by Ms Nandita Ray
Antique jewelry can be classified into Late Georgian 1760 -1837, Victorian 1837-1901, Art Nouveau 1890-1915, Edwardian 1901-1915, Art Deco 1920-1935 and Retro1935-1950. Jewelry of this period is considered Antique.
The name it self is suggestive of a host of thoughts. Elegant, timeless, artifacts, object d art, rare heirlooms. Connoisseurs and lovers of jewelry, people who collect as a hobby, spend time and money buying and adding these rarities to their collection.
In order to understand and appreciate the value of Antique jewelry, especially rings, it is important to recall history and the various epoch making instances. Antique jewelry can be classified into Late Georgian 1760 -1837, Victorian 1837-1901, Art Nouveau 1890-1915, Edwardian 1901-1915, Art Deco 1920-1935 and Retro1935-1950. Jewelry of this period is considered Antique.
During the rule of King George the Third and Fourth and then King William the fourth, a lot of jewelry was made. Especially the concentration was on rings .Not only the noble ladies but also noblemen wore rings as a part of their daily attire. After the French revolution, most of the royal and noblemen jewelry were lost, looted, sold and taken out of the country. Many people donated their jewelry and received black cast iron replicas and this started the trend of antique look jewelry.
Jewelry during this period was balanced and elegant. It was simple. The backs of the rings were covered with a plate or closed setting. Most of the pieces were reconstructed. It was quite evident that it lacked imagination. Greek and Roman look was in vogue. Napoleon had brought back the Crown jewels of France and had them refitted to look fashionable. With no liquid assets to help them, creativity reached out to various ways to enhance the jewelry. Chaumet was Napoleon’s official jeweler and he favored the deep rose color, which was dominant.
Rings were worn in each and every finger. Roman and Greek figures, laurel leaves, arches, eagles were set in precious metal. Shell, mother of pearl, enamel, mosaics with fixed backing were made. This new way of mounting made the gems appear large and catch the light. Moreover the briolette cut deepened the color of the gems.
In 1820, return to nature was the call. Colors were white, yellow, lilac and light green. Roses, morning-glories, fuchsias, ears of wheat and different types of leaves were in fashion. Cameos and Intaglios from Italy celebrated a great era in France. Painted enamel came out and a special way of enameling was in demand. People were also sporting mourning and memorial rings, in black enamel fenced by gold or other metal. Half loops, double rows, bands, large gemstones, clusters of pearls, topaz, amethyst, family crests, coats of arms, engraved rings were worn all the time.
Victorian Age Antique Rings
Queen Victoria was young, energetic, filled with youthful vitality and very much in love. This was reflected in the taste of the court .Jewelry was bold and striking. It was gaudy, rich, lush and ornate. It was more a reflection of wealth than taste. Matching suites, cabochons of four or more pieces were in. Ivory, tortoise shell, seed pearls and coral were in demand.
Victorian style Amethyst ring Image Courtesy : http://www.nelsonrarities.com
Victoria’s serpent motif was popular. Rings were ornate and had space to put hair or a photo of a loved one. The lid of the ring could be raised. The lid was covered with minute multi colored gems. Granulating gems with grains of gold, made famous by the Etruscans were hugely popular. Rings were huge and eye catching in the first half of this period. The rings followed a fixed style. Floral and Fauna motifs were used. A huge leaf encircled with small diamonds or a three leaved flower, or a sheaf of wheat in pearls were made into rings. Huge gems were flaunted. It was a time for color and luxury.
The self absorbed nature of the Victorians, started waning during the later half of the era. Social consciousness had a huge setback on jewelry. Big started getting smaller. Delicate, less gold, softer forms, gentle colors became the trend. Stud was invented. Rings became delicate looking. Gems got smaller. Large, huge baubles got replaced by South African diamonds. Mauve, yellow, tender greens encircled a diamond.
Edwardian Age Antique Rings
England became a global dominant force. New wealth was overflowing. The elite enjoyed power, wealth and international appreciation. New inventions, new methods of manufacturing became rampant. Blue African diamonds gained universal appeal. Machines became a part of life and creativity followed the streamlined designs. Cartier seized the opportunity and introduced the Garland design. Greek, Roman, Rocco, Napoleonic and second empire styles became popular. Monochromatic signature was the look to sport. New cuts in diamond was introduced, Marquise, kite, oval, baguette and triangle.
Rings grew enormous. Dome shapes, tiara shapes, triangle shapes were in. The rings grew massive with elaborate and ornate designs and settings. Lots of multi colored gems, filigree work, lacy work, wiry and grilled designs were in. Cross over rings, bracelet like rings, half loops, crowned shaped rings, all complex designs, flaunting solitaires and other gems took over. White diamonds with brilliant gold, peridots, sapphire, tourmaline and pearls were used heavily in the rings.
This was considered the most sensual period in jewelry making. Innocence lost its virginity. Passion made forays into the minds of the people. Suggestiveness was the motif. It made the Whiplash, a design of swirling lines famous. It was the union of the flowing woman form with the mysteries of nature. Unlike the Edwardian age it used inexpensive material to create master pieces. The rings were made of metal, ivory, horn, stained, polished and studded with precious stones. The jewelry was more crass than stylish. This influence was heavily promoted by clubs and societies which sprung up all over Europe, under various names and titles. L’Art Nouveau was the name coined by Bing the French jeweler. This is the name it still retains.
Bright colors, bees, wasps, reds, greens, buds, flowers, butterflies and grass hoppers, inundated the world of jewelry and art. Rings had Medusa with flowing hair, animals and insects, entwined serpents, all in a sensual form. Eroticism was the mood in the motifs. Enameled rings, rings with hollows filled with different colored enamels or transparent enamel, melted glass or the stained glass look was in vogue.
It was distinctly oriental in look. The jewelry exhibited the Bold and Beautiful look. Contrast was in. Black was off set with red. Yellow was placed with orange while green was paired with blue. Geometry and symmetry was the line that was followed. Crystals with platinum were combined. The style was graceful and feminine. Coco Channel popularized the use of plastic and false or artificial jewelry was introduced. Egyptian, African, Native American motifs were intermixed. Jewelry was graceful and feminine.
Elaborate Art Deco Engagement rings were extremely popular. The centre piece was surrounded by smaller gemstones, which were the focus of the ring. They were set in intricate and delicate designs, which were abstract or geometrical in shape. The setting was usually invisible.
The rings were made with rhinestones, diamonds and other colored gems. The caliber cut, cabochons, heart and spear shapes were popular. Cocktail parties were trendy and this led to the entry of the Cocktail ring. The style of these rings was sophisticated and sleek. The rings usually had a center piece, which was faceted, while the accent gems were either round, baguette or sometimes carved leaves were also used. Rings were made of all types of metal. Chrome, Silver, Gold, Platinum and had crystals imitating diamond, to fit the wallets of fashion conscious commoner. The band of the ring was usually studded with brilliant diamonds.
Retro-The Duke and Duchess of Windsor was the talk of the world. Americanism was the trend. Synthetic stones and fake jewelry ruled the roost. Therefore larger than life jewelry, multi colored gems like citrine and aquamarine, Hollywood influence, patriotic themes were in. The flatness or the single dimension of the jewelry of Art Deco was replaced by chunky, sculptured and carved look. The Spanish Crown jewels met the same fate as the French Jewels. Lots of exclusive and expensive jewelry came into the world market.
Rings were raised rectangular, domes or scrolls. Gemstone bands were also popular. Prong setting, shield, heart, marquise, surrounded by diamonds were crafted in alloys of gold. That is gold was mixed with copper for a reddish tint or silver for a whitish look. Old fashioned cuts were redone in modern cuts. There was a lot of color. Rings were in shape of charms, carved mountings, illusion settings were also done. Corded wire work studded with gems, diamond bands, ribbons, bows and knots were shaped into rings.
Some of these antique rings, coming down through the ages, have the power to leave us gasping! Even today! They are truly worthy of being labeled ‘the most famous in the world’. Art in any form is appreciated eternally. Like an amazing painting, these phenomenal creations, by the dint of their craftsmanship and beauty, remain avant-grade!
Art in any form is appreciated eternally. Like paintings which have fascinated people for years, a good piece of jewelry leaves an ever lasting impression. Its value never decreases. Its beauty and craftsmanship is imperishable. Love for a woman, craftsmanship and Dame nature gifted these to mankind. There is history behind these.
As recorded in words an engagement ring, the first of its kind was given by the Archduke of Hamburg to his betrothed Mary of Burgundy in 1477. It was a simple band.
In 1518, young Princess, all two years old, was given a small diamond ring, by the eldest son of the king of France. It was a wedding band.
Actor Jean Harlow got a 150 carat sapphire engagement ring, which she wore for the movie-Saratoga. It was given by William Powell.
Prince Philip gave the present queen Elizabeth II, It was a diamond ring made from diamonds taken from his mother’s tiara.
John F. Kennedy gave his fiancée Jacqueline Bouvier a 2.88 Van Cleef & Arpel diamond and emerald ring.
Grace Kelly who won the heart and home of Prince Rainer of Monaco got a 12 carat emerald cut diamond engagement ring.
Princess Diana got a sapphire and diamond engagement ring from Prince Charles.
Elvis Presley gave 14 year old Pricilla a 3.5 carat diamond surrounded by 21smaller diamonds as an engagement ring.
Actors Elizabeth Taylor is famous for her jewelry. Michael Todd, her third husband gave her a 30carat emerald cut diamond ring. Catherine Zeta Jones sports a 10 carat marquise cut diamond. 2005 Oscar winner Reese Whiter Spoon wears Asher cut diamond with the antique look. So does Kate Hudson. While Guy Ritchie gave music icon Madonna a Edwardian platinum three stone diamond engagement ring.
Singers Toni Braxton and Whitney Houston wear enormous oval shaped diamond rings.
Beautiful rings for beautiful people. Diamonds are for Ever as aptly put. Immortalized in jewelry and in words…
Finding truth—Finding love, These diamonds sparkle from lights above.