Friday, March 22, 2013

Kate Middleton's Understated Style

Kate Middleton (detail) by Paul Emsley, 2012.
Photo Source: Big Think

I have scanned hundreds of portraits, looking for those that jump out as my favorites for the Jewelry in Portraits series. Unfortunately, so many amazing portraits portray very little in the way of jewels.

Having little to no jewelry to talk about renders most of these otherwise gorgeous portraits unacceptable choices. However, after seeing this portrait of HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, realizing that the scant jewelry she wears is actually indicative of her elegant and understated style, I concluded that I could most definitely highlight her jewelry, or rather the absence thereof.

This is a groundbreaking portrait, one worth documenting in a slightly different light than has been done in the media since it was first displayed on January 11, 2013. The Duchess of Cambridge has a natural beauty that hardly needs enhancement, so that her one visible sapphire and diamond earring is all the more stunning against her chestnut locks.

This particular earring has enormous sentimental value to her and to her husband, and it matches perfectly the only other jewelry I am absolutely certain that she is wearing just out of view in this portrait—her sapphire and diamond engagement ring, nestled against her wedding band made of 18k Welsh gold.

Both pieces of jewelry were gifts from her husband, Prince William, who gave them to her because both Kate and the jewels are “very special to him.” {6} The ring and the earrings were among his mother’s favorite pieces, and he wanted his wife to have these precious heirlooms as a way to honor his mother’s life and somehow include her in the happy event of their wedding. {1; 13}

Originally in the form of heavy sapphire studs with diamond halos, Princess Diana’s white gold earrings were altered for Catherine Middleton into a drop style with the large sapphire cabochon, surrounded by nine round brilliant diamonds, suspended from a single diamond stud. Her engagement ring mirrors this design, featuring “a large oval sapphire surrounded by 14 round diamonds set in 18k white gold.” {3, 4}

Black And White Glass Perfume Bottle Clip Art

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Boniface, Susie. “Kate Middleton given Diana’s favourite earrings by Prince William.” Mirror News. July 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kate-middleton-given-dianas-favourite-143487.
2. Cruz, Debbie. “Kate Middleton’s jewelry in 2012 (Photos).” Examiner. December 25, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.examiner.com/article/kate-middleton-s-jewelry-2012.
3. Diana’s Jewels. “Earrings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/earringscatherine.htm.
4. Diana’s Jewels. “Rings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/ringscatherine.htm.
5. English, Rebecca. “I’m thrilled! Kate puts on a brave face as she sees first official portrait critics are calling ‘rotten’.” DailyMailOnline. January 11, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260655/Kate-Middleton-Rotten-official-portrait-Duchess-Cambridge-artist-Paul-Emsley-unveiled.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490.
6. English, Rebecca. “What’s in a ring? Palace confirms that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band when he marries Kate Middleton.” DailyMailOnline. March 31, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1372078/Royal-wedding-Palace-confirms-Prince-William-wont-wear-ring-marries-Kate-Middleton.html.
7. Faiola, Anthony. “In uproar over portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, its artist speaks out.” The Washington Post. January 31, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-uproar-over-duchess-of-cambridge-portrait-its-artist-speaks-out/2013/01/31/cbe0eff4-6bc4-11e2-8f4f-2abd96162ba8_story.html.
8. Murray, Rheana. “Kate Middleton’s first official portrait revealed: Painting of Duchess of Cambridge met with mixed reaction.” New York Daily News. January 11, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kate-middleton-official-portrait-revealed-article-1.1238145.
9. National Portrait Gallery. “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2013/hrh-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
10. National Portrait Gallery. “News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge.” Last updated January 11, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/about/press/news-release-national-portrait-gallery-commissions-first-official-painted-portrait-of-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
11. National Portrait Gallery. “The BP Portrait Award 2012: The Exhibition.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2012/the-exhibition.php.
12. Satter, Raphael. “Critics Divided Over Duchess of Cambridge Portrait.” The Big Story. Last updated January 11, 2013. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/prince-williams-wife-kate-gets-official-portrait.
13. Wilkes, David and Fay Schlesinger. “A ring fit for his mother…and his love: Prince William’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring for Kate.” DailyMailOnline. November 17, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1330366/Prince-Williams-engagement-ring-Kate-Middleton-sapphire-diamonds.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paul Emsley's Portrait of Princess Kate

Artist Paul Emsley poses next to his portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
The portrait is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Photo Source: MSN News
© AP Photo/Sang Tan, 2013

Paul Emsley’s photo-realistic style is somewhat controversial among art critics, and many believe he butchered the portrait of the most popular royal since Princess Diana. I disagree. I believe he has captured the Duchess's timeless beauty, an ageless wisdom that she will “grow into” in the coming years. He has also captured the face of a grown young woman who is already learning to balance a private inner life with a very public outer life.

True to Princess Kate’s wishes, Mr. Emsley worked tirelessly over the course of several months to capture her natural self, which he describes from his two sittings with her as “enormously open and generous.” {9} He took many photographs of her during their time together, and in their final sitting at Kensington Palace, he allowed her to choose which photograph he would use for the portrait.

In his early days as a painter Mr. Emsley “worked from life,” but his anxiety over the comfort of his subjects and the advances in photographic precision have shaped his current practice of working primarily from photographs. From the original image the Princess chose, Mr. Emsley made close-ups of the details around her eyes, her mouth, her cheekbones, and her hair.

It is perhaps this close-up quality, combined with his characteristic dark background, that has most rankled the art critics, many of whom believe that the portrait ages the beloved Princess by ten years or more. The Duchess, however, did not appear distressed in the least by his portrayal. It is said that she praised it highly, as did her husband, Prince William.

Unlike the public, who is used to her enhanced media photos, Kate and William must have appreciated the subtle nuances, including the wrinkles around her mouth and her unique cheekbone structure. Perhaps it is wise to take cues from them. Perhaps this is the truest representation of the Duchess that we have seen to date.

Vintage Glass Perfume Bottle Image
BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Boniface, Susie. “Kate Middleton given Diana’s favourite earrings by Prince William.” Mirror News. July 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kate-middleton-given-dianas-favourite-143487.
2. Cruz, Debbie. “Kate Middleton’s jewelry in 2012 (Photos).” Examiner. December 25, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.examiner.com/article/kate-middleton-s-jewelry-2012.
3. Diana’s Jewels. “Earrings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/earringscatherine.htm.
4. Diana’s Jewels. “Rings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/ringscatherine.htm.
5. English, Rebecca. “I’m thrilled! Kate puts on a brave face as she sees first official portrait critics are calling ‘rotten’.” DailyMailOnline. January 11, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260655/Kate-Middleton-Rotten-official-portrait-Duchess-Cambridge-artist-Paul-Emsley-unveiled.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490.
6. English, Rebecca. “What’s in a ring? Palace confirms that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band when he marries Kate Middleton.” DailyMailOnline. March 31, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1372078/Royal-wedding-Palace-confirms-Prince-William-wont-wear-ring-marries-Kate-Middleton.html.
7. Faiola, Anthony. “In uproar over portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, its artist speaks out.” The Washington Post. January 31, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-uproar-over-duchess-of-cambridge-portrait-its-artist-speaks-out/2013/01/31/cbe0eff4-6bc4-11e2-8f4f-2abd96162ba8_story.html.
8. Murray, Rheana. “Kate Middleton’s first official portrait revealed: Painting of Duchess of Cambridge met with mixed reaction. New York Daily News. January 11, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kate-middleton-official-portrait-revealed-article-1.1238145.
9. National Portrait Gallery. “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2013/hrh-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
10. National Portrait Gallery. “News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge.” Last updated January 11, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/about/press/news-release-national-portrait-gallery-commissions-first-official-painted-portrait-of-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
11. National Portrait Gallery. “The BP Portrait Award 2012: The Exhibition.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2012/the-exhibition.php.
12. Satter, Raphael. “Critics Divided Over Duchess of Cambridge Portrait.” The Big Story. Last updated January 11, 2013. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/prince-williams-wife-kate-gets-official-portrait.
13. Wilkes, David and Fay Schlesinger. “A ring fit for his mother…and his love: Prince William’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring for Kate.” DailyMailOnline. November 17, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1330366/Prince-Williams-engagement-ring-Kate-Middleton-sapphire-diamonds.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, March 18, 2013

Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley, 2011

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley, 2012
©National Portrait Gallery, London A National Portrait Gallery
commission given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of
Sir Denis Mahon through the Art Fund

Reflecting the strains of blue from her shirt, the twinkling light emanating from the Duchess's eyes radiates a playful depth of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Her private smile only adds to that depth. Her chestnut hair cascades like a waterfall, ending in churning brown curls that beg to be touched.

Her beauty is classic and true. Her warmth emanates from the canvas, and her elegant choice in jewelry is perfectly understated. One sapphire earring haloed in diamonds hangs from her right ear, the other shrouded by her lovely hair. Instead of a necklace, she wears a “Windsor blue pussy-bow blouse” tied neatly at her neck. {5}

Her beauty is captivating, and though Mr. Paul Emsley, her portraitist, has caught her playful smile, he has also firmly established her grace, poise, and assuring presence. These attributes will one day serve her well when she becomes Queen of England.

The painting of Her Royal Highness was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery. Mr. Emsley was one of four finalists chosen by the Gallery’s director, Sandy Nairne. Among those who participated in the interviews with the four finalists was the Duchess of Cambridge herself.

Having won the BP Portrait Award in 2007, Mr. Emsley, born in Glasgow and raised in South Africa, was a lauded choice to paint this first portrait of Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Held annually at the National Portrait Gallery, the BP Portrait Award claims to “showcase the very best in contemporary painting from around the world.” That makes Mr. Emsley among the best of the best in 21st century painters.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Boniface, Susie. “Kate Middleton given Diana’s favourite earrings by Prince William.” Mirror News. July 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kate-middleton-given-dianas-favourite-143487.
2. Cruz, Debbie. “Kate Middleton’s jewelry in 2012 (Photos).” Examiner. December 25, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.examiner.com/article/kate-middleton-s-jewelry-2012.
3. Diana’s Jewels. “Earrings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/earringscatherine.htm.
4. Diana’s Jewels. “Rings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dianasjewels.net/ringscatherine.htm.
5. English, Rebecca. “I’m thrilled! Kate puts on a brave face as she sees first official portrait critics are calling ‘rotten’.” DailyMailOnline. January 11, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260655/Kate-Middleton-Rotten-official-portrait-Duchess-Cambridge-artist-Paul-Emsley-unveiled.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490.
6. English, Rebecca. “What’s in a ring? Palace confirms that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band when he marries Kate Middleton.” DailyMailOnline. March 31, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1372078/Royal-wedding-Palace-confirms-Prince-William-wont-wear-ring-marries-Kate-Middleton.html.
7. Faiola, Anthony. “In uproar over portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, its artist speaks out.” The Washington Post. January 31, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-uproar-over-duchess-of-cambridge-portrait-its-artist-speaks-out/2013/01/31/cbe0eff4-6bc4-11e2-8f4f-2abd96162ba8_story.html.
8. Murray, Rheana. “Kate Middleton’s first official portrait revealed: Painting of Duchess of Cambridge met with mixed reaction.” New York Daily News. January 11, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kate-middleton-official-portrait-revealed-article-1.1238145.
9. National Portrait Gallery. “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2013/hrh-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
10. National Portrait Gallery. “News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge.” Last updated January 11, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/about/press/news-release-national-portrait-gallery-commissions-first-official-painted-portrait-of-the-duchess-of-cambridge.php.
11. National Portrait Gallery. “The BP Portrait Award 2012: The Exhibition.” Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2012/the-exhibition.php.
12. Satter, Raphael. “Critics Divided Over Duchess of Cambridge Portrait.” The Big Story. Last updated January 11, 2013. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/prince-williams-wife-kate-gets-official-portrait.
13. Wilkes, David and Fay Schlesinger. “A ring fit for his mother…and his love: Prince William’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring for Kate.” DailyMailOnline. November 17, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1330366/Prince-Williams-engagement-ring-Kate-Middleton-sapphire-diamonds.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, March 15, 2013

Queen Adelaide's Portrait Jewels, 1836

Queen Adelaide, 1836
Painted by Sir Martin Shee
Image is in the Public Domain
Photo Source: Wikipedia

Queen Adelaide stands in a portico of the hallowed halls of Windsor Castle. Blush pink roses peek in through the balustrade which, combined with the faint mountains in the distance, place the location of this sitting on an upper floor of the castle. It is May 1836, and Her Majesty is surrounded by close friends watching her 'sit' for a portrait.

She wears a red velvet gown with a vee neck and a matching vee waistline. The pleated bodice and train of her gown are lined in spotted ermine, and her lace cherusque frames her stately face. Upon her head she wears a black feathered hat with a jeweled brooch pinned to its central band. Her hair is coiffed in ringlets in the hurluberlu fashion of the day, and her tight ringlets hide any earrings she may be wearing.

A lovely necklace graces her neck, and at her waist shimmers a diamond stomacher fastened just above her white satin a-line underskirt. On both wrists she wears what appear to be matching pearl bracelets, and on her left fourth finger she wears a ring with a shiny gemstone. In her right hand she holds a white handkerchief, and on her feet she wears a pair of flat ballet-like slippers.

(Left) Queen Adelaide's 1836 Portrait Hangs in Buckingham Palace
Photo copyright The Anglophile, 2011.

A Deft Hand
This full-length portrait now hangs above the staircase in Buckingham Palace. Records from 1841 and 1891 report that a portrait of Queen Adelaide by Martin Shee hangs in the Grand Livery Room of Goldsmiths’ Hall. {2} This is sound evidence for the existence of two full-length portraits of Queen Adelaide painted by Martin Shee in 1836.

Summoned for the purpose of painting the featured portrait of Queen Adelaide, Martin Shee arrived at Windsor Castle on May 14, 1836, by order of King William IV. He settled his supplies into the painting room and spent his first night at the nearby Castle Hotel. The next day, he was relocated to the Round Tower by order of the King, who wished him to enjoy every privilege of being part of the royal circle at Windsor during his stay.

In his father’s memoirs, Mr. Shee’s son, Martin Archer Shee, writes of an awkward moment in the royal presence upon his first sitting with the Queen. It was widely known that “Queen Adelaide was not a romantic figure” and that “portraits of her almost certainly did her more than justice, disguising [her] poor complexion…” {3, p. 267}

The circle of onlookers, quite probably including at least the FitzClarences and Lady De Lisle, must have held their collective breath in that moment. The widespread truth of her plain appearance rendered it impossible for him to offer any disclaimer of the difficulties he faced in painting her, yet to say nothing would prove quite possibly crude and most definitely disrespectful.

The judicious painter's most gracious response neither affirmed nor denied the Queen’s statement. It is easy to surmise that it was this characteristic grace that afforded him the King’s summons in the first place. “Madam,” he said, “I shall hope to have the honour…of showing my impression of your Majesty’s claims as a subject!!” {5 , p. 305}

And so beautiful and majestic was she in his eyes that there is merit to the claim that the King, who originally planned to present the portrait to the Goldsmiths’ Company, decided to keep it and commissioned Mr. Shee to paint another one like it for the Company. {5, p. 92}

Queen Adelaide, 1836 (cropped as a close-up)
Painted by Mr. Martin Shee
Image is in the Public Domain
Source: Wikipedia

Queen Adelaide's Jewels
The few details evidenced in the painting make it conceivable that Her Majesty's beautiful hat pin is the brooch now called Queen Adelaide’s Brooch. Though it was first made as a clasp for one of the Queen’s pearl necklaces, the jewel was worn by successive queens as either a snap or a brooch. {4, p. 34}

Her necklace appears to be composed of diamonds set in high-karat gold. However, it’s more probable that it is the Queen’s favored pearl necklace. In many portraits of Queen Adelaide during and after her reign, she wears a similar necklace composed of a single strand of high-quality white pearls.

Her stomacher appears to be paved in diamonds, with three larger central stones that might be either diamonds or pearls. It loops around her waist on a link chain, also set with either large brilliants of round pearls. Though it looks remarkably like Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Brooch, it could not possibly be since that brooch was made nearly thirty years after this portrait was painted.

Her pearl bracelets* appear to match the description of Queen Charlotte’s pearl bracelets. If they are not her mother-in-laws bracelets, then they might be replicas which Adelaide had made, perhaps with her husband’s portrait, cypher, and hair fashioned into clasps framed in diamonds.

Finally, though this historian has found nary a description or picture of Queen Adelaide’s wedding and keeper rings, the shape and position of the rings in Mr. Shee’s portrait indicate that these may be the rings she wears here.

*I came across this passage in a magazine from 1885 (Tidings of Nature): "...it being then the fashion to wear two bracelets exactly alike..." The line is in reference to the Empress Josephine, who held court in France in the early 1800s. Though it's possible that Queen Adelaide's choice had nothing to do with fashion, it is of course possible that this was a popular trend, as well.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “1836 Queen Adelaide by Sir Martin Archer Shee (Royal Collection).” Grand Ladies Site. February 20, 2011. Accessed January 23, 2013. http://www.gogmsite.net/empire-napoleonic-and-roman/subalbum-queen-adelaide/1836-queen-adelaide-by-sir-.html.
2. Shepherd, Thomas Hosman. London Interiors with Their Costumes and Ceremonies. London: Joseph Mead, 1841.
3. Orr, Clarissa Campbell, ed. Queenship in Britain, 1660-1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture and Dynastic Politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.
4. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s Diamonds. London: Royal Collection Publications, 2012.
5. Shee, Martin Archer [Jr., sic] of the Middle Temple. Life of Sir Martin Archer Shee, P.R.A., Volume the Second. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sophia Charlotte's Wedding Jewels

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz
Published May 24, 1762
Mezzotinter: Thomas Frye (1710-1762)
Copy of 1762 portrait without hand or sleeve, with alterations in jewelry
Monogram in right corner: AP (?)
The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

As mentioned previously, these jewels (and others) were given to Queen Charlotte by her husband, George III, on the day of their wedding. In addition to the beautiful pearls and diamonds seen in the original portrait, George gave her a necklace with a large diamond-studded cross pendant (seen in the above altered print) and two matching bracelets “consisting of six rows of picked pearls as large as a full pea” {8, p. 12}.

The clasp of one of these bracelets featured George III’s portrait framed in diamonds, while the other clasp, also framed in diamonds, features the King’s cypher and a lock of his hair {8, p. 12}.
A portion of one of these bracelets is just visible in the lower quadrant of the original portrait.

These jewels, plus the diamond stomacher she wears just out of sight, were purchased by the King from his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, for somewhere between 50,000 and 54,000 pounds.
The strand of pearls she wears draped beneath her diamond choker is one piece of the Hanoverian Crown Jewels, which King George inherited and gave to his wife on the day of their wedding. This strand of pearls consists of “six knee-length rows of pearls with twenty-five pearl drops, some as big as nutmegs” {13}.

Though Frye’s original portrait neither portrays all six rows nor all 25 pearl drops, it does represent well what are some of the most famous pearls in history. In the above portrait, likely altered by the person who scraped “AR” in the lower right corner, her jewelry is enhanced to portray the full splendor of the Hanoverian pearls with the diamond cross pendant added as the central piece {10}.

Upon her death in 1818, Queen Charlotte bequeathed the Hanoverian jewels she received from her husband to the House of Hanover, including the matchless string of pearls. As such, they passed down to Queen Victoria by way of Queen Adelaide and were much loved by both queens.

Queen Victoria enjoyed them for two decades, and then reluctantly turned them over to King George of Hanover, at the end of a twenty-year dispute about their ownership. The remainder of Queen Charlotte’s jewels were sold at auction through Christie’s, and the money was divided between her four living daughters, according to the stipulations of her will.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. The Good Queen Charlotte. London: Downey & Co. Ld., 1890.
2. “Hanoverian Pearls, The.” The Sydney Morning Herald Coronation Supplement, Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19370512&id=0OVaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D5IDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2537,1932343.
3. Hedley, Olwen. Queen Charlotte. Michigan: J. Murray, 1975.
4. Hill, Constance. Fanny Burney at the Court of Queen Charlotte. Toronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913.
5. Laura Purcell Blog. “A Royal Wedding.” Published March 9, 2012. http://laurapurcell.com/?p=292.
6. North, Michael and David Ormrod. Markets for Art, 1400-1800. Sevilla, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.
7. O’Connell, Sheila. kLondon 1753. London: The British Museum Press, 2003.
8. Papendiek, Charlotte Louise Henrietta. Mrs. Papendiek’s Journals, Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1887.
9. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s Diamonds. London: Royal Collections Publications, 2012.
10. Royal Collection, The. “Thomas Frye (1710-1762), Queen Charlotte, 1762.” Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?maker=11720&object=604595&row=0&detail=about.
11. Strickland, Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland and Caroline G. Parker. Lives of the queens of England: From the Norman Conquest.
12. Urban, Sylvanus. “The Crown Jewels.” Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 204. January to June, 1858.
13. Zahnle, Lucy E. “Jewelry Through the Ages.” Helium, September 18, 2009. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.helium.com/items/1590026-jewelry-through-the-ages.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Horace Walpole Describes Queen Sophia's Wedding Jewels

Queen Charlotte, circa 1762
Color print from original mezzotint
Artist: William Pether, after Thomas Frye
Photo Source: Walpole Antiques

With his drawing of Queen Charlotte in hand, Thomas Frye returned to his studio where he and his partner, William Pether, etched the lines of his drawing onto a copper plate. Using drypoint* they painstakingly scratched the fine, delicate lines into the plate. It is this meticulous technique which gives this portrait its depth and detail.

And it is this depth of detail, combined with the scant but clear historical record, which affords the best evidence for which jewels the Queen is wearing in the portrait. Later colored prints made from Frye’s original copper plates cast some ambiguity as to the occasion for which Her Majesty is outfitted. However, the detailed account of Horace Walpole, describing a warm day in September 1761, has led me to believe that Her Majesty wears her wedding gown, bedecked in at least a portion of the splendid jewels she received from her husband on that day of their wedding.

“The Queen was in white and silver; an endless mantle of violet-coloured velvet, lined with ermine, and attempted to be fastened on her shoulder by a bunch of large pearls, dragged itself and almost the rest of her clothes halfway down her waist. On her head was a beautiful little tiara of diamonds; a diamond necklace, and a stomacher of diamonds, worth threescore thousand pounds...”
~Horace Walpole

The jewels in Walpole’s description clearly match the jewels seen in Mr. Frye’s portrait, and upon close inspection of her gown, one could make a clear case for the mantle being the same violet-colored velvet she wore on her wedding day.

Though clearly Mr. Frye made this print the year following the royal wedding, it is no great leap to presume that either Queen Charlotte wore her wedding finery to the theater that night, or more likely that Mr. Frye captured her face and form on paper from his place in the audience and then “dressed” her in her wedding clothes and jewels in his studio.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that he captured her image at her coronation, when she appeared wearing the same gown and jewels, and went to the theater only to ensure the finer details of her facial features. Since it is an unofficial portrait, we may never know for certain.

*Drypoint is "a technique in which the surface of the plate is scratched directly with an etching needle in order to produce fine, delicate lines" {10}.

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Royalty Free Images - Ladies Hair Combs

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. The Good Queen Charlotte. London: Downey & Co. Ld., 1890.
2. “Hanoverian Pearls, The.” The Sydney Morning Herald Coronation Supplement, Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19370512&id=0OVaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D5IDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2537,1932343.
3. Hedley, Olwen. Queen Charlotte. Michigan: J. Murray, 1975.
4. Hill, Constance. Fanny Burney at the Court of Queen Charlotte. Toronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913.
5. Laura Purcell Blog. “A Royal Wedding.” Published March 9, 2012. http://laurapurcell.com/?p=292.
6. North, Michael and David Ormrod. Markets for Art, 1400-1800. Sevilla, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.
7. O’Connell, Sheila. London 1753. London: The British Museum Press, 2003.
8. Papendiek, Charlotte Louise Henrietta. Mrs. Papendiek’s Journals, Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1887.
9. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s Diamonds. London: Royal Collections Publications, 2012.
10. Royal Collection, The. “Thomas Frye (1710-1762), Queen Charlotte, 1762.” Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?maker=11720&object=604595&row=0&detail=about.
11. Strickland, Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland and Caroline G. Parker. Lives of the queens of England: From the Norman Conquest.
12. Urban, Sylvanus. “The Crown Jewels.” Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 204. January to June, 1858.
13. Zahnle, Lucy E. “Jewelry Through the Ages.” Helium, September 18, 2009. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.helium.com/items/1590026-jewelry-through-the-ages.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mezzotint of Queen Charlotte, 1762

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, 1762
Mezzotint by Thomas Frye
The Royal Collection
©2012 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Charlotte has a demure and lovely face. Playing across her lips is the faintest of smiles. Her eyes forecast the quiet and demure woman she will grow into as Queen of the Empire. She wears the jewels of an empirical queen.

Upon her head rests an exquisite and dainty tiara outfitted entirely in diamonds. Attached to this dainty crown is an unassuming caplet extending into a veil which cascades neatly down her back.

Her left ear is weighted down with an impressive three-drop chandelier earring composed entirely of diamonds. To the right of her delicate cheek, one can just make out the matching earring dangling low behind her jaw. She wears a ribboned choker with a central band of diamonds encircling her neck, with a two-tiered diamond pendant suspended from the center of the band. Draped across her d├ęcolletage are four generous rows of the most sublime pearls. From the lowest string hangs an irregular pearl that is almost perfectly pear-shaped.

She wears a richly ornamented gown which appears to be studded with diamonds and possibly pearls. Over this she wears a velvet mantle, also richly embroidered and lined in spotted ermine, with tufts of ribbon and pearls fastened to her shoulders. Honiton lace accents the entire ensemble, terminating at the sleeve of her right hand, which is devoid of jewelry except a bracelet of what looks like four rows of pearls.

A portion of the caption beneath this remarkably life-like mezzotint portrait of Queen Charlotte reads: ad vivum, “from the life” {Royal Collection}. Apparently, the persistent artist, one Thomas Frye of Ireland, was unable to secure a sitting with the queen, so he followed her to the theater in order to “observe her and hope to secure her likeness” {Royal Collection}.
The story goes that when she saw the artist sketching her in the audience, Her Majesty turned her face toward him to give him a better view {10}. The results, as you can see, are stunning.

Click Here to read more


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. The Good Queen Charlotte. London: Downey & Co. Ld., 1890.
2. “Hanoverian Pearls, The.” The Sydney Morning Herald Coronation Supplement, Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19370512&id=0OVaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D5IDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2537,1932343.
3. Hedley, Olwen. Queen Charlotte. Michigan: J. Murray, 1975.

4. Hill, Constance. Fanny Burney at the Court of Queen Charlotte. Toronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913.
5. Laura Purcell Blog. “A Royal Wedding.” Published March 9, 2012. http://laurapurcell.com/?p=292.
6. North, Michael and David Ormrod. Markets for Art, 1400-1800. Sevilla, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.
7. O’Connell, Sheila. London 1753. London: The British Museum Press, 2003.
8. Papendiek, Charlotte Louise Henrietta. Mrs. Papendiek’s Journals, Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1887.
9. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s Diamonds. London: Royal Collections Publications, 2012.
10. Royal Collection, The. “Thomas Frye (1710-1762), Queen Charlotte, 1762.” Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?maker=11720&object=604595&row=0&detail=about.
11. Strickland, Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland and Caroline G. Parker. Lives of the queens of England: From the Norman Conquest.
12. Urban, Sylvanus. “The Crown Jewels.” Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 204. January to June, 1858.
13. Zahnle, Lucy E. “Jewelry Through the Ages.” Helium, September 18, 2009. Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.helium.com/items/1590026-jewelry-through-the-ages.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mary Pickford’s Sapphires

America's Sweetheart, Mary Pickford
Photo Source: Strictly Vintage Hollywood

America’s Sweetheart,’ Mary Pickford reigned as the ‘Queen of Hollywood’ throughout her illustrious film career. She is reported to have starred in over 175 movies from 1909 to 1933. By 1916, she was making a staggering $350,000 every time one of her pictures played in a theater.

According to our sources, by 1919, Ms. Pickford had become “the first millionaire in Hollywood history.” She was an equal partner in the film production company, United Artists, and she was free to indulge her every whim.

Her every whim included a love of beautiful things, and she added pieces regularly to her extensive collection of costume and fine jewelry. By 1920, the Canadian-born starlet was one of the most famous women in Hollywood, and she fell in love with one of Hollywood’s golden boys, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

'Star of Bombay' Sapphire
Copyright Smithsonian Institute
Photo Source: Pinterest

By 1920, Mr. Fairbanks had established himself as a famous silent film actor who wowed his audiences with action stunts he performed himself. After watching a clip of The Mark of Zorro (1920), I find it no surprise that he was beloved by national and international audiences.

Mr. Fairbanks met Ms. Pickford on a tour during World War I, and though they were both married they began an illicit affair. Despite the damage it might do to their reputations, they took a risk and divorced their spouses so they could get married in March of 1920. According to Photoplay Magazine (June, 1920), their fears of ruin were unfounded. It seems that everyone in Hollywood hoped that the two had “finally found lasting happiness."

For the first eight years of their marriage, it seemed as though they truly had found happiness. Their lives were governed by romantic customs which included spending every night together, even when it was inconvenient. They always sat together at the dinner table, even when others had arranged for them to sit separately, and they always saved the last dance for each other, even when it meant turning down the future king.*

Given this great romance that bloomed between them, it will come as no surprise that the two lavished each other with gifts. As you can imagine, it would be no small feat to dazzle the likes of Miss Mary Pickford, who could buy whatever she wanted.

So, what did Mr. Fairbanks buy for the woman who had everything?

In 1920, he purchased the ‘Star of Bombay,’ a breathtaking blue star sapphire that was set into a platinum cocktail ring and sold to Mr. Fairbanks by Trabert & Hoeffer, a New York jewelry firm. The stunning 182-carat cabochon-cut star sapphire from Sri Lanka, India, quickly became a favorite in Ms. Pickford’s collection. The movie star kept it close even after the romance began to unravel.

*Eileen Whitfield, in her book Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood, tells of the time when Ms. Pickford declined a dance with George IV, saying that “it wouldn’t be ‘meet a man one minute and then next go into his arms and dance.’” She further commented that she had promised Douglas that she would save the last dance for him.

'Star of India' Sapphire
Photo Credit: Daniel Torres, Jr., 2007
Photo Source: Wikipedia

It is at this very point of unraveling that the woman who had everything supposedly received a final, over-the-top gift from Mr. Fairbanks. On the verge of divorce, rumor has it that the silent film star, making one last attempt to atone for his infidelity, purchased what some refer to as “the most famous star sapphire in the world,” the ‘Star of India’.

Though several authoritative sources claim that Mary Pickford owned the ‘Star of India’, the historical record of the 563.35-carat star sapphire does not support this rumor. According to Mr. Douglas Preston, writing on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History, the Sri Lankan treasure was first brought to the States by gemstone expert, George Frederick Kunz sometime in the late 1800s.

Between 1890 and 1901, the wealthy banker, financier, and philanthropist, J.P. Morgan purchased all of Kunz’s treasures. Morgan promptly donated the “golfball-sized star sapphire” to New York’s American Museum of Natural History in 1890. {3, p. 210}

Unique even among star sapphires, if cut properly, the ‘Star of India’ demonstrates three cross-bars which create a six-pointed star beneath its surface. This, combined with its size and lineage, make it one of the most valuable gemstones in the world. According to the Museum’s records, the unique and priceless gemstone, has been displayed in the museum’s Hall of Minerals and Gems for most of its American repose.*

While it is possible that Mr. Fairbanks purchased a blue sapphire for his wife during their separation, it is clear that it was not the ‘Star of India’ as some suppose. It is also clear that his final gift was insufficient to mend the wounds he inflicted upon his marriage.

In 1935, Hollywood’s favorite couple filed for divorce. Ms. Pickford is recorded to have bequeathed the ‘Star of Bombay’ to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the stone was given to a Smithsonian representative in 1980. Accounts of her estate make no mention of the ‘Star of India’ sapphire. Both gemstones remain on public display at their respective museums.

*I say most of its life, because there was a brief period when an infamous robbery placed it in the hands of celebrity jewel thief, ‘Murph the Surf’(Jack Murphy), on October 30, 1964. The jewels were recovered from a locker in the Miami bus terminal a few days after Murph and his cohort were picked up by the FBI {10, p. 179-80}.

Vintage Diamond Ring Clip Art

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Kunz, George Frederick. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1913.br 2. Leavey, Peggy Dymond. Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart. Toronto: Dundurn, 2011.
3. Preston, Douglas J. In the Attic: An Excursion into The American Museum of Natural History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986.
4. Price, Judith. Masterpieces of American Jewelry. New York: Running Press, 2004.
5. Schou, Solvej. “Mary Pickford: The Angelina Jolie of her day, but much more famous.” Inside Movies, September 4, 2012, http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/09/04/mary-pickford-angelina-jolie-silent-film/.
6. Stone, Tammy. “The Silent Collection, Featuring: Mary Pickford.” Things and Other Stuff, accessed January 15, 2013. http://www.things-and-other-stuff.com/movies/profiles/mary-pickford.html.
7. TheDeadGuy. “Mary Pickford.” Everything2, January 17, 2002. http://everything2.com/title/Mary+Pickford.
8. Waterbury, Ruth, ed. Photoplay Magazine, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, June, 1920. Untitled Story, p. 73.
9. Whitfield, Eileen. Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007.
10. Doherty, Phil. The Miami Police Worksheet. Xlibris, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Glittering Exhibition: The Seattle Art Museum Presents "Going for Gold"

Baroque Braque, 1987, Howard Kottler
Photo source: Seattle Art Museum

Set against the backdrop of some of the finest textile specimens the Seattle Art Museum houses in its permanent collection, Going For Gold has been hailed by Seattle Times reporter, Nancy Worsam, as a “rich exhibit that wears very well.”

Curators Julie Emerson and Pam McCluskey have mined the vast collections of SAM’s textiles and decorative objects to present a glittering celebration of gold in all its forms.

Ms. Worsam reports that a massive cubist-inspired sculpture made by ceramicist Howard Kottler stuns visitors at the entry with its brilliant gold luster glaze. The exhibit also features two pieces made by celebrated Russian goldsmith Carl Faberge, a jeweled bookmark and a cigarette case. The lid of the cigarette case is checkered in yellow, rose, and green gold.

Buddhists in the 18th century wrapped gold threads around silk fibers to make the kesa, a replica of the robe of Buddha worn by Buddhist holy men. Gold also shimmers from the woven fabrics of many other pieces from around the world, including China and Italy.

In her review of the exhibit, Ms. Worsam assures that jewelry enthusiasts will not be disappointed. She comments on a pair of massive earrings from Mali “made from thin sheets of decorated gold,” as well as a “highly patterned, cast-gold nose ring made in pre-Columbian America."

The exhibit opened in November 2012, and will remain on display until November 17, 2013. On the first Thursday of every month, visitors can view Going for Gold for free between the hours of 10:00 am and 9:00 pm. On all other days, the entry price is $17 for adults. The museum is closed on Mondays.

You will find more information about special rates and other exhibits on SAM’s website: http://seattleartmuseum.org/.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “Going for Gold.” Seattle Art Museum, accessed January 15, 2013. http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/exhibit/exhibitDetail.asp?eventID=23868.
2. Worssam, Nancy. “Going for Gold at SAM has a fine luster.” The Seattle Times Online, November 9, 2012. http://seattletimes.com/html/thearts/2019637833_ar09gold.html.


*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ring Sold at Christie’s Might Have Been Designed by a Freemason

Georgian Era Serpent Mourning Ring, 1836
for Nathan Meyer de Rothschild
Copyright 2012 Christie's

The stunning antique mourning ring sold for a surprising $11,021 during Christie’s Jewellery Auction, which was held in London on January 16, 2013.

Estimated to bring in $2,300-3,000, the spectacular gold, ruby, and enamel antique ring was made in 1836 to commemorate the death of the famous banker and financier, Nathan Meyer de Rothschild (1777-1836).

Fashioned into a coiled snake eating its tail, the 18kt gold ring is replete with black enamel scales and cabochon ruby eyes. A detailed engraving on the inside of the band reads: “In Memory of N, M, de Rothschild, Died 28th July 1836. Aged 59, Hallmarked London, 1836, finger size N.”

In 1811, Mr. Rothschild established N M Rothschild & Sons, a multinational investment banking company in London. Having already amassed a significant fortune in the early 1800s, Rothschild was able to fully lend his support to the British efforts during the Napoleonic Wars.

Nathan Meyer (Mayer) de Rothschild
Copyright unknown
Photo Source: And Yet They Deny
Nathan Meyer de Rothschild and his brothers are rumored to have coordinated such a vast network of agents, shippers, and couriers that they learned of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo a whole day before the official messengers of the British Army were informed. Though this may be more legend than fact, it is true that the Rothschilds supplied gold to Britain and its allies abroad during the war.

It is fitting that a man so true to his country and so loyal to his family would have a ring fashioned in his honor after his death. Given that Mr. Rothschild was an active and loyal Freemason, the serpent ring may have been designed by his brotherhood on his behalf.

Given that the snake is coiled with its tail in its mouth, this is a reasonable conclusion. This symbol, sometimes called the Ouroboros (“he who eats the tail”), is commonly associated with Freemasonry and represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth - a cycle that ultimately leads to immortality.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Alderman, Geoffrey. Modern British Jewry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
2. Kaplan, Herbert H. Nathan Mayer Rothschild and the Creation of a Dynasty: The Critical Years, 1806-1816. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.
3. Meij, W.B. Harold. “Symbolism of the Snake.” The Masonic Trowel, accessed January 30, 2013.
4. “Ouroboros.” Crystal Links, accessed January 30, 2013. http://www.crystalinks.com/ouroboros.html.
5. Saladin F. The Babylonian Code – Vol. One: The Unholy Scriptures. Norderstedt Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2011.
6. “Sale 8127/Lot 183.” Christie’s, accessed January 30, 2013. http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/jewelry/a-19th-century-18ct-gold-ruby-and-5647979-details.aspx.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Alix & Co. Paraiba Tourmaline and Pearl Necklace + Bracelet

Alix & Co. Paraiba Tourmaline + Pearl Necklace
Copyright 2012 EraGem Jewelry
Photo used with permission

When Janet Alix was a teenager, her grandfather took her shopping for her birthday. Upon choosing a set of jewelry-making tools, her course was set. Now the proud owner of a California-based jewelry boutique, Alix & Co., she continues to pursue her passion for designing matchless jewelry.

Janet has partnered with a fantastic team of people to create one-of-a-kind fine jewelry for her loyal customers. She and her team, consisting of Lori Brooke (business manager/creative director) and Karen Anlacher and Brian Booth (expert goldsmiths), are dedicated to using recycled metals and conflict-free gemstones for all their pieces.

Ms. Anlacher, who lives in Mill Valley, California, but hails from Germany, lends a cultural verve to her craft. Her meticulous attention to detail give pieces like this 18k and 22k gold and platinum necklace an air of excellence that sets it apart as a work of art.

Mr. Booth and his wife, Lily, work together from their workshop, Booth Custom Jewelers, in Raleigh North Carolina. Their dedication to excellence in craftsmanship, as well as their ecologically sound practice of using recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds, has forged a lasting partnership with Alix & Co. When they aren’t working on custom pieces for Alix & Co., the couple create and restore heirloom and antique jewelry for local clientele in Raleigh.

This necklace, and its matching bracelet are a prime example of Alix & Co.’s “Freize” style. Set in solid gold and then nestled in a platinum bow-shaped rim, twelve pearls shimmer next to their granulated gold settings. A hinge-type piece made of spiraled gold set on either end with radiant turquoise paraiba tourmaline cabochons links each of the twelve bows together to form the complete necklace.

Alix & Co. Paraiba Tourmaline + Pearl Bracelet
Copyright 2012 EraGem Jewelry
Used with permission

Paraiba tourmalines were first discovered in 1989, by the persistent Heitor Dimas Barbosa. Convinced that the pegmatite galleries punctuating the hills of the Federal Brazilian State of Paraiba held something ‘completely different,’ Barbosa and his team spent nearly a decade drilling into the earth in search of the fulfillment of his hunch. {10}

Finally, the fruit of their tireless labors paid off. Raw crystals of a never-before-seen turquoise tourmaline were extracted from the now-famous 'Paraiba Hill'. The folks at the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) attest that “the ‘swimming-pool-blue’ of a Paraiba tourmaline positively flashes with vivacity.” The unique color is a the result of traces of copper and manganese within the crystal structure.

Sources for Brazilian paraiba tourmaline appear to have been exhausted, and although limited caches of similar copper-rich, blue-green tourmaline have been discovered in Nigeria and Mozambique, the gem is still in far greater demand than the supply can bear. This disparity is reflected in the going rates for the tiny natural wonders. Carat for carat, paraiba tourmalines rival top gemstones in value, often selling for between $10,000 and $20,000 per carat.

The pairing of unparalleled artistry and the rare electric turquoise gemstones in this paraiba tourmaline necklace by Alix & Co. make it the perfect choice for the avid jewelry collector.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “About.” alixandcompany, accessed January 30, 2013. http://alixandcompany.wordpress.com/about/.
2. Beurlen, Hartmut, et. al. Abstract from “Geochemical and geological controls on the genesis of gem-quality ‘Paraiba Tourmaline’ in granite pegmatites from northeastern Brazil.” The Canadian Mineralogist, accessed January 30, 2013. http://canmin.geoscienceworld.org/content/49/1/277.short.
3. Hall, Judy. 101 Power Crystals: The Ultimate Guide to Magical Crystals, Gems, and Stones. Lion’s Bay, Canada: Fairwinds Press, 2011.
4. Marin Magazine Editors. “Our favorite Marin boutiques and jewelers to keep you fashionable.” Marin Magazine, August 2012 online, Style. http://www.marinmagazine.com/Marin-Magazine/August-2012/Style/.
5. Matlins, Antoinette Leonard and Antonio C. Bonanno. Gem Identification Made Easy: A Hands-On Guide to More Confident Buying & Selling. Woodstock: GemStone Press, 2008.
6. Matlins, Antoinette L. Colored Gemstones: The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide, Third Edition. Woodstock: GemStone Press, 2010.
7. “Meet Us!” alixandcompany, accessed January 30, 2013. http://alixandcompany.wordpress.com/meet-us/.
8. “Our Story.” Booth Custom Jewelers, accessed, January 30, 2013. http://boothcustom.com/our-story/.
9. “Paraiba Tourmaline.” GemSelect, accessed January 30, 2013. http://www.gemselect.com/other-info/paraiba-tourmaline-info.php.
10. “Paraiba Tourmaline.” International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), accessed January 30, 2013. http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=113:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14.
11. Thomas, Arthur. Gemstones: Properties, Identification and Use. London: New Holland Publishers, 2008.
12. “Update on ‘Paraiba’ Tourmaline from Brazil, An (abstract).” GIA, accessed January 30, 2013. http://gia.metapress.com/content/p2g250735q4301n3/

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Early Victorian Wedding Customs (1837-1860)

Victorian Wedding
Photo Source: Love to Know Weddings

The year is 1837, and a new Queen sits on Great Britain’s throne. Victoria will soon become the primary influence on wedding customs in Europe and America and will remain so for the ensuing 75 years.

The years of her long reign will eventually be categorized into three distinct fashion periods, the first of which is marked by the illustrious wedding of the Queen to her beloved Albert. Though many customs endured throughout the 1800s, details like wedding party attire, colors and decorations, venues, and jewelry changed with the passing of each decade.

The Early Victorian Era is best known for ostentatious and romantic flourishes in everything from literature to fashion and jewelry design. Wedding customs were no exception, with inspiration coming from some of the enduring traditions of the late Georgian Era, as well as from some of the new elements introduced by Queen Victoria during her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.

During these first years of Victoria’s reign, weddings would slowly take on more and more of the elements she included in her Royal Wedding. Prior to 1840, six o’clock was the customary time for typically private royal weddings.

English law dictated that non-royal weddings could take place only in the morning, often commencing just before noon in the bride’s parish church. The wedding party would then retire directly afterwards to the home of the bride’s parents for the commencement of the customary wedding breakfast.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert did the same, albeit on a very grand scale, their wedding breakfast taking place at Buckingham Palace, where her mother did indeed reside. Thinking always of her adoring subjects (or perhaps wisely taking her Prime Minister’s advice), Queen Victoria decided upon a very public ceremony to begin at noon. This was just one of the ways Queen Victoria ensured that her people could identify with her.

Victorian Wedding Dresses
Photo Source: Squidoo

Of course, the most important Early Victorian wedding detail was the wedding dress, followed by the groom’s attire, and then the attire of their attendants. With Victoria and Albert's wedding, the trend toward all-white attire was being established, though it would be some time before white wedding dresses would become fashionable. It began with Queen Victoria’s decision to depart form the customary Royal silver for her gown. It was further established in the late 1850s, when Queen Victoria insisted that the next two Royal brides (Princess Alexandra and Princess Alice) follow her lead and wear a white silk gown from Spitalfields with white Honiton lace and white orange blossoms.

Her insistence on white wedding dresses was inspired in part by her deeply romantic streak, but also later by the fact that she while she was in deep mourning, she attempted to both avoid and recreate her happiest moments with Albert. Her insistence on local silk and lace came from her love of Dickens and her over-identification with the poor and downtrodden. Beginning with her wedding in 1840, the Queen worked tirelessly to revive two downtrodden areas of London, Spitalfields and Beer. Her insistence on white Spitalfields satin and Honiton lace from Beer would supply these communities with work and income for months.

Since white fabric was harder to come by and was fairly impractical for most Early Victorian ladies, who could not afford to wear a dress only once, it would take a couple of decades for white wedding gowns to become the norm. During the Early Victorian era, most brides wore blue, soft green, cream, or ivory dresses. Some colonial brides even wore brown or black gowns. The blue wedding dress was a holdover tradition from the Georgian Era, when blue was the color of purity. These gowns, simple and without much embellishment, were worn later for daily wear or for Court presentation.

Depending on the resources available to the bride and her family, a girl's wedding dress might have been made of organdy, linen, silk, or cashmere, and it may have included tulle, gauze, or lace to accentuate the hemlines, shoulders, collar, and/or sleeves. No matter which materials were chosen, the Early Victorian wedding dress consisted of a form-fitting bodice with its trim waistline tucked into a full flowing skirt worn over hoops and petticoats.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “77 Interesting Facts About…Weddings.” Random Facts, last updated December 23, 2009. Accessed January 13, 2013. http://facts.randomhistory.com/interesting-facts-about-weddings.html.
2. Bridal Whimsy. “The History of Wedding Traditions.” Bride & Groom, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.brideandgroom.com/wedding-articles/wedding-traditions-2.asp.
3. Dreamstress Blog, The. “Queen Victoria’s wedding dress: the one that started it all.” April 18, 2011. http://thedreamstress.com/2011/04/queen-victorias-wedding-dress-the-one-that-started-it-all/.
4. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part I, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/victorian1.htm.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/victorian2.htm.
6. Hoppe, M. “The Victorian Wedding.” Literary Liaisons, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article003.html.
7. Micarelli, Allison. “Wedding Style: A Victorian Event.” The Knot, accessed January 13, 2013. http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-themes/choosing-wedding-themes/articles/a-victorian-wedding-event.aspx.
8. Stajda, Sharon. “Wedding Traditions & Customs—Historical Wedding Fashions – 1850- 1950.” Squidoo, last modified January 24, 2013. http://www.squidoo.com/weddingtraditions.
9. “Victorian Days: I Thee Wed.” Angelpig.net, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.angelpig.net/victorian/ceremony.html.
10. “Victorian Wedding, The.” Victoria’s Past, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.victoriaspast.com/VictorianWedding2/bride.htm.
11. “Victorian Wedding Traditions.” World Wedding Traditions, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.worldweddingtraditions.com/ethnic_wedding_traditions/victorian_traditions.html.
12. Ziegenfuss, Jen. “Marriage in the Victorian Era.” University of Florida, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/agunn/teaching/enl3251/vf/pres/ziegenfuss.htm.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grand Victorian Era Engagement Rings (1861-1885)

Etruscan Style Wedding Band
Image Copyright 2012 EraGem Jewelry
Image used with permission.

The Grand Victorian Era, also known as the Mid Victorian period, was marked by greater wealth among the upper and middle classes. This allowed more young men and women to travel abroad, which in turn led to more exotic influences in design.

While on these “Grand Tours,” the wealthy brought all manner of trinkets home from places like Italy, Greece, and Egypt. As the years marched on, the styles and techniques of these exotic treasures, many of which were various jewels, were then emulated by leading jewelers of the day.

Handcrafted by artisans in London, Etruscan revival designs featured ornate engravings, subtle geometric lines, and alluring gemstone combinations including pearls, coral, shell, and turquoise.

Intricate filigree and scrollwork settings began to emerge, heavily influenced by travel to Greece, and the newly discovered tombs of Egypt inspired gemstone-studded wedding bands fashioned into curling serpents.

Grand Victorian Era engagement rings are best characterized by their silver, rose gold, or 18k gold settings designed with more sophistication and less ornamentation than in the 1840s and 1850s. The most popular style of wedding bands were the three-stone or five-stone half hoop rings made of 18k yellow gold.

These elegant rings featured blue sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and/or diamonds. Popular combinations included three-stone rings with a colored center stone flanked on either side by diamonds, a five-stone ring featuring a colored stones (typically ruby or blue sapphire) alternating with old-cut diamonds, further accented by tiny diamond points.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “American Jewelry: An Historical Timeline.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/American_Jewelry:_Part_III.
2. “Antique and Vintage Designs.” Rings with Love, accessed January 13, 2013. www.ringswithlove.com/antique-vintage-designs.
3. “Antique Engagement Ring Settings.” Engagement Ring Settings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.engagement-rings-settings.com/antique-engagement-rings.htm.
4. Bradley, Tara. “Victorian Engagement Rings (1830s-1900s).” Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/victorian-engagement-rings-1830s-1900s.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 15, 2013. http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/victorian2.htm.
6. Fragoso, Lilyanna. “Engagement Rings in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” eHow. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.ehow.co.uk/info_7911740_engagement-rings-18th-19th-centuries.html.
7. Harlow, George E. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 1998.
8. “History of Jewelry, The.” Brilliance Jewelry, accessed January 13, 2013. www.brilliancejewelry.com/history/index.html.
9. “History of Wedding Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.everything-wedding-rings.com/history-of-wedding-rings.html.
10. “Keeper Ring.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Keeper_Ring.
11. “Promise Ring Meaning.” Antique Jewelry Investor, accessed January 13, 2013. www.antique-jewelry-investor.com/promise-ring-meaning.html.
12. Schoening, Lisa and Kurt Rothner. “Why a Vintage Engagement Ring?” Excalibur Jewelry, May 5, 2012. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.excaliburjewelry.com/why-a-vintage-engagement-ring.
13. “Victorian Wedding Ring and Victorian Engagement Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.everything-wedding-rings.com/victorian-wedding-rings.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, February 1, 2013

Late Victorian Engagement Rings (1885-1901)

Tiffany & Co Classic Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring
Tiffany & Co. Diamond Solitaire Engagement Ring
(6-prong setting)
Photo used with permission.
Copyright 2018 EraGem

Though many competing jewelry styles emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, Late Victorian engagement rings have made an indelible impression upon British and American brides throughout the centuries. The elegant flourishes and distinctive styles perfected by Victorian jewelers endure today as the pinnacle of classic romantic wedding jewelry.

All-white weddings, patterned after three high-profile Royal weddings, which took place between 1840 and 1863, maintained supreme popularity into the late 1880s. Consequently, pearls and diamonds remained among the most popular gemstones for engagement and wedding rings.

It was during this time period that the tradition was set whereby a groom gave his intended an engagement ring upon proposing. As larger and greater numbers of diamonds were exported from the Kimberley mine in South Africa, diamond solitaires grew in popularity.

The popularity of the diamond solitaire was further established in 1886, when Charles Lewis Tiffany’s team perfected the six-prong diamond setting. Their new setting featured a single large diamond poised above its band, held in place by six distinctive metal prongs. Tiffany & Co.’s elegant setting, which today remains a classic in diamond solitaires, allows the diamond to exhibit maximum brilliance.

Despite the overwhelming popularity of diamond solitaire engagement rings, many Late Victorian engagement rings also featured colored gemstones alongside diamonds. Emeralds, rubies, and blue sapphires held prominence in wedding jewelry, especially for those of Royal and Noble blood.

However, as new and more abundant gemstones became available to both the upper and middle classes, engagement rings began featuring the alluring colors of aquamarine, peridot, turquoise, and chrysoberyl.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “American Jewelry: An Historical Timeline.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/American_Jewelry:_Part_III.
2. “Antique and Vintage Designs.” Rings with Love, accessed January 13, 2013. www.ringswithlove.com/antique-vintage-designs.
3. “Antique Engagement Ring Settings.” Engagement Ring Settings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.engagement-rings-settings.com/antique-engagement-rings.htm.
4. Bradley, Tara. “Victorian Engagement Rings (1830s-1900s).” Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/victorian-engagement-rings-1830s-1900s.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 15, 2013. http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/victorian2.htm.
6. Fragoso, Lilyanna. “Engagement Rings in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” eHow. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.ehow.co.uk/info_7911740_engagement-rings-18th-19th-centuries.html.
7. Harlow, George E. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
8. “History of Jewelry, The.” Brilliance Jewelry, accessed January 13, 2013. www.brilliancejewelry.com/history/index.html.
9. “History of Wedding Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.everything-wedding-rings.com/history-of-wedding-rings.html.
10. “Keeper Ring.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Keeper_Ring.
11. “Promise Ring Meaning.” Antique Jewelry Investor, accessed January 13, 2013. www.antique-jewelry-investor.com/promise-ring-meaning.html.
12. Schoening, Lisa and Kurt Rothner. “Why a Vintage Engagement Ring?” Excalibur Jewelry, May 5, 2012. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.excaliburjewelry.com/why-a-vintage-engagement-ring.
13. “Victorian Wedding Ring and Victorian Engagement Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.everything-wedding-rings.com/victorian-wedding-rings.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Early Victorian Engagement and Wedding Rings

Early Victorian Era Keeper Ring
Photo Source: Denham's

It is somewhat of a misnomer to speak of Early Victorian engagement rings, as the custom of giving them was not well established until the 1890s. Instead, early-century brides were given “keeper” rings, a custom which began in 1761 when King George III gave his intended, Princess Charlotte, a gold band encrusted with diamonds prior to their wedding.

Keeper Rings
These keeper (or guard) rings later served as custodian for the actual betrothal (wedding) ring to protect it from slipping off the finger. This custom continued into the Early Victorian Era, so many of the rings called Early Victorian engagement rings today were originally crafted to be worn as wedding bands set into or behind said guard rings.

Guard rings are still quite popular today and are typically purchased as part of a bridal set or wedding set. The main difference is that today guard rings are given during the wedding ceremony, whereas in Victorian times they were given in lieu of an engagement ring at the time of a couple’s formal engagement.

It appears that in 1839 Prince Albert was the first to break with the tradition of presenting a keeper ring to his intended. Instead, he gave Queen Victoria a diamond memento ring. According to George Harlow, author of The Nature of Diamonds, this sentimental ring was likely paved with several rows of tiny diamonds which adorned her finger in a nearly invisible 18k gold setting. {7}

Coiled Snake Ring
Photo Courtesy of EraGem

Victorian Romance
In 1840, Prince Albert once again broke with tradition. Rather than presenting Victoria with one of the typical half hoop gemstone and diamond rings popular for betrothal rings, he personally designed Queen Victoria ’s engagement ring. He fulfilled his intention to thoroughly enchant her when he fashioned the band into a gold serpent biting its tail.

This symbol of eternal love was further branded with a verdant green emerald atop its head. Emeralds, the symbol of hope, were not only the Queen’s birthstone, but were also endowed with the power of ensuring that a woman would become a loving wife.

Victoria and Albert’s passion for jewelry and jewelry design influenced an entire generation of Romantics. These new Romantics drew from the resources available, including both high- and low-karat gold, silver, rose gold, and pinchbeck (imitation gold made of zinc and copper), they fashioned bold and intricate settings of hearts, bows, or flowers.

As a rule, Early Victorian Era wedding rings were as ornate and whimsical as the young Queen who inspired them and as sentimental and distinguished as her Prince, who lavished his bride with copious gifts of jeweled creations of his own design. Not only did Albert’s serpent motif become a mainstay of early Victorian betrothal rings, but soon other natural motifs, including butterflies, daisies, doves, and butterflies, made their debut.

Victorian Opal Engagement Ring
Photo Courtesy of EraGem

Victorian Flare
To add a flare of color and up the ante on splendor, jewelers would imbed the most popular gemstones of the day into these naturally-inspired settings. Bright red rubies, deep blue sapphires, and shimmering green emeralds were most popular among the Royals and the upper crust nobility. For those of more modest means, the pastel lavender and aqua hues of chalcedony were popular, as were the violet strains of amethyst, the deep reds of garnet, and the bright colors of topaz.

In 1849, access to Australian opals, which became one of Queen Victoria’s favorite gemstones, gave rise to an increased use of opals in keeper and betrothal rings during the Early Victorian Era. Pearls also enjoyed great favor for wedding rings throughout this time period.

Diamonds, however, would remain the gemstone of the elite for many more decades. Cut in the old mine style and clustered together as flowers or posies to enhance their impact, these white crystals would remain rare and small until the Kimberly diamond mine was discovered in South Africa in the 1860s.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. “American Jewelry: An Historical Timeline.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/American_Jewelry:_Part_III.
2. “Antique and Vintage Designs.” Rings with Love, accessed January 13, 2013. www.ringswithlove.com/antique-vintage-designs.
3. “Antique Engagement Ring Settings.” Engagement Ring Settings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.engagement-rings-settings.com/antique-engagement-rings.htm.
4. Bradley, Tara. “Victorian Engagement Rings (1830s-1900s).” Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/victorian-engagement-rings-1830s-1900s.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 15, 2013. http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/victorian2.htm.
6. Fragoso, Lilyanna. “Engagement Rings in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” eHow. Accessed January 13, 2013.
7. Harlow, George E. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
8. “History of Jewelry, The.” Brilliance Jewelry, accessed January 13, 2013. www.brilliancejewelry.com/history/index.html.
9. “History of Wedding Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. http://www.everything-wedding-rings.com/history-of-wedding-rings.html.
10. “Keeper Ring.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013. www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Keeper_Ring.
11. “Promise Ring Meaning.” Antique Jewelry Investor, accessed January 13, 2013. www.antique-jewelry-investor.com/promise-ring-meaning.html.</
12. Schoening, Lisa and Kurt Rothner. “Why a Vintage Engagement Ring?” Excalibur Jewelry, May 5, 2012. Accessed January 13, 2013. www.excaliburjewelry.com/why-a-vintage-engagement-ring.
13. “Victorian Wedding Ring and Victorian Engagement Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013. www.everything-wedding-rings.com/victorian-wedding-rings.html.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy