Saturday, August 22, 2015

Are You a Modernist Bride?

A Modernist Bride might wear this Neda Behnam monkey ring in lieu of an
engagement ring or wedding band. ©2015 EraGem Jewelry

Choosing a style for your wedding can be difficult. Asking questions about yourself is an important place to begin. In addition, having a wide range of knowledge about customs and traditions can also help. Another thing that can help is to pinpoint your particular art/design style. Studying works of art, both jewelry and non-jewelry, can help you determine your particular style.

Your wedding will be a unique opportunity to explore what tantalizes you and your partner aesthetically. We believe that knowing which art styles you love will help you determine which style to choose for your upcoming wedding.

In our new series, What's Your Style, we will introduce a number of different artistic styles, offering a several lists and questions to help you determine your particular art style. We hope this helps you make more informed decisions as you prepare for your big day.


MODERNIST ART

Modernist art includes artistic works produced during a period extending from the 1860s to the 1970s. The term 'modernist' is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation, with an added dash of shock value. In truth, there may come a time when modernist art forms defy the denotation of a span of years. In every era, there seem to be those who want to throw out the old and embrace only what's new and original. This is the hallmark of a Modernist.

A Modernist Bride finds her inspiration in works of art crafted by Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo. Quintessential works a Modernist Bride will contemplate for her color palette, dress, and jewelry might include The Persistence of Memory (Dali), Three Women (Fernand Lger), or any of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits.


IS MODERNISM YOUR STYLE?

As you plan for your big day, are you constantly rejecting the classic color palettes, designers, and wedding venues?

Do you find yourself irritated by traditions of past centuries?

Do you wish to turn some of the traditions on their heads?

Would you like your dress, your hair, your jewelry and accessories to make a statement?

Do you want that statement to say: We will do this our own way?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you might be a Modernist Bride.


A MODERNIST BRIDE MIGHT:

  1. Choose shock over awww....
  2. Serve dinner on fancy plastic ware instead of China service.
  3. Embrace new materials for her dress; perhaps latex or acrylic instead of satin and lace.
  4. Wear her flowers on her shoes instead of carrying them.
  5. Carry thorns and thistles instead of roses and carnations.
  6. Wear large, chunky Bakelite jewelry in lieu of Edwardian diamonds and platinum.
  7. Wear red instead of white.
  8. Choose to shout her vows instead of say them softly and romantically to her partner.
  9. Wear a wood, tin, brass, or other base-material wedding band.
  10. Mount her engagement diamond upside down in her ring, or wear a plastic diamond ring instead of an authentic diamond ring.

Perhaps a Modernist Bride might choose a gaudy vintage cocktail ring instead of a traditional engagement or wedding band. Perhaps that ring will make a statement, like this featured Neda Behnam cocktail ring. Whereas many Victorian brides chose serpents for their rings, I don't know of anyone, famous or ordinary, who has chosen to wear a monkey ring every day. This would indeed make some sort of modernist statement.

Another option for the Modernist Bride would be to ask her favorite jeweler (pick us! pick us!) to convert a flashy or sassy brooch into a finger ring for the occasion. Perhaps a Victorian mourning brooch, complete with someone else's hair, or a Lover's Eye ring or locket. It would certainly prove shocking when you people that this symbol of death or illicit love is your wedding ring.


ARE YOU A MODERNIST BRIDE?

So, does the Modernist label fit you? If so, here are a list of other considerations to make as you plan for your big day:.
  • Wedding Color Palette: Forest Green, Royal Blue,  Red (a la Kahlo); Red, Yellow, Blue (a la Picasso); Fire Orange, Sapphire Blue, Cerulean Blue (a la Matisse)
  • Wedding Locations: Deep Forest; Cemetery; Seaside Marketplace
  • Hairstyle: Latina UpDo with Braids (a la Kahlo); Slicked back Straight (a la Picasso); Long with Bandana or Headdress (a la Matisse)
  • Dress Designer: Oscar de la Renta; Tadashi Shoji; Free People Mexican Wedding Dress
  • Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo; Manolo Blahnik; Patrick Cox
  • Flowers: Sunflowers; Daisies; Calla Lilies; Dahlias; Poppies; Zinnias; Mexican Paper Flowers
  • China Patterns/Designers: Marc de Ladoucette; Marie Thurman; Talavera
  • Jewelry Designers: Art Smith; Sam Kramer; Salvador Dali
~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Friday, August 21, 2015

Honeymoon Destination Montana

Vintage Montana Sapphire Engagement Ring ©2015 EraGem Jewelry

Do you love big sky views, long winding rivers, wide open prairies, and gorgeous scenic drives?

Do you love prairie wildlife: prairie dogs, horses, red foxes, deer, moose, and antelopes?

Are you still hunting for your dream honeymoon destination?

Do you enjoy horseback riding, hiking, and treasure hunting?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, then may we suggest a honeymoon getaway at The Ranch at Rock Creek in southeastern Montana?

The Ranch at Rock Creek is situated on 6,600 acres of rolling hills in Granite County, Montana.{1} To get there, one need only take I-90 south into Montana, driving through Missoula. From there, follow the signs to Philipsburg, Montana, a local tourist destination complete with mining and ranching history and activities. After taking in the local sights, head continue south to Rock Creek Road and The Ranch.

The Ranch at Rock Creek offers exquisite luxury ranch accommodations. The ranch is open year round, and guests have many room options to choose from. During the summer months, honeymooners can rent private canvas cabins. During the winter months the cabins are closed, but The Ranch offers several private luxury homes available on site all year round. Staff refer to the canvas cabins as "glamping," or glamorized camping. They include all the luxuries of home with a decided outdoors feel.

If you prefer four solid walls between you and nature, then the luxury homes may be your best choice no matter the season. The Ranch offers Bluebird, a one-bedroom cabin featuring a king-sized canopy bed, a cedar sauna, a clawfoot bathtub and rain shower, and a heated screened-in porch for a cozy experience of nature all year round.{2}

The Ranch offers myriad western adventures for their guests, including extensive horseback trails, fly fishing, a ropes course, shooting and archery ranges, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and sledding.

Of course, we are partial to the extremely popular gemstone-related activity at nearby Sapphire Mountain. Less than an hour's drive from The Ranch, lies Montana's greatest treasure hunting locales. On Sapphire Mountain, visitors can hunt for their own sapphires, sifting through buckets of mine gravel with the help of knowledgeable staff.

When you arrive, you can pay a reasonable fee for a generous bag of mountain gravel. While it may seem silly to pay for gravel, this bag of rocks has a unique surprise. Each bag has at least a small handful of Montana's gorgeous sapphires, which you will learn to sift and sort in order to find your treasures right on top. While most of the sapphires may aren't always gem quality, most hunters find at least one stone worthy of faceting.{3}

We can't think of a more spectacular way to commemorate your honeymoon than with a gemstone you found with your own two hands.

You can have them faceted on site. Once you return home, give us a call to make an appointment with one of our associates to pick out a custom vintage setting for your stone (or stones).

Perhaps you'll find enough sapphires to mount en cabochon into a bracelet or even a necklace. Every time you wear your Montana sapphire jewel, you'll recall your special honeymoon adventures in Montana.

If you love the wild west and enjoy the satisfaction of a glittering reward for your labors, we cannot more highly recommend a Montana honeymoon.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes

  1. "Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, The," Equestrian Quarterly, Spring 2015, p. 69.
  2. Ranch at Rock Creek. "Bluebird." Accessed August 21, 2015.
  3. Gem Mountain. "Welcome to Gem Mountain Montana." Accessed August 21, 2015.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Peridot on Zabargad (St. John's Island)



From the days of the ancients to the present, Zabargad Island has been heavily protected. Today it's surrounded by one of the most extensive inland ocean coral reefs in the world, providing shelter for post-nesting Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas). It has been an ecological protectorate since 1986, incorporated then as part of the vast holdings of the Elba National Park of Egypt.

Visitors to the island can take classes on snorkeling or diving, and can also take day boat tours of the other 21 islands populating the extensive park system. There are resort hotels and diving outfits located on the island.

This is a far cry from what Zabargad once was. Previously known as the Island of Serpents, then the Island of the Dead, this triangular island, measuring 2.5 square miles, was once known for its inhospitable landscape. Very little grows naturally on the island, and fresh water was scarce until modern advances allowed for water transport to the island.

For hundreds of years, Zabargad was inhabited by serpents, reptiles, and soldiers. The first sentries were stationed there by the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Later, Greek rulers stationed armed guards on the island. Centuries later, in 1906, it was guarded carefully by the Khedive (Turkish viceroy in Egypt).{1} In 1922, the island was ceded to the Red Sea Mining Company, and in 1958, the island was nationalized by Egyptian President Nasser.{2}

Just what was so important that for hundreds and hundreds of years the uninhabitable island was manned by soldiers, whose orders were to kill on sight anyone who approached the island without proper permission, and whose only source of food and water came by boats that could not stay over night?{3}

It turns out that Zabargad Island was for hundreds of years the sole source of gemstone-quality peridot. To the Ancient Egyptians, peridot was as important as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. Green specimens, large and small, of this silicate of magnesia and iron were used to decorate massive thrones and religious reliquaries.{4}

Pliny the Elder (25BC - 23AD) wrote of the first discoveries of peridot on the island. According to his account a boatload of Troglodyte pirates landed ashore sometime before 340 BC. Facing famine, they began scavenging for herbs and roots to eat.{5} Beneath the dirt, they discovered the first raw pebbles of the mysterious green gemstones. At that time, the island was known as Cytis Island.

When the pharaohs ruled the island, it was infested with snakes and lizards. Though dealing with reptiles was a small price to pay in order to set up mining facilities on site, it did acquire the name Island of the Dead. This may have been connected not just to the presence of serpents, but also to the lack of natural resources and the orders to kill on site any who were not given permission from the rulers to approach the island.

The island was later inhabited by the Alexandrian kings. Though the land remained inhospitable and kill orders were still in effect, they renamed the island Isle of the Serpents. Eventually, the Greeks successfully eradicated the reptilian population of the island.{6} The Isle of Serpents became the Island of Topazios, where mining continued, though frequently changing ownership between the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Turks.

The Coptic Christians, who came along between 400 and 800 AD, called the island St. John's Island, a name that seems to continue to cling to the island for no other reason than written history.{8} Today it is officially called Zabargad Island. No longer are peridot mining operations in effect, nor is hunting of peridot encouraged on the island.

Modern sources for peridot include Pakistan, Burma, Ethiopia, China, Arizona, and a few other places in the Middle East. These peridot tend more toward the yellowish hues of green. The peridot of Zabargad, owing to its trace nickel content, is uniquely emerald in color. As you can see, the history of Zabargad peridot makes it well worth your while to track down antique jewels featuring the sparkling stones which "glimmer like damp moss in the evening sunlight."{9}

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes

  1. Giibelin, Edward. "Zabargad: The Ancient Peridot Island in the Red Sea," Gems & Gemology, Spring 1981, p. 7.
  2. Ibid., p. 7.
  3. King, Charles William. The Natural History of Gems or Decorative Stones. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867, p. 312.
  4. Finlay, Victoria. Jewels: A Secret History,New York: Ballantine Books, 2006, pp.160-186.
  5. King, p. 312.
  6. Ibid., p. 312.
  7. "The Gemstone Peridot," Minerals(dot)net. Accessed August 4, 2015.
  8. Finlay, pp.160-186.
  9. Giibelin, p.8.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Circular Brilliant Cut Diamonds


Circular Brilliant Cut is a new name for an antique stone. You've likely heard of the popular antique nomenclatures Old Mine and Old European (Old Euro) diamonds. You've also probably heard of the ubiquitous Transitional Cut. However, unless you pay very close attention to the buzz about GIA gemstone grading, you might not have heard of the Circular Brilliant Cut.

Prior to late 2013, this cut did not have parameters associated with it. Circular Brilliant Cut stones would have been labeled as transitional, and if graded by the GIA on the Cut Scale, would have received a "Fair" or even a "Poor" grade.{1}

Under pressure from dealers who felt these antique stones were being "judged by standards that they were never fashioned to meet," the GIA agreed to create a new category, which they named the Circular Brilliant Cut.{2}

The parameters for a diamond to qualify for this new cut grade are as follows (adapted from Duncan Pay's article dated December 20, 2013 on the GIA blog):

  1. The lower half length of the stone must be less than or equal to 60%.
  2. The star length must be less than or equal to 50%.
  3. The culet size must be medium or larger.
All three requirements must be met for a diamond to qualify. 

As a comparison, Old European Cut diamonds, which are also eligible for a cut grade on a GIA grading report, must meet the following criteria (adapted from the same article in 2013):
  1. The table size must be less than or equal to 53%.
  2. The crown angle must be greater than or equal to 40 degrees.
  3. The lower half facet length must be less than or equal to 60%.
  4. The culet size must be 'slightly large' or larger.
Before the advent of the new Circular Brilliant Cut, a diamond which fell outside the parameters for an Old European or Old Mine cut, were compared, typically unfavorably, against the parameters of a Modern Round Brilliant Cut. These parameters are as follows{3}:
  1. The lower half facet length must equal 80%
  2. The star length must equal 55%.
  3. The culet size should be 'NON' to small.
Perhaps you have or plan to purchase a transitional cut diamond that has been previously graded (prior to 2013) as 'poor' or 'fair', or which does not have a cut grade listed on your GIA report. If that is the case, may we recommend contacting the GIA to inquire as to whether your stone might qualify for a reevaluation according to these fairly new Circular Brilliant Cut guidelines?


~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes

  1. Pay, Duncan. "Describing 58-facet Round Brilliant-Cut Diamonds at GIA," GIA Blog, December 20, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. "Estimating a Cut Grade," GIA Grading System, accessed July 24, 2015.

The Sardonyx Scarabs of Egypt

Antique Carved Sardonyx Cameo Ring. You can see the base color is
reddish-brown, and the second layer in which the figure is carved is of
pure white. Photo ©2015 EraGem.

Sardonyx, a reddish-brown variety of agate with white bands, is a layered combination of sard and onyx found primarily in India since ancient times. Sardonyx has long been prized for its carvability. Perhaps one of its most prolific and enduring manifestations is the carved scarab of Egypt. Carved dung beetles were found so prolifically in Egyptian archaeological sites that some have referred to them as "a plague to the collectors."{1}

The unending numbers of these talismanic creatures were first believed to be child's play, until the hieroglyphic mysteries began to be unlocked. At once, upon understanding the significance assigned to these garbage men of the Nile, archaeologists praised the scarab beads and sculptures as "the most valuable keys to unlock the history of the ancient Egyptians."{2}

The picture that emerged, as understanding dawned on these investigators of the past, was one of historical importance. The Egyptians, masters of contemplation and mystic understanding that they were, saw in the dung beetle the hope of regeneration. On observation alone, the practices of the scarab beetles appeared to them to represent on earth their most fundamental religious beliefs about creation, transformation, regeneration, and resurrection.

Above ground, the scarab beetle forms balls of dung which he maneuvers around with his front legs. After a time, the ancient Egyptians would watch in wonder as, seemingly out of these same balls of fecal matter, new living beetles would emerge. Immediately, the words of their Creator God, Khepri, came to mind: "I develop myself from the primeval matter which I made, I developed myself out of the primeval matter."{3} And what is more primeval than feces? In reality, the dung beetles rolled these above-ground balls around for food. Beneath the ground, the females of the species would lay eggs from which the beetles would emerge.

The Egyptians saw another incarnation of Khepri in the sacred beetle. Just as they witnessed the regenerative work of the scarab, rolling his sacred dung balls across the ground from morning to night, so they recalled the vigor of Khepri as he arose on the horizon at dawn, full of youthful vigor from his time spent in "the other world."{4} Each day Khepri used his power and might to push the great sun-disk, the source of all life and power, across the sky. At sunset, Khepri would have aged and crossed over again into the other world, only to be reborn the next morning.

As the Egyptians watched the daily toil of the scarab beetle unfold, its life cycle appeared to serve as a fractal for the drama unfolding in the sky. Thus, the Egyptians imbued the beautiful bug with all the sacred power of their most celebrated deity. Thus, the scarab became the most prolific amuletic charm in Egypt.

Small ones were worn by both rich and poor, young and old.{4, 5} These charms were believed to ward off evil, ensure provision for life, and guarantee safe passage into the afterlife.{6} Scarab seals were used in place of locking mechanisms, which would not be invented for many years to come, securing such valuables as honey, divine relics, and royal treasuries.{7}

Pharaohs used scarab signets to sign formal decrees, and some were formed as beads and strung onto cords to serve as tools of prayer.{8} These talismans were carved from all manner of materials, the most popular being steatite, serpentine, carnelian, agate, onyx, and August's birthstone sardonyx.{9}

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes


  1. Flood, Theodore L. and Frank Chapin Bray. The Chautauquan, Volume 58, No. 2, April 1910, p. 263.
  2. Ibid., p. 263.
  3. McClung Museum. "Ancient Egypt: The Sacred Scarab." Accessed July 20, 2015.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ward, William A. "Beetles in Stone: The Egyptian Scarab," Biblical Archaeologist, 57:4 (1994), pp. 186-202.
  6. McClung Museum.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Flood, Theodore L.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.

Symbolism of Peridot



Peridot is a form of silicate of magnesia characterized by its yellow-green color. As the birthstone for August, peridot signifies growth, renewal, vitality, and hope. In some religious circles, peridot represents divine counsel.{1} It implies a relationship with the divine, a give-and-take discussion in which opinions are shared freely, and understanding grows as the fruit of friendship with God. Peridot brings assurance that each person has a divine purpose, a destiny to which they were called.{2}

In the Jewish tradition called Kabbalah, the color green is associated with Binah, the nurturing mother aspect of Yahweh God. Binah represents the knowing and understanding that come from relationship with divine knowledge. Binah is not an informational knowledge or understanding. Rather, it represents a pursuit of heart knowledge - contemplation of intuition, inspiration, and insight.{3}

As the feminine form of God, Binah is not complete without the masculine form called Chochmah. Chochmah is energy, concept, force; Binah is germination, maturation, and fruition of the given concepts, forms, or essences establish by Chochmah, realized by Binah.{4}

Another way to perceive the relationship between Binah and Chochmah is by contemplating the terms understanding and wisdom. According to Perle Besserman, author of The Shambalah Guide to Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism, wisdom (represented by Chochmah) is the flash of divine insight, while understanding (represented by Binah) is the rumination upon that flash of insight which leads to assimilation. By these definitions wisdom represents potential, and understanding represents manifestation of that potential.{5}

According to Gabriella Samuel, author if The Kabbalah Handbook, Binah presents herself in the human ability to "develop a concept in depth, thereby making possible its practical and complex realization in the material realm."{6}

For those interested in the application of the power of Binah in their own lives, it is possible to draw upon the strength of Binah and Chochmah on a personal, individual level. For example, I might one day conceive of the idea that I could become a world-class jewelry designer. This is Chochmah granting me the great idea of my individual potential.

As I reflect on this idea, I commune with Binah. She inspires me as I consider the logistics of becoming said jewelry designer. How will I learn about gemstones? Who will teach me metallurgy? Where must I go to learn bench techniques? Where will I turn for business know-how?

I must also consider the ramifications of failure and success. Both require a conversation with Binah, who inspires me to be honest with myself about the process and my own limitations. This type of rumination will help me determine the obstacles I will face along my path. One day, if I find myself sparked to passion by the ins and outs of jewelry design, and if I overcome all the obstacles in my way, these conversations with Divine Understanding will have transformed that initial gift of potential into a thriving jewelry design business.

Perhaps you'd like a daily reminder of the importance of contemplation, consideration, and rumination on the divine sparks of potential and insight that come your way. May we recommend purchasing a ring, brooch, or necklace made with peridot?

August's sacred yellow-green birthstone will remind you to take the time to consider those lofty ideas that sometimes enter your thoughts as random, crazy ideas. Perhaps one of those ideas, as you contemplate it in communion with Binah, will take form and manifest itself beautifully in your life.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes

  1. "Chrysolite - The Golden Green Counsel of God," God's Chemistry Set Blog, July 23, 2012.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kunzl, Hannelore. "Jewish Artists and the Representation of God." Representation in Religion: Studies in Honour of Moshe Barasch, ed. by Barash, Moshe, Jan Assmann, and Albert I. Baumgarten. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2001, pp. 149-160.
  4. Swart, Jabus G. The Book of Self-Creation, Volume 1. Gauteng, South Africa: The Sangreal Sodality Press, 2009.
  5. Besserman, Perle. The Shambalah Guide to Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism. Boston, MA: Shambalah Publications, Inc., 1997.
  6. Samuel, Gabriella. The Kabbalah Handbook. New York: Penguin, 2007, p. 54.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ruby Red Garnets



Ruby red garnets resemble the jeweled interior of a pomegranate. Glistening red seeds cling to each other in the most intricate patterns. These seeds are encased in deep red and cut through on the inside by creamy flesh. Pomegranates through the ages have represented abundance, fertility, and passion. Their rich color and textures evoke the essence of all things rich and beautiful.

It is from these delectable fruits that some experts believe garnets derived their name. The word 'pomegranate' contains the root 'granate'. The Medieval Latin word 'granatum' means 'dark red', and it is believed that 'garnet' is a modification of this root word meaning deep, dark red.{1} While not all garnets are red, the richly colored varieties have been the most popular throughout the ages.

Like their namesake fruits, red garnets are associated with passion, life force, and love. They have also been closely connected to travelers, providing both protection and visibility. Some believe that Noah, the famous boat builder of old, navigated at night by the light of a garnet-powered lantern.{2} We know today that in and of themselves, garnets do not emit light. Rather, they harness and release it in the same way that rubies and other luminous gemstones do.

Garnets are closely associated with rubies, as well, often being found in the same vicinity as corundum. During the 15th and 16th centuries, garnets were often confused with rubies and other red gemstones found in similar areas, like spinels. Pliny the Elder, one of the first Europeans to categorically describe gemstones and minerals, lumped most red gemstones into the category he called carbunculus. Each red carbuncle was given a characteristic- and location-specific name by various historians, often relating to the burning or smoldering item its color suggested. For example, Greeks called all bright red stones 'pyropus' because "they appear to be burning."{3}

Garnets have been found in Burma in the ancient village called Syrian during the infamous reign of the great kings of Pegu. Here they were discovered interspersed with their cousins, spinels and rubies. Garnets are also found in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Bohemia (Czech Republic).

Czech garnets are "small but beautiful stones."{4} Czech jewelers set these rich red stones in tightly cloistered settings so that they resemble a pomegranate. According to Dr. Simeon Shaw, writing in 1823, the most celebrated garnets were those that hail from Burma. In particular, those that were cherry red and pinkish-violet. Today, it seems the most popular are the deep, deep blood reds which are favored the most by Steampunk and Goth Rocker brides.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Notes

  1. GemSelect. "Garnet Gemstone Information." Accessed from http://www.gemselect.com/gem-info/garnet/garnet-info.php on July 24, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Agricola, Georgius. De Natura Fossilium (Textbook of Mineralogy), Dover Edition (unabridged version of Latin version from 1546, published in 1955). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004.
  4. Jewels For Me. "Garnet History." Accessed from http://www.jewelsforme.com/garnet-history on July 24, 2015.
  5. Shaw, Simeon, LLD. Nature Displayed in the Heavens, and on the Earth, According to the Latest Observations and Discoveries. London: G. and W. B. Whitaker, 1823.