Category Archives: History

Dating Jewelry: Landmark Discoveries, Inventions, and Historical Events

Dating jewelry is done through multiple methods:  looking at design and stylistic clues; at construction techniques; at hallmarks; at materials used; and at patent numbers. However there are certain discoveries, inventions, and historic events that are milestones in jewelry history and knowing a few of them can help narrow down the date of a lot of pieces and eliminate some faulty attributions.  I’ve arranged these chronologically and included items of interest to collectors of both fine and costume jewelry. read more

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Identifying Georgian and Victorian Fakes

fakesUPDATED FEBRUARY 2016 

I love Georgian and Victorian jewelry and am horrified by the quantity of fakes on the market.  In an attempt to bring these fakes to light, I’ve been undertaking an intense study of reproductions that are available for sale. fakesWhile these pieces are being sold as “reproductions” by their manufacturers, they rapidly hit the secondary market as genuine antiques, sometimes by unscrupulous dealers, and sometimes by people who genuinely believe they are old. Studying fakes won’t necessarily teach you how to spot genuine antiques, but it will hopefully help prevent you from making purchasing mistakes. read more

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The Jewelry of Margot de Taxco

Margot de Taxco
Pair of Brooches

Margot van Voorhies Carr, known as “Margot de Taxco” was one of the great designers of Mexican jewelry in the mid-20th century. After moving to Mexico in 1937 she married Antonio Castillo who was working for William Spratling. While still working for Spratling Antonio produced and sold jewelry designed by Margot; because it sold well, Antonio, Margot and his brothers and cousins established “Los Castillo” in 1939 with Margot as principal designer.

After divorcing Antonio Castillo Margot opened “Margot de Taxco” in 1948.  According to Penny Morrill and Carole Berk in “Mexican Silver”, Margot designed everything that her company produced and had book of instructions and drawings for each piece of jewelry detailing their construction and finishing. read more

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Loyola Fourtane: Studio Jewelry Among the Bohemians of Sausalito

Curious marks on a piece of jewelry started me on a journey into the world of mid-20th century bohemian California: why were the words “Lassen” and “Sausalito” engraved on the back of the brooch when Mount Lassen is hundreds of miles north of Sausalito?

As I looked closer at the piece, I could make out some other words: SS, Fourtane, Loyola. Thinking the SS stood for “Sterling Silver”, I ignored it. The mystery was solved when I discovered that Ed and Loyola Fourtane, husband and wife artists and studio jewelers, lived and worked in Sausalito on a former lumber boat, the SS Lassen, from the mid-1930’s until the 1950’s. read more

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Maker and Muse, part 2: the ASJRA Conference

Conference
ASJRA
Necklace by Sybil Dunlop

I recently attended the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA).  This year the conference was held in Chicago in conjunction with the exhibit Maker and Muse, Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry at the Driehaus Museum.  Elyse Zorn Karlin, curator of the exhibit, is one of the founders and co-directors of ASJRA.

Day 1
ASJRA
Mosaic fireplace surround at Driehaus Museum

The first day of the conference began with a tour of the Driehaus Museum and a curator’s tour of the exhibit.  Click here to see my post about the exhibit. read more

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Maker and Muse, part 1: Exhibit and Book

Maker and Muse Exhibit
maker and muse
Child and Child tiara
maker and muse
Stained glass dome in the Driehaus Museum

I recently visited the exhibit Maker and Muse, Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago.  Curated by Elyse Zorn Karlin, author of Jewelry and Metalwork in the Arts and Crafts Tradition, the exhibit explores the multiple roles women played in the creation of early 20th century art jewelry as makers, patrons, and subjects.  About half of the 250 pieces in the exhibit are drawn from the collection of Richard H. Driehaus – founder of the museum – and half are on loan from other museums and private collections.  I was in Chicago to attend the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA) which was focused this year on the subjects covered in the museum exhibition.  For my post on the conference click here. read more

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Links From Around the Web: the Jewelry of Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey
Lady Violet’s Russian-inspired Tiara

There’s a fun article in the most recent newsletter of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) about the jewelry created for the TV show Downton Abbey.  The article includes an interview with Andrew Prince, the jewelry designer for the show, where he discusses the historical precedents and inspirations for the jewelry and features lots of tiaras and hair jewelry.   Make sure to click on the the text at the bottom of each photo in the slide show to get detailed info about each piece shown: read more

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Building a Library of Jewelry Books: Victorian

Victorian
Victorian Pearl Pendant

During the Victorian era (1837-1901) a series of major inventions, discoveries, and movements influenced the design of jewelry.  The industrial revolution allowed jewelry to be manufactured at lower cost and in greater quantities than ever before, and thus become available to a wider segment of the population.  In the mid-19th century, after 200 years of isolation, foreign merchant ships began to visit Japan and Japanese design had a major impact on jewelry and the decorative arts in the latter half of the 19th century.  In the 1870’s diamonds were discovered in South Africa and this, combined with the invention of a torch hot enough to work platinum, greatly affected the look of jewelry for the next several decades.  On the other hand, the Arts and Crafts movement arose as a reaction to the industrial revolution, and looked back toward a romanticized view of the middle ages (this will be the subject of its own blog post). read more

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The Hierarchy of Jewelry Auctions

jewelry auctions
The Graff Ruby

With Magnificent Jewels auction season underway I thought I’d clarify what this term means in the context of jewelry auctions.  When major auction houses hold jewelry auctions the terms “Magnificent Jewels”, “Important Jewels”, and “Fine Jewels” are used to describe them. While, on the one hand, these terms are adjectives that describe the jewelry being auctioned, the auction houses are really referring to the monetary value of the jewelry being auctioned without being so gauche as to say it outright. read more

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Links from Around the Web: Modernist Jewelry of the 1930’s

I came across a fantastic article about fine modernist jewelry of the 1930’s by Audrey Friedman of Primavera Gallery in New York:

Modernist Jewelry of the 1930’s

Audrey Friedman will be the 2015 honoree of the “Women of Estate and Antique Jewelry” award at next summer’s Antique Jewelry and Art Conference, better-known as “Jewelry Camp”.

Modernist Jewelry
Modernist Jewelry of the 1930’s: Coro Duette and matching bracelet
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