17th Century Diamonds & Pearls – Dr. Brenda Foreman

Brenda ForemanBrenda Forman enlightened the DCGIA Chapter with the history of Diamonds & Pearls in the 17th Century.

The 16th century was the time for goldsmiths, where ornate gold work was more important than gemstones. Diamonds were used in a table cut that rendered the diamond looking black, as little light reflected back through the table.

Brenda discussed the historic Kings and Queens of the 17th century, covering the history and royal gems of:
James I & VI (1566 – 1625), King of England and Scotland
Henry IV (1553 – 1610), King of France,Henry IV
Marie de’ Medici (1573 – 1642), Queen of France
Louis XIII (1601 – 1643), King of France
Cardinal Richelieu (1585 – 1642), Chief minister of France
Jules Mazarin (1602 – 1661), Chief minister of France
Anne Stuart (1665–1714), Queen of Great Britain
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715), King of France, The Sun King
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, (1605-1689), Gem dealer to King Louis XIV

The 17th century was both diamond and pearl-crazy, as this portrait of Queen Anne demonstrates.

Queen Anne

Woburn Abbey

Queen Anne set the fashion of the day, with pearl buttons on her sleeves, bodice and skirt, a pearl choker, plus multiple pearl ropes draped from her shoulders to hang below her waist. As well as pearl bodkins in her hair and on her headdress. Pearls were not necessarily natural, many glass versions were available for use in both jewelry and clothing adornments.

James I & VI, King of England and Scotland, was Queen Elizabeth’s successor as ruler of England. James began the dispersal of the Crown jewels he’d inherited from Elizabeth and broke up some of the most important pieces to create the huge jewel in his hat brim, which was named the Feather.

King James I

Dulwich Picture Gallery

All those black stones in the Feather and on the King’s clothing are table cut diamonds.

Table Cut Diamond

Table Cut Diamond

Like every king, James always needed money and he eventually had to pawn the Feather along with many of the other Crown Jewels of England.

Jules Mazarin, was an Italian cardinal, diplomat, and politician, who served as the chief minister of France from 1642 until his death. He was a noted collector of art and jewels, particularly diamonds, and he bequeathed the “Mazarin Diamonds” to Louis XIV in 1661, some of which remain in the collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Mazarin Diamond Collection

Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Gem dealer to King Louis XIV, was best known for the discovery/purchase of the 116 carat Tavernier Blue Diamond that he subsequently sold to Louis XIV of France in 1668. Later, Louis XIV had the diamond re-cut into the 68 carat French Blue and had it set as a hatpin.


The gem was reset by his great-grandson Louis XV in The Medal of The Order of the Golden Fleece, which was stolen in 1792 along with other Royal jewels.

Golden Fleece

The French Blue was re-cut and re-emerged in London 30 years later as the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond.

Hope Diamond

When exposed to ultraviolet light, it phosphoresces RED for several minutes after the light is turned off. Over the years, many people have brought in smaller stones thinking they might have been part of the French Blue parent stone, but none has shown the same degree of RED phosphorescence.

Developments in Diamond Cutting from the 15th to 17th Centuries.

In its rough state a perfect diamond crystal is formed with all its eight faces symmetrical, perfect and equal, which is immensely rare in its own right. At this time India was the only source in the world for diamonds. But India never performed diamond cutting. The rough diamond faces might be polished but that was about all.

Diamond Rough

Chip Clark for the Smithsonian Institution

16th Century Diamond cuts were minimal at best.

16th Diamond Cuts With the 17th Century advances in diamond cutting, improvement of the glitter of the stones, made them the center piece of jewelry. Settings were confined to holding gemstones in place as unobtrusively as possible.

17th Century Diamond Cuts

The rose cut became hugely popular in the 17th century. It is produced by cleaving off one of the apexes of the rough crystal and then adding facets to the faces. The bottom surface, being the line of the cleavage, is flat. The result is a soft, shifting, romantic glimmer which modern jewelry designers have rediscovered and are using more and more widely in their pieces.

Rose Cut Diamond

Brenda continued to amaze members with pictures of the Beautiful Diamond Jewelry of the 17th Century. DCGIA Chapter thanks her for sharing with our members a rich history of jewels.

Summary by Charles Marts

Photos from presentation provided by Brenda Foreman

Introductory Video by Melanie Marts GG, (GIA)

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