art, fashion, jewelry), there is an endless amount of pieces in the world coupled with all of the information about those pieces. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone. Collecting antique jewelry will remain a fun hobby, however, if you keep your original goals in mind. Along the way, a vendor may attempt to persuade you to purchase something that simply doesn’t suit your aesthetic, or a blog may put down your favorite era of jewelry—but just remember that this is your collection, and your taste reigns supreme.

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Photos: Downton Abbey, Perfect Jewels via Flickr, Amazon, Justin Celticfinds via Flickr

Posted in antique jewelry, Informational, jewelry tips, vintage jewelry

The Golden Ratio in Art and Design

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

 The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog 

Leonardo DaVinci was known to use the Golden Ratio in his paintings including The Last Supper.

The Golden Ratio (a.k.a. “Golden Mean” or “Divine Proportion”), a number that’s found in the proportions of starfish, human faces, and hurricanes, isn’t just an uncanny natural phenomenon. Because it is believed to play an important role in the way we interpret beauty (both natural and manmade), the Golden Ratio can be spotted in various arts from photography to architecture. While some artists and designers purposely employ the ratio, it's reasonable to wonder if some of them find it more organically simply because they have a "good eye." In many cases, we may never know the answer! 

Examples of The Golden Ratio in Art and Design

The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Georges Pierre Seurat is another painter noted for his use of the Golden Ratio to compose the landscapes of his pieces.

Golden Ratio in Art and Design | BMJ Blog 

This clever necklace represents a more literal approach to using the Golden Ratio in art and design!

 The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Is the Apple logo a perfect design? 

The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hoksai is a well-recognized and beloved painting. Does it owe its aesthetic appeal, in part, to the Golden Ratio? Was this a purposeful choice on the part of the artist? 

Tara Mastroeni explains that architects take advantage of the golden ratio in their building designs because it allows them to create aesthetically pleasing designs with room for a great deal of variation. Here are just a few examples of homes that both follow the Golden Ratio while still looking quite different from each other. 

The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

The Golden Ratio in Art and Design | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Now it's your turn!

Want to experiment with the Golden Ratio in your own designs? Follow this guide to drawing a Golden Rectangle, which follows the Golden Ratio, creating one of the most visually satisfying geometric forms. You can also try various programs to help with calculations. A few options include goldenRatio, a program to helps designers plan a general layout; Atrise Golden Section, which, among other functions, may be used in Adobe Photoshop to help you crop visually pleasing images; and Golden Ratio Typography Calculator, a simple tool that helps you determine the most visually pleasing typography for your website.

Is the Golden Ratio really so golden?

There is certainly some debate about whether or not the Golden Ratio really does, in fact, play a role in the way we’re visually attracted to objects and people. After all, as individuals, we have distinct tastes and don’t always find the same subjects beautiful. The Hass School of Business published results of a study that found that participants, on average, preferred rectangles that are in the range of 1.414 and 1.732. This range includes the Golden Rectangle (1.618) but indicates that it’s not everyone’s first pick.

Moreover, there is some speculation that the Golden Ratio doesn’t have a lot of practical application in the real world of design. As John Brownlee explains, many contemporary designers find that they don’t rely on the Golden Ratio, some eschewing it altogether.

What’s more, actually implementing the Golden Ratio in a design is mathematically impossible because the number goes on forever. We’re only able to produce approximations. Others argue, however, that approximations are enough since the Golden Ratio is more about the larger picture, so to speak, and a general aesthetic impression.

A final critique of the Golden Ratio--or rather the obsession with it--is that it's just one more manifestation of humans seeking patterns and logic where patterns and logic don't necessarily exist.

Nonetheless, the Golden Ratio is still revered as a majestic theory and may inspire, if not exactly dictate, the proportions of beautiful designs. 

What's your take on the Golden Ratio?

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Photos: Golden Number, Bonny Rabbit Boutique via Etsy, Notey, Image Kind

Posted in aesthetics, design, golden mean, golden ratio, Informational

What Is the Golden Ratio?

Posted on July 07, 2016 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

 What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

From hurricanes to ancient architecture to the center of sunflowers, examples of the Golden Ratio are all around us.

What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

The Golden Ratio.

Live Science defines the Golden Ratio (also called the Golden Mean or Divine Proportion) as “a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized using phi, after the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet.” As with pi, the golden ratio is a number whose decimal points go on ad infinitum. 1.61803398875… is just the beginning. Phi is usually rounded off to 1.618. The equation is expressed as a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.618…

What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog


The Golden Ratio has been discovered and rediscovered by mathematicians throughout ancient history and across cultures. The ratio may be seen in the proportions of great ancient architecture including the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Parthenon. Plato (428 - 347 BCE) described the ratio as the most “universally binding mathematical equation.”

What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

A full-scale recreation of the Parthenon in Nashville, TN.

The Golden Ratio is closely related to the Fibonacci Sequence discovered by Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202. Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34… The expression is written as xn = xn-1 + xn-2. The Ratio of two successive Fibonacci numbers roughly equal the Golden Ratio--especially as the numbers increase in size. 

The Golden Ratio also informs the Golden Rectangle, which is considered the most visually satisfying geometric from. The ratio of the length and width of the Golden Rectangle equal the Golden Ratio. The Golden Rectangle is often employed in photography, art, and design (but more on that in a later post).

What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Outside of the realm of mathematics, the Golden Ratio plays a surprisingly significant role in the natural world. In nature, the Golden Ratio can be found in the arrangement of flower petals in some flowers, seed heads, pinecones, tree branches, shells, spiral galaxies, dolphins, starfish, sand dollars, honey bees, hurricanes, human fingers, and even our DNA molecules.

Moreover, the Golden Ratio, loosely speaking, can be found on the faces of individuals that are generally found most attractive. A geometric “beauty mask” can help predict whether or not the proportions of an individual's face will be deemed attractive by the average person. Of course, we know that beauty comes down to more than a math equation and it's important to promote concepts of beauty that move past traditional definitions--but it's interesting to think about the way this one equation plays such an important but quiet role in our perception of aesthetics.

What Is the Golden Ratio? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog 

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Photo: Live Science, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in aesthetics, design, golden mean, golden ratio, Informational, jewelry safety

Should You Store Your Jewelry in a Safe-Deposit Box?

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

For those rarely-worn heirloom jewels, a safe-deposit box at the bank is likely your safest, most practical storage option. This article discusses important things to consider before finalizing your jewelry storage plan.

 Should You Store Your Jewelry in a Safe-Deposit Box? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Safe-Deposit Box Basics

A safe-deposit box is a mini safe-like box secured inside a bank. Most banks and credit unions offer safe-deposit boxes for rent.  Because you will only have access to the box during the bank’s business hours, safe-deposit boxes are best for items that you won’t need in a moments’ notice or in an emergency. When setting up a safe-deposit box, consider who you’d like to be able to access the box in case you are unable to. Trusted individuals may include heirs, a spouse, or a designated power of attorney.

Unlike the money you store in the bank, the valuables in your safe-deposit box are not insured by the government or the banking institution. Therefore, it may be wise to purchase separate insurance from a company that specializes in policies for safe-deposit box contents or consult with your home insurance agent to add a rider or personal article floater for specific valuable items stored in the safe-deposit box to your home insurance policy. 

Finally, make sure you inventory your safe-deposit box and keep a current list of its contents.

Will My Jewelry Be Safe in a Safe-Deposit Box?

Should You Store Your Jewelry in a Safe-Deposit Box? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

 There is no guarantee that your valuables will be perfectly safe in a safe-deposit box—which is why insuring those valuables is a smart plan. Although disasters are rare, they can happen. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, roughly 1,300 safe-deposit boxes were collateral damage.

That being said, safe-deposit boxes are typically your safest bet since they are protected from home disasters (flooding, fires, and burglaries), which are more likely to occur than bank disasters.

What about a Home Safe?

Although a home safe is certainly more secure than an unlocked jewelry box—and less expensive than a bank safe-deposit box, most home safes have significant vulnerabilities. Many home safes are less than 100 pounds, so it’s not impossible for someone to walk away with one. They also tend to be easier to crack than bank safe-deposit boxes. The average non-fireproof home safe will only hold up for about an hour in a fire, so if you do rely on a home safe for some of your valuables, it’s wise to invest in a fireproof safe.

The Cost of Using a Safe-Deposit Box

The cost of a box varies depending on its size. Some banks may also offer existing customers discounts on safe-deposit boxes. The following estimates are sourced from Financial Web:

  • The smallest safe-deposit box available is 2"x5" and 12” long. Annual rent is typically between $15 and $25 a year.
  • A medium safe-deposit box measures 4"x10" and is 12” long. Annual rent is typically between $40 and $65.
  • The largest safe-deposit box offered is 15"x22" and 12” long.  Annual rent is typically between $185 and $500.

Key deposits are usually $10 to $25 per month, and a replacement key is usually $20.

 Should You Store Your Jewelry in a Safe-Deposit Box? | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

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Photos: Stuart Connor via Flickr, Pixabay, Serendipity Diamonds via Flickr

Posted in Informational, informative, jewelry care, jewelry safety, jewelry solutions, jewelry tips

November Birthstones: Topaz and Citrine

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Mary Hood | 1 Comment

From ancient days to the present, both topaz and citrine have been credited with long lists of healing properties. Not to mention, their glowing colors serve as a perfect accent to any fall color palette!

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Posted in citrine, gems, informational, jewelry, November birthstone, topaz

9 Tips for Traveling with Jewelry

Posted on July 16, 2015 by Mary Hood | 1 Comment

Who doesn’t want to show off their favorite necklace or ring while traveling? The following tips will show you how to keep your jewelry safe and organized whether you’re jet setting to Paris or road tripping to Grandma’s.

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Posted in DIY, informational, jewelry, jewelry care, jewelry organization, jewelry safety, travel

How Do Mood Rings Work?

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Mary Hood | 2 Comments

mood ringEven though mood rings aren’t able to predict your mood with scientific accuracy, they can give a rough indication of your surface body temperature—and there is some correlation between your emotional state and your body temperature.

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Posted in fashion, fun, informational, jewelry, mood rings, style

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