Baroque Pearls

24 March, 2018

A good example of why some pearls are baroque in shape.

Everybody has heard of the expression Cultured Pearl but what does that mean?

Before the early 1912 all pearls produced by oysters and mussels were as a result of an irritant getting lodged inside the shell of the oyster and the creatures producing nacre to surround the irritant so that the irritant became  more comfortable for the oyster to live with. A common misconception is that the irritant is a gain of sand. Oysters can easily deal with sand; evolution has seen to that.

Japan’s Mikimoto Kōkichi in 1893 the invented the cultured pearl and in 1916 bought the patent for the commercial production of cultured pearls. Today the name Mikmoto is synonymous with cultured pearls.

In simple terms culturing a pearl is done by using a bead rounded from the shell from the Mississippi muscle and is wrapped in mantle tissue from a donor oyster. It is then implanted into the gonad of a host oyster and left there for approximately three years. The host oyster then puts layer after layer of nacre onto the bead giving the bead the lustre and texture and colour and thus turning the bead into a pearl.

The pictured example is very interesting because you can see where the donor mantle has torn loose and has retracted up the bead. Because the pearl has a nacreous layer, the mantle must have separated sometime after the first year in the oyster. The host oyster has continued to produce nacre and now not only is the bead an irritant but the dislodged mantle as well! In the three attached picture you can see in figures 1 and 2 where the mantle has ridden up the bead and in figure 3 the pearl formation is consistent all the way down. The irregular shape of this final produce is called a baroque south sea cultured pearl.

- Ronnie Bauer

Who is behind the mask?

The most famous treasure from ancient Egypt holds many secrets and as technology and knowledge of ancient Egypt is revealed, the funeral mask of pharaoh Tut ankh amun is as intriguing as the whole of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

What has been now observed, is that the actual face of the boy king has been soldered into a pre existing mask. The evidence for this

1)   the blue strips on the headpiece is blue glass whilst the blue eyeliner on the face is lapis lazuli. (Lapis being the most precious gem of that time).

2)   It has been discovered by using XRF technology that the gold used in the face is different from the gold on the rest of the mask.

3)   the ears lobs on the mask are pierced. In ancient Egypt men didn’t have pierced ears.

So the intriguing question that has to be asked who was the mask made for? Conjecture and populist hope is that it was made for Nefretiti after the Armana religious revolution and while she was Tutankhamun’s regent. With the discovery of new doorways in the boy kings tomb speculation is growing that because of his sudden death he may have been placed in a preexisting tomb and walled off from the other occupant. Again the conjecture and populist hope is that he is sharing his resting place with Nefretiti.

- Ronnie Bauer


As the song goes- if you like it you should put a ring it. (Beyonce)

But what size do you make the ring? Well that depends where you get your finger measured. In this day and age of the internet sales it is well noting that there is no uniform system for describing ring sizes. In Australia, UK, Ireland  New Zealand we use the letters A-Z+++ going up in ½ sizes. In the USA, Canada and Mexico it is a number system ranging from 0 to 16 going up in ¼ sizes . In Italy, Spain Northlands and Switzerland just to confuse everything they use a numbering system starting from 1 which is the US equivalent of 0.5 or the Australian equivalent of C. Japan, China and South America also use a numbering system that mirrors the USA system but only goes up in whole numbers.

Confused? Don’t be the following hyperlink chart below sets the systems out in a logical way.

 A couple of don’ts if you are trying to surprise your lady:

  • Do not bring a ring in from your lady and say make it this size- she may not wear it on the ring finger or the shank width may be different.
  • Do not put a string around the finger and bring the string to the jeweller and say this is the size.
  • Do not say to the jeweller that the ring goes to here on my finger
  • Do not get your finger sized when your hand is very hot. The finger most probably will have swelled due to the heat.
  • Do not get a ring sized when you’re pregnant due to fluid retention.
  • Don’t bother getting a ring clip. A piece of metal that fits over the shank that is supposed to reduce the size. As they are made from metal they bend and don’t spring back so very quickly do not reduce the ring size. Wrapping tape around the shank is more effective.

 Coupler of Do’s

  • Check the width of the shank. The wider the band the larger the ring will have to be.
  • Check the gap of the top plate to the band. You will find that the finger will “fill” the gap and that will effect the size of the ring.

 Another problem that we encounter is the curse of arthritis. If the finger joints are arthritic, they will swell out of proportion the actual finger. The answer: a hinged shank that avoids having to be pushed over the knuckle or knuckle balls which are a ball of metal soldered to either side of the bottom of the shank to stop the ring rolling around.

 - Ronnie Bauer


 In 1889, the same year as Klepner’s was founded, the Melbourne Manufacturing Jewellers Association decided to introduce what in effect was a compliance plate for jewellery the guarantee of quantity mark. The stamp had three squares: the first had the makers punch, the second had a 9 or 12 or 15 or 18 which represented the caratage of the piece and the last had a symbol which represented the caratage stamp. 9ct-wheat bundle, 12 carat-pick and shovel, 15ct-a hanging sheep and 18ct-a sailing ship. The four symbols for the caratages came from the four quadrants of the Advance Australia coat of arms which was the forerunner of the Australian coat of arms after Federation in 1901. The beauty of finding these stamps on a piece of jewellery is that it gives the collector a definite window of when the item was made 1889-1920.

The main members of the Association were: (symbol in brackets)

Aronson & Co, (a flag), Benjamin &Sons (bee) Davis (lion’s head), Duggin. Shappere & Co (anchor), Larard Bros (5 pointed star above a heraldic bar), Johnson & Simonsen (compass and set square) Parker (a bell).

- Ronnie Bauer





Man Over Nature 101.

The use of gem imitations goes back as far back as man’s greed for wealth. In the early days it was better or poorer quality diamonds rubies and emeralds which in actual fact was anything red was a ruby, anything white was a diamond etc. Even the Cheapside Horde in London (c1640) has an example of a treated rock crystal to imitate ruby.

 In the late 19th Century man’s arrogant triumph over nature attitude saw the production of the first deliberate synthetic imitation gems in the from of the garnet topped doublets and shortly after that the first what we term in Gemmology as a synthetic gem, sapphire grown by the Venuile process. This was the first time that man replicated nature in the laboratory with the gem having the same physical and chemical properties of its natural counterpart. The doublet used a natural top slice of garnet glued to a glass backing to give vivid blues, reds and greens.

These gems were not seen as something to dupe the consumer but to show off how cleaver science had become. Synthetic sapphires and rubies were used extensively in Edwardian and Art Deco jewellery. Though the use of synthetic gems is today is used in cheaper pieces there is one exception to the rule-the more affordable opal doublet and triplet. The original garnet topped doublets were produced to imitate sapphires, rubies and emeralds whilst the opal doublet was and is composite opal not trying to imitate any other gemstone just opal.  Though not as valuable as its solid counterpart, the opal doublet and triplet is recognised as an acceptable member of the gem family. Even in the Gemmological Blue book of CIBJO the opal doublet and triplet has its own classification.

 - Ronnie Bauer


Here are the arguments:

  • The Keshi pearl is a pearl that has from naturally due to the rejection of the mantel implanted during the culturing process
  • If the mantel containing the bead for culturing hadn’t been placed there in the first place by man the Keshi pearl would not have grown.
  • The keshi pearl has grown in a different part of the shell can be viewed as an intrusion like any other irritant that causes the oyster to secrete a pearl for comfort.
  • The Keshi pearl shows no nucleus like a cultured pearl and therefore passes as a natural pearl.
  • Because man has intervened in the first place to try and grow a cultured pearl, it cannot be called natural.
  • The quality of a Keshi pearl is extremely good and consistent with a natural pearl.
  • The time cycle for a Keshi is consistent with the time taken to grow a cultured pearl.
  • The keshi pearls are harvested at the time as the cultured pearls.
  • Keshi pearls are not found in the wild.
  • Natural very irregularly shaped pearl do grow in the wild

The World Jewellery Congress (CIBJO) Pearl Commission in Moscow in May 2014 again debated the Keshi pearl for over an hour! Even the experts are split on the issue.

However for the record, Keshi pearls are regarded as a by-product of the implantation of the culture pearl process and such are considered a cultured non natural pearl. The CIBJO blue book for pearls can be found at

- Ronnie Bauer



One of the oldest prized gems is the pearl. What most people don’t realise is that every bivalve mollusc has the ability to produce a pearl. It is nature’s way of covering an irritant so that the creature can live more comfortably. Of all the molluscs only a handful produce a pearl that has the lustre and orient of pearl to be considered gem quality.

These are the South Sea oyster Pinctada Maxima, (produces the white and golden colours) The Akoya oyster Pinctada Fucata, (produces the white and rarely the grey), the Pinctada Margaritifera, known as the black lip oyster that produces the queen of the sea; the black South Sea pearl. Also fresh water mussels produces pearls (white and often dyed to a variety of colours).

I am Australia’s representative on the World Jewellery Congress (CIBJO) commission for looking into creating the pearl classification system. This will be based on the 5S system.

The 5S (size, shape, sheen, surface and source) is what we experts use to distinguish not only the origin of the pearl but its quality and value. This criteria is used for both the natural and cultured pearl. In recent years the double culturing process used on the freshwater pearl has made them as round as its saltwater counterpart, however the lustre of the Akoya and south seas pearls are still superior.

In the pearl world, the natural pearl is the most sought after. This pearl has been produced with the interference by man. All other forms of pearls produced are called cultured pearls. That is where a bead is placed into the oyster or mussel to stimulate pearl production.

Due to the size of the south sea oyster compared to the Akoya oyster pearls produced by south seas oysters are much larger than their Akoya counterpart. The average size of the cultured south seas pearl is 12mm.-14mm. ø whilst the Akoya cultured pearl average from 4mm.-8mm. ø. Fresh water pearls have a variety of shapes from very irregular called rice pearls to round. They can range from an average of 3mm -10mm. ø.

It must be noted that there are other kinds of sort after pearls including the rare pink conch pearl, the abalone pearl and the paua shell pearl from New Zealand known as the Empress pearl. 

- Ronnie Bauer

It’s green, it’s red, it’s blue it’s clear- it must be emerald, ruby, sapphire or diamond.

It may interest readers of our master classes to learn that until the early 1700s that anything red was a ruby and blue was a sapphire and anything clear was a diamond. Today’s gemmologist is familiar with the refractometer, spectroscope and specific gravity formula for dividing  gems into the 7 crystal systems and their scientific families of corundum, beryl, diamond etc. The early gem trader knew enough to know that there was a difference in the hardness between gems and that some gems “felt” heavier than others and that some “emeralds had a better green than others and that some diamonds where better than others because they were harder and the some rubies where redder than others but the early gem trader relied on no or poor science to back up their assertions. We know for instance that what we call today lapis lazuli was called sapphire by the ancient Greeks and Romans. A lot of the modern gem deposits weren’t even known before the 1700s. The most famous misnomer of a gem is in the British Imperial State crown. The “Black Prince’s Ruby” is a red Spinel. 

- Ronnie Bauer



In 1851 gold was discovered in Victoria, Australia and a gold rush to rival the Californian rush of 1848 was on. People from all over the world flocked to “golden triangle” enclosed by the towns of Ballarat, Bendigo and Wedderburn. As with all gold rushes, people of all trades arrived to find their fortune and as with all gold rushes, nearly all of them didn’t. As a result Melbourne’s jewellery industry got a kick start from two fronts. Firstly through the availability of gold to work with and the talents of the jewellers who didn’t make their fortune panning for gold. These persons many of which come from the Germanic States and middle Europe had to return to what they knew the manufacturing jewellery.

 A periocular movement that emerged from this was a Bacchanalian influence style called the grape and vine motif. This technique used finely pressed leaves of gold and fine wires in the shape grape vines were produced in a fine light weight pieces. Many demi parures comprising of brooches and earrings were manufactured. Some of the brooches swivelled whilst others had a hinged lid with a vine leaf design. Flowers and swallows motifs were also used. Some items also incorporated a local touch by using kangaroos and emus. Occasionally they were set rudimentally set with garnets and emeralds. Some of the makers that excelled in this style of jewellery were Lamborne and Wagner, Christian Qwist and Edward Shafer.


Ever since the sundial was replaced with the mechanical watch, man has been trying to produce watches that don’t need constant winding. The first attempt at an automatic movement was in 1770s when Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet claimed that he had invented a mechanical device for pocket watches which would only require winding once a week providing the watch was worn every day. A rival design was published in the late 1770s by Frenchman Hubert Sarton who claimed that Perrlet’s invention was based on his work. In 1780, the famous watch maker Abraham-Louis Breguet marketed the “automatic watch” based on the Perrelet patents and it is Breguet who has been credited with supplying the first type of automatic watch. Alas it was not a long lived exercise as the mechanism was too delicate and production stopped in the early 1800s after many consumer complaints. The next attempt was in the early 1900s in Switzerland and is called the 8 day watch. This pocket watch had a main spring which could be wound that kept eth watch ticking for 8 days before needing rewinding. A feature of these watches was that the fly wheel is visible through the front dial. The first true automatic watch to be successfully marketed was with the transition of watch from the pocket to the wrist. The movement of an arm was far more constant than the movement of the waist. The breakthrough came in 131 when Emile Borer, the technical head of Montres Rolex Watch Co invented the self winding rotor. The rotor  was the industry standard until the invention of the electronic watch.  

- Ronnie Bauer



1.      The Craftsmanship: Most reproduction rings are castings, meaning that a mold has been taken from an original ring, with a modern copy then produced using a casting process. Once a casting is made, it needs to be “cleaned up” by a jeweller. That is, removing bits of extra metal & smoothing rough surfaces. These processes take time & often they are very quickly finished leaving clues along the way. Such clues include porosity or tiny bubbles scattered across the ring, an orange peel like surface texture especially inside the filigree under-bezel or shoulder detail  & a general lack of handmade precision expected in an original antique or vintage ring. 

2.       The Metal: With the current popularity of white gold & platinum make sure the style of the ring fits the materials used in that period. Remember that no Victorian or Early Edwardian item could be made from either white gold or platinum, as these metals were not used in that time.

3.       The Facets: Take a close look at the type of faceting or polished angles on the gems. Antique cutting styles, such as European Cut, Old Mine Cut, Old Brilliant Cut, Transitional Cut, Single Cut & Rose Cut diamonds were cut using different faceting patterns, proportions & methods compared to today’s Modern Round Brilliant Cut diamonds. The quickest & easiest way to tell an antique cut from a modern cut is to look at the side profile. If the crown (the top sloping part of the stone) is high & the table facet (the flat top panel) is small, it’s probably an old stone. A Modern Round Brilliant Cut Diamond, by comparison will have a much lower & flatter crown, with a larger table facet. If an “antique” ring contains Modern Round Brilliant Cut diamonds, alarm bells should ring.

4.       The Settings: The setting styles commonly used have changed considerably over the years. Georgian & Victorian jewellery often used pressed down silver settings, to encircle the diamond or gemstone in little claw like folds. Art Deco was known for its grain, bezel or rub settings, finished with fine millegraine edges. Often, the quality of the millegraine can give valuable clues to the age of the piece. Sharp, unworn claw or rub settings & millegraine edges are a good sign that a ring may be new.

5.       The Stamps: If you’re very lucky, the ring in question may stamped inside or outside the shank with any combination of  maker’s mark, purity mark or hallmark indicating metal purity, country or city of origin & even the exact year or era a ring was made. However, even the most humble purity stamp can sometimes give you a clue to the age of a ring, antique & vintage rings are stamped with an old fashioned 9ct, 14ct, 15ct, 18ct or 22ct punch. More often than not, modern jewellery will be marked with a more modern 375, 585, 750 or 916 purity mark, representing the percentage of pure gold used in the alloy.

-Ronnie Bauer


Egyptian revival jewellery.JPG

What goes around always seems to come back around. Our fascination with past civilizations since the age of enlightenment has meant that certain design elements have been incorporated into styles & art movement’s time & time again.

One style in particular, Egyptian revival, has had a rich history, surging to fashion with the archaeological exploration in The Valley of the Kings in the early 1800s & the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt in 1805. The trend eventually subsided only to return again with a frenzy, upon the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.

One of the most wonderful things about Egyptian revival is that, depending on which surge, the designs can reflect the French Empire movement, baroque or Rocco styles or Art Nouveau & Art Deco styles along with the traditional Egyptian styles.

The key elements of Egyptian revival include lotus leaves, cobras, scarabs, jackals and geometric motifs including wings as depicted in the carvings from the ancient pharaonic period. This particular example is unusual in that it depicts the embossed profile of Cleopatra.

-Ronnie Bauer


The suffragette movement was a powerful movement, beginning in the late 19th century & finishing successfully in the 1930s.  It was the time when women stood together & demanded the right to vote. They were willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their goal, including hunger strikes, setting fire to post boxes & even chaining themselves to the houses of parliament.

As these acts, to polite society, were considered quite 'unladylike', women became inventive in the way that they communicated their approval & support for the movement. The mantra for the suffragette movement was 'Give Women the Vote'. Taking the lead from the secretive Masonic movement, women often displayed their solidarity subtly, by wearing jewellery containing the three colours green, white and violet, representing the first three letters of their mantra.
Suffragette jewellery came in many forms including pendants, brooches & rings. The designs ranged from the simple to very elaborate & bridged the Art Nouveau, Edwardian & early Art Deco styles. Suffragette jewellery is in great demand today by collectors & everyday women alike. By the 1930s the movement had successfully accomplished its goals, giving women the right to vote in many countries all over the world.

-Ronnie Bauer


 Our knowledge of the use of garnets in jewellery dates all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, it was during the Austro/Hungarian Empire that garnet entrusted jewellery reached its zenith.

The discovery of the great pyrope garnet deposits in Bohemia, the heart of the empire, now the Czech   Republic, with their rich deep red colour, rose to the height of fashion in The Hapsburg   Court from the late 18th century, until the eventual fall of the Empire in 1918. The deep red colour was especially coveted as red & white were the proud, official colours of the Empire.

These Bohemian Garnet jewels often featured circular & cluster designs, encrusted with shimmering pyrope garnets, bringing out the rich deep red of the gems. Whole jewellery suites or parures were common place, with some of the colliers being particularly magnificently. Just as with the Scottish pebble jewellery, where non-Scottish stones were often incorporated as demand for these items increased, garnets from other geographic sources were salted into the jewellery, as supply outstripped demand.

To ascertain the age of Bohemian garnet jewellery, one must look at the style of the facets on the gems. The antique garnets feature a very high-domed style, rose cut, while the more modern pieces show a much more shallow or flat rose cut faceting. Also this was the era before the oxy-acetylene torch, so nearly all of the Bohemian garnets were set into silver, while the back plates and ring bands were often crafted in 8ct or 14ct yellow gold.

Modern examples of Bohemian garnet jewellery continue to be made today, often with inferior, dark or brownish garnets. One must be cautious not to mistake modern replicas for exceptional antique Bohemian garnet jewellery pieces.

 -Ronnie Bauer


Rhinosorus Horn Poaching.png

At the moment the interest in rhinoceros horn in Australia seems to be exploding. At Klepner’s we have seen several items come through for valuation and have been consulted by many auction houses in order to verify the authenticity of various objects made from rhinoceros horn. 

The dreadful truth is that in addition to being carved, rhinoceros horn is being consumed in Traditional Chinese Medicine to cure wide array of maladies, from headaches to cancer and even as a form of Viagra, where it sells for about $2000.00 per kilo. This “base” price sets the bench mark in exactly the same way that the spot price sets the base price for gold in jewellery and that price is rising.

It cannot be argued that some very fine, exquisitely carved, historical & antique artefacts have been carved from rhinoceros horn, particularly those carved during the Quian Long period (1736-1795) in China. Items such as libation cups, brush washers, vases and carved whole horns, featuring base relief carving, are seen in many museums in the world and of course, private collections.

It is illegal in Australia to import, buy or sell rhinoceros horn, unless it is a verified antique, in the same way ivory & coral are protected, this is where we often come in. The problem is, where the is demand, there is always someone, somewhere, waiting to capitalize on it. Currently three of the five species, the Sumatran, Javan and Black Rhino are all listed as 'critically endangered'.

An upcoming edition of the Australian Gemmologist will include a paper I have written on this very unsettling subject. As the saying goes No one in the world needs rhino horn, but a rhino.

- Ronnie Bauer


It never ceases to amaze, the ways in which jewellery pieces are reinvented time and time again, from generation to generation. The single earring, turned into an exquisite pendant or brooch, or as in the case of the earrings pictured, a diamond star burst brooch which has been reborn, converted into delicate drop earring. 

Some conversions are truly ingenious, while others make us wonder if the piece wouldn't have been better preserved in it’s original state. We often find ourselves trying to imagine what the original would have looked like and in some cases how spectacular a complete parure may have been. It is important when considering an alteration to your precious family heirlooms to bear in mind what changes are reversible and irreversible and whether the jeweller you have entrusted has a knowledge of antique and vintage jewellery techniques. Remember, there is no job too small not to be treated with great consideration and care.

-Ronnie Bauer


Due to the hardness of quartz, which is measured as seven out of ten, as opposed to organic material, such as helmet shell, which is measured as two out of ten on the Mohs Hardness scale, many fantastic hardstone cameos have withstood the test of time compared to the softer, more easily damaged organic cameos.

Hardstone cameos of great artistry have been recovered, dating back as far as the third century BC.The detail achievable on what is known as hardstone cameos can be both exquisitely delicate and intricately carved. Utilizing the contrasting colours found naturally in many quartz minerals such as sardonyx and banded agates, the artist can create a boldly contrasting or delicately multi layered, coloured portrait, sometimes retaining three or even four colours. 

Hardstone cameos are difficult & time consuming to carve, thus requiring the extraordinary skill, patience and artistic vision of master crafts people and fetching high prices, both presently and historically. The motifs used in hardstone cameos often include classical beauties and neo-classical Grecian and Roman scenes. 

-Ronnie Bauer


The world famous jewellery and decorative art house of Fabergé, is best known for its exquisitely crafted, elaborately jewel-encrusted Fabergé Eggs. However, The House of Fabergé is also highly celebrated for its impressive range of jewellery and other ornamental objects such as, enameled gold and silver gilt, as well as photograph frames; gold and silver boxes; desk sets and timepieces.

The extraordinary piece illustrated is an absolutely striking, antique Fabergé cigarette case, which has been brought to us for verification. What makes this piece so special, apart from its impressive provenance and that it was crafted by the world famous workshop of Fabergé, is the slot running the length of it side. This slot would have contained what is known as a “tinder cord”. A tinder cord is a cord made of hemp, which, when lit would remain burning until retracted back into the case where it would extinguish itself due to lack of oxygen. The fashion of smoking cigarettes took off the late 1800’s, while matches, which were invented in 1852, remained relatively expensive and at times difficult to procure. The tinder cord was utilized for lighting multiple cigarettes, pipes and cigars at once, thus saving valuable matches. 

The case has been engraved on the inside lid in Russian “From Field-marshall Great Prince Nicolai-Nicolaevecha to captain the elder Alex Josefouvicu Maravichu 1890 August 29th Warzawa”, providing excellent, clear provenance.

This superb cigarette case has been recently sold by Leonard Joel’s Auction. Please contact John D’Agata, Head of Jewellery, for further information.

-Ronnie Bauer


The use of turquoise in jewellery goes back to ancient times. The source of the finest turquoise throughout the ages has been Persia, which is currently known as Iran. 

Turquoise traveled to Europe through the silk routes and together with Lapis Lazuli, were regarded as the gems of the mysterious East. Due to its exotic origins and tremendous rarity, the use of turquoise in antique jewellery conveyed and air or exclusivity, affluence and class for the wearer. Many dazzling Victorian and Edwardian jewellery designs incorporated turquoise, often set in striking combination, with diamonds and seed pearls.

Interestingly, due to the current political climate in the East, procuring Iranian turquoise has again become very difficult. Although, today additional turquoise producing regions exist, including China and even The United States.

-Ronnie Bauer


Until the late 20th Century big game hunting was commonly accepted and widely celebrated as “sport”. Dark Africa and Exotic India were magnets for those rich enough and “brave” enough to venture into wilderness to slay a wild beast. In addition to the majestic creatures-turned-trophies brought home to adorn reading & lounge rooms in the most opulent homes of the time, were finely crafted jewellery pieces incorporating teeth and claws. These jewellery items were proudly dangled as fobs from watch chains, or given as luxuriously exotic brooches and pendants to fortunate ladies.

Fortunately times have changed and so have attitudes, the emphasis is now on conservation and regeneration of these fine creatures which were hunted to the brink of extinction and their habitat. 

-Ronnie Bauer