Thursday, April 17, 2014

Victorian Jet Locket

Antique mourning jewelry is a favorite here at Prather Beeland, and although I’ve written about it before here and here, I thought that this beautiful Victorian jet locket deserves special attention. It brings together elements of trends set by two style icons of their day: Queen Victoria (below left in mourning) and her daughter-in-law Princess Alexandra (below right in some of her favorite jewels). Jet, a semi-precious mineral made when wood is subject to extreme pressure, has been used for jewelry in Britain since the Bronze Age. The ancient Romans, also great fans of jet jewelry, sourced their jet from Whitby, a British town that continues to be famous for its jet mines. When Queen Victoria entered mourning for her husband, black jewelry materials such as jet saw a new spike in popularity. The starburst motif on the front of the locket was popularized by Princess Alexandra, a beloved public figure and jewelry fanatic who frequently wore star and crescent moon designs set with pearls or diamonds. Alexandra’s fashions were emblematic of the Aesthetic Period: toward the end of the Victorian era, as the people tired of decades of mourning and women became more active in the public sphere, lighter jewelry with a sense of fun pushed back against the heavier styles of years past and expressed one’s identity as a modern, liberated woman. This piece brings together the styles of both the Queen and the Princess, and also has its own story to tell: who is the man with the hopeful expression in the locket’s photograph, and who was wearing it and thinking of him? Check it out here.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Edward Steichen- Art Deco Fashion and Photography

While in Melbourne traveling and looking for new jewels for Prather Beeland, I went to the Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria. It is an amazing exhibit of fashion and of photographs by the world-renowned Steichen, who is credited with being the first fashion photographer. Encouraged by mentor Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen moved between New York and Paris, eventually becoming head photographer for "Vogue" and "Vanity Fair." He was on the cutting edge, experimenting to create avant-garde photographs of actors and dancers, as well as fashion, and his images became synonymous with the glamourous Art Deco era. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the dresses - too fantastic for words! - mixed with Steichen photographs.

Jewelry was a crucial part of Art Deco fashion, and my absolutely favorite part of the exhibit was looking at each photo with an eye to how jewelry was used to complement the gorgeous clothes. Many amazing Art Deco jewelry creations can be seen in Steichen's photographs, as in the examples below. Fantastic to see the bracelets, earrings, and necklaces of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and other popular gems of the era. These glorious jewels were worn with dresses made from the most luxurious fabrics, often covered in sparkle themselves. What a way to look! What a way to dress! See this exhibit at the NGV if you can. Jewels from my travels will be on Prather Beeland soon!

Dancers Leonore and Maurice, Her Jewels and that Dress- In Love, 1924
Dresses by Vionnet, Beautiful Jewels-Stacked Diamond Bracelets!, 1930

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beautiful Bohemian Garnet!

Garnets were among the favorite gems of Georgian and Victorian jewelers. They were used in expensive, high quality jewelry, sometimes set along with other more precious stones. The Bohemian Garnet, unusually appealing and popular due to its deep, clear red color, was most often faceted and set in low-carat (5K) gold or other metals. Bohemian Garnets, from the garnet family called Pyrope, have been mined for hundreds of years in ancient Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.

The jewels above are beautiful examples of Bohemian Garnets from the Victorian Era. The exquisitely hand-faceted stones reflect and refract light, making them a flattering addition to any look - day or night! For these and other garnets: