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Edwardian Jewelry

Edwardian Jewelry: Classic Antique Design

Antique styles are extremely popular when it comes to engagement ring designs and there is a vast selection from all the different eras. Whatever your personal style is you will probably be able to find an antique ring that suits your tastes. One of the more popular time periods for antique rings is that of the Edwardian Era. Jewelry from this period is classic and traditional, as well as very feminine. While the name ‘Edwardian Jewelry’ may not be commonly known, I guarantee you the style is. It has a timeless appeal, which is the reason it remains in high demand today.

The High Society of the Edwardian Era

The Edwardian Era began in England in 1901 when Queen Victoria died and her son Edward took the thrown. The period ended in 1914 with the start of WWI. In France, the same period is referred to as ‘The Belle Époque’ or the beautiful age. King Edward and his Queen Alexandra were fashion leaders who helped established an international high society throughout Europe. This era is considered a romantic and elegant age, but it was also a time when the class system was rigid, and a huge gap in wealth existed between the high and low classes. Wearing fine jewelry was a necessity for those in high society, and it was worn to show one’s rank and wealth. While today it can be considered vulgar to flaunt extreme wealth, in Edwardian high society it was a requirement.

Design Characteristics and Inspiration

One of the defining features of Edwardian jewelry is the use of platinum. In 1903 the oxyacetylene torch was invented, which reached the high temperatures needed to melt platinum. Because platinum is one of the hardest and most durable metals, very delicate and intricate designs became possible without worry of breakage. Platinum is also excellent for setting diamonds, and the use of diamonds was widespread throughout this period. Another important feature in Edwardian jewelry is the technique of milgraining. This is when a small border of beads is created to surround the gemstones and follow the edges of the design. Miligrain adds a lighter and softer appearance to the metal.

Inspiration for the Edwardian style came from traditional motifs of the past. Neo-classical and Rococo artists of the 18th century, as well as the French courts of Versailles were all influences. The famous jeweler Cartier had his designers wander the streets of Paris looking at 17th and 18th century architecture for inspiration. Pattern books featuring ornamental designs from the past began to circulate widely during this time, and this was also reflected in the jewelry. Popular motifs were garlands, ribbons, wreaths, bows, knots and lace, which were all created with an airy lightness that platinum provided.

The Styles of the Time

Ladies in the early 1900’s wore silk and lace dresses in pastel colours, which matched the elegant platinum and diamond jewelry. Diamond ‘dog collars’ became hugely popular, as did black velvet chokers with a diamond motif in the center. Queen Alexandra would pile many jeweled chokers upon her neck, said to be hiding a scar from her childhood. Soon enough all the royal ladies and those in high society were copying her style. Brooches were typically worn on the dress until about 1910 when changing necklines led to the wearing of necklaces with one or two hanging pendants. Earrings were long with open work design that reflected the flowing gowns. Tiaras were an essential part of the elite lady’s outfit, and platinum allowed for elaborate design without being too heavy on the head. Rings had large center stones surrounded by smaller stones. Multiple stacked rings on the finger were also very trendy. Rings had elongated outlines, pierced work and filigree design. Some rings were so large they covered the finger from knuckle to knuckle. Women often wore their engagement rings on a different hand than their wedding band, as the engagement ring’s size and shape didn’t fit with a band.

End of an Era

This age of elegance abruptly ended in 1914 with the start of WWI in Europe. Platinum was needed for the war effort and jewelry production in Europe came to a halt. No longer could royalty and high society flaunt their wealth so freely when the entire country and continent was under fire. The jewelry industry did recover after the war and by the mid 1920’s the Art Deco style became all the rage. While the Edwardian era lasted for less than 15 years, its light and elegant designs remain in style today. For today’s engagement rings, the white metal and white diamond style is definitely the most popular look. Many elements from antique Edwardian rings are still very common, such as milgraining and small diamonds surrounding a larger one. It just goes to show you that, like most fashions, when it comes to jewelry – what goes around, comes back around.

Image Credit: Berganza

Art Deco Rings

Art Deco Jewelry: Timeless Elegance

Anyone who has any interest in jewelry has probably come across the term Art Deco many times. Whether you are looking at rings on Pinterest, trying on earrings in a store, or shopping online for the perfect necklace, Art Deco keeps popping up. That’s because even though Art Deco is an antique style, it is soaring in popularity these days. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this period in jewelry.

Origins in Paris of 1925

Art Deco style got its name from the 1925 ‘Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industrial Modernes’. This was a World’s Fair in Paris which showcased modern designs in decorative art. This new design style came to be known as Art Deco and was applied to architecture, jewelry, fashion, art and interior design. This new style celebrated modernity and technology and was a direct response to the austerity caused by WWI.

Design Characteristics and Influences

Art Deco design has simple clean lines, uses symmetry and repetition and has a strong focus on geometric shapes. It is also known for its rich colours and unusual materials. The jewelry was often set with calibre cut gemstones, which means the gems were cut precisely to fit into a specific design, usually to enhance the geometric pattern. A big influence on the Deco aesthetic was the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, which was opened in 1922 and revealed the ancient jewelry and art of Egypt. Designers were also influenced by Indian, African, Oriental and Persian design.

Prominent Jewelers

Jewelry sales were booming in the 1920’s, reflecting the growing consumerism and affluence of people in both Europe and North America. The big name jewelry houses designed in the Deco style, and many of their most famous pieces are from this era. Tiffany, Cartier, Mauboussin, Lalique, Fouquet, Boucheron, Harry Winston and Van Cleef and Arpels are just a few of the houses with stunning Art Deco jewelry in their archives. These jewelers usually signed their work and these signed pieces sell for very high prices at auctions today. It was also during this period that Van Cleef and Arpels invented their famous invisible gem setting technique, in which gem stones are mounted through a system of grooves and rails so that no metal is visible.

Fashion Inspired

The Art Deco jewelry styles directly related to the fashions of the time. WWI had brought major changes to woman’s clothing, as many stopped wearing corsets and the dropped waist look became the trend. Short sleeves, shorter hemlines and short hair all rounded out the look of a fashionable lady. Fashion designers Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel helped bring forward modern fashion, with Poiret disposing of the corset and dressing women in trousers, and Chanel’s sportswear inspired clothing and little black dresses.

Necklaces were worn long to compliment the drop waist dresses. Long ropes of pearls were extremely stylish and have come to be known as the ‘flapper’ style. Another necklace style was the Sautoir, which was a long necklace that suspended a tassel or ornament and was often convertible and could be taken apart to wear as a bracelet, choker or pendant.

Bracelets were a big focal point as the arms were now bare and often multiple ones were stacked up the arm. They were large and often had many rectangular shaped links which would be covered in diamonds, usually the square ‘French cut’ style which complimented the geometric designs.

Earrings were long and dangly to show off the short haircuts and were often set with many diamonds. Most women didn’t have pierced ears and these earrings were usually screw backs.

Dress clips were another popular option, which looked similar to a brooch but instead of a pin it had a clip on the back. Women would wear these on their belts, shoes, purses, hats and lapels.

No stylish lady would go out for the evening without a minaudière, a small case for holding a woman’s belongings, usually bejeweled and covered in lacquer which mimicked the look of enamel. It was always held in the hand, like a modern clutch, and was a great canvas for Deco designs.

The style for engagement rings was usually a diamond surrounded by many smaller diamonds that were often calibre cut. Diamonds in the emerald cut and baguette cut looked great in the simple geometric styles. Rings with large coloured stones cut in cabochon style were a popular style for cocktail rings. For bands it was stylish to have either rubies, diamonds, sapphires or emeralds eternity set around the ring, and these were often stacked on one finger.

A Lasting Influence

If the jewelry described sounds like much of the jewelry which is worn today, that’s because it is. Although the Art Deco style fell out of fashion around the time of WWII, it is now beloved for its clean modern look and the amazing techniques of the jewelers of the time. Original Art Deco pieces are now collectibles and can be very pricey. However, many people choose to have a custom jewelry piece made in the style of Art Deco. This can be a much more reasonably priced option, as well as will ensure you get exactly what you want. If you are looking for a ring, or any other jewelry item in the Art Deco style, please contact us at Kimberfire and we’ll create your perfect piece!

Image Credit: Berganza

Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

The Haunting Beauty of Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

Every October the air gets cooler, the nights get longer, and witches and skeletons start appearing in our neighbourhood. Our once cheerful flower gardens become graveyards, while jack-o-lanterns and cobwebs cover every door stoop. Of course this is all to celebrate Halloween, the one night a year that the spirits of the dead are said to be able to cross over into the world of the living, and the living dress in disguises to trick the spirits into leaving them alone. In keeping with this spooky holiday we will look at jewelry designed around the subject of death, in the styles of Memento Mori and mourning jewelry.

Memento Mori

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which means “Remember that you will die” and can refer to art, jewelry, or literature that focuses on mortality. Memento Mori as an artistic genre is thought to have originated in Roman times and gained popularity in Europe in the 14th century, which coincidentally was the time of the Black Death. Memento Mori jewelry was decorated with the iconography of death, such as skulls, skeletons, and coffins. It was worn to remind the wearer of their own mortality and to inspire them to live piously and cherish their earthly life.

Memorial Jewelry

In the 17th century the Memento Mori style began to be used to commemorate the death of a particular person. Rings were the most common memorial jewelry but lockets, pendants and brooches were also produced. This jewelry would have the name and age of the deceased, and their date of death engraved into gold. The images of skulls, skeletons and coffins were still common and the jewelry was usually decorated with black enamel if the deceased was married and white enamel if they were unmarried. Money was often left in the will of the deceased for the creation of mourning rings, which were to be distributed to their close friends or family after they had passed.

Victorian Mourning Jewelry

In 1861 Prince Albert, the beloved husband of Queen Victoria died of typhoid. The queen was swept into deep mourning, which was imposed on all the British court. While the Victorian people still had a high mortality rate, it was Victoria’s response to Albert’s death that was the catalyst for the public to adopt mourning fashions. Death and grieving was a public act, and an entire industry was created to fulfill the massive demand for mourning clothes and jewelry. Skulls and skeletons were still popular motifs, as well as hourglasses, urns, willow trees, forget-me-nots and weeping eyes. In the first stages of mourning a widow was only allowed to wear black clothes and jewelry, which led to the trend of jet jewelry. Jet is black fossilized driftwood, which was mined in Whitby, England and was turned into jewelry by sculpting or faceting into beads. Because of the high cost of jet many imitations were created which led to the first plastic ever to be used in costume jewelry. Another style of mourning jewelry that gained popular was hair jewelry, in which the hair of the deceased was incorporated into the design. Some hair jewelry used strands of hair to make miniature portraits and scenes, while another style was to braid or weave the hair so that it resembled lace. Hair jewelry was a way to keep a part of a loved one with you forever. Hair jewelry went out of fashion with the rise of photography, as people opted to keep lockets with a photograph of the deceased instead.

The Perfect Halloween Accessory?

Although you can still find jewelry designs today incorporating skulls, they are usually for aesthetic purposes only and don’t hold the spiritual meaning they used to. In today’s society we don’t like to dwell on death or the idea that our lives could be over at any time. The societies of the past didn’t have that option as their lack of medical and scientific expertise meant they had very high mortality rates and death was all around them. In spite of such hardships the jewellers of the time were able to use the darkness of death to inspire such beautiful work. And while we may not want to wear jewelry as a reminder of death on an everyday basis, it is the perfect accessory for a scary Halloween.

Images Courtesy of Art of Mourning

Platinum and Gold Rings

A Class on Gold vs. Platinum Jewelry

September is here, summer is coming to a close (sadly) and the kids are heading back to school. Whether starting kindergarten or first year at university, September is the month in which education is front and center. It is with that in mind that we will continue the learning process with a short course on the differences between yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, and platinum. While we can easily see the colour difference between the golds, what is it that makes them different? What do the different karats of gold mean? Is white gold or platinum better for a ring? We will provide you with all the information you will need to make a confident and knowledgeable jewelry purchase.

Pure Gold

Let’s begin by taking a look at gold. Gold is a chemical element from our earth that has been prized for its beauty throughout human history. Pure gold does not come in different colours such as pink or white, it is always only yellow. Gold metal is soft, malleable, has good tension and torsion strength and does not oxidize. The purity of gold is measured in karats which are measured out of a total of 24 parts, meaning pure gold is 24 karat gold. However 24K gold is extremely soft and unsuitable for jewelry, as it will bend and dent very easily. The solution for this is to mix the pure gold with other metals, a process called alloying.

Alloy Me to Explain

Pure gold is alloyed to change its working properties (such as hardness), change its colour or to reduce the cost of the material. Gold is commonly alloyed with copper, silver, zinc, palladium and/or nickel. Gold can be alloyed in 22K, 19K, 18K, 14K and 10K. 22K gold is not common in Europe and North America because it is still extremely soft, although it can be found in many Eastern countries. 19K gold is relatively new to the market, and therefore cannot be found everywhere. 19K gold is 79.2% pure gold with the remainder being other metals. 18K gold is a very common alloy and is 75% pure gold. The other most common karat is 14K which is 58.5% pure gold. 10K gold is a cheaper and harder gold alloy that is only 41.7% pure gold. For important jewelry pieces such as wedding and engagement rings we would suggest 19K, 18K, or 14K. An understanding of alloying explains how pure yellow gold is made into various colours.

Yellow Gold

Yellow gold is the traditional colour of jewelry and has a beautiful warm hue. Yellow gold is usually alloyed with a mix of silver, copper and zinc. If you have diamonds which are lower in colour it is best to set them into yellow gold as a white metal will show the yellow in the diamond more.

Rose Gold

Rose gold or pink gold was popular in the early 1900’s especially in Russia, and it was often referred to as Russian gold. After falling out of favour for many years rose gold has made a comeback and is now a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings. It is a feminine metal that compliments all different skin tones. Rose gold is alloyed with copper and sometimes a small amount of silver or zinc. The colour can vary between a pale pink to almost a red depending on the amount of copper in the alloy.

White Gold

White gold first became popular in WWII as a substitute to platinum, as platinum was being put towards the war effort and its use in jewelry was prohibited. White gold is made by mixing pure gold with at least one white metal, such as palladium, manganese, nickel, silver or zinc. The one downside of alloying with nickel is that it can cause allergic reactions in some people. There are white gold alloys that don’t contain nickel and you can always ask your jeweller what alloy they use. White gold is not a pure white colour and has a slight shade of yellow or gray. To achieve that bright white colour the white gold is plated with rhodium, which is very similar to platinum but even harder and whiter. Rhodium plating will wear down over time and will have to be re-plated every few years.

Platinum

Platinum is also a chemical element from the earth. It was first used for jewelry by ancient South Americans in about 100AD, but their methods of working with platinum were lost with their culture. When platinum was re-discovered by the Spanish conquistadors they thought it was a lesser metal, and couldn’t work with it as it wouldn’t melt. Platinum has such a high melting temperature that its jewelry uses were very limited until the invention of the oxyhydrogen torch in the mid 1800’s. By the late 1800’s platinum jewelry was all the rage and was especially valued for diamond settings. Platinum was one of the most popular choices for jewelry until WWII when it was banned for all non-military uses. Yellow gold or white gold was the prevalent metal used for jewelry until platinum made its comeback in the 1990’s. Platinum is a dense, malleable, ductile, unreactive grey-white metal. In jewelry it is used in an almost pure form, usually 90-95% platinum. It is alloyed with a small amount of iridium or ruthenium, which are metals similar to platinum, which help make the metal easier to work with. Platinum is a very dense metal which means a platinum ring will be heavier than a gold ring. Platinum is also more expensive than gold because it weighs more and because it is a rarer metal. Platinum is very durable and doesn’t bend easily making it perfect for gem setting. Platinum does scratch easier than gold alloys, however when gold is scratched it is actually losing metal, while in platinum the metal is just being displaced. This leads to the patina finish seen in antique rings. To keep your platinum rings high polish they will have to be re-polished by a goldsmith on a yearly basis.

So Which Metal to Choose for Your Jewelry?

There is no right or wrong choice when deciding on a metal. Yellow and rose gold are chosen primarily for their colour and are an excellent choice for someone who likes a warm metal hue against their skin. For those looking for the white metal look that is extremely popular these days, the choice is between white gold or platinum. One is no better that the other, they each merely have different pros and cons. White gold is less expensive and lighter than platinum and is a strong alloy. However when it is scratched there will be some metal loss and it needs to be re-plated with rhodium every few years. Platinum is very pure and strong and perfect for setting stones. It has very minimal metal loss and can develop a beautiful antique look. It is heavier and more expensive than white gold. It does scratch more easily than gold and if a perfect high polished look is what you are after, it will have to be re-polished on a yearly basis.

Class Dismissed

Even though many of us aren’t back at school it is important to keep learning all the time. This short course was meant to help explain terms that we always hear about but perhaps weren’t really sure what they meant. This knowledge can help make the jewelry buying process much easier and you can be confident that you have made an informed decision. Class dismissed!

Engagement Ring Trends

Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Trends for 2015

Here at Kimberfire we spend each day surrounded by diamonds… in rings, earrings, necklaces and every other style of diamond jewellery you can think of. We love diamonds so much that it doesn’t really seem fair to call it work, does it? A lot of our clients come to us to help them create the engagement ring or wedding band of their dreams. Working one-on-one through the design process has provided us with insight on what the top wedding jewellery trends of 2015 are.

I See Your Halo

While this is definitely not a new trend, the halo design has shown it has staying power. A halo setting is one where a larger center stone is surrounded by very small stones, which go all around the stone like a halo (so that’s why it’s called that!). This style of setting is very intricate and feminine and also creates the illusion of the center stone being larger than it is, which is definitely a selling point. In the beginning this style of setting was usually created around a round diamond, but these days we regularly create halos around all the various diamond shapes.

Your True Colours

While the classic diamond engagement ring will always be in style, we have seen more people opting for coloured stones in their engagement rings. There is a lot of interest in fancy coloured diamonds, with a rise in people looking to have a yellow diamond in their ring. Sapphires are also a popular stone to have in engagement rings, as they come in many different colours and are the second hardest gem next to diamond. A coloured gemstone in the center can be a great option for a couple on a tighter budget, and this looks beautiful surrounded by a white diamond halo. Coloured gems are also a great option for side stones, as they create a unique accent and help the center diamond really pop.

From Here to Eternity

It’s not only engagement rings that are following certain trends, but wedding bands as well. While in the past it was common to have a plain gold band as the wedding ring, these days anything goes. These days ladies (and men!) are opting for even more sparkle by adding diamonds to the band. Our most requested style of wedding band for ladies is the eternity band, in which the gold or platinum band is covered in a row of diamonds that circle the entire ring. This style of ring shows minimal amounts of the metal, and the diamonds constantly sparkle as the different facets hit the light. The eternity band is also a sentimental choice as it represents unending love and commitment.

Tickled Pink

While many couples are still asking for rings in white gold and platinum, we have seen a boost in people asking for rose gold. Rose gold is created when yellow gold is mixed with a percentage of copper to make a new alloy. Rose gold is a great choice for people wanting a warmer metal and it looks great on many different complexions. The pink colour is also very romantic and can be a great choice for a more feminine style of ring.

Through Thick and Thin

The last trend we will look at is that of the thin band. No matter what the style of the ring, what kind of diamond, or what colour metal, all across the board clients are requesting a thin band for their engagement ring. For the most part these thin bands are covered in pavé-set diamonds, and from afar appear as a thin line of sparkles. The thin band helps the diamond look larger and looks great when paired with an eternity wedding band. Stacking multiple rings on one finger is another trend, and some people are opting to have two wedding bands, one below and one above the engagement ring. The thin band makes wearing multiple rings a more comfortable option.

While some trends come and some go (thankfully!), we believe the above trends are beautiful and carry a timeless appeal. If you are looking for a custom engagement ring or wedding band in one of these popular styles, or even something completely different, then we are here for you. Contact us today and we’ll walk you through the entire process in your free consultation.