Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Show Off Shell Cameos

Shell Cameo of Veiled Bride; c. 1860
Cameos are an ancient decorative art associated with various cultures throughout time. One of their charming aspects lies in their ability to reveal something about the culture in which they were produced. But dedicated carvers took great pride in their artistic prowess, and looked for opportunities to show off their extraordinary technique.

The Victorian shell cameo shown here is of a classic female form in profile adorned in her bridal dress. The simple floral wreath atop her head secures a sheer veil which she modestly fastens with a demure twist under the chin.

The artist's ability to pull of this illusion of transparency in a shell cameo is one of the most remarkable feats a carver can perform. These types of intricate carvings were meant to thrill the wearer of the cameo, and distinguish the carver as an expert in his field.

Shells are among the most popular carving materials used by cameo carvers. Earliest examples of this material as a cameo foundation appeared in the Renaissance in the 15th - 16th centuries.

Bullmouth Helmet Shell

Prior to that, hardstone was used in cameo making. Today, carvers venture out with imaginative use of transparent gemstones and other carvable objects to create their extraordinary show pieces.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Pear shaped ruby dominates an Art Deco 18K gold & white diamond Sethi Couture ring
Certain colored gems are perennial must-haves. Sapphire, ruby and emerald are referred to as The Trinity of precious colored stones, and for good reason. Their beauty and rarity place them high on the list of most-coveted-stone status. And they've been around for eons. Kings and moguls flaunt their wealth by showing off these colorful baubles.

Take ruby. Really. You should totally get this. The scarlet jewel is a member of the corundum species of precious minerals. But so is sapphire. What? Yes, corundum, the hardest stone next to diamond is naturally discovered from completely transparent (referred to as white sapphire) to black no less. The straight blue variety is called sapphire . . .  and any of the myriad rainbow of colors that turn up in corundum deposits are referred to as fancy color sapphire.

What a stone. The hardness lends itself to a very high polish, with exquisite facet junctions and ultimately the potential for a superb polish, rendering it to be one sparkly stone. The hardness quotient --rating 9 on the Mohs scale, also means that it should look fabulous years and years from now--just like it does today. Only a diamond would likely scratch it, so it's in good jewel box company.

Jordana Brewster wears Sethi Couture ruby ring
As old of a stone as it is, ruby still charms the daylights out of jewelry fans today. It's definitely not your granny's gemstone. Modern designers with a way-cool vibe use this lushly colored stone in their collections to make a bold statement around their imaginative designs--like Sethi Couture. The exciting thing we're seeing is that designers wielding excellent craftsmanship skills pay homage to earlier styles--like Art Deco for instance. They make it interesting by interpreting these eras with modern proportions. Result? Chic meets fun with staying power.

 Sethi Couture Ruby ring Courtesy: D'Orazio & Associates

Monday, October 6, 2014

Here's Lookin' at You Kid

Oval pendant  in gold surrounded by seed pearls. Circa 1830

Unrequited Love
How romantic. Or something. In mid-18th century, Britain's King George IV (then Prince of Wales) wooed a Catholic commoner, a widow to boot by sending his reluctant suitor a mini-portrait of his eye.

How it Started
Trend ensued. Lover's Eye Jewelry became quite the rage for a long time. The sentimental prince's gesture spawned eye portraits on toothpick cases (not so romantic in my humble) brooches, lockets and rings.

And Why
Why this odd token of love, you ask? The eye might be recognized only to the object of her/his affection, it was thought. Thus clandestine lovers swooned over these private treasures.

Lover's Eye Pendant Courtesy Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA