What is the difference between silver and white gold?

White gold is a mixture of pure yellow gold and other white metals, to give it a white presence very much like silver. White gold is often coated with a metal called Rhodium to strengthen and give it an extra shine and long lasting quality. On the other hand, Sterling Silver is pure silver that is mixed with copper to make jewelry, and has a shiny white look like white gold. This is an affordable alternative to white gold, although it does need polishing more often.

The determination between white gold and silver isn’t as easy of a choice as it once was. Many people today are choosing the exquisite look of silver even when they can afford gold, and others who thought they couldn’t afford gold are choosing the pure, shiny gloss that only white gold can offer.

A lot of people actually question what the difference is between the two. Due to their similar looks, it’s obviously tough to tell the difference between silver and white gold at first glance. They’re so comparable, it’s possible to think they are the same thing, or made of similar materials, when this could not be further from the truth! But, before you make a decision it’s important to weigh out the pros and cons of white gold vs. silver before deciding on one or the other.

Silver is a shiny, white precious metal that’s often mixed with copper when making jewelry, also known as sterling silver. Mixing pure silver with other materials gives it the strength to ensure it won’t be too soft to create beautiful jewelry pieces. Sterling Silver is the least expensive of the white metals. It’s usually stamped “925,” which means 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals.

White gold is created by combining pure gold and a white metal such as nickel or palladium, which gives the unique shiny white look to the regular gold. Many people have concerns about whether white gold or silver products contain nickel, since it’s such a common source of sensitivity. Nickel is the main metal people are allergic to, and jewelry that contains this can be very irritating to the skin and cause itchy and painful reactions. It’s important to ensure that if you have sensitivities to nickel, that any piece of jewelry you buy will be nickel-free.

There is a material called Rhodium, which is a precious metal often used for plating white gold jewelry, because of its alluring finish and how it gorgeously sets off the white gold. The Rhodium plating is perfect to include with the white gold; however this finish does wear off over time and require re-plating occasionally.

Silver – Has a very shiny and lustrous finish, Is an affordable and beautiful budget-friendly alternative, Substantially lower price than white gold, Tends to be much softer than white gold and can change shape over time, Silver also shines brightly when new; however this will need to be cleaned more frequently to maintain its lustrous look, because it often tarnishes.

White Gold –Has a beautiful mirror-like white shine, from its Rhodium plating, Is a great choice if you have a higher budget and want a fine quality material, Considered an investment, since it’s a very high quality and damage-resistant material, Has a more durable, hard finish that’s able to hold more intricate details, Stays shiny for a long time, needs re-plating with Rhodium every couple years or so.

One of the biggest differences, when you’re weighing white gold or silver, is clearly the price. Silver is a much cheaper material, and is quite beautiful if you are on a budget and looking for quality elegant sterling silver jewelry. White gold costs $23.86 per gram, while sterling silver costs only $0.59 per gram. So when you’re making the difficult decision between white gold vs. silver, cost is definitely a major deciding factor for most people. But you might be surprised by a beautiful piece of white gold jewelry you absolutely adore. And while it might be a stretch to afford gold, it’s definitely worth the higher price tag for white gold to invest in a lasting, beautiful quality piece.

At the end of the day, whether you choose white gold or silver, knowing and considering these different characteristics of these two metals will help you decide which option is going to give you the gorgeous piece of jewelry you’ll be proud to wear and enjoy for a lifetime.

Victorian Betrothal Rings

While engagement rings now are just an accepted part of the marriage tradition, that wasn’t always the case. Victorian betrothal rings or engagement rings are those which were designed and used during the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901 and are the rings

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Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882

that popularized engagement rings in general. Queen Victoria herself had a great influence on the styles of jewelry during her time. She was fond of jewelry and had an everlasting affection for her husband, Prince Albert. It was her love for a diamond that led to a revolution in diamond rings making them the favorite.

When it comes to jewelry, the Victorian era is classified into three parts – Early Victorian era, the mid-Victorian era, and late Victorian era. Many changes in the preference of metals and diamonds as well as gemstones were seen during the Victorian era.

Before 1854, lower karat gold alloys were used to make jewelry. Precious rings were created with 22k or 18k gold which had 75% of pure gold alloyed with copper, silver, nickel or sometimes a mixture of all these metals.

Rings were also made of silver before 1854. But after 1854, gold standards changed and even rings made of 15k, 12k and 9k gold were found in the market. The second biggest and most important change that took place was once the diamond mines in South Africa were opened in 1870.

Before this time, diamonds were rare and even if they were seen, clusters of small diamonds were found in the diamond rings. However, after 1870 and after the opening of South African large diamonds were made available and were  used in the making of wedding rings and engagement rings.

l_15k_ruby_snake_ring_1_org_l.jpgEarly Victorian engagement rings and wedding rings could be easily distinguished by their huge size and bright colors. Gemstones were used and bold designs were created in which snake designs were quite famous. Celtic designs were also pretty common these days. During this time, flashy and over-the-top designs were more common. These were from the heydays and early married days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The popularity of the snake patterned ring was because Albert had presented Victoria a snake and emerald ring as a betrothal ring. During that time, people blindly followed and considered whatever queen Victoria wore as the fashion. In fact, right from that time, the Victorian engagement rings enjoyed years of popularity.

Gemstones popularly used during this time were amethyst, ruby, smoky quartz, chalcedony, moss agate, bloodstone, garnet, and topaz. It was a trend during those days and the rings were usually made of the bride’s birthstone.

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Brilliant Cut

Diamond rings at this time were mainly small clusters of diamond or a small diamond surrounded by circular or square shaped gemstones. The brilliant cut was the most popular diamond cut at that time along with the traditional rose cut.

During the middle years of the Victorian era, the engagement ring style took a different tone. Prince Albert died in 1861 and Queen Victoria took a long time to come out of the grief. During this time, memorial rings which were also known as mourning rings became highly popular. These were famous during the Georgian era too, a few years back.

During this time, the base metal was usually silver and gold with different karat values ranging from 18k to 9k. Rings made of gold alloyed with copper which was called rose gold rings were also very popular. Prevalent gemstones and designs during this time were emeralds, pearls, diamonds, opals, crystals, jet, black glass, and the ruby.

IMG_0133.jpgThe designs became more sophisticated and less showy. Popular jewelry design motifs were hearts, acorns, stars, bees, birds, insects, shells, some flowers as well as geometrical shapes. A gradual increase in the use of gold and diamond jewelry had started to be seen by this time.

The late Victorian era saw wedding rings designed in the shape of a boat, more use of pearls and light airy styles was seen. These rings worked as inspiration for the Edwardian era which was soon to arrive.

The diamond rush brought big changes in the engagement rings of the Victorian era. There was a shift from handcrafted rings to machine-made rings during this time. gradually the age-old technique of metal work was lost in history.

The late Victorian era saw solitaire diamond engagement ring made its debut and this became highly popular in the mid-1840s. People started using platinum for gemstones and diamond was also started to be set with platinum replacing gold and silver to a large extent.Victorian-Ruby-Grape-Cluster-14K-Gold-full-2-720-16-l-95a6ba-ffffff

During this time, the popular motifs were stars, feathers, bows and ribbons, lace-type filigree, double hearts, doves, oak leaves, crowns, grape clusters, and Egyptian designs. Popular gemstones were rubies, sapphires, aquamarine, peridot, chrysoberyl, turquoise opals, amethyst, and emeralds.

Betrothal rings were made of metals including 18k, 15k, 12k, and 9k yellow gold along with silver, rose gold and platinum. These were the preferred metals for diamond and different gemstones set in luxurious places.

The Victorian era defined engagement rings and carried the tradition into modern era.

Sources:
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The Grover Cleveland Peace Medal: a Symbol of Reconciliation

As we go through our grade school education, we learn about U.S. History, and then we get more US history in middle school, and high school, and then, if you were a history major like myself, you get to to take US History again in college.  Each time you learn a little more than the last, and are asked to remember more names and dates and events. And while more things may have been taught, Native American history seems to be mostly an afterthought unless you chose to pursue that specifically.  So from the story of the pilgrims, to The French and Indian War, the Trail of Tears, and Custer and Little Bighorn we overlook the story of the people that should be a more prominent part of our great history. When Tim pulled out another treasure from his stash, it allowed me to go just a little bit deeper into that specific part of our history.  

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The picture above shows us an 1885 Grover Cleveland Bronze Peace Medal. On the front, it reads “Grover Cleveland President across the top and U.S.A. 1885 on the bottom. On the reverse there is a depiction of a Native American man speaking to a white settle with “Peace” across the top and a calumet and a tomahawk crossed through an olive wreath on the bottom.  

Simply put, this medal was created early in Grover Cleveland’s Presidency as an apology and peace offering to the chiefs of native tribes because President Chester Arthur had allowed settlers to take nearly a half million acres of land from the Crow Creek Reservation in the Dakotas area.  To better understand the significance of this medal, you really need to know what was happening in the US at the time.

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21st President, Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur was made the 21st president in September of 1881 after James Garfield had been assassinated.  The US was still dealing with the fallout of the Civil War and dealing with the rights of African Americans, and there was an upwelling of anti-immigrant sentiment.  There was an economic crisis in 1873 and Chinese Americans were blamed for depressing wages. And so in 1882, Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law, which prohibited further Chinese immigration and prevented current Chinese laborers from gaining citizenship.

Native American were treated similarly.  They were not considered or looked at as Americans.  They had to go through a naturalization process to be considered a citizen and be given the same rights and protections as others.  The philosophy that Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison after him felt best to deal with Native Americans was one of assimilation.  By treating them as a non citizen, the hope was they would want to become a US citizen to be protected and advance our culture.

In his first annual message to Congress in 1881 Arthur spoke specifically on American Indian Policy.  He realized it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. He even admitted the shortcomings of how it had been dealt with already.  He saw the major shortcoming was dealing with the different tribes as different nationalities. He states, “For the success of the efforts now making to introduce among the Indians the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to absorb them into the mass of our citizens, sharing their rights and holden to their responsibilities, there is imperative need for legislative action.”  And he outlined three steps to further that process. He wanted to give Native Americans the protection of the law, instead of each tribe abiding by their own laws. “In return for such considerate action on the part of the Government, there is reason to believe that the Indians in large numbers would be persuaded to sever their tribal relations and to engage at once in agricultural pursuits. Many of them realize the fact that their hunting days are over and that it is now for their best interests to conform their manner of life to the new order of things. By no greater inducement than the assurance of permanent title to the soil can they be led to engage in the occupation of tilling it.”  And the third step would be to invest considerable amounts of money into educating Native American children. If they were being educated by white settlers and interacting with white children, this would only quicken the process of assimilation. And while these three ideas seem like reasonable stances to take, they didn’t necessarily lead to great outcomes.

Although Arthur seemed to be in favor of land allotment, there were still many detractors to the idea.  As settlers continued to flood westward, they inevitably began to crowd the borders of some reservations or even settle on native land.  Opponents of allotment including Secretary of the interior Henry M. Teller, and vocal settlers and cattle ranchers argued that Native americans didn’t need as much land as they were given, and that they were still savages and guilty of atrocities.  This persuaded Arthur to allow settlers access to almost a half million acres of land in the Winnebago and Crow Creek Reservation areas of the Dakotas just 5 days before his presidency ended 1885.

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22nd and 24th President, Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was lobbied to look into this acquisition of land by the white settlers because they believed it was illegal.  In April of 1885 Cleveland issued a warning to all settlers who were involved and sent General Phil Sheridan to investigate what had actually happened.  Sheridan brought these Peace Medals to give to the various chiefs on the reservations, and offered apologies on behalf of the “Great White Father’s”. Apparently most chiefs were so impressed with the medals that they bored holes in them and would wear them on elaborate beaded necklaces.  And the investigation by Sheridan and Secretary of the Interior Lucius C. Lamar showed that this was not an isolated incident. Broken treaties, hostilities, and illegal land use were all uncovered. Cleveland gave the white settlers 40 days to clear off the land along with their cattle. This happened just before winter and its estimated that 80% of the cattle died as a result but Cleveland made sure the orders were enforced and that hostile encounters would not happen.  

But even though Cleveland helped the Native Americans in this instance and many others, it wasn’t indicative of his term as president overall.  He passed the Major Crimes Act of 1995 which made seven specific crimes for Native Americans on their reservation subject to US laws despite a Supreme Court ruling that found that jurisdiction over “Indian on Indian” crimes on a reservation were not subject to federal law.  He also signed the Dawes Act in 1887 which opened up Indian land into individual allotments but followed it up with the Indian Appropriations Act two years later. This allowed white settlers access to any “unassigned lands” that may have previously been a part of a reservation but wasn’t assigned to an individual.  Over years the effects of this were staggering. At the start of his term there were 260,000 Indians living on 171 reservations in 21 different states with a total of 134 million acres of land. By 1934, more than 90 million acres of that had been lost due to the Indian Appropriations Act and other polocies.

Benjamin Harrison, the next president, would use the Indian Appropriations Act to give away more land to white settlers, including the Oklahoma Land Rush.  This is where the current University of Oklahoma gets its mascot name, Boomer Sooner. Boomers were settlers campaigning for the land to be open up to white settlers, and sooners were the settlers that had already illegally settled the land.  He forced the Sioux nation into breaking up into separate reservations and giving up 11 million acres of land in doin go, and used the Act 17 times to give land to settlers in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska.  He was president during the Wounded Knee Massacre but would take no responsibility for what had happened there either.

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DSC_0010The story of this peace medal, while itself small, is a part of a much greater history of our country.  While policy and actions didn’t always coincide with words, it at least represented in a shift in the way the US tried to deal with the Native Americans. President Arthur was willing to admit that previous administrations failed to address the situation in an acceptable manner and even if his strategy of assimilation had unintended results, just the idea of giving a “peace” medal and taking a conciliatory stance to the issue and forcing out the white settlers if only temporarily, was a significant departure from earlier encounters between the US various native tribes.  

The Man Who Saved London’s Treasures

 

For over forty years, George “Stoney Jack” Lawrence used cunning, generosity, and a network of lower class workers to find some of the greatest archeological treasures in London.

 

George-Fabian-Lawrence--300x272The early half of the 20th century saw some of the most excavations done in the city, to make way for new buildings that needed deeper foundations. However, since large-scale earth-moving equipment was still decades in the future, the digs were done by shovel, allowing for the discovery and preservation of historic objects as the workers dug through layers of past civilizations that had not been seen in centuries. Lawrence made a habit of befriending the “navvies,” the lower-class laborers who did the hard manual labor of excavation and building. While buying them drinks, Lawrence would let it be known that he would be happy to purchase any oddities they might come across during excavation. In some cases, he even offered “rudimentary archaeological training” so that his friends would know which sorts of objects were most valuable. He kept half-crowns (about $18.50 each in today’s money) in his pockets in order to instantly reward contacts, and word soon spread that Stoney Jack was the one to go to when anything unusual was unearthed. Many of the navvies found their way to his shop on Sundays, since it was the only day they could smuggle larger items away from the excavations.

 

cheap1.jpgThough the provenances for Stoney Jack’s historic wares were often dubious at best, few museums could resist the chance to own some of his more spectacular finds. Lawerence himself worked for several museums at various points during his career. While Lawrence’s methods were unethical (and the removal of historical objects from their archaeological context resulted in a loss of possible knowledge), he was also known for being exceptionally fair to the laborers who brought him their finds. If a museum bought a piece for more than he had expected, he would track down the navvy who had brought it to him, and give him his increased share of the profit. He also never sent a contact away empty-handed; if an item brought to him had no value, he gave the finder enough money for a beer at a nearby pub.

 

Despite his eagerness to buy and sell these finds, Lawrence never seemed to be motivated by profit. Journalist H.V Morton wrote about him, “He would hold a Roman sandal—for leather is marvelously preserved in the London clay—and, half closing his eyes, with his head on one side, his cheroot obstructing his diction, would speak about the cobbler who had made it ages ago, the shop in which it had been sold, the kind of Roman who had probably brought it and the streets of the long-vanished London it had known. The whole picture took life and colour as he spoke. I have never met anyone with a more affectionate attitude to the past.” His store in London was frequented by schoolboys, who marvelled over the strange assortment of historical odds and ends. Morton writes, “He loved nothing better than a schoolboy who was interested in the past. Many a time I have seen a lad in his shop longingly fingering some trifle that he could not afford to buy. ‘Put it in your pocket,’ Lawrence would cry. ‘I want you to have it, my boy, and–give me threepence!‘”
cheap3.jpgThe greatest find to ever come into Stoney Jack Lawrence’s possession was the Cheapside Hoard: approximately 500 pieces of gemstones, rings, and other jewelry. It was excavated from a cellar just prior to WWI, and is the greatest set of Elizabethan and Stuart era relics ever found. It’s uncertain exactly where and when the hoard was uncovered; Stoney Jack frequently changed details to keep the owners of property where finds were discovered from making a claim on the find. Like many hoards, most of the jewelry and gems were massed inside a large lump of clay, with many of the individual pieces bent and twisted. The navvies who uncovered it thought it was a set of children’s toys. Accounts differ as to how much Lawrence was offered for his find; some say it was as little as £90, while Morton claims it was £1000 which he split with his navvy contacts.

 

Lawrence’s methods are certainly debateable. There’s no doubt that he intentionally kept landowners from making claims on the finds he profited from, and his methods of collecting via the navvy network ensured that finds made their way to him in bits and pieces, destroying the archaeological context in which they were found. At the same time, had he not had his network in place, most of these items would simply have been dumped on junk barges and sent down the Thames to the Erith marshes and lost to history forever. Some of history’s greatest treasures were saved by an untrained history enthusiast and a network of manual laborers.

 

(Cheapside Hoard photos courtesy of the Museum of London.)

Collecting Vintage Hatpins

As some of the more obscure and intricate types of jewelry, hat pins have been all but lost in the memory of fashion.

Hats in history weren’t always made with practicality in mind. Many hats did not stick to their wearers’ heads without help. This is where hatpins came in.

Hatpins were invented in the 1850’s to pin down straw hats, and reached their popularity peak between the 1890’s and 1920’s. The stems of the pins reached as long as 12 inches at one point.

Hatpins are beauties of their own. Tiny, detailed ornaments on the end of the pins like flowers, leaves or jewels decorate the hatpins. They started out with simple designs and became more detailed over time. The most common was a black or white bead on a pin, a basic design that went with everything.

If you collect hatpins, it’s important to keep an eye out for fakes. Sellers will pass pins that are not genuine off as vintage or antique.

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Types of fake hatpins include (source):

Fantasies – hatpin styles that don’t come from any particular period, but are sold as if they are authentic historical pieces.

Reproductions – hatpins that resemble pins from a specific period, but are actually brand new.

Marriages – A melding of new and old, where either the stem or the top is an old piece combined with new.

If you’re wondering about a hatpin, check one of the best sources, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders by Lillian Baker.

 

The Power of Pineapples

Ah, the humble pineapple — a wonderful tropical fruit that’s tasty in fruit salads and smoothies. But when it comes to pineapple, there’s more than meets the eye. There’s history and meaning behind it that you might not expect.

The fruit comes from South America. Christopher Columbus, who encountered the pineapple on the journey to the New World, brought the fruit back to Spain. The voyagers named it piña because it looked like a pine cone.

Show your friendly personality with this lovely pineapple charm: currently 25% off on our eBay page!

Show your friendly personality with this lovely pineapple charm: currently 25% off on our eBay page!

In the Caribbean, a pineapple placed by a village entrance represented hospitality. Seeing a pineapple at an entrance meant you were welcome to come in.

Captains used to put pineapples (symbols of their exotic travels) out on railings when they returned home as a sign that they were currently at home.

European hothouses grew pineapples for those who had developed a taste for them. Emperor Charles V of Spain wasn’t a fan of the fruit, but the public had different tastes, and the 18th century saw pineapples become a popular delicacy.

Vintage Jiffy-Jell advertisement using the tradition of a pineapple as a centerpiece.

Vintage Jiffy-Jell advertisement using the traditional pineapple centerpiece.

Colonial America families put pineapples out on the table when visitors came. Guest rooms often had pineapples carved into the bedposts, once again as signs of hospitality.

It’s not uncommon to see pineapples used in architecture and decoration from way back when. As a welcoming symbol, the pineapple is also said to mean good luck & prosperity in a home.

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Of course, one can’t talk about pineapples without mentioning Hawaii. It was only in the year 1901 that the pineapple became a recognizable Hawaiian symbol; that was the year that Jim Dole founded his Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Thanks to his expert hand at business, twenty years later the pineapple became Hawaii’s biggest industry. And until recently, Hawaii was the biggest canner of pineapples in the world.

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Vintage Hawaii pineapple harvesting postcard.

When it comes to current fashion, pineapples are having their moment in the sun. The summer may almost be over, but hospitality and friendliness are always in style.

Sources:

Florida Libraries

Symbolism

Mysterious Lover’s Eye Miniatures

They’re so mysterious that no one but the original wearer knows whose eye they display, and that’s kind of the point.

These tiny eye paintings started as a fad in the late 1700s. Their purpose? To carry a piece of a loved one at all times without revealing their identity.

It’s a true token of a love affair, and fodder for a story of romance.

The alleged beginning of these “lover’s eyes” comes from the prince of Wales, later King George IV, who once became determined to court a Catholic, twice-widowed woman named Maria Fitzherbert. The court frowned upon this courting and at first Maria Fitzherbert was not particularly impressed either. Finally, she reluctantly agreed to marry him, though their marriage would not be officially recognized since George III had not approved it.

Some accounts say that Maria came to her senses before the marriage and fled to America. But the prince did not give up. He sent her a locket with a miniature painting of his eye inside and the note, “P.S. I send you a parcel, and I send you at the same time an eye. If you have not totally forgotten the whole countenance, I think the likeness will strike you.” Whether it was the portrait or his letter, Maria decided to give in and marry George. Rumors say that George kept a portrait of Maria’s eye as well.

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The whole event sparked an interest in miniature eye portraits. Worn not only by lovers and spouses, but also close family members and friends, they were the perfect way to openly wear special jewelry without having to worry about anyone knowing who was being represented.

Miniaturists like Richard Cosway and George Engleheart were some of the first to paint these pieces.

Some say these trinkets were a French invention, though no one knows for sure. Lady Eleanor Butler wrote in her diary at the time of the fad, “an Eye, done in Paris and set in a ring – a true French idea.”

Only limited amounts of eye miniatures from the 18th and 19th centuries exist today. The estimated number is under 1,000.

You can find the eyes most often set in lockets, brooches and rings, often surrounded by jewels or pearls. The biggest currently known collection is owned by the Skiers of Birmingham, Alabama, who have been collecting these pieces for decades.

Hidden Symbolism in Victorian Jewelry

No one loves symbolism like the Victorians loved symbolism.

 

 

In an age of complex manners and rules, Victorians used symbolism to speak a secret language.

Especially when it came to courting, jewelry held its own hidden messages. Men went through complicated processes to court women, closely guarded by their parents and chaperones, and jewelry conveyed more heartfelt messages than he was able to communicate in person.

Queen Victoria, the fashionable queen with more than a little influence on Victorian style, received an engagement ring from Prince Albert in the form of a snake, the symbol of eternity.

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The star symbolizes spirit and guidance in this Victorian star, moon, diamond and pearl necklace.

Sometimes it takes serious contemplation before figuring out the meaning behind a piece of Victorian jewelry.

There are plenty of complex symbols. Jewelry with different types of stones spell out a message as an acronym of the stones’ first letters. For instance, if a ring has a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond, it spells out “REGARD”. This is one of the most common words in acronym jewelry, and carries a meaning like “with my regards” or “I highly regard you”.

And that’s just the start of the hidden meanings. Symbols abound in Victorian pieces. For instance, if a couple was on their honeymoon, the bride would wear a pin with a crescent moon and flowers. The flowers represented the nectar, or “honey” part of the word “honeymoon”.

290px-Victorian_WomanSome other symbols in Victorian jewelry:
Pearls – Tears
Forget-Me-Nots – Remembrance
Doves – Domesticity
Crowned Heart – Love Triumphant
Butterfly – Soul
Clasped Hands – Friendship, Lasting Love

Do you have any jewelry with hidden symbols? Go here for a comprehensive list of symbol meaning in jewelry, and tell us if you find anything!

Diamonds Weren’t Always Forever

Diamonds are forever. Therefore, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

After all, when I get the mean reds the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and have breakfast at Tiffany’s.

In only the past century, diamonds have become synonymous with love and commitment. Before that, many other gems were used to “insure” that marriage was in the wearer’s future. However, they were not expected as a part of every engagement.

A pendant with a lovely diamond, perfect for marriage-insurance purposes.

A pendant with a lovely diamond perfect for marriage-insurance purposes.

How did diamonds take over so recently, and why did engagement rings go from promises of insurance to an expected tradition?

Engagement rings served as a placeholder until wedding rings were to be worn. The use of betrothal rings was adopted from the Romans by the Catholic Church in the 13th century, and two hundred years later, the first documented diamond engagement ring was presented to Mary of Burgundy. The Victorians gave each other “regards” rings with the recipient’s birthstone. It was a practice and status symbol of the upper classes who could afford two rings.

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A cartoon illustrating the Breach of Promise.

In the States, “Breach of Promise to Marry” laws allowed women to sue men for breaking off their engagement. If the relationship had involved premarital sex (and roughly half of them in the early twentieth century did), then the woman’s reputation was at stake. Since virginity was a huge factor in a woman’s overall marriageability in society’s eyes, a broken engagement had the potential to ruin the rest of her life.

Starting in the 1930s, a number of states began taking the Breach of Promise out of the books. Almost immediately, diamond sales began gaining ground. Since many women could no longer sue for their reputations back, they needed insurance instead.

(via 1791 Rings, Creative Commons)

(via 1791 Rings, Creative Commons)

This insurance came in the form of a small, sparkly piece of jewelry with brilliant marketing.

Frances Gerety coined the phrase “A diamond is forever” in 1947. As a copywriter working for De Beers, the company that controlled the world’s supply of rough diamonds, she and publicity counterpart Dorothy Dignam spearheaded the campaign that put diamonds in demand. The company’s goal was “to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage (felt) compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” While Gerety created wordy, sentimental copy outlining the diamond’s importance, Dignam wrote letters to newspapers describing the diamonds the Hollywood elite wore.

In one of Gerety’s advertisements, she writes that diamonds have “earth-born firelight.”

This chart shows diamond imports per year - notice the huge spike right before 1950.

This chart shows diamond imports per year – notice the huge spike right before 1950.

The average consumer began to see diamonds everywhere, from movies to the news to advertisements in magazines. Soon, engagement rings did not only serve as a placeholder or insurance. They became a status symbol with deeply sentimental value.

Today, 75% of American brides receive diamond engagement rings. Although it is no longer seen as “virginity insurance,” many couples do not consider themselves truly engaged unless a diamond ring has changed hands. Gerety and Dignam did their jobs by not only putting diamonds on the map, but making them the norm.

…If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it.

The Story of the Squash Blossom Necklace

The subject of jewelry is often considered in the light of fashion and fads. But some jewelry stands the test of time, regardless of the latest fashion trends.

An excellent example is the Navajo squash blossom necklace which, since its birth circa 1880, still remains an elegant, stunning piece.

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As it is easy to see, the squash blossom necklace, with its squash blossom beads as well as the naja crescent moon centerpiece, is remarkably unique.

The flower pendant is actually a representation of the Spanish-Mexican pomegranate, but is commonly referred to for its resemblance to a squash blossom flower.

When the necklace came into existence, the Navajo people at the time had been under the influence of Spanish Conquistadors for hundreds of years. It is speculated that the Navajo were in contact with the crescent moon piece as it was a symbol placed on Spanish horse bridles and as a symbol of conquest.

(via Maegan Tintari on Flickr)

(via Maegan Tintari on Flickr)

For the Navajo, the symbol soon came to represent agriculture and was first used as a pendant on a simple cord. When silversmithing grew to become more prevalent, the squash blossom beads came to be. The Navajo called the squash blossom bead “yo ne maze disya gi”, which means “the beads that spread out.” The beads are ceremonial garments used for rituals involving the agricultural cycle.

Squash-blossom-necklaceBut what quality makes us still marvel at the squash blossom to this day?

While the necklace originated as a symbolic, ceremonial garment, today we recognize it for its outstanding aesthetic appeal.

Most squash blossom necklaces that can be found today were made during the 20th century but retain the same sense of beauty that the original pieces had. In their design, turquoise and coral are most commonly inset with the silver beads and the naja pendant.

What it represents is open to interpretation, ready to captivate the imagination. Like the other treasures we keep close to our heart, it offers a feeling of marvel.