Elyse Zorn Karlin and Gail Brett Levine enthralled members with their “Two different views…what we have learned in 80+ years of studying jewelry.” Covering the alphabet from A to Z the two provided a jewelry historian’s and appraiser’s thoughts on what makes a piece of jewelry distinctive. Different time periods brought different types of jewelry, dependent on what was happening in society at the time, external and internal factors of war, industry and fashion, as well as the sources that were being mined and discovered. Go to auctions of every kind, especially the large ones, Christie’s in NY and Weschler’s in DC to name a few, they want you there and they want to answer questions about the jewelry and other objects available for auction. Auctions are great places to see and learn about all types and periods of jewelry.
A is for Art Nouveau – A style of jewelry-making burst forth from the vibrant European arts scene. The Art Nouveau (literally “New Art”) era, lasting from 1890 to 1910, overlapped with the Edwardian and Victorian eras and was relatively brief, though it made a lasting contribution to the meaning of magnificent jewelry. Art Nouveau was influenced by depictions of nature in Japanese art, looked to the natural world for inspiration, making art a part of daily life. Art Nouveau pieces are some of the most sought-after collectibles in the world today.
B is for Berlin Iron Jewelry – Jewelry materials can change during wars. Berlin Iron Jewelry can be traced back to when the Prussian royal family urged all citizens to contribute their gold and silver jewellery towards funding the war against Napoleon. In return the people were given iron jewellery such as brooches and finger rings, often with the inscription in german (I gave gold for iron), or (For the welfare of our fatherland), or with a portrait of Frederick William III of Prussia on the back. Pieces were lacquered so they would not rust. Today Berlin Iron Jewellery are collector’s items and true pieces are found in museums or private collections. Replicas are widely manufactured and are easy to obtain especially over the internet.
B is for Bog Oak Jewelry – Not all dark Victorian jewelry is jet. Bog Oak Jewelry is often misconceived to be an imitation of jet, bog oak is a material used quite often in sentimental jewelry and is visually similar in both its color and carving to jet jewelry. Bog Oak Jewelry popularity comes directly from the demand for jet in the 1870s, which was large enough to provoke its imitators (vulcanite) and rivals such as bog oak. Hailing from Ireland, bog oak designs often present Irish motifs, the shamrock and harp, as well as castles are often carved into brooches. It is a fossilised wood and quite easily carved, but does not take a high polish like jet. Bog Oak is dark brown and shows a wooden patina.
C is for Cannatille Work – There is Georgian jewelry in the marketplace, just not as much as Victorian, and cannatille work is an indication. Cannatille work is a close relative of filigree, it features fine gold wires or thinly hammered sheets, utilizing twisted strands of gold wire wound into elaborate designs. Jewelry with cannetille was very popular in the 1820’s and 1830’s, with motifs including tendrils, scrolls, coils, beehives and spider web rosettes.
C is for Creole Earrings – Funky and fashionable, not all Victorian earrings are the long dangling type we think of. Creole Earring style goes back even further and is related to today’s hoop jewelry.
D is for Double Clip – The double clip brooch was very significant in the Art Deco era, as it allowed for multiple types of wear. It came with a custom, fitted brooch frame to wear both sides together at the same time, or the frame piece could be taken away and the pieces could be worn each on opposite lapels as pins.
D is for Diadem and other jewels you wear on your head – There are more things to put on your head than just a crown and they all have their own names. Diadem, Crown, Tiara, Bandeau, Ferroniere, hair comb, aigrette, turban ornament. A diadem is a type of crown, specifically an ornamental headband worn by Eastern monarchs and others as a badge of royalty. The circlet of linen or cloth of gold at the base of the tiara developed into a metal crown. Bandeau, A narrow band worn around the head to hold the hair in position. A ferronière is a style of headband that encircles the wearer’s forehead, usually with a small jewel suspended in the center. It was worn in the late fifteenth century and was revived in the second quarter of the nineteenth century for both day and evening wear. Aigrette is a spray of feathers or gems worn on a hat or in the hair.
E is for Estate jewelry – Estate jewelry doesn’t necessarily mean antique jewelry. Estate jewelry can mean from Edwardian to made yesterday but pre-owned, the intrigue of estate jewelry is in each item’s individual history.
E is for Engine Turned Design – Engine turning is created when a decoration lathe cuts grooves in geometric patterns into metal. It is used to decorate the cases of pocket watches and other small items. The pattern is engraved, so the reflection of light is enhanced, as the object moves from side to side. Such a symmetrical pattern can’t be done by hand.
F is for Foil – Foil was common in Georgian jewelry. The most common cuts used in Georgian designs were rose-cuts and table-cuts. The setters routinely backed the rose-cut diamonds with a reflecting foil to enhance the beauty of the diamonds. The Georgian period is named after the four successive English kings George I, George II, George III and George IV and it spans most of the 18th and part of the 19th century. In jewelry art it generally means between 1714 and 1830, although these are not fixed dates.
F is for Fool’s Gold or iron pyrite = marcasite – Popular in several different jewelry periods as “faux diamonds”. It’s possible you’ve never seen pyrite jewelry, this is because it is incorrectly called marcasite jewelry. Marcasite resembles pyrite and even has the same chemical formula, with a different crystal structure that makes it lighter and easier to break. Reproductions are being made today.
G is for Granulation – Granulation was an ancient (Etruscan) technique whereby a surface is covered in spherules or granules of precious metal.The techniquw was lost, rediscovered by the Castellanis and has been revived by artists like Daniel Brush and John Paul Miller.
G is for Guilloche´ and other enamels – Common types of enamels you will find in jewelry are guilloches, champleve’, cloisonne, plique a jour. The guilloche’ technique involves carving a design into a base metal, then filling it with different colors and opacities of enamel paint. Champlevé is an enamelling technique in which troughs or cells are carved, etched, die struck, or cast into the surface of a metal object, and filled with enamel, fired until the enamel fuses, cooled and polished. Cloisonné is another ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, using enamel, or inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments to the metal object by soldering or adhering silver or gold wires. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors. Plique-à-jour is an enamelling technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light can shine through the transparent or translucent enamel.
H is for Hallmarks – Maker marks inside a piece of jewelry mean something. They can tell where a piece was made, who made it, when it was made, if it was shipped outside the country where it was made.
H is for Horn – Horn, tortoiseshell, amber and natural plastics have been used in various periods of jewelry. Horn is still being used, tortoise are protected so use is now illegal.
I is for Ivory – Ivory was used in many different periods of jewelry, banned today so any new jewelry that appears to be ivory is not.
I is for Intaglio – There are more than just cameos. Intaglios inset carvings used in ancient times as seals and seal rings, in Victorian names as watch fobs,
contemporary versions are still being made.
If you missed this meeting, you missed a wealth of information too long to completely summarize here!
J is for Jet – J is for JADE – K is for Karat – L is for Lavaliere
L is for Longchain – M is for Marriages – M is for Mississippi River Pearls
N is for Niello – N is for Negligee necklace – O is for Original fitted boxes
O is for Opals – P is for Provenance – P is for Pique´
Q is Queen’s jewels – R is for Runway jewelry – R is for Rhinestones
S is for Signed vs. unsigned – S is for Stomacher – T is for Tutti frutti
T is for Tremblant – V is for Victorian – V is for Vermeil
W is for Prince of Wales – W is for Wirework – X is for—We can’t think of anything that starts with x! – Y is for Yellow Diamonds
Z is for Zebra jewelry – Z is for Zipper Necklace
DCGIA Thank you both (Elyse and Gail) for providing an informative and enjoyable evening to us all!
Summary by Charlie Marts
Photos by Melanie Marts, GG (GIA)