Friday, December 12, 2014

Engagement Rings and Wedding Style of the Roaring 1920s

Are you a fan of Eras past?  One of our favorites is the 1920s transition between Edwardian and Art Deco eras.  The giving of engagement rings began to catch on and the design of the times are well captured by this 1920's ring.

antique engagement rings
1920's Early Art Deco Diamond Engagement Ring in Plat

Our friends at put together a great post about Vintage Wedding Ideas from the 1920s.  Take a look there for styling ideas then come back and shop for authentic antique engagement rings. EraGem has 100's of authentic engagement rings spanning all of the historical jewelry Eras.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EraGem's Continued Support for St. Louise Parish School in Bellevue, WA

EraGem was proud to be a platinum sponsor of this years Theres no place like St. Louise auction event to benefit the St Louise Parish School in Bellevue, WA.

In addition to direct sponsorship, we were thrilled to donate a magnificent diamond tennis bracelet for the live auction component of the evening.  We hope you enjoy the pictures as much at the recipient enjoys her bracelet.  Below it are previous years donations.

18K Gold Diamond Tennis Bracelet 2014
18K Gold Diamond Tennis Bracelet 2013 
9 Carat Emerald Diamond Cocktail Ring 2012

2014 St Louise Parish School, Bellevue WA
We at EraGem love that items of our jewelry are highly desired and can be donated to great causes locally to support our community.  Please take a look at our Jewelry Auctions for Charity page and contact us with any questions about how to support any of the organizations EraGem has donated to.  EraGem is already overcommitted for donations for the next few years however we are always open to discussing how we can partner with great organizations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Opal Legends of Australian Aborigines


by Angela Magnotti Andrews Over 95% of our modern supply of opals is found in the wilds of Australia. Here, opal gemstone legends come alive in the spiritual practice of the Aborigines.


Australian Opal Legends

In one such legend, a young boy plants his staff in the ground. While he eats his lunch, the staff solidifies into opal. In another account, opals are said to have flown from the end of a firestick. This firestick was being tossed about by a bronze-winged pigeon. In another, opal was birthed from the footstep of the Creator. And in other stories, some specimens of opal represent the transformed organs of the Ancestral Beings.


The Dreaming

The indigenous people of Australia carry their vast history in a collection of stories. The legends and wisdom (law) of the ancients has been passed down orally from generation to generation. The Dreaming is a recurring part of that history. It refers to the time when Ancestral Beings roamed the earth to establish life. These beings are said to have created the animals, plants, and rocks. They are also credited with establishing the connections between all these life forms. When they were finished with their work, these Ancestral Spirits shifted shape. They became trees, stars, rocks, and sacred sites such as watering holes. To find these sacred sites is to preserve them. The Aborigines revere them as the link between the past, the present, and the future. It is said that some of the Australian opals were formed from the organs of those Ancestral Beings. All opal is approached with mystery and power. However, these sacred opals are believed to harness a greater measure of power and mystery. They were left behind as a sign and a remembrance to those who would come later.

The Birth of Opals

Other Australian opal legends include the story of their birth. This story is reported to be a part of The Dreaming, as well. In this account, the Creator visited humanity with a message of peace. He is said to have traveled on the arc of a rainbow. The moment His foot touched ground, the stones beneath his feet sparked to life. In a cascade of rainbow colors, opals were born. In all of these opal legends, the magnificence and import of opals shine through. Opals are said to bring happiness and good dreams. They are believed to bring hope and stir emotions of loyalty, love, and connection.


  1. Australian Government. "The Dreaming." Accessed October 21, 2014.
  2. Hatchman, Peter. "History of Opal," Opals on Black website. Accessed October 21, 2014.
  3. Our Pacific Ocean. "Australia Aboriginal Mythology 1." Accessed October 21, 2014.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jelly Opal History and Characteristics


This gorgeous Victorian-Era Jelly Opal Locket is exquisitely made. It features an ornate frame made from solid 14k gold. The detailed setting includes traditional gold work, including milgrain and granulation. The back of this locket has a space for a photo. It currently holds a black onyx tablet. A single multi-colored jelly opal cabochon with broad flash of fire and very strong brilliance graces the center of this locket.

What is Opal?

Opal is considered a mineraloid. This means that it does not form with a solid crystal structure and does not have a rigid chemical composition. This range of chemical compositions allows for many different types of opals, including jelly opals. Among the many different types of opals, black opals, harlequin opals, and fire opals are among the most desirable for jewelry. However, white, semi-black, and jelly opals are extremely popular. Though they are lower in price, they still generate the beautiful play of colors that makes opals so spectacular.

Opals formed long ago when solutions of silicone dioxide and water ran over the surface of the earth. As this liquid moved across the earth, it picked up silica from sandstone. This silica-laden solution pooled in cracks and fissures carved out by decomposing fossils, volcanic activity, and erosion. The water eventually evaporated from these pools, leaving behind layers of silica. Over time, as the cycle repeated itself again and again, nobby rough opals formed in these crevices and cracks. According to Opals Down Under, today's opals are found in "wild and unruly places surrounded by a moonscape of mullock humps where people fight against horrendous climate conditions in their search for precious gemstones" {7}. This quote refers to those found in Australia. However, opals are also found around the world in crevices, cracks, stalactites, stalagmites, and in the hollowed-out spaces left by disintegrated fossils. Gemstone-quality opal (precious opal) w as originally found in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Mines in these locations continued to produce the world's supply of opal until 1922, when the mines began to run dry. Around that same time, opals were discovered in Australia. Today, approximately 97% of the world's precious opals come from Australia, where opal is the national gemstone.

What is Jelly Opal?


Jelly Opal is a transparent precious opal with a gelatinous appearance. Characteristically, these beautiful gems have a bluish sheen. However, the play of color within them will include yellows, greens, pinks, oranges, and sometimes bright reds. Jelly Opals are darker in appearance than crystal opals. Today, these beautiful stones are often found alongside black opal in the Lightning Ridge mines of Australia {4}. However, Victorian-Era Jelly Opals, such as the one pictured here, would likely have been found in the Czech mines. Jelly Opals are more transparent than other types of opal. Therefore, the play of color acts differently. The color rolls through the stone rather than appearing in shifting patches. As with all types of opals, Jelly Opals display more color when they are slightly warmed by nearness to the skin.  Take a look at our terrific selection of Opal Jewelry, with black jelly crystal and all types of opal rings.


  1. AJS Gems. "Opal Gemstone Information." Accessed October 18, 2014.
  2. Collector's Weekly. "Opal Jewelry." Accessed October 18, 2014.
  3. Eckert, Allan W. The World of Opals. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
  4. Gemstone Co., The. "Buying Guide: Opal." Accessed October 18, 2014.
  5. "What is Opal?" Accessed October 18, 2014.
  6. Opals Down Under. "How is Opal Formed? - the Geology of Opal." Accessed October 18, 2014.
  7. Opals Down Under. "Australian Opal Mining Fields." Accessed October 18, 2014.

Monday, September 15, 2014

EraGem Opal Brooch To Benefit Camp Korey's 2014 GROW

Camp Korey is part of Paul Newman's SeriousFun Children's Network.  It is located at the historic Carnation Farm in Carnation WA and serves campers with childhood illness and serious medical conditions, both in a full summer camp season, and family camp weekends throughout the rest of the year.

Camp Korey and all the SeriousFun camps provide these incredible services free of charge to the campers and their families and are funded primarily through donations and events as well as Newman's Own product proceeds.  Camp Korey's primary yearly fundraiser is GROW and is normally held in September just after the summer camp season completes.

This year EraGem donated this stunning platinum natural opal and diamond brooch for the silent auction to benefit the camp.

Platinum Opal & Diamond Brooch to Benefit Camp Korey Grow 2014
On a more personal note, EraGem's Co-Owner Michael Magnotti, has been volunteering for the past three summers at Camp Korey.  Michael has a passion for fishing and has been blessed to be able to share that passion with the campers.

Camper Caught Largemouth Bass at Camp Korey

Catch Kiss and Release

Another Largemouth Bass, See more pictures Camp Korey's Facebook page

Camp Korey depends on both talented volunteers and generous donors, we ask you to strongly consider being both.  Please go to their website Camp Korey for information about volunteering or donating and follow Camp Korey's facebook page to be reminded of the Joy this camp brings to the kids that need it the most!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Desi Arnaz Proposed to Lucille Ball with a 40-Carat Aquamarine

Capture the Essence! of Lucille Ball with this 27-carat aquamarine ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Imagine the luxury of wearing such a large and beautiful stone on that finger every day. This beautiful 27-carat aquamarine rests beautifully in a modern four-prong ring fashioned from 14k yellow gold. A total of 12 round brilliant diamonds flank the stone, six on either side, giving an architectural dazzle to the whole of the ring.

Can you feel the weight of it? Now, imagine that the aquamarine was another 25% larger. This was the scrumptious luxury afforded the late Lucille Ball, to wear such a knock-out ring on a daily basis. 

In 1947, a journalist wrote of a collection of jewelry which Lucille Ball carried with her when traveling.{4} According to reports from that time, these jewels were among her favorites, gifts from her husband Desi Arnaz. According to an AP news report from 1950, her gorgeous aquamarine ring was actually her engagement ring. {5}

To date, I have been unable to verify this claim with any primary sources. All secondary sources seem to trace back to this one AP article, which does not list its source for the information. There are some reasons to believe such a claim, one of them being that aquamarine was one of Lucy's favorite colors.

Lucille Ball was clearly a woman of her own mind, not likely to hold to the traditions of men when making her choices. Several sources claim she actually chose the ring herself, and some facts surrounding her marriage to Desi Arnaz intimate that she may have actually purchased the ring for herself.

The authors of Planet Wedding describe a scene that begs the question of an engagement ring. In this account, Desi is said to have overheard Lucy giving an interview onset in 1940. During this interview she proposed a list of all the reasons why she would never agree to marry Desi. In an outrage, Desi is said to have confronted Lucy with an announcement that not only would she marry him, but she would do so the next day.

Again, I have been unable to confirm this information with a primary source, but quotes from both Desi and Lucy intimate a shotgun style wedding on Saturday, November 30, 1940. So hasty were their plans that Desi forgot to purchase a wedding ring. He slipped a brass ring, purchased at a nearby department store, onto her finger as he made his vows against their "Christmas card" backdrop at the Byram River Beagle Club in Greenwich, Connecticut.{1} If the account in Planet Wedding is true, then it's likely Lucille Ball did not actually receive a true engagement ring.

I have, to date, found no comment from Lucy on the aquamarine ring, though she does remark that her brass ring, though replaced by Desi with a platinum band, enjoyed a long life "among the diamonds and emeralds in my jewel case..."{2}

Unfortunately, this beautiful aquamarine ring was among the $6000 worth of jewels stolen from the comedienne's hotel room in Chicago in 1950. It is unclear whether her jewels were ever recovered. 


  1. Arnaz, Desi. A Book. Cutchogue, NY: Buccaneer Books, Inc., 1994, p. 115.
  2. Ball, Lucille. Love, Lucy. NY: Berkley Books, 1997, p. 110.
  3. Choron, Sandra and Harry Choron. Planet Wedding: A Nuptial-pedia. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2010, p. 91.
  4. Karol, Michael. Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia, 4th Edition. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse Star, 2008, p. 231.
  5. "Lucille Ball Robbed of $6000 in Jewelry," Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 2, 1950, p. 9.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tiffany & Co Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Ring

Seahawks Championship Super Bowl Ring 2014. Photo Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

Seahawks Championship Super Bowl Ring 2014. Photo Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

 On June 19, 2014, a special presentation ceremony took place in downtown Seattle to commemorate the landmark victory attained by the Seahawks at Super Bowl XLVIII. As mentioned in a previous article, these rings are given not only to the playing team members, but also to all the folks behind the scenes that make the season possible, including managers, scouts, financial supporters, and more.

 The rings are subsidized to the tune of $5,000 per ring by the NFL, with a limit of 150 distributed at the NFL's expense. Teams can spend more than the allotted NFL budget and have more rings made, but the terms the NFL sets are firm. These rings are specially designed, typically by a high-end designer chosen by the winning team, with the input of the team's owners, coaches, and other key leaders within the team's organizational structure.

 These rings are meant to capture the essence, not only of the game but of the team's entire season--no small feat on the canvas of a jewel the size of a small rock. Speaking of rocks, the Seahawks wisely chose to commission Tiffany & Co., the decided leader in the artful display of all manner of rocks, to design their Championship Ring. True to their collaborative nature, the Seahawks have painted a story on each ring that "represents a distinctive tribute to this team, our fans, the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks victory in Super Bowl XLVIII," said Peter McLoughlin, the team's president {3}. On the face of the ring, 64 round diamonds fill in the white gold outline of the team's bird-head logo. A second outline of blue enamel further distinguishes the logo. A single fancy-cut, prong-set, green tsavorite serves as the bird's eye. Above the bird, a marquise-cut diamond is bezel-set in the form of stylized version of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and these two iconic symbols are surrounded by an ocean of 107 round diamonds.

The ring's border reads "WORLD CHAMPIONS," and is further framed by two sets of six round brilliant diamonds on either side. In profile, the ring's head is rimmed by a single row of 40 blue sapphires, and from it hang two "12" flags etched in blue enamel. The shanks of the ring tell the story of the season. Etched on the side boasting the player's name is a long view of the south-facing aspect of Century Field. A "12" flag flies in relief against Mt. Rainier in the distance, a solid tribute to the 12th "player" for the Seahawks, the team's loyal fans.

 The player's number stands in relief upon the playing field, and just below, their final record of 16-3 is etched just above the 12 feathers engraved into the bottom portion of the band. These feathers are stylized to mimic the feathers featured on the team's uniforms. The opposite shank features a view of Seattle's skyline in the background, with the Space Needle taking prominence. In relief one sees the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the words "Super Bowl XLVIII", and the NFL Logo, etched against the background.

The year 2013 is engraved into the band just above the stylized feathers. The inside of each ring is etched with the following phrases: "LEAVE NO DOUBT", "24/7", "SEA 43-DEN 8", and "WHAT'S NEXT?" Tiffany & Co. expressed their pleasure in working with the team to design their special rings. "Having crafted the Vince Lombardi Trophy since its inception in 1969, we are proud to have now also crafted the first Seattle Seahawks Championship ring--both being the purest symbols of hard work and perseverance," said Tiffany's representative, Victoria Reynolds {3}. In the many images and videos floating about on the Web, the indelible mark of Tiffany's impeccable quality is unparalleled in the structure and design of these rings. They truly are beautiful jewels, and the story they tell is a story well loved by everyone in the Pacific Northwest. We applaud the hard work and dedication set forth by the best football team in the world and the best of the best in diamonds.


  1. Crabtree, Curtis. "Seahawks Get thier Super Bowl Rings," NBC Sports, June 20, 2014.
  2. Eaton, Nick. "See the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl XLVII Champs Ring," Seattle PI, June 19, 2014.
  3. Seahawks News. "Seahawks Receive Super Bowl Rings," posted June 19, 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

EraGem Diamond Bracelet to Benefit Dance for a Cure 2014

One of EraGem's local Bellevue customers solicited the donation of the beautiful diamond tennis bracelet as a live auction item to benefit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Pete Gross House and Project Violet.  The live auction was held during the 10th Annual Dance for a Cure at Benaroya Hall in Seattle WA on May 3, 2014.

EraGem Diamond Tennis Bracelet
We at EraGem love that items of our jewelry are highly desired and can be donated to great causes locally to support our community.  Please take a look at our Jewelry Auctions for Charity page and contact us with any questions about how to support any of the organizations EraGem has donated to.  EraGem is already overcommitted for donations for the next few years however we are always open to discussing how we can partner with great organizations.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Peridot: The Gift of Hawaii's Goddess Pele

Bezel Set Peridot Cocktail Ring with Diamonds

Found in abundance throughout the volcanic islands of Hawaii, peridot has come to be associated with Pele, Hawaii's fiery goddess. Hawaii's earliest inhabitants, descendants from Tahiti and other Polynesian Islands, believed that Pele was brought forth by Haumea (Mother Earth) as molten lava.{1} In one legend surrounding the origins of the volcanic islands, Pele seeks escape from her jealous sister, the goddess of water.


Pele traveled the seas until she arrived in the Pacific Ocean, where she began setting up house, erupting into what is now known as Niihau. Unfortunately, her sister sabotaged her efforts by sending massive waves to snuff her fires. Pele continued birthing islands, beginning with Kauai next, then Oahu, then the Big Island, then Molokai, and then Maui. Every time, her sister is said to have frustrated her efforts with tumultuous waves that extinguished her efforts.

Pele finally found rest, after returning to the Big Island, when she forged the highest of all volcanoes on the island, Kilauea. It was here that the early Hawaiians discovered Pele, in her home within the great fire pit called Halemaumau.{1} With this monumental achievement, Pele reached a stalemate with her sister. To this day, when Kilauea erupts, the sea surges in an effort to hinder the molten progression.

Over the years, Pele's fierce activities upon the island inspired fear and awe within the hearts of the Hawaiian people. The traditions of the lei and hula dancing are derivatives of sacred offerings and ceremonies intended to mollify the fiery goddess. Wherever there is volcanic activity, Pele is said to be near. Some have even seen her walking along the lava beds just before an eruption{1}, while others believe they've seen her face within the gentler eruptions of molten lava.{4}

Her influence remains a powerful force among today's Hawaiian natives. Despite the very destructive effects of this goddesses's activities, Hawaiians never equated her actions with ill-intent.{2} Since she was the original creator of the islands, natives believe that when lava destroys their homes and property, Pele is simply reclaiming what already belongs to her.{2}

Amid her fiery acts, Pele sometimes leaves a trace of herself behind. These are called Pele's tears, Pele's hair, and Pele's diamonds. Pele's tears form when globules of hot lava shoot out so swiftly from a crater that they cool in mid-air. Pele's hair are fine strands of volcanic glass which sometime stream behind Pele's tears. It is Pele's diamonds, however, that are the most intriguing to gem lovers.

These small spheres of peridot, considered by many as gifts from the goddess of the Islands, pepper a few of the beaches on Hawaii's islands. Peridot is one of the only gemstones which forms deep within the mantle of the earth. The only way for it to reach the surface is through intense volcanic activity like that which takes place on the Hawaiian Islands. Spewing forth from the mouth of these mighty volcanoes, these pebbles of green are hidden within the hardened lava. As the waves and wind erode the crusty lava, these tiny gemstones emerge.

It would seem that Pele favors the island of Kauai, for on the beautiful green island lies a unique green beach called Papakolea, the sands of which are comprised in abundance with Pele's diamonds. The continual action of the waves against the lava outcroppings break off chunks of the lava.

Continuing their work, the waves gently 'wash' away all remaining cinder stone, leaving behind tiny pebbles of peridot that are as smooth and weathered as sea glass. It is rumored that there are only four such beaches strewn with peridot in the world. The other three are in Guam, the Galapagos Islands, and in Norway.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews


  1. Feinstein, Stephen. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: Adventure, Explore, Discover. Enslow Publishers, Inc.: 2009.
  2. Lopes, Rosaly M.C. The Volcano Adventure Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  3. Nimmo, H. Arlo. Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai'i: A History. McFarland, 2011.
  4. Tufty, Barbara. 1001 Questions Answered About: Earthquakes, Floods and Other Natural Disasters. Courier Dover Publications, 2013.
  5. Wikipedia. "Papakolea Beach." Accessed April 19, 2014.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

French Bridal Ring Traditions

Very little seems to be written about the exchange of bridal rings in France. What little there is appears somewhat contradictory without traceable reference sources. The few bits of information available are intriguing enough, however, to warrant a brief post on French bridal ring traditions. 

According to Planet Wedding, the French exchange wedding rings which are engraved in such a way that when they're united on the wedding day they form a complete whole. The bride's ring features her name and part of the wedding date, and the groom's ring bears his name and the remainder of the wedding date. The source of this information is not provided in Planet Wedding's book.

Though the custom of wearing diamond engagement rings is extremely popular in the US, it appears that the French are not as inclined to choose diamonds, and when they do, according to one resident, they opt for smaller sizes, ranging from 0.3 - 0.4 carats. The source of this tidbit, a woman from America who married a Frenchman, reports that among her French friends the choice in wedding bands tends toward simple bands or mixed-stone rings {cited}.

As reported by Expatica, the French are believed to opt for three interwoven bands of varying colors. Again, no reference point is offered for this information and a search on Google for multi-colored French wedding bands directs the seeker to Cartier, creator of the famed Cartier Trinity Rings. It is not clear whether this is truly French tradition, or whether this is simply one French company's brand of romance.

According to Vicki Howard, who wrote the book Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Traditions, the custom of exchanging wedding rings in France was tied up in the liturgical practice of the prevailing religious tradition, French Catholic. She notes that the first account of both men and women donning rings during the wedding ceremony appears in the 16th century. She makes no mention of the traditions surrounding the engagement ring in French culture.
  The most credible source for information on current French bridal ring practice comes from the author of the blog, Becoming MadameIn a guest post written for EmilyintheGlass, this American woman describes her firsthand experience of planning a French wedding according to her family-to-be's strict French traditions. As she notes, these traditions may not be customary to all of France, but they certainly were important to her new Catholic French family.

She first discusses the tradition of the engagement ring. While her fiance opted for what the French call a "Hollywood proposal," where he got down on one knee and presented her with a ring, this gesture was completely lost on his mother, who was "less than pleased" to discover that she was wearing her engagement ring prior to the customary les fiançailles. This event is a formal party during which the parents of the bride and groom meet for the first time over a hearty feast and the couple is blessed during Mass. This is also the traditional time for the presentation of the engagement ring.

According to French tradition, a betrothal is proposed by a simple question posed by the man, "Will you marry me?" If the woman accepts, then the man must don white gloves before asking her father for permission. Once consent is granted, announcements are made and the couple goes out together to purchase the engagement ring, a gift presented by the man in front of their families during the les fiançailles. While ring bearers are not a part of the traditional French wedding ceremony, there is a custom akin to American bridal shows called Salon du marriage. During these trade fairs, couples can choose their wedding attire and stationery, sample the wares of various caterers, hire their music and photography, and even choose their wedding rings.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, our Madame left out the "little" detail of exchanging the wedding rings, but she did share the delightful tradition of une Pièce Montéea pyramid made of "small, golden, cream-filled balls called les choux mounted with caramel glaze." This is the stand-in for the many-tiered wonder we call a wedding cake, and it sounds absolutely delightful to me!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yogo Sapphires: Montana's Rare Treasures

This necklace and its matching bracelet feature 108 rare Yogo Gulch Montana sapphires. Photo © 2014 EraGem Jewelry.

This necklace and its matching bracelet feature 108 bezel-set Yogo Gulch Montana sapphires. Photo © 2014 EraGem Jewelry.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

 Rare and beautiful, Montana's Yogo sapphires are among the world's most valuable sapphires. Deep cornflower blue with even color and rich saturation, these beautiful gemstones are found in only one location in the world, Yogo Gulch, located in the Judith River basin in north central Montana.

 Although these blue beauties were first discovered by gold miners in 1878, in the silt deposits along Yogo Creek, these miners had only one thing on their list to collect, and it wasn't blue {4}. Tossed aside, these pebbles continued to collect on the sand bars of the small river, largely unnoticed until the 1890s.

 In about 1894, Jake Hoover, a well-known Montana frontiersman and adventurer, staked a claim along Yogo Creek to hunt for gold. He and his partners, Simon Hobson and Jim Bouvet, spent $40,000 to begin a bona fide gold mining outfit in the region {1}. It took them one year to collect 40 ounces of gold, which when split three ways netted each of them $233. Things were not off to a good start for the trio.

 However, by a stroke of genius, one of the men filled a cigar box with the tiny blue pebbles which appeared more common than gold in the alluvial deposits. What may have started as pure fascination turned into profits swiftly after this man sent his box of rocks to an assayer. Most accounts credit Jake Hoover with the collection; however, this is in dispute, as you will soon see.

 The assayer sent the box of stones to New York, where Tiffany & Co.'s gemstone expert, George Frederick Kunz, examined them. In an article written in 1897 for The American Journal of Science, Mr. Kunz credits the discovery of these stones to Mr. Hoover's partner, Simon Hobson, writing, "Mr. S. S. Hobson, of Great Falls, Montana, the original discoverer of the gems at Yogo Gulch, states that at that point there are two veins (dikes?) containing sapphires, which have been traced for a distance of seventy-five hundred to eight thousand feet in an east-and-west course..." {Kunz, p. 418}.

 Going on, Mr. Kunz highlights the distinction between Yogo sapphires and other Montana Sapphires, calling specific attention to the unique shape of the crystals (rhombohedron x), as well as striations unique to this particular variety. These discoveries were of import because the same geological conditions appeared to have produced very distinctive results in different parts of the state. This was of great geological interest at the time. Mr. Kunz noted that the sapphires found in Yogo Gulch showed the greatest promise for being of worth to the gemstone industry. While Montana sapphires are found in a variety of colors, it was these cornflower blue stones, reminiscent of the highly sought-after Ceylon sapphires, which stood the greatest chance of capturing a share of the gemstone market. Whether before or after this article came out, Tiffany & Co., under the advisement of Mr. Kunz, sent a check to the Montana miners, motivating them to abandon their efforts to find gold and set their sights on discovering the mother lode for what Mr. Kunz deemed "the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States" {1}.

 In 1900, Tiffany & Co. exhibited two remarkable brooches at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France. Both featured American freshwater pearls and Montana sapphires from the Yogo Gulch. An accompanying brochure published by Tiffany & Co. reported that George Kunz deserved full credit for bringing Yogo sapphires center stage {3}. Tiffany & Co.'s manufacturing ledger, dated November 29, 1899, listed $2,500 as the retail price for one of these brooches and a price tag of $900 for the other one {3}.

It is clear why the jewelry firm paid such a hefty price for the stones. With returns like that, Tiffany & Co. stood to make a pretty penny on these matchless Montana sapphires. Yogo sapphires remain among the most precious blue sapphires on the market. Their true-blue color is only part of their appeal. Yogo rough is generally small and flat, rendering cut stones greater than 0.5 carats of premium value to collectors and jewelers.

Also, although there are large veins of Yogo sapphire rough beneath the dikes, mining for the unique sapphires presents numerous difficulties. Currently, no one is actively mining for the stones. Truly, this stunning necklace and bracelet set, featuring 108 dark violet-blue Yogo sapphires, is as rare and beautiful a find as a large Yogo sapphire would be today.


  1. Gem Gallery, The. "About Sapphires of Montana." Accessed February 21, 2014.
  2. Kunz, G. F. "Sapphires from Montana," The American Journal of Science, 1897, pp. 417-420.
  3. Phillips, Clare. Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837-1987. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.
  4. Wikipedia. "Yogo Sapphire." Accessed February 21, 2014.

Friday, February 14, 2014

St. Valentine, Amethysts, and Valentine's Day


by Angela Magnotti Andrews Today we celebrate what has become known as the Lovers' Holiday. This day, marked primarily by red and pink hearts, is actually historically symbolized by the purple crystal amethyst and the death of a saint. St. Valentine of Terni was beheaded on this day in the late 3rd century. Most of what is known about St. Valentine is lore, as little was recorded about his life and habits. His legendary claim to fame was his aide to the Christians at a time when Christian service was considered an act of treason by the Roman Empire. Among the services he was said to perform for these persecuted Christians was to perform marriage rites for them. According to the custom of Bishops of that time, Valentine reportedly wore an amethyst intaglio ring inscribed with the likeness of Cupid. It is said that this ring also captured the attention of Roman soldiers, who asked him to perform marriage rites for them, as well. This was also a crime against the Empire.


 Reportedly imprisoned for these infractions, he was placed under house arrest, at which time he engaged his jailer in a discussion about Jesus. Word of his claims reached the Judge, who told him that if the bishop would heal his blind daughter he would be granted whatever he desired. The judge's daughter received her sight, and good to his word, he arranged for the requested release of all his Christian captives. St. Valentine's continued service to the gospel of Christ landed him in jail once again. This time he was taken before the Emperor Claudius. Though Claudius is said to have enjoyed his company, Valentine overstepped his bounds when he attempted to lead the Roman ruler to Christ. His execution was decreed, and he was beaten with clubs and then beheaded.

After his death, the Church instituted the Feast of Saint Valentine, which they celebrate in July. The connection between St. Valentine and the holiday of lovers seems to emerge in the 14th century, alluded to in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and Otto de Granson. It is difficult to tell, without more research, whether it was St. Valentine's custom of marrying young folks or whether it was his fondness for the amethyst jewelry, which became known in the Middle Ages as the stone of earthly happiness, that linked St. Valentine with lovers. Either way, his holiday is now the most celebrated for romance. Incidentally, according to Medieval custom, when a lady presented an amethyst heart set in silver to her knight or her husband, it was believed to ensure good fortune and the greatest possible happiness for the couple {cited}.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Historical Progression of The Halo Ring Setting

Halo Style rings have been around since the early Era's of jewelry design.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

 Halo settings are among the most popular in vintage engagement rings this season. Classic halo rings feature a central round diamond (or gemstone) surrounded by a circle (halo) of smaller accent diamonds. This setting finds its origins in the diamond surrounds so popular in the Georgian and Victorian Eras.

Georgian + Victorian Eras

During the Georgian Era, many rings were set with a central stone surrounded by smaller round diamonds or sometimes pearls. These central stones were either round or cushion-cut, and the diamonds surrounding it were not the micro diamonds we're used to seeing in today's halo settings. Rather, they were slightly smaller round diamonds which gave the appearance of an opulent picture frame. During the Victorian Era, this style continued with some modifications. Seed pearls and small round diamonds were still used to surround central gemstones. However, the central stones were as likely to be cabochon sapphires, chrysoberyls, blue sapphires, rubies, or turquoise. These central stones were often larger than Georgian Era stones, and the surrounding metal was often ornamented with filigree or millegrain.


The Aesthetic + Art Nouveau Movements

As the Victorian Era gave way to the Aesthetic Period, there is a marked return to the simplicity of the Georgian Era with a little more decorative effect. Ring bands became more substantial and included more symbolism. There are few examples of true halo settings during this period, although ornate surrounds were still being made in small numbers. Overlapping with the Aesthetic Period, the Art Nouveau Movement saw a return of colored central semi-precious stones. The surrounds became less architectural and more organic, flowing in an artistry reminiscent of foliage and flowers. These ornate settings were as likely to be pure metal as they were to contain smaller stones. It is arguable that what we now know of as the halo ring setting was not really in fashion during the Aesthetic and Art Nouveua periods. However, the practice of surrounding a central stone with a frame-like setting was perhaps even more in vogue during this time.

The Edwardian + Art Deco Eras

As the Edwardian Era dawned, the colored stones so popular during the Art Nouveau Period were seen far less. Platinum and diamonds became the norm, and designers continued to design pure metal surrounds, though the use of small diamonds resumed in measure. Pearls had fallen out of fashion for rings, and north-to-south styles began to emerge in force. These elongated settings continued to feature larger central stones (sometimes three in a row), surrounded by smaller stones set in elaborate architectural settings. It is during the following period, the Art Deco Era, that we see the emergence of what is classically referred to as the halo setting. The movement included an emphasis on symmetry and geometric patterns, making the concentric circles of halo settings extremely attractive to the aesthetics of Art Deco. Streamlined designs are the hallmark of Art Deco rings, and we see a marked decrease in elaborate settings for halo rings.


The Mid-Century

The opulence and geometric shapes of the Art Deco movement faded briefly as the effects of the Great Depression settled over America. However, the Hollywood Glamour of the 1930s and 1940s emerged swiftly out of the ashes, and with it came a resurgence of large colored stones. In a type of synthesis of the previous century, these stunning rings seem to contain features from the Georgian Era, the Edwardian Era, and the Art Deco Era. The period spawned many rings with elaborate surrounds, which included slightly larger surrounding stones reminiscent of the Georgian and Victorian Eras. However, the classic halo seen first during the Art Deco period were scarce. As the 1950s dawned, we see once again a return to the more genteel. We also see an emergence of more square-shaped mounts, even for round diamonds. North-to-south arrangements gave way to more east-to-west settings, and round accent stones gave way to the flashy brilliance of baguette diamonds set in large showy displays around a central stone. These magnificent rings suggest stylized showy flowers. These cocktail rings were rarely considered suitable for engagement rings, so the halo style appears to have fallen out of favor for bridal wear during this period.


The Retro Period + Beyond

The 1960s and 1970s saw an increase in these bold statement rings, bringing them more into the engagement ring market. Floral designs returned to more organic shapes, and with this return we see an increasing number of rings with a central round stone surrounded by smaller round stones reminiscent of a daisy flower. There is a bit of an anything-goes attitude toward ring styles which seems to carry well into the 1970s. Very few classic halo styles are seen throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. However, once again, the practice of framing central stones never really disappears. Today, classic halos have returned in force, expanding to include square-cut stones surrounded by pave-diamonds, reminiscent of the architectural designs of the Art Deco movement, as well as the brand new double-halo style that is growing in popularity today. The re-emergence of halo engagement rings may appear to be a new trend, here today and gone tomorrow. However, it is clear by history that the practice of surrounding a larger stone with smaller ones has never really disappeared completely. If you love the halo setting, you are certainly not alone in the annals of history!


  1. Halo Engagement Rings. "The History of the Halo Engagement Ring." Accessed January 29, 2014.
  2. Macklowe Gallery. "Jewelry Periods." Accessed January 29, 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2014

5 Reasons to Choose an Aquamarine Engagement Ring

Wearing an aquamarine engagement ring is like wearing a piece of paradise. Naturally resplendent in shades of the sea, aquamarine elicits the restful calm of a day spent on a Caribbean beach. Mesmerizing, captivating, alluring--perfect words for this exquisite member of the Beryl family.

In honor of this beautiful stone, we offer five excellent reasons to choose an aquamarine engagement ring:


Color is king in engagement rings this season. More and more brides are choosing to take a step toward the contemporary, and one of the best ways to do this is to choose a central stone with some color. The cool and gentle tones of aquamarine complement nearly every color on the spectrum, making them an excellent choice for the ring you will wear nearly every day for the rest of your life.


According to Dr. Lance Grande, Senior Vice President and Head of Collections and Research at The Field Museum, "There is no gem that rivals the cool sea-blue color and clarity of a high-quality aquamarine." He goes on to explain that natural aquamarines are typically free of noticeable inclusions, making them perfect for the bride who wants to make a statement.

March's Birthstone

According to the U.S. standardized birthstone list, aquamarine is the birthstone for the month of March. If your birthday is in March, or if your future spouse's birthday is in March, choosing an aquamarine center stone for your engagement ring is a touching gesture of honor.


While not the most romantic reason for choosing such a beautiful stone for an engagement ring, your budget will play a hefty role in how you make your final decision. Considered a semi-precious stone, aquamarine prices out considerably less than the more traditional precious stones, such as diamond, ruby, and sapphire. An aquamarine center stone affords you the opportunity to purchase a larger stone with higher clarity, a real statement piece. If sparkle is important, you should have no trouble including the sparkle of diamonds by choosing a diamond-paved band or diamond accent stones. Bottom line, by choosing an aquamarine your dollar will go farther.


Aquamarine is a somewhat durable stone suited for daily wear. Since your engagement ring will be subjected to the wear and tear of your daily life, it is important to choose a stone that will stand the test of time. A gemstone's durability is measured primarily by its score on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. As a member of the Beryl family, aquamarine has a rating of 7.5-8 on the Mohs Scale. This makes it strong enough to resist scratching and breakage with every day wear, an excellent choice for an engagement ring.  A large cocktail style aquamarine may not be suitable for every day wear however.