A stone with one of the richest histories in all of gem lore, the emerald continues to captivate and enchant jewelry lovers with its incomparable green hue. Because deep green emeralds with high clarity are quite rare (and incredibly valuable), the stone is often heat treated to enhance its natural color and improve its clarity. Emeralds are a variety of beryl—a mineral that grows with six sides and may grow up to a foot tall.
Gemologists consider emerald to be one of the oldest mined stones with evidence indicating that it was mined in Egypt as early as 330 B.C.E.—yet some estimates suggest that the oldest emerald stones may be up to 2.97 billion years old!
The name “emerald” comes from the Greek “smaragdus,” meaning green. Emeralds have been found in Columbia, Brazil, AfghanColombiaambia, and Egypt. The Egyptians featured emerald in their jewelry and burial rituals. Believed to be a symbol of protection, emeralds were often buried with monarchs. The stone was so greatly valued by Egyptians that Cleopatra claimed ownership of all emerald mines during her reign.
Roman scholar Pliny the Elder is credited with the following statement about the beautiful green stone: "Indeed, no stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for, whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no gem in existence more intense than this.” Meanwhile, it’s believed that Roman emperor Nero would watch the gladiator games through thin, flat emeralds.
The Muzo tribe of Columbia had such well-hidden emerald mines that it took the Spanish conquistadors nearly twenty years to discover them. Indeed, the violent conflicts between natives of present-day South America and European colonists shadow the history of emerald acquisition (usually on behalf of royalty) in Western European countries.
Gold, set with table-cut emeralds, and hung with an emerald drop from Colombia, currently exhibited at Victoria and Albert Museum.
In addition to being seen as a protective force, over the centuries, emeralds have also been credited with the ability to cure stomach problems, control epilepsy, stop bleeding, and ward off panic and anxiety. Some cultures even believed that emeralds granted the owner foresight—when the emerald was placed under the tongue!
Emerald is still celebrated as a symbol of rebirth, new beginnings, loyalty, and security—making it a perfect birthstone for the lush month of May. This lovely stone also serves as a gift for 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.
Hooker Emerald Brooch, 1950. A beveled square-cut emerald in a platinum setting, surrounded by 109 round and 20 baguette-cut diamonds.
Are you a fan of emeralds?
Photos: Wikimedia Commons
The best part of owning jewelry, of course, is wearing it! But we can’t wear all of our jewelry all of the time. Artistically organizing and displaying our jewelry is a great way to enjoy the jewelry we’re not wearing at the moment, add a splash of beauty to our living space—and show off our impeccable tastes in the process.
We recommend displaying your more casual jewelry or jewelry that could easily be replaced. For truly valuable pieces, it’s better to store them somewhere safer where they will be protected from gathering dust and getting lost in the shuffle of things.
Display your favorite rings in a pretty dish.
Tip: In some cases, less is more. Too much jewelry in one dish defeats the purpose of displaying your jewelry.
Tip: Scour thrift stores and antique markets for vintage busts and designer forms. These pieces can "wear" and show off your jewelry when you're not!
Go for a modern, minimalist approach with this DIY Mountain Necklace Display featured on The Merrythought.
Tip: Unfinished wood can make a beautiful, refreshing statement.
Try this Delicate Necklace Solution from Cupcakes and Cashmere.
Tip: If you're going to pin your jewelry to a wall or board, opt for delicate pins in gold, silver, or white.
What are your favorite ways to organize and display your jewelry?
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Photos: Cupcakes and Cashmere, I Heart Organizing, Crafts Unleashed, The Everygirl, The Merrythought
Enamel in jewelry and decorative work goes by a few names—vitreous enamel, porcelain enamel, and painted glass. The word enamel comes from the Old High German word smelzan, which means to smelt.
Enamel jewelry can feature several vivid hues.
In jewelry, enamel is a decorate coating applied to metal. It begins as a powder with a texture similar to that of baby powder. It’s fused to metals using high temperatures (1,380-1,560°F). Although enamel powder comes in different colors, the initial colors of the powder do not ultimately represent the vivid colors resulting from the high-temperature fusion process.
The temperature of the fusion process as well as the metal oxides content of the enamel determine the resulting color’s intensity as well as its transparency. Generally speaking, higher temperatures yield more durable, translucent enamel while lower temps yield softer, more opaque enamel, which is more vulnerable to damage.
Enamel jewelry is made using fine, colored powder.
The Origins of Enamel Jewelry
Enamel design can be traced back to the ancient Persians who called the art meenakari. The ancient Egyptians also practiced enamel work on stone objects and pottery—and less frequently on jewelry.
Chinese cloisonné wine pot, circa 18th century.
The art of enameling seemed to know no geographic bounds and spread to China, Rome, Greek, Celtic territories, and the Byzantine Empire. Each culture brought its own style to the art. The Chinese, for example, perfected the cloisonné technique. Cloisonné is also known as the "cell technique." Wires are adhered to a surface in a desired pattern; the artist then fills the spaces created by the wire with enamel.
A Fabergé egg.
More recently, enamel jewelry gained popularity during the Art Nouveau era in art and design in Europe and the United States (1890-1910). Artists like Peter Carl Fabergé specialized in bibelots (baubles), like the elaborate enamel egg pictured above. Other artists, like George Stubbs, used enamel to create portrait miniatures. This period was an especially ripe time for jewelry making and design in part because enameling allowed artists like René Lalique and Eugéne Feuillâtre to create intricate, nature-inspired jewelry. Enamel also offered a way to feature vibrant color in jewelry without the use of precious stones.
Common Design Styles in Enamel Jewelry
There are several design styles in enamel jewelry (including cloisonné, mentioned above). The following are just three that you may come across.
A stunning and delicate plique à jour creation by René Lalique.
Plique à Jour. French for “glimpse of day,” this style was popularized by French enamelists René Lalique and Eugéne Feuillâtre. In this style, vivid, fairly translucent enamel is suspended between gold or silver wires without any backing. The light shines through the enamel, creating a beautiful stained-glass effect.
A contemporary example of champlené enameling.
Champlené. French for “raised field,” in this style, the jeweler creates a depression in the metal (by cutting, hammering, or stamping the metal). They then fill the depressions with enamel, layering the the enamel until it reaches the height of the surrounding metal, creating a mostly smooth surface.
The baise taille technique allows enamelists to create nuanced texture in the smallest of pieces.
Baise Taille. French for “low cut,” this style features a pattern created in the metal over which enamel is applied. The pattern shows through the glass for a unique texture.
Caring for Enamel Jewelry
To clean enamel jewelry, soak the piece in warm, soapy water for five to ten minutes. Use a soft cloth to remove noticeable bits of dirt. Rinse the piece and dry it with a lint-free cloth.
If your enamel jewelry is damaged, please take it to a jewelry or artist who specializing in enamel. Repairing antique enamel is an especially delicate process since using high temperatures to fuse new enamel may negatively affect the older enamel on the piece.
Are you a lover of enamel jewelry? What's your favorite style?
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The February birthstone amethyst is a variety of quartz with a beautiful violet hue. Its name comes from the ancient Greek for "intoxicated" (the stone was believed to protect its wearer from drunkenness). The purple hue can vary from a light, pinkish violet to a deep purple; the color is created by irradiation, iron impurities, and trace elements. Amethysts occur in the cavities of granite rocks and are found all over the world.
Roman intaglio portrait of Caracalla in amethyst
The ancient Egyptians used amethysts to create intaglio engraved gems. Later, medieval European soldiers carried amethyst amulets into battle, believing that the stone would help heal wounds and keep one cool-headed. Western Christian bishops wear an episcopal ring that often includes an amethyst, an allusion Acts 2:15, in which the apostles are not intoxicated at Pentecost.
Amethysts have also been associated with royalty and have appeared in scepters, crowns, and other items of regal jewelry. Amethyst is also said to have been the ninth stone in the breastplate of the high priest of Israel, Aaron, and one of the stones upon which the names of the tribes of Israel were engraved.
Modern Amethyst Lore
In the crystal healing tradition, amethyst is associated with peace, courage, stability, and clarity of mind. Wearing amethyst jewelry against your skin is believed to reduce stress and heighten the wearer’s intuition. Advocates of crystal healing recommend using them in meditation to more deeply connect with yourself.
Amethysts can also be used throughout the home to bring peace to any space. Placing an amethyst cluster near the entryway of your business is believed to attract abundance and new financial opportunities.
Try this self-reflection exercise using amethysts.
Amethysts at Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry
Amethysts are featured in the Royal Ruby and Amethyst Twig Ring. This statement ring is designed to elevate everyday experiences—whether that’s just a trip to the store or a fine and fancy dinner—and remind you that you’re every bit as special as a royal lady!
Do you love amethysts?
You may also be interested in: The Meaning of Pearls
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Energy Muse, Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry
Accounts of Cleopatra VII’s (69-30 BCE) enchanting life story abound, but the story most likely to pique the interest of jewelry lovers involves a rather large and valuable pearl that the beautiful queen apparently drank!
According to the story, Cleopatra bet her lover Marc Antony that she could spend 10 million sesterces on one meal. To prove herself (while showing off her opulence), she removed one of her earrings, which apparently contained one of two of the largest pearls known in the land, dissolved it in vinegar, and then drank it.
In the words of Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 A.D.), “She ordered the second course to be served. In accordance with previous instructions, the servants placed in front of her only a single vessel containing vinegar. She took one earring off, and dropped the pearl in the vinegar, and when it was wasted away, swallowed it.” And the bet was won.
Until recently, this story was thought to be mere myth, but research indicates that this trick is actually possible.
"All you need is vinegar and a pearl. In my experiments, I used a white vinegar sold in supermarkets. Wine vinegar was most common in the Greco-Roman world, so it is likely that's what Cleopatra used," classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair State University explained to Discovery News. The acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate in the pearl and produces calcium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide. Interestingly, the cocktail wouldn’t taste as acidic as straight vinegar because the calcium carbonate somewhat neutralizes the acid in the vinegar.
The effect isn’t instantaneous, however. It takes roughly “24 to 36 hours to dissolve a pearl weighing approximately one gram.” The end result is a translucent gel-like substance.
Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar at Stanford University's Departments of Classics and History of Science, suggests that the myth—and its plausibility—may give us insight into the kind of clever character Cleopatra was:
“I think this research has convincingly demonstrated the technique that Cleopatra could have used to dissolve a pearl. We already know that this curious, intelligent queen carried out toxicological experiments," Mayor told Discovery News. "It's likely she softened the pearl in advance, then crushed it and placed it in a goblet to dazzle Marc Antony with her wealth and arcane scientific expertise.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Rutilated quartz is a transparent variety of quartz with naturally occurring thread-like pigmentation called rutile inclusions. The inclusions range from thin to thick and sparse to dense and can run parallel or crisscrossed. The inclusions are usually reddish, gold, black, silver, or, rarely, greenish. Each manifestation of rutilation is different, so every piece of rutilated quartz is unique. Although inclusions are typically considered flaws when they’re present in precious gems, they lend a special, ornamental quality to quartz.
In the crystal healing tradition, rutilated quartz is associated with enhancing mental focus and getting energy moving. Practitioners of crystal healing believe rutilated quartz is connected to the solar plexus chakra (the third chakra), the core of an individual’s self-esteem and willpower.
Whether or not you believe that rutilated quartz can play a role in fire-powering your day, it’s hard to deny that these stones are just cool. I recently made these earrings with slices of rutilated quartz.
They feature two varieties of rutilated quartz—quartz with gold inclusions and quartz with black inclusions. The stones are set with an open back to allow light to shine through the quartz. The gold rutilated quartz is set in 22-karat gold while the black rutilated quartz is set in silver. I created cuts around the silver bezel settings to add texture and a sense of depth.
If you’re wondering what the earrings are hanging on, that’s a tool used to measure the height of metal objects when forming them. The pointy ends are used to etch level lines. It also makes for a handy way to display earrings!
While on the subject of quartz, I also wanted to share this raw quartz necklace. The chunk of quartz is set in 22-karat gold and is displayed on a thread of sapphires. This piece is just one example of how semi-precious and precious stones can beautifully complement each other.
Old (and New) Hollywood is an endless source of fashion inspiration--especially when it comes to jewelry and gemstones. The following are just a few classic movies featuring timeless pieces. Enjoy this feast for the eyes!
Vivien Leigh’s Cameo Brooch in Gone with the Wind (1938)
Cameo’s have a long, rich history. Dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman empires, cameos often depicted important scenes among family or even the gods. Mourning cameos depicting a lost loved one were popularized by Queen Victoria in the 19th century.
Leave it to Hollywood, however, to take the trend to the next level. In Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh wears an extra-large mourning brooch set in gold, depicting a figure riding birds, a rather unusual scene for a brooch at the time. The brooch belonged to the costume designer’s mother.
Katherine Hepburn’s Arrow Brooch in Sea of Grass (1947)
This beautiful, creative piece was created by Joseff of Hollywood, a prominent supplier of jewelry to the movie industry. The two-part piece worn on the heart-shaped dress with a sweetheart neckline creates the appearance of an arrow-struck heart. Was there ever a more romantic piece of jewelry?
Marilyn Monroe’s Diamond Necklace in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
In addition to sparking interest in fine jewelry designer Harry Winston (“Talk to me, Harry Winston. Tell me all about it!”), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes features an antique diamond with a fascinating history. The Moon of Baroda, a 24-carat pear-shaped yellow canary diamond was the property of the Maharajah of Baroda, India for 500 years until the 18th century, when it was worn by Empress Maria Theresa and later worn by Marie Antoinette. Eventually, the diamond was taken back to its original home where it stayed for another 200 years until Meyer Rosebnaum purchased it, and Monroe wore in the diamond-filled film.
Grace Kelly’s Faux Diamond Necklace in To Catch a Thief (1955)
The lovely Grace Kelly wore an eye-catching diamond necklace to seduce a gentleman jewelry thief played by Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief—but the diamond necklace was fake (both in the narrative of the film and in real life!). Could have fooled me!
Audrey Hepburn’s Pearl and Diamond Necklace in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
“I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s!” So were many other jewelry lovers after Audrey Hepburn wore a multi-strand diamond and pearl necklace and matching diamanté hair piece in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Paired with her sizzling black Givenchy number, the jewelry made a gorgeous statement and launched a chic style that’s still emulated today.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Snake Belt in Cleopatra (1963)
Another piece made by the Joseff family, Cleopatra’s snake belt was an unusual, striking piece of jewelry. Joseff’s wife, Joan Joseff measured Taylor for the belt, and by the time the belt was ready, it was 2 ½ inches too small for the actress. Taylor insisted that the initial measurement was incorrect, but others wondered if the actress’s weight had fluctuated. Either way, the piece truly memorable.
Julia Robert’s Diamond and Ruby Necklace in Pretty Woman (1990)
Custom-made by French jeweler Fred Joaillier, this iconic necklace features 23 pear-cut rubies set in diamond-encrusted hearts. The piece is first introduced in the humorous scene when Richard Gene snaps necklace box closed as Julia Roberts reaches for the sparkly item. Of course, the real stunner of the scene was Roberts herself.