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Art Nouveau

Contemporaneous with the “Belle Époque,” or “beautiful era” in France at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the Art Nouveau movement was one of the first departures from classical art and design, towards a new modernism. Influenced by the work of English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and the architectural work of Antoni Gaudí among others, Art Nouveau designers believed that all the arts should work in harmony to create a “total work of art,” or Gesamtkunstwerk: buildings, furniture, textiles, clothes, and jewellery all went together to make up the Art Nouveau style.

 

Gaudi

Antoni Gaudí’s architecture was at an influence in the Art Nouveau movement

 

 

Exotic floral motifs with animals, birds, butterflies, peacock feathers, insects, and plants were incorporated with feminine imagery or fairies, mermaids and nymphs, complete with long flowing sinuous hair. Some of the floral motifs that were used in the Art Nouveau style were influenced by the English artist William Morris’ ‘Arts and Crafts Movement’ of the late Victorian era.

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Typical Art Nouveau themes including peacocks, and feminine forms could be found in architecture and decorative design of the era.

Typical Art Nouveau themes including peacocks, and feminine forms could be found in architecture and decorative design of the era.

 

Jewellery of the Art Nouveau period with nature and feminine fluidity as their principal source of inspiration, revitalised the ‘art’ of jewellery, they were complemented by new levels of technical accomplishment in techniques such as enamelling, and the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones, wonderfully demonstrated in the work of René Lalique who was synonymous with the Art Nouveau aesthetic.

 

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Peacock Lady brooch, Lalique, circa 1898

 

 

Although a short period of no more than 20 years, Art Nouveau is considered by many to be one of the most important styles. For the previous two centuries the emphasis in fine jewellery had been on gemstones, particularly diamonds, and the jeweller or goldsmith’s main aim was to provide settings to best show them off. In the jewellery of the Art Nouveau period, imagination, design, art and beauty were at the forefront, resulting in original distinctive work which invokes the era, even now.

Employing what was to become known as the “garland” style, jewellers who chose not to embrace Art Nouveau borrowed the fluidity of their lines and incorporated them into more traditional motifs thereby creating Edwardian jewellery.

WW1 hearelded the end of the Art Nouveau movement – the world was a different place. The elegance and sensuality of the Art Nouveau style was replaced by more rational minimalist styles such as Art Deco.

 

 

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Adventures through the Jewellery box…with Jo from Slummy Single Mummy

We’re delighted to bring you the first in our new series of posts “Adventures through the jewellery box” where we look at someone’s favourite item of jewellery.  What makes this even more exciting is that our first contributor is the fabulous Jo of the Slummy Single Mummy blog.  I am really grateful to Jo for agreeing to take part, hers was the first blog I ever read and after reading a LOT of blogs it remains one of my favourites.  No surprise really given Jo’s extensive experience as a pro blogger!  Well enough from me, let’s hear from Jo about her favouite piece of jewellery:

My favourite piece of jewellery is something I’ve had for 12 years now and I wear it every single day. It’s made of 22 carat gold and is actually the only thing I specifically name in my will; not because it is of any particular monetary value, but because it has huge sentimental value and I want to be sure that it passes to my eldest daughter when I die.

Here it is:

  SSM Wedding ring

 

It’s my Gran’s wedding ring. My mum gave it to me at my Gran’s funeral in 2003, in a small velvet bag as it had come from the funeral director. It fitted perfectly on my wedding finger but not being married, (and not wanting to put off potential suitors), I had it made slightly bigger to fit on the ring finger of my right hand.

 

The ring is important to me because my Gran was always such an important part of our family. We have always been a very matriarchal family and my Gran was always the head. She loved her family, and when my first daughter, Bee, was born, nearly twenty years ago now, she was smitten.

 

This photo shows Bee as a baby, sat on my Gran’s lap. My mum is on the left, I am on the right, and my sister is sat on the floor. (She will hate me for sharing this picture!)

 

SSM family 

We moved around a fair bit when I was little, my parents divorced when I was about 12, and so, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I look back now and realise how important both sets of grandparents were to me – they were both married for decades and provided a really solid presence in our lives – a constant that we always knew we could rely on. Although the feistiest of the four, my Gran surprised us by being the first to die. I still miss her now and wearing her ring makes me feel like she is looking out for me.

Thank you again to Jo for taking us through her Jewellery box – it’s so nice to see a piece of genuine heirloom jewellery.  Don’t forget to check out the Slummy Single Mummy blog – it’s not just for parents, and you can find Jo on Twitter, Facebook and a whole host of other social media sites.  She is also a super expert on all things blog, social media and offers training on these so do

Upcycling – waste not want not

Upcycling has been something of a fashion in some circles for a while, but what is it?  On the face of it upcycling is simply making one new item out of one or more old items, and when it comes to jewellery this opens some really exciting prospects.

Upcycled jewellery ranges from that made by salvaging older unwanted or broken items of jewellery, such as these examples from one of my current favourites The Upcycle Jewellery Company:

Upcycle Bee

tinkerbell upcycle

But it often goes further – some of the most interesting pieces of upcycling we have seen are when jewellery is created from items that didn’t start out as jewellery:

This makes me smile because I had one of these at school...I would definitely get more use out of it as a piece of jewellery

This makes me smile because I had one of these at school…I would definitely get more use out of it as a piece of jewellery

…and if you’ve ever wondered what to do with those old keys you have loitering you definitely need to look at the Upcycle Jewellery Co website for inspiration!

These fabulous earrings by Urban Raven, who has some really creative uses for what some might think of as junk, are made from old Israeli telephone tokens:

upcycle urban raven

We also love her use of stamps, what a great way to make a unique and personalised piece of jewellery!

 stamp ring urban raven 

As a bit of a button fiend myself I was delighted to find Button Jewellery with their delicate yet eyecatching approach to jewellery

Bright rainbow button necklace

Including a fab way to #bringbackthebrooch:

Terracotta, Orange and Mustard Button Brooch

From the maker of the above also comes Unexpected Boutique with some serious statement necklaces!

beachcomber-necklace-2a   safety-pin-necklace-bust-new

 

 

Whilst these pieces look great they also are almost always pretty unique; even if you’re buying something from a maker who regularly makes the same or similar items they are ALWAYS going to be just a little bit different from the next piece, as is the joy of upcycling.  It’s also such a great way to remember that your junk can become something beautiful too, so maybe think on before you chuck it away!

 

We always love to hear from makers of unusual and upcycled pieces, do get in touch if you would like to feature on the blog!

 

 

The origins of the engagement ring….history or mystery?

We’ve all heard the rumour about engagement rings being worn on the third picture of the left hand because this was thought to be a direct connection to the heart; but where does the tradition really come from?  We thought with the number of engagements which traditionally take place today, Valentines day would be a great opportunity to have another look at my wedding photos a look at the history of the engagement ring:  

Wedding rings 

It is widely accepted that the concept of the engagement ring dates back to the Egyptians, around 2800BC.  As part of their burial customs they were often buried wearing rings, of a single strand of gold or silver wire on the third finger on their left hands, which was believed to be symbolic and a direction connection to the heart of the wearer. The history of the engagement ring can only be traced back reliably to ancient Rome; according to Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century AD, the groom gave the bride first a gold ring to wear during the ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home.  The first documented use of an engagement ring goes back to Pope Nicolas I in 866 AD.  Pope Nicolas had an entirely conservative opinion on the intuition of marriage and he wrote that when a man becomes engaged to a woman, he gives her a “ring of faith”.  In these early days ‘rings’ of rushes and grasses were used as they were readily available, however over the centuries rings were made of a variety of materials. Some research shows that during the 19th century, during the Protestant Reformation a bride-to-be sometimes received a sewing thimble.  After the wedding, the man would cut off the cup of the thimble thus symbolizing that the young woman’s sewing was over and any dowry was complete.  The rim was then worn as a ring. Most researchers and historians agree that the first engagement ring, in the form we would be familiar with today, was given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria when he proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The ring was a simple yellow gold band set with thin flat slices of diamond in the shape of an “M”.  Since then, the designs and the value of the materials used have changed to reflect the times, but other aspects, such as how they are worn, have remained constant. Our tradition vision of a diamond engagement ring dates back primarily to the Victorian era, when diamond mines began producing vast quantities of stones, however, they were still perceived to be the domain of the noble and aristocratic, many still preferring to use simpler bands.   

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In 1938, the diamond cartel De Beers began a marketing campaign that would have a major impact on engagement rings even to the present day. The price of diamonds had collapsed during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and research showed that engagement rings were going out of fashion.  As part of their campaign, De Beers began to ‘educate’ the public about the 4 Cs (cut, carats, colour, and clarity).  And in 1947 the slogan “a diamond is forever” was introduced.  They wanted to persuade consumers that only a diamond set ring should be used for something as important as an engagement ring and that it would last a lifetime.  Their campaign was hugely successful, when they began only a small percent of engagement rings had diamonds – today, well, only a very small percentage do not!   We’ve ‘ahem’ suggested some of our favourites below, tell us about your engagement ring!  Please also do have a look at the Pretty Thrifty Budget Wedding blog which has some great suggestions for alternatives to the traditional diamond.

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

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Speaking of non-diamond engagement rings we’re so delighted to find this stunning collection from Pamela Dickinson with matching sculpted wedding band. If you like the look of this do check out her work as there’s a fantastic variety, and you can also find it featured in the Ringleaders collection at http://www.pyramidgallery.com/ the Pyramid Gallery in York

If anyone has a spare $56,500 I wouldn’t mind this landing under my Christmas tree either!  Tiffany is a classic for engagement rings.

Through the Loupe with…Helen Spendlove-Hilder & From The Tail Jewellery

Our next installment of “Through the Loupe” is with the creator of From the Tail Jewellery, Helen.  From The Tail create an amazing range of Horse hair jewellery, pet fur jewellery and cremation ashes jewellery and keepsakes.  For all the animal lovers amongst us jewellery fans this is an amazing way of creating a fabulous memory of your loved one.

Tell us a little about the jewellery you design

I make bracelets using several braid techniques and also resin combined with sterling silver and gold. I tend to try and keep to fairly traditional designs, with memorial jewellery being something  that the wearer will keep rather than discard after it goes out of fashion. 

 

[I really like this idea – I’m a big believer in jewellery not being a disposable commodity!]

Is it difficult dealing with such personalised jewellery – they must mean so much to individuals do you worry about getting it wrong?

In the early days I was always a little nervous with memorial jewellery, but as time has gone on and my experience has grown I don’t tend to worry now.  I am quite meticulous when it comes to keeping details with hair/ashes etc and the word seems to have spread .

[It certainly has – you can check out some of the testimonials on the FTT website here]

I can see you started making your jewellery following the rehoming of your own horse – did you design jewellery before this or was it a completely new experience?

Completely new, I had my own photography studio previously and really was unsure where to go after it closed.   Although at first it seemed to be a completely new experience I found a lot of what I had learned in  my photography/graphic design / retail days proved very useful to bring it all together.

A  lot of my friends were laughing at the fact I had even contemplated making jewellery for a living in a fairly saturated market. However, always up for the challenge I carried on, all costume jewellery to start with then after about 7 months I started using silver after learning some basic techniques to start with.

You have to accommodate really unusual items in your jewellery, not only hair, but teeth and ashes – how do you find ways of incorporating these into your jewellery?

Learning resin resin techniques meant I could incorporate ashes, teeth , pet fur into my products, I tend to stick with basic designs here as I don’t want anything  that will go out of fashion, especially as these are so personal they need to last for a very long time.  The most unusual things this year were a chickens feather and some quills from a pet hedgehog.

[aww a hedgehog how lovely!]

You’ve recently had a baby – how are you managing your new priorities alongside your business?

So far so good, I took very little leave, working until the week before she arrived and then back after 5 weeks. Currently its work as and when and any big plans will be put off, just ticking along for now.

One thing I was adamant about was that I would not close my business after having children, I am in my late 30s now so left it quite late and concentrated on work first. Its hard work but we are getting there.

Where do you make your jewellery?

I am home based at the moment which works very well with little one. My expansion was put off due to my recent pregnancy but hopefully that will be back on track next year and I’ll be on the hunt for a workshop.

[Many congratulations, I remain unbelievably impressed that you manage to work and look after a baby]

Do you make all your jewellery yourself or do you have help?

Just me, at Christmas time I rope in help for packing and other admin jobs. Again something that I hope to change within the next year and take on my first member of staff.

What did you do before you started FTTJ?

Photographer for quite a few years, unfortunately the industry is suffering and I felt it better to get out early. However my photography skills really help with FTTJ and some of the creative skills I learned over the years have come in very handy as previously mentioned.

You make such a variety of different types of jewellery, from the fabulous horse hair loop earrings (below) through to resin – what’s your favourite type of material to work with?

I would probably say resin, although at the start it was a love hate relationship. Resin is temperamental, and can really go wrong. I remember once running out of the house with a boiling pot of resin that overheated and was trying to combust! At that point I really did feel it might not be for me.

I got some help from a skilled resin cast maker and he turned it around for me and then made it so I could expand my products using that material.

Was it difficult to start your own business and do you have any tips for aspiring jewellery entrepreneurs?

I had my own business before so this was not a new experience. I think any tips I could give would be:

Don’t ignore good advice

Keep positive

And build your own brand, I see a lot of copying going on now and its sad, If someone got there first, try your own style.

Dont let bad experiences get you down, it’s easy to worry about one bad thing out of many good . Learn from it and move on.

[Great advice – particularly agree about the copying, there are so many unique ways of producing jewellery the joy is in the individuality]

What type of jewellery do you like to wear?

I don’t wear a lot of jewellery, more so because being around animals and now a baby I cant wear dangly things lol!  However I do wear my wedding ring, I made both my husband and I our rings and mine was the first horse shoe print ring I made.

[yep I know that feeling!!!]

What’s your favourite metal – gold, silver or something else?

 Silver, always has been. It complements the braids so well. Although I do make some gold jewellery I admit to being slow on the uptake as I personally prefer the silver.

Hair-looms of the future?!

I’ve always been slightly fascinated by mourning jewellery – a long standing fan of Jet, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Back in Victorian times mourning became very fashionable, the purpose being to display the loss of a loved one, to act as a memento and to demonstrate the status (and presumably financial position?) of the wearer.

A popular type of mourning jewellery incorporated the hair of the absent or deceased person, it’s durable, relatively easy to display and stands the test of time.

We tend to think of this as pretty gory now, but it’s definitely a jewellery style that’s not forgotten, partly because of the durability of the product.

There are lots of examples around, but my absolute favourite has to be this fabulous Georgian Mourning pin currently being offered for sale by Bliss on Ruby Lane (with an all round wonderful collection so do check her store out):

hair hairpin

 

I also love this amazingly detailed watch fob from Berts Bounty on Etsy:

SALE! Victorian Twisted Hair Mourning Jewelry Gold Watch Fob

 

However there are many many fabulous and original pieces out there just dying for a revival, another favourite is this amazing piece.  You may also like to check out this Pinterest Board if you’re really keen!

 

More importantly this is not simply the province of antique jewellery collectors, as this Stylist article shows there are more and more designers pushing at the potential of organic material in jewellery.  Daniela Cardillo has always pushed the boundaries with her use of material but this innovative reinterpretation of traditional hair weaving techniques really brings this into the 21st Century.

 

Daniela Cardillo is not alone, we love the extension of mourning jewellery into modern jewellery and particularly the memories captured by jewellery created by From The Tail, we’ve put a couple of our favourites below and we’ll be featuring From The Tail Jewellery in February’s “Through the Loupe” feature.

 

What’s in a name…

A while ago we featured a post about the history of “costume” jewellery, as promised we will now feature a few of the “names” from the costume jewellery era of the 20th century. There has been an upsurge of interest in all things Vintage in the last few years and jewellery is no exception. Much of the jewellery created during this period were of good production quality and design and have survived the test of time to become a big collectors area, they represent a slice of period life at a relatively affordable price when compared to jewels made from precious metals.

Signed jewellery are the most sort after examples of costume jewellery, as they can be researched and often dated to within a few years as a result of the marks displayed, prices depend on the name, dates, rarity, and materials used. Below we will look at just a few of the many collectable costume jewellery manufacturers.

Trifari

A highly successful and probably the best known costume jewellery designer whose pieces are still highly collectable today, they have designed jewellery that have been worn by countless high profile figures from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.

Gustavo Trifari was born in Naples in 1883, he trained as a goldsmith under his grandfather. He emigrated from Italy to New York and worked with his uncle making costume jewellery. In 1910 they set up Trifari & Trifari, but Gustavo went on to set up his own company Trifari in 1912.

The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectability today, is often credited to the French designer Alfred Philippe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van clef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not previously been seen in costume jewellery.

Amongst Philippe’s many designs were the Trifari crown pins from the late 1930s to 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari started to use a crown in its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewellery is typically marked with ‘jewels by Triafai’, ‘TKF’  (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel) or ‘Trifari’ depending when it was made. Pieces made after 1952 bear the copyright symbol, as this is when the US government allowed jewellery designs to be protected by copyright.

Trifari Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animal’s ‘belly’ consists of a solid Lucite ‘pearl’ with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Jelly Belly’s are highly collectable and command a high price especially poodles – which are rare.

The company was sold to the Hallmark Corporation in 1975 and subsequently to Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2000.

Below is a Trifari brooch, with the visible mark – made after the copyright symbol was added in 1952.

 

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Lisner


Only recently have vintage Lisner pieces become appreciated and collectable, they still have relatively low prices and the company’s cheaply made plastic leaves and baubles have a beauty of their own.

For nearly 30 years after it was founded in 1904, Lisner imported and sold Elsa Schiaparelli’s Parisian jewellery in the United States. In the 1930s the company finally started selling its own designs that employed Dupont’s new coloured acrylic plastic called Lucite, as well as clear and coloured rhinestones, chrome, plated and black japanned metal. The pieces produced were not of the calibre of some other designers but they reflected the design trends led by the high-end brands.

The company used “Lisner” mark in block capitals on its own pieces for the first time in 1935. In 1938 the “Lisner” mark in script was introduced. From 1959, “Lisner” in block capitals with an elongated “L”, was used. However some dies and molds were used later so the mark is not always a reliable indicator of the date in this case. The company ended production in 1979.

Below is an example of a necklace and earrings set, the marks visible including block lettering and the copyright symbol.

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Coro & Corocraft

Coro, a partnership between Emanuel Cohn (the “Co”) and Gerald Rosenberg (the “ro”) began producing jewellery in New York in 1901 and continued through to the 1970s under the marks of Coro, Coro Craft (later Corocraft) and Vendome, amongst others. Although Vendome was the high end line, today some of the most collectable examples are Coro pieces.

The reason for much of its success was due to Adolph Katz, who became design director in 1924, and Gene Verri, who designed for Coro from 1933 until 1963.

Amongst the most collectable vintage Coro pieces today are the Coro Duettes from 1931 to the 1950s. The Duettes utilized a frame based on one designed by Cartier in 1927. Like the Cartier frame the Coro version had two openings in it, one for each pin which could be attached to the frame and worn together or separately.

Corocraft was the next step up in quality and price from Coro, under this brand they produced a line of Jelly Belly pins, that were similar to the those made by Trifari right down to the Lucite “belly”. Were Coro used metal frames Corocraft pins and bracelets were often made in sterling silver or gold plating. Vendome, was introduced in 1944 and replaced Corocraft in 1953 as the top of the Coro line.

The company ceased trading in the US in 1979, but Coro Inc. Continued production in Canada until the mid-1990s.

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Monet

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Monocraft as it began, now known as Monet, was founded by brothers Jay and Michael Chernow , in 1929 in Providence, Rhode Island. The company started making metal monograms and then Art Deco style purse adornments progressing onto making costume jewellery after the Chernows hired designer Edmond Mario Granville in 1934. Edmond had a background in fine jewellery from working at Cartier. He remained sole designer until the late 1950s and was executive designer until his death in 1969. Producing simple gold and silver-tone designs, they developed a friction ear clip which made its earrings more comfortable to wear. From 1981, Monet produced jewellery for Yves Saint Laurent. It has continued to adapt to trends and changing fashions and remains successful to the present day.

Today, Monet is particularly prized by collectors for its quality, thanks to its triple-plating. It is not unusual for Monet pieces to last for decades without showing signs of wear to the finish, and as most of the jewellery is name marked, they will continue to be collectable.

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So if you want to start buying vintage costume jewellery there are specialists shops and online stores, but I find it’s more fun having a look around markets and car boot fairs, where you can often find quality pieces at affordable prices. As with most things there are some fakes of the big names around, so beware, but if you buy what you like and at an affordable price, maybe you will end up with a fascinating piece of jewellery that could last another 60 years or more!