Monday, January 4, 2010
Believed to represent faith, loyalty, truth and devotion, garnet is known as the stone of commitment. Most people think of garnet as a single type of gem that is dark red in color. Actually, garnet is a gem family that spans a range of red, green, yellow, orange, purple and brown shades.
Garnet's name comes from the Latin "Granatus," which means "seed-like." Many garnet crystals have the shape and color of pomegranate seeds.
Best known among the garnets are the deep red almandine and pyrope garnets. Their widespread availability makes them extremely affordable (under $40 a carat). In recent years rhodolite, a mix of almandine and pyrope, has become increasingly popular and is found in light to dark pink to purplish red, even grape. Rare garnets as the green colored tsavorite, can cost several hundreds of dollars per cart.
Color is most important when determining the value of garnet. Lively, bright colors command higher prices than gems that are too light or dark. Better quality garnets are usually eye clean and very high clarity (not many inclusions) under magnification. Also watch out for synthetic imitations in lower priced jewelry.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1,400 BC, although beads shaped as shells and animals were produced widely in earlier times. By 300 BC, the Greeks had mastered making coloured jewellery and using amethysts, pearl and emeralds. Also, the first signs of cameos appeared, with the Greeks creating them from Indian Sardonyx, a striped brown pink and cream agate stone. Greek jewellery was often simpler than in other cultures, with simple designs and workmanship. However, as time progressed the designs grew in complexity different materials were soon utilized.
Jewellery in Greece was hardly worn and was mostly used for public appearances or on special occasions. It was frequently given as a gift and was predominantly worn by women to show their wealth, social status and beauty. The jewellery was often supposed to give the wearer protection from the “Evil Eye” or endowed the owner withsupernatural powers, while others had a religious symbolism. Older pieces of jewellery that have been found were dedicated to the Gods. The largest production of jewellery in these times came from Northern Greece and Macedon. However, although much of the jewellery in Greece was made of gold and silver with ivory and gemstones, bronze and clay copies were made also.
They worked two styles of pieces; cast pieces and pieces hammered out of sheet metal. Fewer pieces of cast jewellery have been recovered; it was made by casting the metal onto two stone or clay moulds. Then the two halves were joined together and wax and then molten metal, was placed in the centre. This technique had been practised since the late Bronze Age. The more common form of jewellery was the hammered sheet type. Sheets of metal would be hammered to thickness and then soldered together. The inside of the two sheets would be filled with wax or another liquid to preserve the metal work. Different techniques, such as using a stamp or engraving, were then used to create motifs on the jewellery. Jewels may then be added to hollows or glass poured into special cavities on the surface. The Greeks took much of their designs from outer origins, such as Asia when Alexander the Great conquered part of it. In earlier designs, other European influences can also be detected. When Roman rule came to Greece, no change in jewellery designs was detected. However, by 27 BC, Greek designs were heavily influenced by the Roman culture. That is not to say that indigenous design did not thrive; numerous polychrome butterfly pendants on silver foxtail chains, dating from the 1st century, have been found near Olbia, with only one example ever found anywhere else
By approximately 4,000 years ago, jewellery-making had become a significant craft in the cities of Sumer and Akkad. The most significant archaeological evidence comes from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, where hundreds of burials dating 2900–2300 BC were unearthed; tombs such as that of Puabi contained a multitude of artifacts in gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli crowns embellished with gold figurines, close-fitting collar necklaces, and jewel-headed pins. In Assyria, men and women both wore extensive amounts of jewellery, including amulets, ankle bracelets, heavy multi-strand necklaces, and cylinder seals.
Jewellery in Mesopotamia tended to be manufactured from thin metal leaf and was set with large numbers of brightly-coloured stones (chiefly agate, lapis, carnelian, and jasper). Favoured shapes included leaves, spirals, cones, and bunches of grapes. Jewellers created works both for human use and for adorning statues and idols; they employed a wide variety of sophisticated metalworking techniques, such as cloisonné,engraving, fine granulation, and filigree.
Extensive and meticulously maintained records pertaining to the trade and manufacture of jewellery have also been unearthed throughout Mesopotamian archaeological sites. One record in the Mari royal archives, for example, gives the composition of various items of jewellery:
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 34 flat speckled chalcedony bead, [and] 35 gold fluted beads, in groups of five.
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 39 flat speckled chalcedony beads, [with] 41 fluted beads in a group that make up the hanging device.
1 necklace with rounded lapis lazuli beads including: 28 rounded lapis lazuli beads, [and] 29 fluted beads for its clasp
Outside of Africa, the Cro-Magnons had crude necklaces and bracelets of bone, teeth and stone hung on pieces of string or animal sinew, or pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing together. In some cases, jewellery had shell or mother-of-pearl pieces. In southern Russia, carved bracelets made of mammoth tusk have been found. The Venus of Hohle Fels features a perforation at the top, showing that it was intended to be worn as a pendant.
The first signs of established jewellery making in Ancient Egypt was around 3,000-5,000 years ago.The Egyptians preferred the luxury, rarity, and workability of gold over other metals. Predynastic Egypt had Jewellery in Egypt soon began to symbolize power and religious power in the community. Although it was worn by wealthy Egyptians in life, it was also worn by them in death, with jewellery commonly placed among grave goods.
In conjunction with gold jewellery, Egyptians used coloured glass in place of precious gems. Although the Egyptians had access to gemstones, they preferred the colours they could create in glass over the natural colours of stones. For nearly each gemstone, there was a glass formulation used by the Egyptians to mimic it. The colour of the jewellery was very important, as different colours meant different things; theBook of the Dead dictated that the necklace of Isis around a mummy’s neck must be red to satisfy Isis’s need for blood, while green jewellery meant new growth for crops and fertility. Although lapis lazuli and silver had to be imported from beyond the country’s borders, most other materials for jewellery were found in or near Egypt, for example in the Red Sea, where the Egyptians mined Cleopatra's favourite gem, theemerald. Egyptian jewellery was predominantly made in large workshops attached to temples or palaces.
Egyptian designs were most common in Phoenician jewellery. Also, ancient Turkish designs found inPersian jewellery suggest that trade between the Middle East and Europe was not uncommon. Women wore elaborate gold and silver pieces that were used in ceremonies
Jewellery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, for instance, only certain ranks could wear rings; Later, sumptuary lawsdictated who could wear what type of jewellery; again based on rank. Cultural dictates have also played a significant role; for example, the wearing of earrings by Western men was considered "effeminate" in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, the display of body jewellery, such as piercings, has become a mark of acceptance or seen as a badge of courage within some groups, but is completely rejected in others. Likewise, the hip hop culture has popularized the slang term bling-bling, which refers to ostentatious display of jewellery by men or women.
Conversely, the jewellery industry in the early 20th century launched a campaign to popularize wedding rings for men — which caught on — as well as engagement rings for men - which did not, going so far as to create a false history and claim that the practice had Medieval roots. By the mid 1940s, 85% of weddings in the U.S. featured a double-ring ceremony, up from 15% in the 1920s. Religion has also played a role: Islam, for instance, considers the wearing of gold by men as a social taboo, and many religions have edicts against excessive display