Friday, March 22, 2013

Year of the Snake

Last month, the Chinese welcomed the Year of the Snake, and I'm joining the celebration by feature two snake rings from Prather Beeland. The first is an original from the Victorian era, while the second is what I call an “updated antique”: a stick pin in it's turn of the century incarnation, I've made it into a ring to give it a new life.

Snakes have been a common motif in religion, myths, and the arts for millennia. They became popular again for jewelry in the mid-Victorian era, when Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake ring as her engagement ring. It was typical at the time for engagement rings to be set with the bride’s birthstone, so Queen Victoria's snake had an emerald head. Snakes, a symbol for eternal love, were a perfect motif for an engagement ring and other jewelry. The first ring is 14K with two diamonds set in the heads of each snake. It is a classic example of a Victorian snake ring, with pointed heads and engraving on the 
heads and bodies. They coil into each other making the two bodies become one, furthering the idea of eternity. The second ring, although still using the popular snake motif, most likely came from a different influence. In the late 19th century to early 20th century, people were captivated by the controversial ideas of Charles Darwin. His interest in evolution and the living world created an interest in jewelry made to look like bugs and animals. This ring seems more likely to have been part of this trend. In the early-to-mid Victorian era, jewelry had been made to capture the candlelight, but by the late Victorian era, gas lamps were in use, and it was time for jewelers to take note. Lighter stones, like the demantoid garnets used in this ring, were much better at catching the light.

Both snake pieces show the reoccurring popularity and multifaceted symbolism of the creatures. They have been used throughout history and across cultures, and it is without a doubt that snakes continue to capture our imagination today. Beautiful in appearance and meaning, snakes are a great way to remain modern while wearing antiques!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Day at the Met

I just recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (twice!) to see their spectacular exhibit Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. The exhibit ties together the growing importance of fashion and the Impressionist artists working from the mid-1860’s to mid-1880’s. With the advent of department stores and fashion magazines, fashion had become more accessible and visible, allowing a broader swathe of the public to participate in the day’s trends. After going through the exhibit the first time, I marveled at the beautiful portraits and genre scenes and looked on in awe at the clothes women wore daily. I noticed how similar much of the jewelry in the women’s portraits is to pieces at Prather Beeland, and I thought it would be fun to highlight these portraits’ amazing jewelry. Many of the styles popular at the time remain popular today, and these ladies can give us inspiration on how jewelry should still be worn: be bold, wear yellow gold, pile on a variety of pieces, and stack them! I highly recommend this exhibit to anyone who can attend, but for a taste of what you will find, read on for some of the favorite paintings I have picked out for their fabulous accessories. 

Young Lady in 1866, Manet, 1866

First, I need to make clear-this is a cropped image to highlight her locket. The portrait is a full length depiction of his model Victorine Meurent whom he painted on other occasions including his famous nude Olympia. The gold locket is similar in size and shape to the locket in our post from February 25th. It too has decoration on the front. Although it is hard to decipher what the design is, it most likely is done in enamel. I love how she wears it on black ribbon. Whether long or short, ribbon instead of a chain is a great way to hang a locket! 

The Artist's Wife (Perie) Reading, Bartholome, 1883

I love this pastel and charcoal drawing of the artist's wife. We see her dressed to entertain, relaxing before the guests arrive. She wears an large gold bracelet on her left wrist and multiple rings on her left hand. The pinky ring appears to be a cluster ring- a center sapphire surrounded by diamonds. On her ring finger she has stacked pieces- still very popular today- wearing what I believe to be a diamond band and a ruby and diamond cluster ring. I adore the yellow gold and the multiple pieces. 130 years later this is still a great look!

Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, Renoir, 1878

Again, I have cropped the image in order to see her jewelry better, but in its entirety this oil painting is just stunning!  She and her children are dressed beautifully as they sit in an elegant dressing room designed with Japanese elements showing her stylish lifestyle. She wears multiple pieces of jewelry including a yellow gold bracelet on her left wrist, a large yellow gold flower brooch, and a pair of small earrings.  My favorites are her snake jewelry, a symbol of eternal love.  She wears a yellow snake bracelet on her right wrist and a yellow gold snake ring on her right hand. The ring is set with colored gemstones.  Her pieces all work together and she looks so chic.

These are just a few of the many to see. There are more women decked in yellow gold and stacking them up. It's fun to see women of the time wearing pieces similar to those at Prather Beeland - still beautiful, and now with historical significance. These women are a great inspiration for how to wear our jewels!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Etruscan Revival

I am just crazy about this bracelet! Gold bracelets are perfect for every day, but this one is extra special. Created in the Etruscan Revival style, this English bracelet is 15K and has beautiful applied metalwork. Etruscan Revival style began in the 18th century after the beginning of intensive excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and then lost for centuries until their rediscovery. Motifs uncovered in these two cities and elsewhere in ancient Italian ruins began to be used in the decorative arts.  
One of the most important characteristics used in Etruscan Revival jewelry was granulation, a technique used by the ancient Etruscans. An Italian jeweler named Castellani was one of the first to study the uncovered artifacts, and he became interested in recreating the granulation technique. Granulation is created by adding small amounts of metal of the same type as the base to the surface of a piece of jewelry, creating a decorative pattern. Although Castellani and his followers could not reproduce the technique in the exact method used by the Etruscans, they were able to recreate the appearance of the ancient design. The trend of expressing the popular passion for archeology through jewelry would continue through Victorian era. For this and other beautiful Etruscan Revival pieces, check out!