A-Z of Jewellery

A – Art Deco
Emerging in Paris in the 1920s, the Art Deco movement celebrated modernity and technology. Departing from the flowing forms of the Art Nouveau period, Art Deco jewellery is characterized by geometric symmetry, lines and visual contrast.  Designs were inspired and influenced by Egyptian, Greek and Roman architecture as well as the Cubist art movement. Monochromatic schemes using ivory, onyx and rock crystal were popular, as were bold juxtapositions of jade, emerald, ruby and sapphire.

B – Bvlgari
Founded by Greek silversmith Sotirios Voulgaris in 1884, the Bvlgari brand is best known for innovative bold designs of the 1960s through to the ‘80s. Voluminous shapes featuring adventurous colour combinations and bubbly gemstones cut en cabochon are hallmarks of the 1960s era. Also popular during the 1960s was the Monete range, using ancient coins set into elegant and timeless creations. The brand is also revered for distinctive modular jewellery, seen in the Tubogas, Parentesi and Serptenti ranges, all of which remain popular amongst contemporary collectors.

C – Cartier
One of the most illustrious and exemplary design houses, Cartier has created some of the most iconic jewellery of the 20th Century. Founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, the brand quickly rose to fame after patronage from Empress Eugéne of France. At the turn of the 20th Century, stores opened in London, St. Petersburg, and New York and since that time the brand has opened more than 200 stores internationally. Antique and vintage Cartier pieces continue to be popular amongst collectors. In April, an iconic Tutti Frutti bracelet by Cartier dated from 1920 sold for $US1.3 million at Sotheby’s, breaking the record for a piece of jewellery sold online.

D – Demantoid Garnet
With a vivid green hue and the ability to disperse light more brilliantly than a diamond, demantoid garnets are one of the rarest and highly sought-after gemstones in existence. Mined predominantly in the Ural Mountains of Russia, these vibrant stones were a favourite of master Russian jeweller, Fabergé. Intense green examples are exceedingly rare and continue to be the most highly coveted variety. Also proving highly collectable are gemstones displaying ‘horsetail’ inclusions which appear to spray out from a central point. These distinctive natural inclusions are a diagnostic feature of the demantoid garnet.

E – Edwardian
Produced between the turn of the 20th Century and into the 1910s, Edwardian jewellery is renowned for delicate openwork design features, corresponding with advances in technology which allowed platinum to be utilized as a jewellery setting material. Featuring feminine motifs such as wreaths, garlands, and bows, jewellery was detailed with millegrain detail, echoing the delicate fabrics in vogue during the era.  The lowering of necklines at the time saw a rise in popularity of pierced négligées and long lavalieres to complement, often in monochrome diamonds and pearls, with pale coloured stones used with precision.

F – Fabergé
Peter Carl Fabergé (1846 – 1920) was a master royal jeweller to the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, renowned for intricate enameling of eggs, jewellery and object d’art. The enameling techniques employed by Fabergé were so sophisticated and beautiful that they inspired various jewellery houses including Tiffany & Co., Cartier and more. Using predominantly a guilloché technique, which involves placing translucent layers of enamel on machine engraved surfaces, Fabergé invented more than 145 shades of enamel, with exquisite depth of colour. Many suggest his major contribution to the history of jewellery making was his mesmerizing use of colour.

G – Georgian

Defined by the period of reign of Hanoverian monarchs in the United Kingdom between 1714 and 1837, Georgian jewellery encompasses a broad range of European styles. Changes in taste were rapid and sometimes frivolous during this era, however fob chains, cameos, bracelet pairs, coloured rings and chatelaines were all essential pieces for regular wear. Jewellery making techniques proved laborious during the Georgian era, with all aspects of the manufacturing process completed by hand. Repoussé, for example, was a common technique that emerged during this period, which involved hammering metals into intricate scrolled three-dimensional creations.

H – Hallmarks
Appearing as small impressions on gold, silver and platinum jewellery, hallmarks are a stamp of authorization from a government administered assay office. Introduced as perhaps the earliest form of consumer protection, King Edward III of England granted charter to the ‘Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’.  Particularly useful for gaining further information on antique pieces, hallmarks can indicate date and origin of manufacture, as well as the purity of materials and sometimes a particular maker.

I – Intaglio
Intaglios are produced by incising a printing plate and producing a negative relief. During the reign of the Roman Empire, intaglios were carved from hardstone to be used as wax seals and were later collected in admiration of their fine detail and beauty. A predilection for cameos during the Victorian era saw a decline in intaglio production, however detailed hardstone intaglios remain popular amongst antique collectors today.

With around only 70 limited pieces released each year for purchase, Joel Arthur Rosenthal (known by the acronym JAR) is one of the most exclusive contemporary jewellery makers. Featuring floral and organic forms styled in scrupulous detail and often set with colourful combinations of single cut pavé diamonds, JAR creations as intricate as they are dazzling. Often referred to as “the Fabergé of our time”, Rosenthal is the only living artist to have had a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

K – Kashmir Sapphire
With rich colour saturation and a velvety lustre, Kashmir sapphires are unparalleled in beauty and desirability. Hailing from the remote northwestern Himalayan region, most Kashmir sapphire deposits were mined in the late 19th Century between the years 1882 and 1887. Without any significant deposits discovered since, the rarity of Kashmir sapphires has continued to intensify their desirability. An unheated cushion cut sapphire of an impressive 392.52cts sold at Christie’s in 2014 for $17,564,156USD.

L – Lalaounis
Ilias Lalaounis was a 20th Century goldsmith and jewellery designer originating from Athens, Greece. Inspired by a range of cultural and historical influences such as Minoan art, the Byzanitine era and Greek mythology and antiquity, Lalaounis’s pieces capture the imagination. Mostly set in high carat gold, Lalaounis employed techniques such as repoussé, granulation and filigree, as a reference to historical jewellery making practices.

M – Micromosaic
A term coined by British collector Sir Arthur Gilbert, micromosaic refers to an artistic technique emerging in Rome in the 18th Century. The method involves meticulously applying hundreds of minute opaque glass or enamel cubes called tesserae with tweezers to create a landscape or portrait scene. Popular in jewellery throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries and set as brooches, earrings, and bracelets, typical micromosaic scenes often depicted ancient Roman ruins or pastoral Italian scenes.

N – Nephrite
Mined in abundance, nephrite is one of the two distinct minerals commonly referred to as jadeite. Found in various geographical regions including China, New Zealand and Siberia, nephrite has generally been less prized than the bright green toned ‘Imperial Jade’ but has been significant in Chinese culture for over 1,000 years. Due to the strength of the fibrous internal structure of nephrite, it is a wonderful material for carving as it is unlikely to splinter or break.

O – Opal
Derived from the word ‘opalus’ meaning ‘to see a change in colour’, the kaleidoscopic nature of opals is both intriguing and mesmerizing. The unique colours are formed from the arrangement of microscopic silica spheres, which interacts with light scattering it in various directions and creating the vivid ‘play of colour’ in the opal. To enhance this optical effect, opals are typically carved in a curved cabochon shape. Whilst opals are often predominantly colourless or white, the most highly sought-after opals are black, and display deep, intense flashes of colour.

P – Pietra Dura
Descending from the Roman opus sectile style, Pietra Dura is a Florentine mosaic technique developed during the Renaissance. It involves fitting together meticulously carved and highly polished coloured gemstones to form a whole image. The stones are cut so accurately and assembled so precisely that they interlock, resulting in a smooth and seamless finish.  Pietra Dura had a resurgence in popularity during the 19th Century and is often found in brooches, earrings and bracelets of the era.

Q – Quartz
Naturally occurring in wide range of colours and opacities, quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. Quartz varietals include amethyst, agate, prasiolite, citrine, chalcedony and smokey quartz to name only a select few. Used by Ancient Roman, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations as talismans and ornamentals, particular varieties of quartz have fallen in and out of favour over time. The Victorians, for example, coveted pale coloured amethyst and colourful banded agate, whilst Art Deco designs utilized the monochrome properties of rock crystal and onyx.

R – Rock Crystal
A variety of colourless transparent quartz, rock crystal has been utilized in various eras of jewellery making. In the Georgian and Victorian eras, faceted rock crystals appeared in earrings, rings, pendant and cufflinks. With the onset of the Art Deco era, rock crystal was used in a monochrome palette, alongside diamond, onyx, and ivory. In 2014, Boucheron created a contemporary Hotel de la Lumière collection, featuring hollowed bubbles of rock crystal filled with diamonds.

S – Sautoir
Rising to popularity in the Edwardian era, the sautoir is an elegant long line necklace suspending a tassel or hanging pendant. At the height of its popularity during the 1920s and ‘30s, the adaptability of the sautoir to be shortened or converted into bracelets and head decorations was an appealing factor. In 1922, Queen Marie of Romania was given a Cartier sautoir by King Ferdinand featuring a 478ct sapphire drop.

T – Tiffany & Co.
An iconic American institution, Tiffany & Co. was founded in 1837 by jeweller Charles Lewis Tiffany.  Leading jewellery design through the 19th Century, the firm became associated with exceptional diamonds after purchasing a large yellow diamond in 1879 now known simply as ‘The Tiffany Diamond’. The firm has maintained relevance in jewellery design through regular reinvention. Collaborating with iconic designers including Jean Schlumberger, Elsa Peretti, Donald Claflin, Paloma Picasso and Frank Gerhy has kept the Tiffany name at the forefront of modern and contemporary jewellery design.

U – Ultraviolet light
Both short and long wave ultraviolet light is used to assist in the identification of gemstones, by observing the fluorescent response. This can be useful in separating synthetic and genuine stones, determining gemstone origins, and detecting diamond fluorescence. UV light exposure can also reveal gemstone phosphorescence, where light is emitted from the stone after the light source is turned off. The famous blue Hope Diamond for example glows a bright red colour for several minutes after expose to short wave UV light.

V – Victorian
Referring to the period of reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901, Victorian jewellery is varied but typically ornate and richly textured. Eclectic motifs including stars, crescents, snakes, knots, hearts, horseshoes, flora and more all appear in the Victorian era, each tied to symbolism and a deeper meaning. Queen Victoria herself was an enormous influence on jewellery tastes of the period, and her preference for sentimental pieces resonated throughout the wider Victorian society.

W – David Webb
With a bold signature aesthetic and masterful craftsmanship, jeweller David Webb is an American jewellery icon. Most well-known for his sculptural work of the 1960s, Webb’s design inspiration is drawn from Fabergé enameling and the fauna motifs of Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier. The organic and bold floral forms have been a favourite of notable jewellery collectors including Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Andy Warhol, and continue to achieve exceptional prices at auction.

X – X-Ray
X-ray is utilized in gemmology for several purposes, including for determining natural pearls from cultured pearls. With the ability to capture an image of the inside of a pearl, X-Ray technology can reveal an internal bead indicating a pearl to be cultured. Natural pearls are both rare and highly sought after. In 2011, Leonard Joel offered and sold an antique natural pearl and diamond pendant for $144,000AUD.

The acronym YAG refers to Yttrium Aluminium Garnet, a colourless synthetic stone formed by the czochralski method of manufacture. First laboratory created in 1950, YAG has both high durability and clarity and has been used as a diamond simulant in jewellery. It fell out of favour with the introduction of Cubic Zirconia however, which is generally preferred as a simulant due to its high refractive index, resulting in higher brilliance.

Z – Zircon
Natural stones that occur in a range of colours, zircons display high dispersion meaning they have historically been used as diamond substitutes. For this reason, zircon has often been confused as synthetic, despite being completely naturally occurring. Gemmologist and gem buyer for Tiffany & Co. George Kunz was so enamored with the scintillation of zircon, that he proposed a marketing strategy to name them ‘starlite’, but the name never caught on.

BETHANY MCGOUGAN / Senior Jewellery Specialist

November 2020