KEY WIND ANTIQUE POCKET WATCHES

Before the invention of the automatic and quartz movements, pocket watches required being manually wound up, first with the aid of a small key and later, by twisting the crown. 

These small and often highly ornate keys were crafted in both gold & silver with a shaft made from steel. Because the pins in the movement were made from steel, gold and silver were far to soft & malleable for the job.

Gentlemen would proudly wear these decorative keys as an attractive & functional addition to their watch chains. Today, the watch key has become the province of ladies, being worn as striking pendants or charms, often suspended as it would have been over a century ago, from an antique Albert chain worn around the neck.

-Ronnie Bauer

OLD CUT DIAMONDS VS MODERN ROUND BRILLIANT CUT; A CLOSER LOOK AT DIAMONDS PAST & PRESENT

Much has been written about the make or cut of diamonds.  These articles generally refer to the characteristics of what is known as the Modern Round Brilliant Cut, as opposed to antique cuts such as the Old European or Old Mine Cut. The charm and beauty of the old cut diamonds could be compared to a vintage car vs. a modern car. If you were to remove the engine from an antique Rolls Royce and put it into a modern Audi, of course it will not perform like a modern engine. However, in the classic car that same engine represents a large portion of the car’s charm, desirability and certainly value.

In the old days before lapidaries discovered the science of how light behaves within gemstones, the most important aspect of the gem was generally its weight. Diamonds, which naturally form in a cubic shape, were cut to save as much of the carat weight as possible. Due to their natural shape, cutting for weight resulted in higher crowns and smaller tables than you would expect to find on a well cut modern round brilliant diamond today. Often times the square corners of the rough diamond would be only softly rounded producing a cushion shape rather than round.  

The technology of diamond cutting has improved greatly over the centuries and more still today with the use of laser technology.  Today’s technology allows diamonds to be cut to perfect point at the base, where antique diamonds have had an extra facet at the based,  known as a culet. Despite their differences, antique cut diamonds are graded using the same system as modern diamonds, in terms of colour and clarity. However, applying the same proportion and symmetry grades to them would be positively ludicrous, like comparing the construction code of the Eiffel Tower to a modern high-tech wind turbine. Old diamonds have the nostalgic beauty, allure and rarity of an old sepia photograph, where modern diamonds present the slick brilliance of modern mega-pixel, digitally enhanced photo.

- Ronnie Bauer

THE GEORGIAN JEWELLERY ERA

The name George is not only synonymous with the kings of England, but with antique jewellery periods as well. When one calls something Georgian, it is in reference to pieces crafted between the years 1726 to 1837, during the reigns of King George II, III and IV. During this long period many styles were represented; Baroque, Rocco, Palladian and Regency, just to mention a few.

George V reigned from 1901 to 1936, a time which oversaw the decline of romantic influences in the jewellery, commonly seen during the Victorian era. Because the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods were so important, these jewellery periods are referred to by their style names rather than by regal era.

The last George to occupy the throne was the current Queen’s father, who reigned 1937 to 1952. This was the time of the second world war, which was followed by the world’s slow recovery from such a catastrophic time. Art movements retreated into their shells and so again nothing of that time is referred to as Georgian. It has been said that anybody over the age of thirty today will not be around when the latest George is finally crowned. What art movements will be influencing jewellery making then?

Who knows, maybe the period will be known as the Neo-Georgian period?

 - Ronnie Bauer

THE BUZZ ON VICTORIAN BUG JEWELLERY

Victorian Bug Brooch and Ring.JPG

The use of insect motifs in jewellery fell firmly into fashion in the middle to late 1800s. Many bug brooches, pendants and even rings were produced with delicate & intricate workmanship. These pieces could be adorned with any combination gems, in a kaleidoscope of  colours, to depict the body shape and eyes of the insect.

In a curious twist of etiquette, refined ladies and gentlemen would wear these little glittering creatures even though, in day-to-day life  they would be quite repulsed by their presence.

The bumble bee however requires very special attention due to it’s prestigious position as the royal emblem of the House of Bonaparte. Though France was a bitter enemy of England in the early 1800s, by the mid to late 19th century the allure of the French Empire period, under Napoleon III, saw the revival of the bee and his winged friends on both sides of the Channel. These fashion trends were thus transported throughout the English empire and the United States as well, through its close alliance with the French.

-Ronnie Bauer

THE COLOURFUL HISTORY OF ANTIQUE OPAL JEWELLERY

Did you know that opal wasn't declared the official gemstone for October until 1912?

One of nature’s most enchanting gems has had a fascinating history.  Opal’s reputation has swayed between being revered as the gem of the  gods in Roman times, to being regarded as  a gem of great misfortune in the 17th and 18th centuries, to again  being much admired in Late Victorian times, often adorning the frocks of  Queen Victoria herself.

The captivating natural phenomenon,  which gives opal its wonderful colour change, is known as “Play of  Colour.” Opal, in general, is formed from microscopic spheres of silica.  Precious opal, the kind used in fine jewellery, is comprised of highly  regularly shaped spheres, uniformly packed together. Light is refracted  off of these spheres, bending the light into a rainbow of spectral  colours. An immense variety of colours and patterns can be formed in  this way, while the largest spheres produce vibrant reds, the smallest  ones will display heavenly blues. This means that every opal is like a  snowflake, each one unlike any other, unique with its very own  personality. Though red is often considered the most desirable colour,  beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. It’s up to you to discover  which colours and patterns capture your imagination.

-Ronnie Bauer

ANTIQUE DEAREST & REGARD JEWELLERY

In  the romantic era of the 1750s to the early 1900s, some the most admired  jewellery items to both give and receive, were gem set pieces designed  to spell sentimental words such as “Regard” and “Dearest”.

These words were acronyms, spelled using the first letter of each  gemstone, for example, “REGARD” was spelled using an R for ruby, E for  emerald, G for garnet, A for amethyst, R for ruby again and  D for diamond. The word DEAREST was illustrated by using a D for  diamond, E for emerald, A  for amethyst, R for ruby, E for emerald, S  for sapphire and  T for tourmaline.

These love sentiments were incorporated into various items of jewellery including rings, brooches and lockets.

The Late Georgian “REGARD” ring pictured below is a very interesting  example, as it is richly layered in metaphor. The floral posy design  with the word “REGARD" spelled out in gems is held by clasped hands  which  is a motif borrowed from the traditional Irish Claddagh ring. The  brooch, more simply, has the word “REGARD” embossed decoratively on its  face and hides a small locket in the back, perfect for a lock of hair  or a hand painted portrait.

-Ronnie Bauer

ANTIQUE MIZPAH JEWELLERY

A pillar of stones, a Mizpah, was erected by Jacob and Laban as a  covenant between them. They pledged to each other: "May the Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent from one another."

At the height of the romantic period in the late 19th and early 20th  Century, MIZPAH was incorporated into various items of jewellery with  the word usually engraved or embossed onto the item.

A common  design was the word Mizpah incorporated with one or two hearts, a bow  and sometimes a faith, hope, and charity or a garland of forget-me-nots.  It was also common for the verse from the bible to be engraved on the  item.

MIZPAH was used frequently by lovers departing for  distant shores and especially by people migrating to various parts of  the British Empire to places such as Australia, Canada and South Africa.

The sentiment remained in use until the First World War when  it fell out of favour with the end of romanticism and the sad fact that so few soldiers returned.

-Ronnie Bauer

ANTIQUE WATCH CHAINS & ALBERT CHAINS

Historically, jewellery items made for  gentlemen were quite scarce. Apart for pocket watches there were few  “toys for the boys”. The watch chain served as the central focus for  male adornment. Items that were attached to watch chains included medals, fobs, toothpicks pencils, vesta cases, Masonic balls and most commonly, sovereign cases.

Originally, a pocket watch was attached to a single strand of gold or  silver chain, while a fob or decorative ornament was secured to the  opposite end. Grasping the fob, the gentleman would be able to simply  pull the watch out of the trouser pocket with great ease.

In  the Victorian period, the fashion changed to the watch being carried in  the waist coat. The chain was strung from the waistcoat pocket to a  special button hole in the centre of the waistcoat. Originally this was a  single chain, however, Prince Albert of England started the trend of  wearing a double chain, thus utilising both the left and right waistcoat  pockets while giving the gentleman more space for ornaments and  gadgets. These double chains are known as Alberts, they were mainly used  for day wear and featured a swivel on each end with a t-bar in the  centre which passed through the buttonhole. A fine multi-stranded chain  with an ornate slide and tassel was used for more formal occasions. Many  designs were incorporated in the links, but the curb link was by far  the most popular. In America a fine chain that passed though the button  hole without the t-bar was also in vogue.

Watch chains were  mainly crafted in gold and silver, in the 1920’s alternating gold and  platinum links became the fashion. The watch chain passed into history  with the advent of the wrist watch. Today, Albert chains often adorn the  necks women, sometimes incorporating their original accessories  such  as elaborate engraved fobs, watch keys or lockets.

The Albertina was the lady’s equivalent to an Albert chain and will discussed in a future “Learning Lounge”.

-Ronnie Bauer

NAPOLEON & THE PARURE

The National Gallery of Victoria is currently showing, as its major exhibition, Napoleon; Revolution to Empire. This is a must see for anybody with an interest in antique jewellery.

On display are a spectacular range of finely crafted snuff boxes, silver wear, imperial regalia and personal jewellery items from the height of the French Empire Period. This period was the epitome of French chic. The workmanship is unimaginably fine and the style lighter and more delicate than the Rocco period. The opulence of the period is truly mind boggling.

One of the breathtaking jewellery displays is a twelve piece, boxed suite of jewels, known as a paruré, featuring fine malachite and pearls. A paruré is a term used to describe a matching suite of jewellery comprised of a minimum of three jewellery items, a collier, a ring, and earrings, but can include an infinite number of corresponding items. Today if a lady were lucky enough to possess only one piece of a paruré such as this, I can imagine she would be over the moon.

The snuff boxes that were given away as mere gifts for visiting dignitaries are exquisite pieces of art. The detail in the workmanship and the gem content in these pieces make each one of these treasures priceless. As an antique jewellery expert, the most interesting objects on display are the reproduction imperial crown jewels of Empress Marie Louise. Though great care was taken in getting the overall design right, it is clear that the old setting techniques have been lost to time. These items only serve to highlight the exceptional nature of the true French Empire Period jewels.

-Ronnie Bauer

ALEXANDRITE & OTHER NATURAL COLOUR CHANGE GEMSTONES

One of the most prized gemstones in the world, Alexandrite, is known to display this feature. It can be a brilliant apple green in sunlight and will appear strawberry red under incandescent lighting. It has been said to be “Emerald by day, Ruby by night”. The reason for this change is the way the light stimulates the chromium atoms in the crystal structure and the way our eye perceives these changes. Due to this mysterious phenomenon and it’s incredible rarity, Alexandrite has been highly sought after since its discovery in the early 1800s. Another gem which displays a beautiful change of colour is the very rare colour change variety of garnet. The colour change can be intense and equal to the colour change of top quality alexandrite.

This feature should not be confused with play of colour where the gem’s colour will change as the gem is titled in the same light source. An example of play of colour is opal.

-Ronnie Bauer

AN INTRODUCTION TO ANTIQUE CORAL JEWELLERY

Coral has been prized and desired in jewellery since the Roman era and until the discovery of coral in the South China Sea, the main source for coral was of the coast of Italy. Coral is found in a variety of colours and shades from white to red. The lighter shades come from shallow waters and the dark reds from deeper waters. Italian coral can be distinguished from the South China Sea coral by its uniformity of colour. The South China Sea coral has white flecks in the structure. Many intricate items were produced from coral and it has also been used as a medium for cameo work. 

The most prized coral is the very dark red and so care has to be taken to ensure that the coral hasn’t been treated and dyed.

Today the harvesting of coral has been banned to protect the marine environment. This is a good thing and is fully supported by the Klepner’s team. However this doesn’t detract from the beauty of antique coral items.

As coral is an organic product it is soft and has to be treated with care. It is porous and will absorb oils and soaps which permanently damage the colour. 

-Ronnie Bauer

ANTIQUE VICTORIAN SILVER JEWELLERY

The use of silver for making items such as candlesticks plates, cutlery and hollow-ware has been in production since silver was first discovered. Yet in the 18th and 19th century the production of silver jewellery items was extremely limited. 

It was only from the 1880s that the jewellery production houses started to produce silver jewellery in quantity. Items such as bracelets, brooches, earrings, sovereign & vesta cases, watch chains, collars & lockets, etc. became common place, especially for day wear. In keeping with the romantic Victorian age, lockets were highly sought after to hold a lock of hair or miniature portraiture of a loved one. 

After the 1880s the production of silver jewellery was far more prevalent than the production of gold jewellery. Yet today, relatively little antique silver jewellery has survived. The reason is twofold, firstly due to the cost and value of these items, when they broke few people bothered to repair them and secondly during The Great War, governments on both sides sent out the call for precious metal to be donated to the cause. Most people patriotically donated their silver jewellery but tended to hide their gold pieces-just in case. Consequently, very few fine silver pieces have survived to present day. Those that have, command a premium and in some cases are worth as much as their gold counterparts. 

-Ronnie Bauer

CLEOPATRA & THE PEARL

Who threw the most expensive dinner party ever held? 

The myth goes that Cleopatra and Mark Anthony made a bet with each other on who could throw the most expensive dinner party. Anthony imported the most exotic animals, dancers, musicians wines, food and guests from all over the Empire. The lavish extravaganza party lasted for a week. After a few days recovery Cleopatra invited Mark Anthony to her party. He entered a great hall which was completely plain with the exception of a low table at one end. On the table was a single chalice filled with vinegar and in a shallow dish next to the chalice were two large uniform round pearls with excellent luster which today we would call South Seas Peals. Bamboozled Anthony sat down next to Cleopatra. She then took the pearls and dropped them into the chalice. As vinegar dissolves calcium carbonate (which is the chemical composition of pearls) the pearls fizzed and dissolved into the chalice. Cleopatra instructed Mark Anthony to drink the contents of the chalice. When he had finished she proclaimed that that drink had cost far more than the week long extravaganza that he had put on. 

The lesson to be learned from this fable is that as precious as pearls are, being an organic material they need to be looked after. Pearls have a hardness of only two on the Mohs scale of hardness. They should always be strung with knots so that they don’t rub against each other causing necessary wear and because they are also are very porous, oils and especially perfume can irrevocably damage the luster and colour of the pearls. This is why pearls should always be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off.

The allure and value of pearls has lasted down through the ages. Today, South Seas Pearls from the waters of Australia are amongst the most highly valued pearls in the world.

-Ronnie Bauer

LATE VICTORIAN & EDWARDIAN STAR & CRESCENT JEWELLERY

There are two schools of thought regarding the symbolism behind the use of the star and crescent design in Late Victorian and Edwardian jewellery.

The one school suggests that the star and crescent design is regarded as honeymoon jewellery. A piece given by the groom to his new bride on their honeymoon.

The second is that before the first world war, The Ottoman Empire was an exotic place to visit and the star and crescent was the symbol of that Empire that stretched from Egypt to Europe and a souvenir of trips to the exotic East. 

I subscribe to the second school. The mysterious East, the finding of the Valley of the Kings and the resurgence of interest in Mediterranean Archaeology all makes sense. The sudden disappearance of the Motif after Word War I  also ties in historically because Turkey was an ally of Germany and one the Central Powers. The end of Word War I heralded the end of Romanticism and ushered in a whole new way that people viewed the world and expressed themselves in all art forms. The use of the star and crescent would have been discarded because it would have been a reminder of the carnage in the Middle Eastern Campaigns (1914-1918). An interesting aside to both schools of thought is that many of the well-to-do persons would have taken their honeymoons in the Exotic East thus giving credibility to both schools of thought. 

Which school of thought do you believe?

-Ronnie Bauer

THE INTRODUCTION OF WHITE GOLD & PLATINUM JEWELLERY; THE BEGINNING

White Metal.JPG

During the Victorian, Edwardian and earlier periods the use of white gold and platinum were not known.

The use of contrasting colours in jewellery has been used since  jewellery was being made. Until the early 1900’s the only metals that could give a white and gold contrast were silver and gold.

Platinum was first discovered by the Conquistadors in the New World  during the 1500's. Due to the fact that jewellers could not make a flame  hot enough to work platinum, it was used for alloying silver. The  invention of  the oxy-hydrogen torch during the 1880s opened up a whole  new world for jewellers. The alloying of gold into a white colour and  the ability to work platinum became a reality.

Platinum is the  strongest of the noble metals and was first used for claw tips for  jewellery.  Following The Great War (1914-18) the new white metal became  popular and was incorporated into some Art Nouveau pieces. However, it  was the Art Deco period (1920-39) that cemented platinum’s place in  jewellery history. To use a 21st century phrase, platinum went viral.  Due to its strength many platinum pieces have come down to modern times  in very good condition.

The first a patent for white gold was  issued to Karl Richter of Pforzheim, Germany in 1915. As usual necessity  was the mother of invention with The Great War placing limitations on  the use of gold and silver. Richter invented an alloy for an white gold  composed of gold, nickel, and palladium. In 1917, David Belais of the  New York firm Belais Brothers, also invented a white gold alloy marked  “Belais.

“Condicio sine qua non”

Items made in platinum or white gold simply can not be antique… Yet.

-R. Bauer

VINTAGE MARCASITE JEWELLERY

Marcasite is iron pyrite and resembles a dark metallic bronze. When  marcasite is rose cut it reflects light of the facets giving the piece a  beautiful sparkle. It was used extensively in jewellery in Europe  particularly in France and Germany from  the 18th century on wards. Marcasite is usually set in silver, pewter or  base metal. The marcasites were mounted in  pavé settings to enhance the  sparkle. Pieces incorporating pastes and enamel work were also made.

Marcasite jewellery had a resurgence in the post war era of the 1920s,  as well as during the 1930s & 1940s when gold and silver were in  short supply.

-Ronnie Bauer

 

ANTIQUE CAMEO JEWELLERY & CARVINGS

"Cameo" refers to the technique of carving in relief. Primarily used on  helmet shell, pink conch shell and banded agate, utilizing the  contrasting layers. Cameo workmanship on a variety of media is well  known including ivory, jet, bog oak,  coral, amber, turquoise and opal. In many cases the quality of the  carving can be worth more than the gold work. Much of the cameo work is  in neo classical style and many pieces in the Victorian era have a  symbolic meaning as well.

-Ronnie Bauer

A LOOK AT ANTIQUE VICTORIAN SCOTTISH PEBBLE JEWELLERY

With Queen Victoria’s love for Balmoral Castle in the Scottish highlands  a movement became popular using the agates from the Cairngorm mountains  in Scotland. The style of jewellery using typical Scottish motifs, was  called “Scottish Pebble” jewellery. The  items were usually made in silver and rarely in gold. Plaid pins, kilt  pins, brooches and bracelets displaying the cross of St Andrew were  common themes.

-Ronnie Bauer