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The content here at Jewelry-History.com, Jewels of Note, is supported by EraGem. EraGem is a fine estate jewelry company that specializes in vintage and antique engagement rings as well as other high-quality, previously-owned jewelry treasures. The author of Jewels of Note, Angela Magnotti Andrews, also actively contributes to EraGem Post, which also features Jewelry History, News, and Happenings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Meet the Writer

Photo ©2014 Tonic Design Photography Studio
It occurred to me that some of you might enjoy an opportunity to meet the writer (that's me, of course). I've been the sole contributor here on Jewels of Note since its inception, and it has been such a pleasure to see so many visitors stopping by to read.

I'll be back to writing about the tales of provenance of important jewels and gemstones in the New Year. In the meantime, I welcome you to join me on some of my other writing adventures.

The best way to do so is to visit my website: Story Essentials.

I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this year, and possibly somewhere in between!

~Angela Magnotti Andrews

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Human Form on This Nubian Necklace May Represent The Goddess Mut

Necklace with human and ram's head pendants
270 BC-320 AD, Gold and Carnelian
Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

This gold and carnelian necklace, an artifact from Ancient Nubia, is on view now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts's newly opened exhibition Gold & The Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia. The necklace features 54 gold pendants molded into the forms of a ram's head resting against a human's head. The ram's head is most certainly a representation of the mighty god Amani, and the woman, wearing the White Crown of Egypt, is believed to represent the goddess Mut {3}.

In Nubian mythology, the goddess Mut forms a part of the triad associated with the near-monotheistic worship of the god Amani (Amun, Amen, Amon). In this trinity, Mut played the female counterpart to the male god of creation and life. Mut was worshiped as the mother of all life, and most especially as the mother of all Nubian rulers.

As is true on this necklace, Mut was often depicted either behind or alongside the ram's head characterization of Amani. In reliefs they were often pictured along with their son, Khonsu. Here, the two are depicted abutted beside each other on a necklace likely worn as a form of status and protection by a Nubian pharaoh during the Meroitic Period.

At that time, Mut was worshiped as a maternal figure, encompassing the grace and gentility of the feminine form, as well as the fierceness of a protective lioness (possibly highlighted by the choice of red carnelian beads as spacers between her crowns). Both she and Amani were considered as the very foundation on which the pharaohs drew their source for power and strength. They were believed to inspire their births, protect their lives, and empower their reigns.

Mut's eyes were favorable toward the king and against his (or her) enemies. To those she favored, she offered solace beneath her mighty wings, protecting her beloved from gods and men alike. To those she stood against, she was a fiery judge, demanding at times the burning bodies of her enemies upon her pyre.

This necklace, most likely worn by a pharaoh, would have offered more than a reminder to the wearer that his Divine Mother was ever watching out for him, just as she was often shown raising a hand of protection over her husband, Amani, and her son, Khosun.

For more information or to view this necklace in person, you can click on the MFA's website for details. The show is currently on view in the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery (#104).

Bibliography

  1. Hays, Christopher B. Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.
  2. Lobban, Jr., Richard A. Historical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval Nubia. New York: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
  3. Markowitz, Yvonne J. and Denise M. Doxey. Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Boston: MFA Publications, 2014.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Theda Bara, "The Wickedest Woman in the World," Reportedly Hated Diamonds

Theda Bara in Carmen, 1915
Public Domain
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Taking her cues from the alluring stage actresses Mata Hari and Sarah Bernhardt, Ms. Bara brought America's favorite bad girl to the silver screen--"a sultry, exotic, erotic woman who went through the world leaving broken men in her wake {3}. Having made her debut in film in her thirties, this late bloomer appears to have come into her own at just the right time. 

The age of advertising was dawning, and her keen study of some of the stage's most alluring seductresses, coupled with a talented group of publicists, allowed Ms. Bara to enter stage left out of nowhere. Her stage career was mediocre at best, but her embodiment, both on and offscreen, of the ever-popular vampiress launched her into stardom.

Her kohl-lined eyes simmered on screen and off, and her publicists made sure that even those who knew they were being conned believed she was a "deadly...crystal gazing seeress of profoundly occult powers, wicked as fresh red paint and poisonous as dried spiders" {7}. According to Terry Ramsaye, the escalating rumors (all manufactured by Fox's best publicists) of her nefarious background caused little girls to swallow "their gum with excitement," while big movie men to balk at the thought of meeting her in private {7}.

So pervasive were these stories about her that even today, rumors abound about her. One such rumor involves jewelry. In searching for information on Ms. Bara's engagement ring, this writer came across a statement made by a contender in the diamond industry. They wrote as fact that Ms. Bara disliked diamonds and said so on many occasions. Instead, she opted to wear only an ancient emerald ring and a talismanic turquoise ring.

This reported hatred for diamonds rings true for The Vamp, a role Ms. Bara threw herself into with abandon for four years. The story of her "odd ornaments" is found in a Toledo newspaper dated April 7, 1916 {1}. Even at the time, it was largely understood that anything written in the newspapers about "The Wickedest Woman in the World" was generated in part, or in whole, by Fox's publicists Al Selig and Johnny Goldfrap. 

Her emerald ring, they wrote, was a gift she received from a blind sheikh she encountered in the Orient. He supposedly gave her the ring, an heirloom which had been in his family for 2,000 years, on the condition that she would pass it on to her first-born son. By accepting the auspicious gift, she was honor-bound to teach this future son Arabic.

The turquoise ring, said to have been oval-shaped, is even harder to pin down. Supposedly, she wore it in every one of her movies, either on her finger or concealed in her clothing {7}, but even when she wore rings on her fingers in photos, they were rarely oval-shaped turquoises.

Oddly, no mention of these important jewels was mentioned in the papers in 1957, the year her jewelry collection, valued at $100,000, was sold at auction. The United Press reported that the top bid of $9,250 
was paid for a platinum bracelet set with 30 carats of diamonds and six carats of emeralds. That's a lot of diamonds for a woman who hated them! 

In truth, the Theda Bara of the Silver Screen was a complete fabrication. Indeed, a deeper look at her history demonstrates that these jewels were as real as the persona for which they were manufactured.

Bibliography
  1. Bernstein, Matthew and Gaylyn Studlar. Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film. London: I. B. Tauris and Co. Ltd., 1997.
  2. Bonhams. "A Century of Movie Magic at Auction as curated by Turner Classic Movies." November, 2013.
  3. DiGrazia, Christopher. "Theda Bara: An essay to accompany the Tambakos Silent Film Series: A Fool There Was (1915)," Kiss Me My Fool website, October 24, 2007.
  4. Genini, Ronald. Theda Bara: A Biography of the Silent Screen Vamp, with a Filmography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996.
  5. IMDb. "Theda Bara, Biography." Accessed August 7, 2014. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000847/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.
  6. Petersen, Anne Helen. "Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Most Wicked Face of Theda Bara," The Hairpin, January 8, 2013.
  7. Proddow, Penny and Debra Healy and Marion Fasel. Hollywood Jewels: Movies, Jewelry, Stars. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1992.
  8. Ramsaye, Terry. A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture. Abingdon, Oxon: Frank Cass & Co., Ltd., 2012.
  9. Silentmoviequeen. "Theda Bara Biography," YouTube video, published July 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8ejQVRW0ts.
  10. "Theda Bara Jewelry Goes to Highest Bidder," Eugene Register-Guard, May 2, 1957, p. 4D.

Introducing Gemstone Legends

Victorian Era Jelly Opal Locket
Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry


by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Modern technology and observable science in the west have shattered many of the superstitions related to gemstones. In our day, the rise or fall in the market value of precious stone has more to do with rarity, means of acquisition, and intrinsic value than whether it will bring good or ill fortune to its wearer.

While provenance continues to play a significant role in the value of a jewel, the stories and beliefs that followed that jewel through history are largely dismissed as silly superstitions or embellished legends. It is difficult for the western mind to enter into the rich depths of a gemstone's legacy. To abandon our rational mind and step into the shoes of someone who really didn't "know" better is difficult at best, impossible at worst.

To our way of thinking, our forefathers reasoned more like wonder- or fear-filled children, attaching innumerable associations to events, reaching the absurd conclusion that the presence or absence of a gemstone might have influenced a buffalo hunt, or the birth of a state, or the Black Plague.

Yet, despite 'knowing better', we as a population, especially in the west, are often haunted by the legends of the ancients. We are intrigued by the possibility that perhaps in our rational world we might be missing something that our ancestors understood.

Of course, we can't go back, nor would we want to. Ignorance, contrary to the popular cliche, really is not bliss. Whatever ills and trials forward progress creates, few of us would trade the calamities of our western world for the savage lessons our ancient forebears learned on our behalf.

But what if we could go back, just in our imaginations, and really feel what they felt, understand things the way they understood them, and see the world through their eyes--even for a few moments?

What if by placing ourselves in their shoes just for a few minutes, we could bring some of their wonder back into our century?

What if we could enjoy just a touch of the magic they must have felt when they first laid their eyes on a brilliant diamond or a flashing opal?

In order to help us enter in, I'm collecting some of the best stories associated with gemstones. I'll be building this slowly over time. If you come across a moving story about the earth's treasures, I invite you to leave a comment. Your suggestion might just find its way to the Jewels of Note Gemstone Legends page.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nubian Necklace with Golden Human and Ram's Head Pendants On View Now at MFA Boston in Their 'Gold & The Gods' Exhibition

Necklace with human and ram's head pendants
270 BC-320 AD, Gold and Carnelian
Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

This gold and carnelian necklace is fashioned out of 54 individual gold pendants fashioned in the image of a ram's head juxtaposed with that of a human's head. On view now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, as part of their newly opened Gold & The Gods exhibition, this is a stunning example of the nearly 100 pieces of Nubian jewelry on display from now until May 2017.

The pendants are strung neatly on a double-strand of some kind of floss or string, perhaps sinew, with spherical beads of carnelian used as spacers between the conical hats worn on the human head portion of the gems. According to the exhibition catalog, these pendants are three-dimensional figures modeled in gold that have been soldered to a flat sheet-metal backing.

The human form is that of a woman wearing what appears to be the White Crown associated with Egyptian kings. The ram's heads wears a double uraeus and a sun disk, Nubian and Egyptian symbols of royal power and supreme sovereignty. The curators of the MFA exhibition have proposed the female form may be that of the goddess Mut, while the ram's head is associated with the god Amani (Amun, Amen).

For more information or to view this necklace in person, you can click on the MFA's website for details. The show is currently on view in the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery (#104).

Bibliography
  1. Kjeilen, Tore. "Amon." LexicOrient (LexLook Encyclopedia). Accessed August 1, 2014. http://looklex.com/e.o/amon.htm.
  2. LaChiula, Charles. "Uraeus." Illustrated Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology. Buffalo Architecture and History, 2009.
  3. Markowitz, Yvonne J. and Denise M. Doxey. Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Boston: MFA Publications, 2014.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Nubian (and Egyptian) Ram God, Amani (Amon) is Associated with Life

Necklace with human and ram's head pendants
270 BC-320 AD, Gold and Carnelian
Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

This gold and carnelian necklace, an artifact from Ancient Nubia, is on view now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts's newly opened exhibition Gold & The Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia. The necklace features 54 gold pendants molded into the forms of a woman wearing the White Crown of Egypt and a ram's head wearing a double uraeus and sun disk. The ram's head is most certainly a representation of the mighty god Amani.

In Nubian and Egyptian mythology, Amani was considered the creator of all life, and eventually, in Nubia, he became associated with the birth of all rulers and even the other gods in their pantheon. At some point, the Egyptians came to believe that Amen originated on a small mountain, Gebel Barkal (Jebel Barkal), in Nubia (what is now Northern Sudan).

As time went on, it was believed that Amen came to Nubian queens in human form and impregnated them with divine rulers. These sons and daughters became the queens and kings of Nubia, and many took some form of Amani's name. Examples include, King Amaninatakelebte (r. 538-519 BC), King Talakhamani (r. 435-431 BC), and Queen Amanishakheto (ruler in the late 1st century BC).

It is supposed that this necklace, and many others like it, were worn by Nubian pharaohs. Like their Egyptian contemporaries, the Nubians were cultured and sophisticated in the arts and strategies of war. However, they were also superstitious. These necklaces not only served as status symbols, but likely also as amulets. It was their belief that wearing the gods on their persons afforded them the power of their presence and protection.

For more information or to view this necklace in person, you can click on the MFA's website for details. The show is currently on view in the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery (#104).

Bibliography

  1. Bianchi, Robert Steven. Daily Life of the Nubians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.
  2. Emory/Michael C. Carlos Museum. "A Necklace Fit for a King." Accessed August 1, 2014. http://carlos.emory.edu/ODYSSEY/Teachers/ll/Ancient_Egypt_lesson_plan/Rams_Head_Necklace_Lesson.pdf.
  3. Kjeilen, Tore. "Ancient Nubian gods." LexicOrient (LexLook Encyclopedia). Accessed August 1, 2014. http://i-cias.com/e.o/nubia_rl_gods.htm.
  4. LaChiusa, Chuck. "Uraeus." Illustrated Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology. Buffalo Architecture and History Website, 2009. http://buffaloah.com/a/archsty/egypt/illus/illus.html#Uraeus.
  5. Markowitz, Yvonne J. and Denise M. Doxey. Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Boston: MFA Publications, 2014.
  6. Museum of Fine Arts Boston. "Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia to go on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," Press Release, June 23, 2014.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Divine Colors of Hathor

Bracelet with Image of Hathor, 100 BC
Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Used with permission.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

This ancient artifact is on display as part of newly opened exhibition, Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia, on view at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. The bracelet was fashioned during the Meroitic period of Nubia's history, probably around 100 BC.

Decorated with exquisite gold work and stunning enamel work, this bracelet features prominently the goddess Hathor (Isis), who serves as the great mother goddess of Ancient Egypt and Nubia. Here she is depicted in gold, seated on a throne and wearing a sun disk with two cow horns and a rearing cobra, which connotes royalty and/or divine authority.

She is set in relief against a dark blue background, a supremely preserved example of the Nubian mastery of enameling. Though the surface has thinned over time, the original composition of the glass they used is "nearly unaltered" {4, p.150}. This portion of the bracelet was made out of soda-lime glass of unknown origins, tinted with a slight bit of cobalt to attain the deep blue coloring.

The aqua-colored and red-violet sections of the bracelet show more wear, making analysis difficult. Manganese and copper tint the purplish-red areas, a color not typically seen in Nubian pieces. The aqua color, as seen on this and other pieces from this time period, is likely colored by manganese, cobalt, copper, and a high level of iron {4, p.150}.

These colors were more than decorative. Every god and goddess was associated with different colors. Hathor (called Isis in Egyptian lore) was represented by the colors green, blue, and black {2}. Both black and green were associated with everything we now attribute to the color green--life, renewal, growth, and the earth's plant life {2}. Blue was connected to the waters and the heavens, and since Hathor was revered as the mother of all life, it makes sense that her colors would be both earthly and divine.

The red color represents the counterpoint to Hathor's rich contribution to earth. Associated in Ancient Egypt with the color of the desert, red represents the chaos and disorder waiting around every corner. It sometimes represented death, infertility, and destruction {1}. However, being the color of blood, red might also represent life and protection {1}. It was commonly used to decorate protective amulets, which this bracelet may have been for someone at one time.

To view this spectacular specimen up close, you need only visit the MFA during their open hours between now and May 14, 2017. Details are available on the MFA's website.

Bibliography

  1. About.com African History. "Red Colors in Ancient Egypt." Accessed July 17, 2014. http://africanhistory.about.com/od/egyptology/ss/EgyptColour_6.htm.
  2. Isidora. "Is Isis a Black Goddess?" Isiopolis Blog, December 2, 2011. http://isiopolis.com/2011/12/02/is-isis-a-black-goddess/.
  3. Markowitz, Yvonne J. and Denise M. Doxey. Jewels of Ancient Nubia. Boston: MFA Publications, 2014.
  4. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia." Accessed July 17, 2014. http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/gold-and-gods.