Between upcycling everyday objects into genuine treasures, party girl earrings, an abundance of collaborations and mystical talismans, these are the 13 trends seen on the runways for Fall/Winter 2017-2018.
A lighthearted folly in the spirit of the 90s Margiela metamorphoses, breathing new life into cans, shells, porcelain and other every day objects.
Photo: Loewe, Balenciaga, Prada Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
With BB initials at Balenciaga, sparkling acronyms at Dior and golden monograms at Céline, following in the wake of the logomania gripping the catwalks, the jewelry was labelled in its own way.
Photo: Céline, Balenciaga, and Dior Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
Chandelier earrings illuminated the white crystal king size rings for a Studio 54 vibe. Put on and race to the dancefloor.
Photo: Isabel Marant, Céline, Miu Miu Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
With nails, studs, piercings and barbed wire, the muscular look led by the Sex Pistols spirit at Junya Watanabe started its advance on the runways before it takes to the streets.
Photo: Alexander Wang, Gucci and Junya Watanabe Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
It’s pearls, but spiced up by the designers’ imaginations to shake off their classic image and be reborn in XXL versions, encaged in see-through cages or mounted on chic, tribal rings.
Photo: Gucci, Chanel Y/Project Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
A new sight at the biggest shows, these neo bracelets elongate their lines to connect with a stack of rings or simply to trace the femininity of a woman’s hand.
Photos: Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Lanvin Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
Two-player designs to season the silhouettes, the five-star collaborations put the spotlight on the new guard of talented jewelry designers with Annelise Michelson taking charge of the Zadig & Voltaire jewelry, Kim Mee Hye for Wanda Nylon and the gold medallions by Aligheri at Joseph.
Photo: Wanda Nylon, Zadig & Voltaire, and Joseph Fall/Winter 2017-2018
Mix & Match is more innovative than ever this season with fusions of materials and different designs. Dare to rip up the rule book.
Photo: Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, Ellery Fall/Winter 2017/2018 shows
Going straight to the top of wish lists this season, these keys lose their utility to be reborn as sparkling statement earrings, a scarf bracelet and magnetic pendants.
Photo: Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Maison Margiela Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
Following Gucci whose show was dominated by an incredible pyramid and a torrent of Illuminati-esque references, the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows sowed the seeds of an intriguing mystery. From the enchanting talismans at Dior to the mystical pearls at Alberta Ferretti via the cosmic symbols at Chanel, the jewelry this season had a secret.
Photo: Dior, Alberta Ferretti, Chanel Fall/Winter 2017-2018
Out of the ordinary necklaces
Between extraordinary breastplates, magnetic UFOs and edgy wearable sculptures, next season’s necklaces are getting even bigger to spice up a look with maximum strength.
Photo: Marc Jacobs, Y/Project and Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
Revolutionary ear cuffs
Going from surprising object to the new jewelry classic in just a few seasons, earcuffs are still no less inventive. For Fall/Winter 2017-2018 have cocktail parties in mind with a torrent of crystals to light up the night.
Photo: Mulberry, Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
Doubled-up, stretched or redesigned, hoops have fulfilled the graphic desires of designers for several seasons as they rethink and renew the unavoidable classic.
Photo: Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017-2018 shows
When it comes to finding the perfect earrings, this task can sometimes be daunting when faced with such a vast array of choices on the market. Earrings play a starring role; they not only complete the outfit, but also draw attention to your face and hair.
Consider Your Hair Length
The length of your hair can determine which style of earring will work best for you.
While the saying dictates that blondes have more fun, when it comes to earrings, those with short hair have the most fun.
Short Hair and Earrings
Short hairstyles that bare the earlobes and neckline reap the benefit of being able to wear every size and style of earring effortlessly.
Stud diamonds, sapphires and rubies that shine from your exposed ears can be admired; clusters of long metallic strands can sweep along your neck without competing with a background palette of long hair.
Earrings for Long Hair
Long hair that cascades over your ears will conceal studs and tiny ball-shape earrings.
For longer hairstyles, opt for larger and longer earrings that stand a better chance of peeking out through your flowing locks. Elongated shapes, such as ovals or rectangles, will follow the course of your hair.
Keep in mind that you can have the best of both worlds, however. For weddings, proms and any other special occasions that entice you to pull your hair into an up-do, this is your time to seize the opportunity and enjoy more flexibility.
This occasional freedom of choice can also arise on days when you opt for tieback styles such as a ponytail or chignon.
Should You Consider Hoop Earrings?
What about hoop earrings? Those big, gold or platinum rings can be the most challenging earrings to pair with hairstyle and face shape.
Hoop earrings give the appearance of weight and add a curvaceous dimension to the sides of your face. If you have a long face with long hair, the round hoop styles will add dimension and balance it all nicely.
If your face is round, however, hoops will only serve to make you look rounder, regardless of hair length.
Pay Attention to Hair Color
Just as certain color choices in clothing, shoes, bangles and handbags complement certain shades of hair, the same concept applies to earrings.
After all, the earrings sit right against the hairline on those with short hairstyles; long hair functions as a background.
Metallic earrings of gold or platinum, as well as the fire of faceted diamonds, look stunning with every hair color.
Ladies with blonde hair should also opt for colorful earrings over white, which can look washed out. Blue and red will appear especially radiant.
White and pastels provide a stunning contrast for brunettes, and sparkling orange-toned gemstones will bring forth rusty highlights from dark hair.
While redheads generally should shy away from red or hot pink, cool shades such as blue, green, turquoise and purple will temper the fire of your hair beautifully.
The choices of earrings on display in the shops appear infinite, with rows and columns of sparkling gold, platinum and precious stones beckoning to dazzle you.
Every hue of the color spectrum seems to pop out from the mix. Hoops, studs, danglers, chandeliers and even feathers grace the earring scene.
Next time you are faced with such an abundance of options, take a few moments to assess your hair. By building your collection with pieces that complement it, every outfit that you wear will be a spectacular combination.
It’s that time of year–spring cleaning! I tried Googling some spring cleaning facts and came up with 77% of people say they spring clean every year. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I would think that is a decent amount and glad to know that. I guess the other 23% are either lazy or have a hoarding problem…? I am definitely in the percentage that spring cleans…and I actually like to do a deep cleaning a couple times a year, not just once. When people mention spring cleaning, most think of their house–but I’d like to focus in on spring cleaning jewelry for this article. And just like spring cleaning your house, there are several similarities to spring cleaning your jewelry and the end results will have you feeling revitalized and happy.
Let’s get started
1. Storage Solutions
Keeping your jewelry safe, all in one place and consistently visible are three key points for a superb storage solution. I highly recommend the jewelry box that I own, however I did make a lot of changes to it–like ripping out shelves and swapping them out for more ring storage. The jewelry box that I have is from Lori Greiner and I bought mine off QVC about 8 years ago. Since then, they have made a few modifications to the design, but overall it is the same: a mirrored “cabinet” that has built-in everything! Here’s a similar one for sale at Target. It’s ok to have other jewelry boxes–I have several antique ones that I use for either travel or taking photos with–but for the most part, I keep everything in one home base.
2. Clean Your Actual Jewelry
After you’ve established your storing options, it wouldn’t be called “spring cleaning” unless we actually cleaned our jewelry! I will admit that I don’t clean my jewelry daily…or weekly…or even monthly for that matter. The only exception to this would be my engagement ring which I make sure to clean monthly and earrings that I wear often. Because I have so many rings, there are very many that get worn only a handful of times in one year, so I often wear and return back to its storing spot without cleaning.
An occasion like spring cleaning is the best time to give all your jewelry a good soak. For this step, I want to stress that many antique pieces should not be cleaned at all. Items like foiled backed gemstones, hair jewelry, mourning pieces, tiny rose cut diamonds that are often irreplaceable, pearls and seed pearls, and other soft gemstone jewelry. This cleaning step I mostly do with my all gold pieces, 80% of my diamond jewelry, sapphire and ruby pieces. First, I get a soft toothbrush and run warm water and dunk the brush in Mr. Clean. I gently brush over each piece and then stick it in my ultrasonic cleaner. I have one I bought from Gesswein–the one that has a steamer and cleaner in one (but my steamer broke after one year of working beautifully). Those who know the power and strength of a steam cleaner will never go back to cleaning diamonds any other way–so sadly my broken steamer is also breaking my heart. Need a new one! I usually use water and either a small cap full of Mr. Clean or whatever cleaning solution your machine comes with.
Depending on how dirty each piece is would equal how long you put each item in the cleaner, but I would say 15-20 minutes is plenty. Another perk of having a jewelry background is having a really handy tool at my grasp–a microscope! I usually take a peek at my gemstone jewelry pieces and check all the stones before throwing them into the cleaner. Loose stones will only get looser, or even worse–fall out in the cleaner. That’s my only other pre-caution.
3. Go Through Each Item
Now that you have all your jewelry out of storage and mystery boxes, under beds, and out of old socks (yes, people stash things everywhere), it is a great idea to give each item a thorough evaluation. This is when you decide if you want to keep, trade, or sell–maybe even redesign. You should also take some photos of all your jewelry for inventory purposes and insurance purposes. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through old photos and said, “hey, whatever happened to THAT ring??”
4. Clean Your Actual Jewelry Box
Day in and day out you open up your jewelry box, make your selections and then move on with your daily routine. A lot of dust, debris and dirty fingers can add up on your jewelry box, so it is just as important to clean your jewelry storage solution. I made a video of myself doing this and posted it on Instagram–it got a lot of attention because I was using a vaccuum hose attachment and using it without taking any of my rings out of the case. Of course I was being careful, but it is much smarter to do this step when everything is out. My biggest problem is Chiefy’s white hairs that somehow get on the black velvet padding of my jewelry cabinet. Using a hose attachment on my vaccuum is the best solution for this, but you can also use a lint roller. I also make sure to Windex the mirror on the front of my jewelry box and dust/polish the outer wood.
5. The Finishing Touch
You’re now on the last and final step to spring cleaning your jewelry box! You should feel really good by now and the best part is about to start. I suggest you put on your favorite tunes (obviously I will suggest Girl Talk Radio on Pandora) and get to work.
Start with organizing within each category–earrings, necklaces, bracelets, charms, and rings. I organize my earrings by studs, dangles, ear cuffs, etc. I have a row of pearl studs, a row of diamond studs…even yellow gold and white gold are separated. I used to organize my rings by how I acquired them–so I would just add my newest acquistion in the next available spot. I realized this wasn’t working out very well and one day I took everything out and organized it differently. I put similar styles together, similar stones together and motifs together. All my moonstone rings are together and they look way cooler that way. You can group by color of gemstone if you’d like–similar to how a closet is organized (definitely not my closet, but coveted closets). I have all my baby rings in a section of their own. I don’t have a particular way of organizing my bracelets or necklaces because I simply don’t have that many.
By American standards, fake gold is anything less than 10 Karats/Carats.
If you’re wondering whether your gold is real, the most reliable way to find out is to take it to a certified jeweler and have it tested. If you want to check for yourself, here’s a list of tests you can conduct to tell if your gold is real.
Method 1 – Visual Inspection
The first thing to do to check if you have real gold is to look at it. Look for particular signs that point to real gold.
1. Inspect the piece for official markings. A stamp will indicate either fineness (1-999 or .1-.999) or karat (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K or 24K). A magnifying glass will make this easier.
– An older piece might not have a visible marking due to wear.
– Counterfeit pieces can often have a marking that appears authentic; more testing may be needed either way.
2. Look for noticeable discoloration. It is important to check for discoloration in areas that face constant friction (typically around the edges).
– If the gold seems to be wearing off and showing a different metal beneath it, you probably have a piece that is only gold plated.
Method 2 – Bite Test
We have all seen a movie where a prospector bites down on a piece of gold to test it. We also see Olympic athletes bite on their “gold” medal when they receive it. Whether that is of any use is another story altogether.
1. Bite down on your gold with moderate pressure.
2. Examine your gold for any markings. In theory, real gold will show indents from your teeth; deeper markings indicate purer gold.
– This is actually not a recommended test, as you can damage your teeth. Not to mention that lead is even softer than gold and gold-plated lead will appear to be gold when you bite it.
Method 3 – Magnet Test
This is an easy test, but it’s not an all-encompassing or fool-proof way to determine whether your gold is real. Something as weak as a fridge magnet will not be useful, but stronger magnets that you can find in specialized hardware stores or in common objects such as women’s purse latches, children’s toys, or even in old unused hard drives will be strong enough to perform this test.
1. Hold a magnet up to the item. Gold is not a magnetic metal, so if it pulls towards, or sticks to the magnet, it’s fake. However, just because it doesn’t react to the magnet doesn’t mean it is real, as non-magnetic metals are used in counterfeit pieces as well.
Method 4 – Density Test
There are very few metals denser than gold. The density of pure 24K gold is about 19.3 g/ml, which is much higher than most other metals. Measuring the density of your items can help you determine if your gold is real. As a rule of thumb, the higher the density, the purer the gold. Make sure to perform the density test on gold that has no gemstones of any kind attached. See the warnings below for important information about the density test.
1. Weigh your piece of gold. A jeweler can normally do this for you for free if you don’t have your own scale. You will need the weight in grams.
2. Fill a vial with water.
– It’s helpful if the vial has millimeter markings on the side, since that will make it easier for you to read the measurements for this test.
– It doesn’t matter how much water you use as long as you don’t fill the vial to the top, since the water level will rise once you immerse the gold in it.
– It’s also important to note the exact amount of the water level before and after immersion.
3. Place your gold in the vial. Take note of the new water level and calculate the difference between those two numbers in milliliters.
4. Use the following formula to calculate density: Density = mass/volume displacement. A result close to 19 g/ml indicates either real gold, or a material with a density similar to gold. Here is an example calculation:
– Your gold item weighs 38 g and it displaces 2 milliliters of water. Using the formula of [mass (38 g)]/[volume displacement (2 ml)], your result would be 19 g/ml, which is very close to the density of gold.
– Bear in mind that different gold purity will have a different g/ml ratio:
– 14K – 12.9 to 14.6 g/ml
– 18K yellow – 15.2 to 15.9 g/ml
– 18K white – 14.7 to 16.9 g/ml
– 22K – 17.7 to 17.8 g/ml
Method 5 – Ceramic Plate Test
This is an easy way to tell if your gold is fool’s gold. Bear in mind that your item may end up scratched.
1. Find an unglazed ceramic plate to use. If you don’t have this, you can purchase a random piece of unglazed ceramic from a home improvement store.
2. Drag your item across the surface. A black streak means your gold is not real, whereas a gold streak indicates your item is genuine.
Method 6 – Nitric Acid Test
This is where the term “acid test” comes from, and is a great way to test your gold. However, due to the difficulty is acquiring the acid, and the inherent safety risks of doing this in your home, it may be best to leave this test to a jeweler.
1. Place your piece of gold in a small stainless steel container.
2. Put a drop of nitric acid on your gold and watch for any resulting reaction to the acid.
– A green reaction indicates your item is either a base metal or gold plated. A gold reaction indicates your item is gold-plated brass.
– A milk-colored reaction would indicate gold-plated sterling silver.
– If there is no reaction, you mostly likely are dealing with real gold.
Learn step-by-step how to clean your diamond ring at home for every type of metal and setting.
Not only is your engagement ring probably one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry you’ve ever owned, it also holds a lot of sentimental value so you’ll want to know how to take care of that precious engagement ring. Most jewelry is relatively easy to maintain as long as you know what you’re doing–which is where we come in. Our guide will take the guess work out of how to clean a diamond ring, and teach you how to clean it both thoroughly and carefully.
The best advice when thinking about how to clean a ring is to do it regularly. Not only will regular maintenance keep your engagement ring sparkling, but it will also shorten the cleaning process in the long run. Each engagement ring is unique with many different metals and settings. It’s important to know what care your ring requires before you begin the cleaning process. But regardless of the method used, the best way to clean a diamond ring thoroughly is to be gentle and patient during the cleaning process. Intense brushing or rough bristles can loosen or damage diamonds and gems.
All of these at-home cleaning methods will work on any setting, just make sure to never use sharp objects to remove particles or residue within the setting—if you’re not careful you could loosen the diamond or scratch the metal.
All Metal Types (Platinum, Silver, White Gold, and Gold)
Soap and Water – The best way to clean a diamond ring, no matter what your ring’s setting and/or metal type, is plain soap and water. To make the solution, get a small bowl and add very warm water and basic dishwashing soap. Soak your ring for about 20 to 40 minutes depending on how dirty it is. If you need to remove a substance such as hairspray, lotion, makeup, or perfume, use a very soft toothbrush to remove any residue. Rinse the ring under warm running water and repeat if necessary. Using chlorine or other harsh chemicals, even some certified jewelry cleaners, can damage the engagement ring. It’s important to rinse your ring thoroughly after cleaning in order to remove any soap residue.
Non-Abrasive and Chemical-Free Solution – It’s important to do your research when purchasing a jewelry cleaner/polisher. If there are any chemicals in the solution, your diamond ring can become discolored or lose its durability. Sparkle Bright is a highly rated jewelry cleaner that can polish and restore rings of any metal type.
Silver and Gold
Windex and Hydrogen Peroxide Solution – Here’s how to clean a diamond ring with hydrogen peroxide: get a small bowl and prepare a 50/50 solution of Windex and hydrogen peroxide. Soak your diamond ring for about 10–15 minutes. The Windex will remove the day-to-day dirt build up and the hydrogen peroxide will kill any bacteria on the ring. After soaking your engagement ring in the solution, gently scrub your ring with a soft toothbrush to remove residue. Rinse with lukewarm water and dry.
Vinegar – Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons baking soda into a shallow bowl. Mix the solution so that the baking soda is completely dissolved. Soak your diamond ring in the solution for two to three hours. Then rinse your ring under cold water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Ketchup – Yes, you read that correctly. If you have a tarnished silver ring, then ketchup could be your solution to getting the shine back. Dunk your band into a small bowl of ketchup for a few minutes. Use a soft toothbrush to work ketchup into the crevices, then rinse the ring with lukewarm water and dry. Be sure not to leave the ketchup on your band for more than a few minutes.
Beer – If your solid gold ring is losing its luster, try pouring a little bit of beer onto a soft cloth and rubbing it gently over the band. Do not rub the beer on your gemstones or diamond, and be sure to avoid dark ale beer. After you’ve rubbed the beer onto the band, use a second cloth or towel to dry.
Caring for Your Diamond Ring
While it’s important to know how to clean a diamond ring safely, it’s also important to be aware of the things you should absolutely not do when cleaning a ring. The last thing you want to do is damage your ring or cause it to age prematurely.
Thick lotions and creams can result in residue build-up on your ring. This can make your ring look and feel dirty, and cause it to become discolored—especially if your band is made of white gold or platinum.
Your ring is a fragile object; therefore, it’s extremely important that you handle it with care. If you bang your ring onto something hard enough, it could chip the band or loosen the setting. If you know that you’re going to do something labor intensive, take off your ring and put it in a safe place.
If you have a warranty, it’s important to stay up-to-date on your maintenance appointments. Being proactive and bringing your ring in to be inspected by a jeweler can prevent any stones from falling out and resolve any chip or crack issues.
Remove your ring while cooking. Food and other oils can get stuck in or discolor your ring. Depending on the setting of your stone, food may be almost impossible to remove from the ring.
It’s important to take care of your ring, as it is has tremendous sentimental value. If you’re ever questioning whether or not a solution or treatment is safe for cleaning your ring, do yourself a favor and consult a professional.
Buying jewelry can be daunting. But with a little preparation, you can find a real gem: one that brings a smile to her face, at a price that brings one to yours.
One of every three women is asking for extravagant jewelry for the holidays, and one in five gift-givers will be buying it, according to the National Retail Federation. I guess that means someone’s going to be disappointed – but since you’re reading this, it’s not going to be your gal.
But buying jewelry – like diamonds, can be a complicated process for the uninformed. There are so many options, so many zeroes on the price tags. Where to start? With some simple tips.
1. Avoid prestige names.
Well-known stores like Tiffany and Cartier spend a lot of time, effort and money to create a reputation for quality. But how much is that label really worth to you? According to the gemologist Stacy interviewed in the story above, when it comes to silver, for instance, just adding “Tiffany” to a silver bracelet could mean paying 80 percent more. If that rankles you, check out some styles at Tiffany’s then try other stores like Zales or Jared, which are also more likely to offer holiday discounts. Or look up some local jewelers: Just make sure they’re trustworthy. The Jewelry Information Center can help you search for reputable local stores.
2. Silver is in
We’re always taught to go for the gold and not to settle for silver, but the latter is what’s hot these days – partly because gold prices are running so high. Look for products marked sterling silver, which is 92.5 percent silver. “Nickel silver,” or “German silver,” has no real silver at all. If it’s got to be gold, consider a lower karat quality: 24k is pure gold, but there’s also 18k (75 percent) gold, 14k (58 percent) and 10k (42 percent). 18k is often considered the best balance of color and price. Whatever you buy, make sure it’s clearly tagged with the karat weight and look for a tiny tag that reveals the manufacturer. Don’t ever buy gold chains at a swap meet, out of the trunk of a car or anywhere other than a reputable jeweler. If you’re ever tempted, simply visualize the look you’ll get when your girlfriend’s neck turns green.
3. Give pearls a whirl
Another classic and somewhat affordable option is pearls. These come in three kinds: natural, cultured, and imitation. Forget natural pearls – the kind that bare-chested native divers harvest one at a time. They barely exist at all any more, and even if you could find them, they wouldn’t be worth the exorbitant cost. Imitations are obviously the cheapest option, but since that’s basically costume jewelry, what you want is cultured. The larger the pearl, the costlier it will be. Look for luster – a shiny surface that appears to have depth. Avoid ones that are dull or cloudy.
Best way to buy pearls? Start with a trustworthy jeweler, so you know you won’t be ripped off with fakes. Then ask to see the most expensive strand they have: put in on the black jeweler’s cloth. There – that’s the look you’re going for. Now lay out a few affordable strands, and choose the one that most closely resembles the one you can’t afford. (Warning – if you’re buying for your wife or girlfriend and they happen to be with you, do not employ this technique – if you do, you’ll be buying the most expensive strand.)
4. Find a real gem
Precious stones never go out of style, but make sure you get the right one. Like pearls, there are three categories: natural, meaning dug out the ground; synthetic, meaning made in a laboratory, and imitation, meaning made in China. Nearly all gems – including those dug out of the ground – are enhanced with laboratory techniques, like radiation and diffusion: that’s OK.
Synthetics are obviously much more affordable because of their availability. And don’t think that synthetic is the same as fake: these are gems, just grown in a laboratory. As opposed to imitation, which are colored bits of plastic.
If you’re not sure what kind of gems to get, one idea is to shop for the recipient’s birthstone, which you can look up online by month. If it’s a particular color you’re interested in, you don’t have to get one of the big-three precious stones: rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Although these are more durable than semi-precious stones, they’re also more expensive. Try these alternatives: red spinel, blue tanzanite, and peridot. You can look at gems by color here.
5. Shop with someone you trust
If you don’t know what you’re doing, the best thing you can do is enlist the assistance of two other people. First and foremost, a trustworthy jeweler. You can find one at the site mentioned above, or you can pick one the same way you’d pick any professional, from a doctor to a plumber: talk to several, ask similar questions of each, then choose the one that feels right.
The second person you might like to bring along is a friend of the person you’re buying for. They won’t ruin the surprise, and they probably have some idea of what to buy. They also might know details you’ve forgotten or never knew — including favorite colors and ring sizes.
Whatever you end up buying, make sure you get any guarantees in writing and any certificates, if applicable, that describe the jewelry you’re buying. Look for a good return policy in case the gift doesn’t go over well. And remember rule number one: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Once Upon a Time
Charms go back as far as the Neolithic era where man would pick up an unusual stone or piece of wood and carry it with him to ward off his enemies. Elaborate jewelry made of precious stones and metals emerged during the age of the Egyptian Pharaohs. It was during this time that the first recognizable charm bracelets and necklaces first appeared.
Like people of many ancient civilizations, the citizens of ancient Egypt lived very short lives by today’s standard – 30 to 40 years on average. With so little time on earth, they obsessively prepared for a prosperous life after death. Charm bracelets played a significant role in the preparation process. Charm wrist and neck bracelets were not only coveted as protective shields and signs of status in this life, they were also worn as ID tags to help the Gods guide the wearer and his/her possessions to the proper status level in the afterlife. Kind of an “if found, please return to” note from home.
. . . When In Rome
During the Roman Empire Christians would pull the “ichthys” (fish) charm from underneath their garments to identify themselves to other Christians to gain entry into secret, forbidden worship activities. The Jewish scholar of that same time would write passages from Jewish law on tiny slips of parchment and carefully insert the slips into a small, golden amulet that was worn around his neck. This of act reverence and piety was meant to keep the law close to the heart.
. . . Knights, Fights and a Little Extra Protection
Fast forward to the dark days of the Middle Ages, and we find that charms and amulets were put to use by knights and kings. They were most often used with incantations to wreak havoc on the occupants of enemy castles and protect warriors in battle. Charms were also worn on belts to represent family origin, political standing and profession.
General wearing of charms began to lose favor with the wealthy classes during the Renaissance as mass produced books emerged and superstitions faded. However, charms and amulets were still widely used by people of lesser means and education. The role of the charm remained relatively unchanged until the early 1900s.
. . . The Queen of Charm
In the early 20th century, the bracelets of Queen Victoria ignited the next big wave of charm wearing. It was at this stage that charms had a dramatic change of purpose. They went from being practical tools to becoming decorative fashion jewelry. Small lockets, glass beads and family crests that hung on bracelets and necklaces were all the rage.
. . . The Greatest Generation
The end of WWII saw the explosion of charm jewelry as we know it today. Soldiers leaving Europe and islands in the Pacific purchased little handmade trinkets as gifts to bring home to their sweethearts. Native craftsmen fashioned small bits of metal into little replicas of items common to the locale. Enterprising jewelers in the States quickly picked up on the trend to create charms for all occasions.
. . . Gumball Charms
I ran across these fun charms not long ago and fell in love with them. Made of celluloid (an early plastic) they are charms and little prizes that came out of gumball machines and candy boxes in the 1940s. These charms were collected by kids and worn on bracelets and necklaces of string and beaded chain (dog tag chain). Many of the themes are common – jungle animals, sports, sailing ships, army men, and family pets. But there were a number of commercial applications as well, primarily from comic strips. Popeye, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, the Seven Dwarfs, Orphan Annie are just a few examples.
. . . Bobby Socks, Disco, and the Go-Gos
By the 1950s, the charm bracelet was a must-have accessory for girls and women. Major rites of passage – 16th birthdays, graduations, weddings, travel and the arrival of children – were all recorded on the links of their bracelets. Today some of these vintage bracelets sell for two to three thousand dollars at auction.
The charm bracelet began to disappear from the fashion scene during the early 1970s. Disco was in and bare gold chains became the new status symbol. But in the mid-1980s charm bracelets reappeared. New-money heirs uninterested in the old baubles of their dead relatives were liquidating huge estates. Charms that had been out of circulation for decades were showing up in antique stores and flea markets. Savvy buyers snapped them up at cheap prices.
. . . There’s No Place Like Home
The boom in collectibles in the 1990s drove a huge demand for vintage charms and charm bracelets. A gold charm costing $10 in 1950 easily commanded $70 to $80. Vintage mechanical charms (charms with moving parts) often sold for over $100 and were highly prized by serious collectors. Even with the advent of massive buying and selling arenas like eBay, prices for vintage gold charms remain strong and show no sign of decline in the new century.
The fashion industry once again discovered the lure of the charm bracelet, flooding the market with new charm styles in all price ranges. Fashion giants like Louis Vuitton have brought the glamour back to charm bracelets, declaring them the must-have accessory for any occasion. And if the past is any indication, charm bracelets will be in style for quite some time.
Jewelry is often associated with treasure-gold, gemstones, valuable materials-and is considered to be objects of intrinsic beauty, though the early beginnings were very different. In prehistoric times, long before humans worked metals, jewelry was made of non-precious materials. Burials of 30,000 B.C.E. in Europe show that at the time people used local materials available to them, such as shells and pebbles, and, in hunting societies, also animal teeth and claws, to make jewelry. Existing examples reveal that pieces were engraved with intricate geometric patterns and, later, zoomorphic images. Thus, jewelry was an early form of decorative art. The study of some primitive cultures gives evidence that organic materials, which have since disintegrated, would have also undoubtedly been utilized in the past. It was not until a later stage of human development that people chose precious and possibly scarce materials from far-away for jewelry.
Jewelry is as old as humankind. Whether coming from a primitive culture or modern civilization of the West or East, and regardless of material and style, humans of both genders and all age groups have the need for self-adornment. The significance of jewelry transcends time limits and geographic boundaries; similarities in the use of jewelry for personal adornment become apparent in the study of various cultures.
In prehistoric times, as well as in contemporary cultures, jewelry is not only ornamentation for the body, but also a means of communication. Hierarchy, prestige, and power are expressed through jewelry, which can affirm the status of an individual in society. What initially appears to be an ornament can mark allegiance to a society or individual. Men and women can impress each other through jewelry. Yet possibly the most powerful qualities attributed to jewelry are the amuletic and talismanic functions of warding off evil or giving luck. These properties go back to the origins of jewelry and continue well into the nineteenth century. Even in contemporary cultures people carry good-luck charms. Jewelry also played an important role in protecting against the dangers of life, and was given in burials for the afterlife of the deceased. In addition, jewelry was also worn as a sign of personal affection and fidelity, and marked special occasions in life, such as coming of age, association to a religion through communion or confirmation, nobility, marital status, and motherhood. Jewels in their aesthetic expression are not only signs of wealth and taste, but also reflect-and communicate-the personal character and temperament of the wearer.
Jewelry as an Integral Part of Fashion
Throughout its history until about the mid-twentieth century, when jewelry experienced a radical change, it had been dependent on the fashions of the day, with the exception of finger rings. Varying necklines, sleeve lengths, hemlines, and fabrics determined the type of jewelry worn, while the choice of materials and symbolism determined its function and usage. The creativity of the goldsmith is boundless, as are the types and styles of wearable objects for the body.
If not passed on as a family heirloom or given for the person’s afterlife and found in excavations of burials, many types of jewels that are known to have existed have not survived. Jewelry made of precious materials, regardless of century or culture, have been destined to be dismantled, the gemstones reused and the metals such as silver and gold melted down for bullion, either to become a financial resource or to be remodeled in a new fashion. Jewels with enamel have withstood this destiny, as it was too complicated and costly to remove the enamel, whereas golden chains with a considerable weight in metal were the first to be melted down. Few images of jewelry types and how they were worn survive from antiquity. Mummy masks and wall paintings of the ancient Egyptian era, ancient Greek statues of gods and vase painting, Etruscan tomb sculpture, Roman tombstones, and the informative mummy portraits of Fayum from the Roman period all give valuable evidence. In the Middle Ages, tomb effigies and even religious paintings of the Virgin Mary and saints illustrate jewelry of the time. More importantly, the development of portrait painting and the depiction of the individual from the fifteenth century onwards (supplemented after the mid-nineteenth century by photography) enables a comprehensive study of jewelry, and makes possible the reconstruction of many types that are no longer in existence.
In prehistoric times people chose materials from their immediate environment. A statuette dating back to 20,000 B.C.E., the so-called “Venus of Willendorf,” shows a fertility statue wearing a bracelet, and burials give evidence of the use of necklaces made of snails and shells-both fertility symbols and a sign of motherhood. Men wore animal teeth and claws to signify their strength over the animal kingdom and their ability to hunt and, in turn, feed and protect their families. Such objects would possibly have marked their position within the community. In its early stages, jewelry was predominantly amuletic-its function was to guard its wearers in a life of hardships.
Until recently, and even to a limited extent in the early 2000s, among traditional peoples who managed to resist the impact of Western religion and culture, it is possible to discern elements of these more traditional attitudes toward personal adornment. Tattoos, makeup, and jewelry were in many cases, in such societies, not simply matters of personal adornment, but also conveyed specific messages about social and gender roles; they were used to ward off disease and other evils, and sometimes also to work magic against opponents; and as acts and signs of prayer and devotion to divinities. A widespread, if attenuated, example of the magical power of jewelry can be found throughout the Middle East and in parts of Africa, where the wearing of blue glass jewelry beads as a means of warding off the “evil eye” is very common.
In some societies, Western-style jewelry has still not completely effaced the wearing of more traditional forms of jewelry. The use of natural materials in jewelry in ways that probably preserve a very long continuous tradition of craftsmanship can be found, for example, among the highland peoples of New Guinea, where shell, bird-of-paradise feathers, boar tusks, and other animal products are commonly employed in personal adornment. Until the second half of the twentieth century these elements of jewelry were ubiquitous in the absence of alternative materials (for example, metal objects); in the early twenty-first century their continued use represents a choice among a wide range of possibilities.
In other contemporary non-Western societies, jewelry can still be seen as fulfilling another of its ancient functions, that is, it acts as a repository of wealth while also retaining its amuletic properties. Among pastoral nomadic peoples in the steppelands of Asia, throughout the Middle East, and in North Africa, women commonly wear very heavy silver jewelry, including headdress ornaments, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, and frontlets, sometimes including actual silver coins (of many eras and many countries) worked into the jewelry. These coins also had an amuletic function, because their jingling sound was believed to ward off evil. Such jewelry not only displays the status of the family to which the woman belongs, but also acts as a highly portable form of wealth that can be converted to monetary use at any time it is needed. Likewise, in cities and agricultural regions of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia, gold jewelry acts as a repository of wealth as well as being beautiful and prestigious. In many Indian communities, for example, the conspicuous wearing of gold jewelry by a bride is an essential element of a wedding ceremony.
Asia 5000 to 2500 B.C.E.
Jewelry found in western Asia in the cradle of civilization from about 5000 to 2500 B.C.E. illustrates a society with a taste for refined and decorative jewelry, as well as a trade network in supplying rare materials for their goldsmiths and differing local traditions. The earliest examples were necklaces made of obsidian from Turkey and cowrie shells with red stain from the nearby coastal areas. The most splendid jewels found in the area were from the royal graves of the Sumerian city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, where the king and queen lay buried accompanied by their soldiers and attendants. Men wore beads to keep their headdress in place, whereas women’s jewelry was more elaborate with dress pins, headdresses, and necklaces made of embossed and repouseé gold, probably from the areas currently known as Iran and Turkey. The motifs were stylized flowers and foliage, interspersed with beads in varying geometric shapes cut from lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan and carnelian from India. The designs are intricate with signs of inlay, filigree, and the use of alternating colors.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
Like the Sumerians, the ancient Egyptians from 3100 B.C.E. till the Graeco-Roman period in the first century B.C.E. showed a preference for lapis lazuli and carnelian, and typically, in Egyptian jewelry, turquoise is added to this combination. The resources in the area were vast and the choice of materials for the Egyptian jewelry-maker amazing as they also included a variety of organic materials. Gold and many other metals were found in the surrounding areas as were agates, amethysts, garnets, jaspers, malachite, and steatite, to name but a few. Glazed faience, and glass imitations in substitution, were applied to achieve colorful compositions, forming a contrast to the rather plain clothing the Egyptians wore, which was essentially made of white linen. Pectorals and necklaces were the most popular of jewelry types, but bracelets and head ornaments of all sorts are characteristic for the culture. The motifs ranged from the animal world (including fish and lions), the magical scarab, sphinxes, the udjat eye, and deities, either signifying rank or serving an amuletic purpose. Other designs are of a more decorative nature with vivid color combinations achieved through varied bead shapes and stones. Pharaohs, princesses, peasants, and artisans alike wore jewelry in life and in death, many surviving types were in fact funerary objects. The jewelry-making techniques were most sophisticated, such as inlaying in cloisons and granulation, and we even have pictorial records of craftsmen from ancient Egypt demonstrating technical processes in their workshops.
Minoans, Mycenaeans, Phoenicians and Etruscans
In the eastern Mediterranean of about 2500 B.C.E. there was the Minoan culture in Crete, which was taken over by the Mycenaeans in about 1450 B.C.E. The jewelry of that period and area is characterized by an abundance of gold; their styles were greatly influenced by the jewelry of the Babylonians and Egyptians. The Phoenicians were traders who colonized the eastern and western Mediterranean from Syria to Spain, and their choice of jewelry was influenced by the ancient Egyptians. Near Eastern designs also had influence on the later Greeks, as seen in the Orientalizing style of the Archaic period (700-480 B.C.E.), and in Etruscan jewelry (seventh to fifth centuries B.C.E.). The Etruscans were known for their technical perfection in goldsmithing and most of all for their outstanding technique of granulation with almost pulverized granules of gold. By the seventh century B.C.E., however, forms and decorative elements in jewelry were dominated by Greek designs and symbols.
Greek goldsmiths of the classical to Hellenistic periods were renowned for their technical skills and fine craftsmanship mainly in gold-a reputation that would be retained in future centuries. Greece was not rich in gold resources until its empire was extended as far as Persia in the fourth century B.C.E. In the classical period, from the Crimea to as far west as Sicily, Greek men wore more jewelry in some areas than others. In certain places it was even considered to be effeminate. Jewelry were gifts presented at birth, birthdays, and weddings, or even as votive offerings to cult statues. Rings and hair wreaths adorned men, both men and women wore rings, and the main forms of adornment for women were necklaces, earrings, bracelets on their upper arms or thighs, and diadems or golden nets in their hair. Fibulae were widespread and not only a decorative feature, but functional in as much as they held the drapery of the chiton on the shoulder. As the iconography of Greek jewelry confirms, it was intended for women, mainly to attract the opposite sex. This may explain the numerous images of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in gold, as three-dimensional figures suspended from necklaces or earrings, possibly given at the birth of a child. Eros, symbolic of desire, was equally popular and given as a token of love. Deities such as Athena or Dionysus or other figures from mythology referred to religious beliefs and the power of the deities during life. Bracelets worn in pairs on the upper arm or rings with elaborately coiling snakes functioned as amulets, calling on the sacred creatures of the underworld to protect against evil. Antelopes and goats would attract the opposite sex, whereas lions were worn as emblems of fertility and royal power. These decorative motifs were all rendered in a naturalistic manner in gold sheet metal with intricate filigree wires and granulation, as were the interspersed motifs from nature such as seeds, nuts, and different shapes of foliage. Enamels, garnets, emeralds, and glass pastes became fashionable during the Hellenistic period as beads or inlay to add color to the previously predominantly gold jewelry.
With the loss of Greek independence and the victory of the Romans over Macedonia in 168 B.C.E., Rome became a strong military and political power. The wealth of the new empire attracted many Greek craftsmen to come to the capital, where they were most successful. Essentially the Romans followed Greek styles until about the first century B.C.E., when the aesthetics of their jewelry began to change. The jewelry became unpretentious, the gold techniques less elaborate, the designs simplified, and more emphasis was laid on the choice of stones and the use of color-a new taste had developed, it was the beauty of the material to which one aspired. Regional differences are evident: jet was fashionable in Britain, where it was found in Whitby, and amber from the Baltic Sea was cut in Aquileia in Roman Italy. Emeralds from the newly discovered mines in Egypt-what was then recently acquired Roman territory-became fashionable and their abundance led to the natural hexagonal crystal shapes being drilled, strung on thread, or connected with simple gold links to be worn as necklaces. Garnets were imported from the Middle East, and sapphires from Sri Lanka. Pearls were considered to be an expression of luxury and indulgence. Apart from the Romans showing a preference for gemstones, each has a special significance, described in the Historia naturalis by Pliny the Elder (23-79 B.C.E.). Specific gemstones were chosen for certain images, such as Bacchus on amethyst as a safeguard against drunkenness; the Sun god Sol is depicted on heliotrope; and Demeter, goddess of crops, on green jasper to symbolize growth and abundance.
Jewelry, Status and Power
Trade was flourishing in the vast empire with farreaching provinces, and jewelry was being produced in Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. Roman goldsmiths had guilds and rules existed about who could wear certain types of jewelry, but these soon diminished. During the Republic gold jewelry was reserved for the aristocracy, but by the first century C.E. its significance soon depreciated and by the second century gold was worn by those who could afford it. With adornment becoming socially acceptable for a wider public, even slaves were permitted to wear jewelry made of iron-it was mass produced, and thus plenty has survived from the Roman period. With a thriving economy by the second century, Roman jewelry became more elaborate, even heavy and gaudy-a sign of wealth and status-yet at the same time the iconography suggests the jewelry was full of symbolism and personal messages for the wearer. Deities became symbols of wealth and good fortune, the gorgon Medusa destroyed evil powers, the phallus was a popular good luck charm, and cupids with Venus or cupids riding on dolphins tokens of love. Images of clasped right hands or husband and wife facing each other alluded to the marriage vows, and Latin inscriptions served as charms to protect life. Other types of jewelry such as the brooch were more decorative in character and, in fact, served a functional purpose of holding the drapery together.
By the fourth century the Roman Empire was in decline. With Christianity having been recognized by Constantine the Great, the iconography found in jewelry was relevant to the new religion, but often coded to protect the owner from being persecuted. The early Christians appear to have worn finger rings as a sign of their allegiance, and engraved on the bezels are symbols and ciphers of Christ the Saviour. In the fourth century the empire transferred to East Byzantium with its capital in Constantinople, which continued as an ecclesiastical and successful trading power until 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks. Greek goldsmiths were active there, and with their influence, despite the style being a continuation of late Roman jewelry with a love for gemstones and color, there was a greater emphasis on intricate gold-work with enamel or niello decoration. Except for bronze gilt or gold rings, the laws were strict about who could wear jewelry. Emeralds, pearls, and sapphires were reserved for the emperor, and all the splendor of their richly embroidered and bejeweled fabrics is documented in the mosaics of the churches in Ravenna, northern Italy, as are the elaborate necklaces, earrings, and brooches. Nevertheless, the iconography was religious and the cult of saints is confirmed by the use of pectoral crosses with their images and relic inserts.
Mutual artistic influence between the Byzantine world and the expanding world of Islam is evident from the mid-seventh century onward. Byzantine and Islamic influence can also be seen in the jewelry of the Germanic tribes that occupied much of Europe after the fall of the western Roman Empire. Germanic tribesmen acquired gold from Byzantium. The jewelry of these nomadic tribes tended to be restricted to basic types and was more functional in its application, but nonetheless the jewels were a statement of status. Men wore belts, buckles, and sword harnesses; both men and women needed clasps for their dress, and these are found in the form of disc brooches or fibulae. The tribes show distinctive styles in their goldsmiths’ work, but even they had many common elements, such as sophistication in the applied goldsmithing techniques, the lavish engraving, the use of garnet inlays, and the intricacy of patterns, including stylized animal themes.
During the Middle Ages cities were enlarging, the merchant classes were gaining prominence and becoming a new economic force, and with the church losing power, society became more worldly. With the rise of the middle classes and increase in wealth, sumptuary laws became necessary to restrict who was allowed to wear jewelry. Fashions determined the types of jewelry worn: with the sleeves becoming wider and more lavish, bracelets were unnecessary; high collars did not allow for earrings; cape-like coats required brooches; and the high waistlines of women’s dresses made fancy belts necessary. Rings with signets or love messages were very popular.
European Styles Emerged
By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries an international style in jewelry had evolved. Shapes of stone settings, designs, and decorations showed astonishing similarities in England, France, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. This phenomenon presumably can be explained by the trade routes and import of gemstones from the Near and Far East. Paris was trend-setting in the manufacturing of jewelry, whereas the ports of Venice and Genoa were influential in trade. The inscriptions on jewelry were mostly in Latin or French, the international language of the courts. The pointed arches and tracery of Gothic architecture, naturalistic rendering of foliage in sculpture, and the colors of stained glass were mirrored in the jewelry designs of the time. Devotional and secular iconography were often interlocked, gemstones in cabochon were amuletic or reflected divinity, and the images of saints had protective and healing powers, as did the emerging use of the bones of saints in reliquary pendants. Flowers and animals decorate medieval jewels as a symbol of faith, and classical gems were given Christian interpretations. Medieval jewelry was largely heraldic, religious, or expressive of courtly love.
In Europe the transition to the Renaissance period differed according to country, beginning with Italy in the fifteenth century and spreading throughout Europe by the sixteenth century. Italy, with its discoveries of ancient monuments and sculpture, was all-important in the rebirth of the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, whereas in northern Europe Gothic styles continued much longer. With an explosion of economic trade, in particular wool and banking, many wealthy families in Italy became patrons of the arts. Goldsmiths became known as individuals by name. In the fifteenth century, Florence and the Burgundian Courts established trends in dress and jewelry; by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Spain became a major European power with colonies all over the world, leading to a dominant Spanish style in dress and jewelry. Religious wars raged in Europe and, often due to the circumstances, artisans traveled from one country to another-at the same time following the wealth of emerging courts in Europe. Jewelry again developed into an international style with less regional distinctions. Another factor that led to this phenomenon was the newly discovered art of printing. Artists made ornamental drawings that were printed and distributed throughout Europe, and even as far as the Spanish colonies, where jewelry was made in the style of the day for trade with Europe.
Men, in fact, showed more adornment than women. However, the function of jewels was display, as the abundance of portraits of that period document. The merchant classes were following fashions of the aristocracy, the materials used, though, were usually less precious. The heavy and dark velvets or brocades with gold embroidery were covered with jewelry, either sewn on the fabric as ornaments, or worn on the body. Pendants were fashionable for all genders, and the images were either religious or from classical mythology; exotic birds, flowers, or marine themes were also displayed as symbols of status and new wealth. Gemstones were in open settings when on the body, so that the amuletic qualities would be more effective. Heavy gold chains worn by both men and women on the breast or across the shoulder and cascading in multiple strands were undoubtedly a sign of social ranking. Men wore hat jewels, belts with sword harnesses, and jeweled buttons. The custom of wearing bracelets in pairs was revived from antiquity, as was the fashion for earrings. Decorative chains encompassed ladies’ waists, often from which pomanders or pendants were suspended. Dress studs ornamented the already elaborate fabrics. To add to the display of color, Renaissance jewels often had polychrome enamels in combination with gemstones, such as rubies from Burma, emeralds from the New World, pearls off the coast of Venezuela, and diamonds from India. In contrast to the cabochon cuts of the Middle Ages, during the Renaissance table cuts were common. With the renewal of classical traditions the art of cameo cutting was revived and northern Italy was an important source for this form of lapidary arts.
In the second half of the seventeenth century while Spain was in decline, France became the most important economic and cultural center. All luxury industries flourished in the France of Louis XIV. French silks from Lyon and dress fashions were exported and, with these, styles for jewelry. It was also a period when women were playing an increasingly significant role in society. For their dress, heavyweight brocades had been replaced by light silks in various pastel shades. The splendor and bright colors of the fabrics required a decrease of color in jewelry. Portraits of the period illustrate a passion for pearls, strung as necklaces or worn as pearl drops suspended from earrings, or from brooches worn on the breast, sleeve, or in the hair. Pearls were very valuable, and while pearls often were ostententiously displayed, it is likely that most of them were fake; fake pearls are known to have been produced since about 1400. Diamonds were favored. French-style enamelled settings and decorations were equally subdued in their color scheme: opaque white enamel was outlined with black, and pale pink or turquoise enamel was applied as highlights of the decoration. A source for the naturalistic floral designs of enamel decorations was the study of botany, a new science. Jewelry had the tendency of being less figural and more decorative with bows and clusters of gemstones. However, the Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648, as well as the plague, resulted in a new type of jewelry, memento mori. The wearer was reminded of his or her transience and mortality, and skull’s heads and skeletons were featured in all types of jewelry, which lived on in mourning jewelry of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with funerary ornaments and weeping maidens as motifs.
Designs in jewelry were in general more playful by the eighteenth century and the grand elegant court style of Louis XV of France was to influence the whole of Europe, even as far as Russia. The compositions of the jewelry were more naturalistic, and thus asymmetrical; flower sprays and baskets were gem-studded, as were feathers, ribbons, and bows. Eighteenth-century jewelry moved from monochrome to polychrome; metal foils placed under the gemstones enhanced their color. Indian diamond mines had been exhausted, but with new mines found by the Portuguese in Brazil the fashion continued, and by 1720 the rose-cut diamond had been developed, allowing more light reflections. Other fashionable stones were agates, mossagate, and marcasite. Pearl strands with ornate clasps were worn like chokers; large stomachers were attached to the narrow bodices, and aigrettes to the hair; and shoe buckles were also bejewelled. With the Industrial Revolution in its beginnings towards the end of the eighteenth century, new materials for jewelry had been discovered, including cut steel. This hard metal was facetted to look like diamonds. The industrialist, Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795), the founder of Wedgewood pottery, designed porcelain cameos to be inserted into jewelry. A special formula for making glass paste was named after Georges Frédéric Strass (1701-1773). After Marie Antoinette of France wore strass at court, it became socially acceptable to wear paste jewelry, which would have shimmered splendidly in candlelight.
In 1789 the French Revolution had dramatic effects not only in the politics and life of France, but also on Europe as a whole. Outside France the market was flooded by the jewels and gemstones of those who managed to escape, and prices fell radically. In France anybody owning jewels of aristocratic origin faced death by guillotine; only jewelry made of base metals was permitted, and this jewelry had political and patriotic inscriptions or symbols.
Luxury was revived in France with Napoleon when he proclaimed his empire in 1804. His wife Josephine was a trend-setter and wore Greek fashion, which was reflected in jewelry. Cameos, the Greek key pattern, laurel wreaths, and filigree work were reminiscent of antiquity. However the Napoleonic Wars led to quite a different and innovative type of jewelry known as Berlin iron, first developed when ladies gave their golden jewelry to finance the wars and received iron jewelry in return. The fashion spread from Germany to Austria and France; the style of this jewelry was antique or Gothic, typical of the nineteenth century with its eclectic styles.
Industrial Revolution and Imitation Jewelry
The effects of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle class became particularly evident in Britain. The middle class imitated the jewelry of the aristocracy, but instead of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, gemstones such as amethyst, chrysoprase, tourmaline, turquoise, and many other colorful substitutes were applied. Seed pearls were labor intensive, but as an inexpensive material replaced opulent pearl jewelry. As in dress fashions, evening and day jewelry was differentiated, the full parure consisting of necklace, bracelets, brooch, and earrings was intended for the evening, whereas the demi-parure, a brooch with matching earrings, for daytime wear. Sentimental jewelry was extremely popular: gifts with love or messages of friendship, and souvenirs of hair of the beloved or deceased were integrated in jewels. The newly acquired wealth of the middle class enabled travel, and souvenir jewelry was invented soon after, such as pietra dura work from Florence, coral from Naples, micromosaics from Rome, and the archaeological styles from Egypt, Assyria, and the Celtic lands. Not only were archaeological and exotic cultures rein-terpreted, but so were the Middle Ages and Renaissance. By the second half of the nineteenth century the famous jewelry houses of today opened branches in the capital cities of Europe; jewelry became global.
20th Century Innovation
The path to modernism in jewelry began around the turn of the twentieth century, during the belle Époque when there was a mood for renewal and individually crafted luxury items. Paris with its exhibition of 1900 was predominant in the new aesthetic movement. The jewelry expressed emotions, and winged women were symbolic of emancipation; nature was metaphorically interpreted: themes such as birth, death, and rebirth were expressed through plants in varying stages of their life. René Lalique laid the foundation for artists’ jewelry of the twentieth century and introduced novel material combinations, such as precious gold with non-precious glass. Diamonds were applied sparingly, plique-à-jour enamel allowed light to shine through, opals gave iridescence, and materials appeared to almost dematerialize. In contrast, silver with enamel and a few gemstones defined the Jugendstil in Germany and the Viennese Secession in Austria, both reducing nature to stylized geometric forms. Liberty of London chose Celtic inspirations, and Georg Jensen in Denmark a more sculptural rendering of nature. By 1910 platinum jewelry in the Louis XVI style with bows, tassels, and garlands enabled thin, almost invisible settings and linear designs. The costumes of the Ballets Russes in Paris were immensely inspirational for vivid color combinations in jewelry, such as emeralds with sapphires, turquoises, and coral.
Decisive innovations in jewelry were brutally interrupted by World War I. Many widows were obliged to gain employment to survive; dress and hair fashions became casual, and so did jewelry. In the golden twenties elegant lifestyle and lavish luxury prevailed again, mirrored in the jewels of the epoch. Diamonds and gemstones form stylized compositions in contrasting colors that are reminiscent of such art movements as Cubism, de Stijl and Futurism. The exoticism of Africa and Egypt attracted jewelers as well. Germany, struggling with political and economical concerns and following the artistic philosophies of the Bauhaus school of design, developed jewelry made of non-precious materials such as chrome-plated brass. Events such as the stock market crash on Wall Street in 1929 had a global economic effect in Europe, as did World War II, when materials for jewelry were scarce, but the desire for jewelry never ceased.
In the aftermath of the wars in the twentieth century, jewelry experienced a departure from its traditional values due to radical changes in society: housewives could no longer afford staff, and young people learned to be self-sufficient. Like fashion, jewelry designs followed the movements of youth culture. Women became more independent, and began buying their own jewelry rather than traditionally having it given to them by their husbands as had been traditional. Never before had jewelry been so diverse and so independent of dress fashions.
In the 1950s and 1960s the desire for luxury was epitomized by Hollywood with its make-believe world, mink stoles, and diamonds galore. During this time jewelers in Europe were experimenting with gold surfaces, designing unconventional settings, and, thus, transforming jewelry into a free art form. After the 1960s jewelry took an almost revolutionary turn with the freelance artist jewelers in their studios boldly setting out on the path of the fine arts-by the 1980s they broke existing boundaries of dimensions and materials and used materials from gold to rubber to paper.
More than any other time in its history, by the early twenty-first century, jewelry reflected the wearers’ moods and feelings, favorite colors, taste, understanding of the arts, and last, but not least, their individuality.
Although diamond is considered to be one of the hardest known natural materials, when it is set in a ring, necklace or somewhere else, it can be quite vulnerable to cracking, breakage, or spoiling. If you are not careful when wearing or cleaning diamond jewelry, you can damage the diamond. This article provides some advice on taking care of the diamond jewelry on a daily basis, as well as explaining how to gently clean such jewelry now and then.
Caring for a diamond during daily activities
- Remove all diamond jewelry before performing any heavy-duty tasks. Taking off the jewelry will prevent mishaps such as knocking it, spilling cleaning chemicals on it, or causing any other physical damage. Tasks that should be done without wearing jewelry include: Gardening, working in the kitchen, cleaning the house, doing outdoor jobs and any heavy lifting work.
- Apply your makeup before putting on your diamond jewelry. Lotions, perfumes, hairspray and cosmetics contain chemicals that can damage diamond jewelry. Only put the diamond items on after you have done with using these products.
- Remove your diamond jewelry before you take a shower. Soap can form a layer of film on diamonds, which can quickly dull their radiance and appearance. Removing your diamond pieces before hitting the shower is an excellent way to prevent unscheduled servicing.
- Remove your diamond ornaments before you take a swim. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur swimmer, you should always ensure that chlorinated water does not interact with the metals and stones in your jewelry. To avoid any potential for structural damage, remove all of your diamond pieces before you enter a pool. It’s best to leave them at home too, so that you don’t have to worry about losing your valuables.
- Remove diamond jewelry when playing contact sports. Any kind of hard blow can risk damaging your jewelry while playing contact sports. The chance that your diamond loosening up from its setting is high when you’re pursuing hard-core sporting activities, so it is a good idea to leave your diamond rings, pendants and earrings at home before a game.
Cleaning diamond jewelry
- Handle properly when cleaning your diamond jewelry. When cleaning, try not to touch the stone with your fingers; handle the diamond ring or necklace by the edges.
- Clean the diamond. Use a soft brush, soap, and water. If you don’t already have a special brush for cleaning jewelry, you can use a (soft, old) toothbrush, an eyebrow or even a lipstick brush; these are soft, small and make a good substitute. Make sure that any brush you use is clean and does not have makeup on it.
- Before you start cleaning, make a mix of warm water and a mild detergent. Place the diamond jewelry in the bowl filled with the mixture. Always use a mild cleanser to clean your diamond; jewelry stores use a diluted ammonia to clean with. The easiest way for you to replicate this at home is by using Windex and mix it with hot water. The heat in the water will loosen up any oils on the stone.
- Just be careful that any cleaning fluid you use doesn’t react with any metals the diamond is embedded in. Some cleaning fluids can discolor the metal if you’re not careful. Platinum, gold and rhodium jewelry tend to be the most resistant to cleaning fluids than other precious or semi-precious metals.
- Soak the diamond jewelry for a few minutes. Then scrub with a brush. Make sure to get under the stone too, as this is where the dirt and oils will gather.
- Rinse. To rinse diamond jewelry, use a fine-mesh strainer.
- After cleaning, use a clean cloth to dry the jewelry.
- While the diamond itself will not usually be scratched by paper towels or tissues, any other embellishments on the jewelry piece may be, so it makes good sense to stick to using a soft cloth, preferably a jewelry polishing cloth, for the whole piece.
Providing ongoing care for diamond jewelry
- Take all of your diamond jewelry to a professional jeweler once a year. Diamond jewelry needs to be checked by a professional jeweler at least once a year. He or she will look through the prongs and mountings. These are the items that hold your stone in place. When checked regularly, you can feel more confident that the diamond is firmly in its settings still and isn’t going to spring out unnoticed and disappear.
- Store with care. If you’re not wearing your diamond jewelry for any length of time, store it in a jewelry box, keeping it apart from other jewelry. It is vital that every piece of jewelry has its own place, to prevent your diamond or its settings from being scratched, and to prevent it from damaging other jewelry pieces.
- Store in a secure container with a fabric lining and cotton pads. This will help to minimize movement or hitting the sides of the storage container.
- Another way to store your diamond jewelry is in boxes with compartments or in separate zipper pouches.
- There are ultrasonic cleansers available. These use a high frequency to clean diamond jewelry. Either ask your jeweler to use this device on their premises, or you could consider looking into purchasing your own. If you do buy one, read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly.
- Inspect your diamond jewelry regularly, to avoid damage.
- Always read the cleaning instructions accompanying your diamond jewelry. It may recommend specific cleaning liquids, which will ensure the best and safest clean for your particular item. Also read the precautions, if any.
- If you like the color of your diamond then make sure that there will not be any contacts with household cleansers like, for example, bleach. These cleaners can not only change the color of your diamond but the color of the settings and mountings that hold it as well.
- Your natural skin oil can negatively impact diamonds. The oils cause grime build-up, reducing the luster of diamonds. Hence, the need for cleaning now and then.
- If you notice a crack in your piece or a loose diamond, avoid cleaning the jewelry by yourself. Instead, set it aside for repair and contact a professional as soon as possible.
- Due to everyday movement diamonds on jewelry get smudged and soiled. Even if you do not wear diamond jewelry, it still gains dust.
A man presents his prospective bride with an engagement ring upon acceptance of his marriage proposal. Anthropologists believe this tradition originated from a Roman custom in which wives wore rings attached to small keys, indicating their husbands’ ownership.
In 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy. This sparked a trend for diamond rings among European aristocracy and nobility.
The sentimental Victorians popularized ornate engagement ring designs that mixed diamonds with other gemstones, precious metals, and enamels. Often these rings were crafted in the shapes of flowers and were dubbed “posey rings.” Diamond rings crafted during the Edwardian era continued the tradition of pairing diamonds with other jewels, commonly mounted in filigree settings.
The opening of the DeBeers mines in Africa made diamonds more accessible. In the 1930s, when demand for diamond rings declined in the U.S. during hard economic times, the De Beers Company began an aggressive marketing campaign using photographs of glamorous movie stars swathed in diamonds. Within three years, the sales of diamonds had increased by 50 percent.
In 1947, De Beers launched its now classic slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” This campaign spurred even more sales. The implied durability of a diamond conveyed the meaning in the American psyche that marriage is forever. A diamond’s purity and sparkle have now become symbols of the depth of a man’s commitment to the woman he loves in practically all corners of the world.
Diamonds still signify the celebration of a union and cherished memory, though more cuts make more styles an easy option for diamond lovers.
The History of Popular Cuts
Over the years, the most popular cut for diamond engagement rings has always been the round brilliant, consisting of 58 facets that divide the stone into a top and bottom half. Runners up include the princess cut, the emerald cut, and the oval cut, with the cushion cut quickly gaining popularity as a recent trend.