Friday, September 25, 2015

Empress Eugenie's Bow Brooch: A Detailed History

 Empress Eugenie Brooch. Photo by Kurt, Travel To Eat Blog.
Empress Eugenie Brooch. Photo by Kurt, Travel To Eat Blog. 

  by Angela Magnotti Andrews

 As of today, the Empress Eugenie brooch holds 19th place on our Top Twenty Diamonds & Jewels Sold at Auction. On April 22, 2008, this stunning diamond-encrusted gem, which was made in 1855 for Empress Eugenie of France, was sold in a private sale negotiated by Christie's to the Louvre for $10.5 million. The week prior, on April 15, 2008, a sales room at Christie's New York was "full of 100 people, 150 more lined up to be on the phone, and all the internet bidders waiting" {10}. As the auctioneer introduced the sale, the anticipation in the room grew to palpable levels. The hammer was about to fall on 115 rare jewels and gemstones "worth many millions" of dollars. Amassed by an unnamed collector who was praised by Francois Curiel, head of jewelry at Christie's, as having a "subtle taste and eye" {10}, these jewels represented decades of careful investment. Collectors and dealers stood at the ready, prepared to acquire some of the most exquisite pieces to come under the hammer at Christie's. Just as the hammer rose, it fell with a heavy clunk and no sale. A phone call, relayed at 6:05pm, ended the whole affair before it could even begin. There would be no bidding wars, no high-priced headliners, no satisfied customers. A court injunction rendered the jewels as inaccessible as the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Collecting More Than Jewelry

The sale, "Rare Jewels and Gemstones: The Eye of a Collector", was arranged with Christie's by Merrill Lynch. The investment and banking conglomerate acquired the jewels as collateral against a series of loans to jewelry magnate Ralph Esmerian. At the time when he secured the loans, Ralph Esmerian stood at the helm of one of New York's finest jewelry empires. He had successfully ushered his family's interests into the 20th century and secured a partnership with Carvin French. For nearly 40 years, Mr. Esmerian systematically used his growing wealth to build a collection of absolutely fabulous antique and vintage jewelry.  Extraordinary pieces from the late 1800s and early 1900s served as the mainstay of the collection, while designer pieces from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, and Tiffany rounded it out nicely. As his influence grew, Mr. Esmerian turned his sights on collecting more than jewelry. After the successful merger with Carvin France, Mr. Esmerian next set his sights upon Fred Leighton. As all good businessmen know, a person must spend money to make it. In a move that must have been both terrifying and exhilarating, Mr. Esmerian chose to lay it all on the line for the new acquisition.

Collateral Damage

He put up his jewel collection as collateral, took the cash, and made his move. Unfortunately, Mr. Esmerian failed to recoup his losses. The day of reckoning came, and Merrill Lynch, in a move to recover some of their own losses, arranged the auction to take place on none other than Tax Day, 2008. The public record is unclear as to how much Mr. Esmerian owed, but it must have been a pretty penny. Ten Art Nouveau pieces by Rene Lalique were expected to realize between $1.9 and $3 million, and there were another 105 lots to sell. Collectors lined the room, likely salivating at the thought of getting their hands on a piece of what might have become the auction of the century. It's easy to imagine the heavy weight of disappointment that must have fallen in the sales room as the hammer fell without a single sale. Mr. Esmerian, who was certain that private sales of the jewels would relieve his debt more thoroughly, had secured a debtor's dream in the last minutes before the sale began. He had to file Chapter 11 before the courts would order an injunction to freeze all Fred Leighton assets, including the 115 treasures sitting in showcases in the sales room.

Homeward Bound

Within the week, the Empress Eugenie brooch would prove Mr. Esmerian's assumption right. Shaped as a bow with five diamond-set cascades and two diamond-encrusted tassels, the entire piece is completely covered in Old European-, old mine-, and rose-cut diamonds. Its provenance alone would account for a high return, and the auction house had estimated a sales price of between $4 and $6 million. However, as Mr. Esmerian suspected, a private sale arranged between Christie's, Merrill Lynch, Mr. Esmerian, and Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre Museum in Paris, resulted in the Louvre handing over the astronomical sum of $10.5 million for the return of the precious jewel to its homeland. It had been 121 years since the brooch had tasted French air. After having resided among the Crown Jewels of France for only 32 years, the brooch was sold in another highly-publicized auction in May 1887, by order of the Third Republic. According to a newspaper account from January 6, 1894, the auction took place in the Pavillon de Flore adjacent to the Louvre {17}. Richly colored tapestries woven by the Royal dyers at Gobelins Manufactory draped the walls in imperial splendor. Showcases teemed with loose diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and other gemstones, dotted here and there by a few intact pieces, including Empress Eugenie's bow brooch. Policemen and soldiers guarded the cases day and night, and electrical wires ran between the cases for further security {17}.

A Pet Project

This sale had been nearly 40 years in the making, the pet project of the politically active Raspails. In February 1848, Francois Vincent Raspail (1794-1878) entered a tumultuous life of French politics. In his first political action, he joined the successful resistance against the Bourbon-Orleans monarchy. After the fall of King Louis Philippe, a new republic rose in its place, the Second Republic of France. Mr. Raspail soon appealed to the new republic to dismantle the French Crown Jewels, but the National Assembly vetoed his petition. In June of the same year, Paris workers rose up in rebellion against a conservative Republic, and though the rebellion failed, the people were finally heard in the presidential race of December 1848. Pitted against Napoleon Bonaparte III for the office of President of the Second French Republic, Francois Raspail lost and soon wound up in prison for his participation in the February coup. A new Emperor took the throne (and the jewels) and would remain in power for over two decades.

A Vengeful Cause

A cursory glance at historical accounts places Francois's son, Benjamin Raspail (1823-1899), alongside his father throughout the whole affair. Benjamin was even sent to Belgium in exile with his father for his extreme-left views {cited: Wikipedia Benjamin}. Meanwhile, Napoleon Bonaparte III ruled the empire, and a grudge began to fester in Benjamin Raspail's bones. Several years after the Bonapartes fell in 1870, Mr. Raspail, Jr. seized the opportunity to rekindle his vengeful cause. The Crown Jewels had been safely relocated to the Louvre in 1872, by way of Brest, France, where they were kept safe prior to and during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) {15}. In 1878, Mr. Raspail, now a member of the Third Republic of France, set to work securing the sale of the French Crown Jewels. France was far from stable at the time, and the threat of further insurrection loomed as a constant threat. While historically, the sale of Crown Jewels usually finance the bereft cause of displaced royals, this does not appear to be the case in the decisions made by the Third Republic. Officials feared that these jewels served as bait for Royalists or Bonapartists to rise up in an attempt overthrow the new Republic {11 & 17}. It was felt that selling the jewels would dissuade insurrectionists, and the monies could be used to quell the concerns of the working class, further endearing the people to the Republic.

Slated for Dismantling

Prominent members of the Republic would haggle over the decision for four years. After the motion finally passed, they would spend another 4-1/2 years discussing the issue of what to do with the money from the sale. There was one thing everyone agreed upon from the start: Most of the jewels would have to be dismantled before the sale. On December 7, 1886, a bill was finally passed stipulating that those objects from the treasury which served historic, scientific, or artistic purposes would "be preserved in the Louvre, the Natural History Museum, and the School of Mines" {3}. The rest, including the Imperial crowns of Louis XV and Napoleon, a sword belonging to Louis VXIII, items from the Royal and Imperial coronation regalia, and several crosses and stars of knighthood were slated for dismantling. According to an article written in 1894, "It would have grated on the feelings of even the extreme radicals to have seen the wife of someone who had 'struck oil' or successfully 'cornered pork' flaunting at the opera in parts of the ancient regalia," and "the appearance of the foreign orders, entire and identifiable, upon the auctioneer's rostrum might have provoked bitter comment from the descendants of the sovereigns who had been their donors" {17}.

'Doomed Things'

About a month or so before the sale, an elite group of politicians gathered in the "strong barred and grated cellars of the Ministry of France" for a special ceremony to which "a select audience" was invited {17}. Not since Cromwell's day had such a scene taken place. At least this time, the destruction would prove less wanton. It all began with the appearance of "a great chest, holding more wealth than that the grateful Indian potentate once told Lord Clive to choose from, was solemnly produced, opened by three officials who each had a separate key, and its contents turned out under the glare of an electric lamp" {17}. Beginning with the Imperial Crown of Napoleon III, "chisels, pincers, and jewellers' mallets soon did their work. High officials destroyed the first of the doomed things...and then the remaining operations were left to workmen specially engaged" {17}. Benjamin Raspail had waited patiently for this day for over 20 years. His one wish was to personally dismantle the crown of Napoleon. "I myself will break up this crown and send it to the foundry," he is reported to have said {3}. Unfortunately, Mr. Raspail met with an unfortunate accident and was unable to attend the ceremony. He did, however, receive as a gift "the hammer used to demolish the crown" {3}.

A Bertha of Diamonds

The 1894 account relates the fate of one particular piece which suffered not nearly as much as others during this irreligious rite: ...another strange relic of the Second Empire...shared the same end [as the Imperial Crown]. It was a bertha of diamonds which had been made for the Empress Eugenie from the Crown jewels. The diamonds of the bertha had at first been made up for the Imperial lady as a belt. The Empress when attending a performance of 'La Biche en Bois,' saw a diamond belt, of course of imitation diamonds, on an actress, and was so much struck with it that she resolved on a similar ornament for herself of real stones. When her whim was gratified, however, it was found that real stones were inferior for such a purpose to sham ones. The former were of such dazzling lustre that the belt became a magical one. The unfortunate wearer, when in a lighted room, looked from a little distance as though there were a solution of continuity at her waist, as though she had been literally cut in two. {17}.

Empress Eugenie's Bow Brooch

Five years after ascending the throne, on January 29, 1853, Napoleon Bonaparte III married Eugenie de Montijo (1826-1920), the Spanish beauty who would go down in history for her trendsetting style and her adoration of diamonds. At the behest of Napoleon III, many of the stones and jewels in the treasury of the French Crown Jewels were sent out to various jewelers to be reworked into brand new jewels for the Empress. One jewel, completed by Francois Kramer in 1855, was a magnificent diamond belt fitted with an impressive ribbon bow buckle {12}. According to Sotheby's, the buckle "was worn by the Empress as the central piece of a girdle, together with a pair of similarly designed shoulder brooches connected by four chains of cushioned-shaped diamonds" {6}. A true fashionista, the Empress regularly ordered her jewels retooled to suit her fancy. According to the official website of France, in 1864 the Empress ordered the dismantling of the belt with a special request to preserve and transform the bow into a grand brooch, likely with diamonds taken from the belt" {cited: official website of France}. Five diamond pampilles and two diamond tassels were added, and the jewel could now be worn as an elaborate stomacher {14}. Though the buckle of the 'magic belt' described in the 1894 article is not described in detail, it is not much of a stretch to surmise that the 'bertha of diamonds' that writer described is the same belt for which the buckle-turned-brooch was at first fashioned. It seems a little strange that she would have kept such a disconcerting piece of jewelry for almost ten years, but perhaps she was for a time unaware of its effects. I wonder how many times her torso appeared to hover above her legs before someone had the courage to tell her of the startling effect.

Unstated Reasons

After the fall of the Empire in 1870, Empress Eugenie fled to England with her son, where she was granted asylum by Queen Victoria {15}. Though she successfully smuggled many of her own private jewels, those belonging to the Crown, including the stunning bow brooch, were supposedly being held in Brest, France for safekeeping {15}. As the Empress was and remained a woman of style and influence, her jeweled brooch must have been a stunning point of interest for the 1887 auction of the French Crown Jewels. Perhaps the powers that be were unconcerned by the prospect of a new-monied American wearing the Empress's jewels in New York. For unstated reasons, they did not dismantle the jewel.

A Media Heyday

On public display for the first time since the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the magnificent brooch sat nestled amid "a heap of glittering things that seemed like a realization of the tales of Sindbad the Sailor" {17}. The sale was the talk of the world, attracting high-profile bidders from New York, London, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Persia, and more. The media had a heyday, reporting widely on the exhibition and the sale itself, including who bought what and for how much. It was reported that Tiffany & Co. "bought 24 lots (including one of Eugenie's diamond necklaces and diamond comb); their competitor Van Cleef and Arpels bought Joesphine's diamond tiara; Peter Carl Faberge successfully bid for [the pearl called] 'La Regente'" {11}. All told, the sale of "51,403 brilliants, 21,119 rose diamonds, 2963 pearls, 507 rubies, 136 sapphires, 312 emeralds, 528 turquoises, 22 opals, and 496 stones of various other kinds," as well as the intact pieces and the melted gold, realized 7,221,360 francs (almost $1.5 million by today's rates of conversion) {17}. This money, "invested in Government stocks bearing 3% interest" {3}, was earmarked by order of the Third Republic for "the superannuation fund for peasants and workmen" {17}.

A Name Change

The stunning bow brooch, described in the 1887 catalog as a "bow set with 2,438 brilliants weighing 140.51ct" {6}, was purchased for €85,000 by Emile Schlesinger, a jewelry representative for the self-proclaimed Queen of New York society, Mrs. William B. Astor (1830-1908). According to Tyler Hughes, Caroline, 'THE Mrs. Astor' as she preferred to be called, wore "her signature diamond stomacher, her 200-stone diamond necklace and her diamond star-shaped tiara" when she greeted guests in front of her portrait painted by Carolus Duran in the reception room of her mansion on Fifth & 65th in New York. Mrs. Astor so favored the diamond stomacher, that Empress Eugenie's Bow Brooch underwent a name change. Now commonly referred to as Mrs. Astor's Diamond Stomacher, the jewel became "known as one of the most famous jewels of the Gilded Age" {12}.

Under the Hammer Again

Following Mrs. Astor's death in 1908, the diamond brooch is reported to have remained among the treasures of the Astor family until the 1990s. None of the accounts this writer read detail exactly when or why the brooch was lost to the family. The subsequent whereabouts of the jewel appear shrouded until 2001, when Empress Eugenie' Bow Brooch went under the hammer once again. It was at this sale of antique jewels at Sotheby's London on June 20, 2001, that Ralph Esmerian must have purchased Empress Eugenie's bow brooch. One account reports that the purchaser paid "just over £4 million ($6.4 million by today's rates of conversion) {5}. Despite his many business failures, Mr. Esmerian made an indelible investment when he purchased the Empress's brooch. In just under 7 years, his investment nearly doubled! Having come full circle, Empress Eugenie's Bow Brooch now rests in its rightful place, among the remaining French Crown Jewels in the treasury of the Louvre. This writer was unable, at the date of publication, to ascertain whether the brooch is currently on display, but if it is it would be in the Galerie d’Apollon with the other French Crown Jewels. For further information, we invite you to visit the Louvre Museum's website.


  1. Balkhi, Amanda. "25 Most Expensive Pieces of Jewelry in the World." List 25, May 16, 2013.
  2. Christie's. "Lot 1096: The Empress Eugenie Brooch, An Antique Diamond Bow Brooch, by Kramer." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  3. Famous Diamonds. "The French Crown Jewels--The Beginning to the End." Accessed September 15, 2013.
  4. "French Crown Jewels, The." The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, May 31, 1887.
  5. "French crown jewel diamond brooch sold for pounds 1.4m." Birmingham Post & Mail2001.
  6. "French Crown Jewel to Be Sold at Sotheby's." Sotheby's Press Release, 2001.
  7. Hammid, Mary. "Historic Rubies From the French Crown Jewels." JCK Magazine, July 1995.
  8. Hughes, Tyler. "The Mrs. Astor's House." The Gilded Age Era Blog, June 22, 2013.
  9. McCarthy, Cathleen. "Christie's sells Fred Leighton jewels." The Jewelry Loupe, October 22, 2009.
  10. McCarthy, Cathleen. "Ralph Esmerian: lost legacy of jewels." The Jewelry Loupe, April 20, 2011.
  11. Millar, Stephen. "France's Royal and Imperial Crown Jewels: 1792-2005." The Napoleon Series. Last updated October 2005.
  12. Miller, Jeff. "Christie's Negotiates Sale of Empress Eugenie's Brooch." Rapaport Diamonds, April 22, 2008.'s+Negotiates+Sale+of+Empress+Eug%C3%A9nie%E2%80%99s+Brooch.
  13. Official Website of France, The. "The Large 'Noeud de Corsage' Diamond Brooch of the Empress Eugenie, a new acquisition for the musee du Louvre." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  14. "Press Release." Christie's, April 22, 2008.
  15. Redmond, Barbara. "French Crown Jewels: Empress Eugenie." A Woman's Paris Blog, September 17, 2010.
  16. Redmond, Barbara. "French Empress Eugenie and Her Diamonds." A Woman's Paris Blog, September 10, 2010.
  17. "Royal Jewels." Illustrated Sydney News, January 6, 1894.
  18. Wikipedia. "Benjamin Raspail." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  19. Wikipedia. "Eugenie de Montijo." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  20. Wikipedia. "Francois-Vincent Raspail." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  21. Wikipedia. "Franco-Prussian War." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  22. Wikipedia. "French Revolution of 1848." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  23. Wikipedia. "Pavillon de Flore." Accessed September 25, 2013.
  24. Woollard, Deidre. "The Louvre Picks Up A Crown Jewel." Luxist. Accessed September 25, 2013.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Designer Spotlight: EFFY

This beautiful EFFY blue sapphire ring features a double diamond halo and is crafted of solid 14k white gold. The genuine blue sapphire is a deep, dark blue and weighs 1.65 carats. It is surrounded by 50 round single cut diamonds with color varying between G and H. This gorgeous ring is a testament to the craftsmanship of EFFY jewelers.

Effy Hamatian, founder of EFFY, oversees the design and craftsmanship of every one of the hundreds of pieces his house produces every year. Each EFFY jewel shines with the brilliance and luster of Effy's attention to detail and meticulous designs.

With EFFY, you're guaranteed precise and vibrant colors. All of their gemstones are selected and matched by hand to ensure perfection. Black rhodium, while not used in this piece, is often employed by EFFY to add depth and enhance the colored stones. Every piece of jewelry is comfortable for daily wear and smooth to the touch.

At EFFY, every piece goes through rigorous quality testing, in accordance with the founder's insistence that those who wear his jewels deserve the absolute best in quality. Mr. Hamatian entered into the jewelry business more than 30 years ago with an engineering background. He believes that his electronics experience affords him the ability to recognize the importance of the smallest of details. He sees things that others might miss.

Effy is always in search of new inspiration, drawing from nature, world travel, and anything that moves him and stirs his passion. His designs are intended to inspire a sense of adventure and to transport you to new places even if you're sitting at your desk or on your couch.

Effy works alongside his two sons, Benny and Bobby, in their West 46th Street studio in New York City. Benny Hamatian tells his children that their grandfather has truly realized the American dream. Thirty-five years ago, he arrived in New York with nothing except his strong devotion and faith in God and an outstanding work ethic. With these tools in hand, he established his leading jewelry design firm and inspired the next generation to take up the reigns beside him.

Effy's sons are as passionate about jewelry design and manufacture as he is. They love what they do, and they love working with their father. Bobby Hamatian believes that two things separate EFFY from the rest: (1) Endless opportunities to express your unique personality and interests, and (2) The highest quality in craftsmanship.

"To have the opportunity to put a smile on peoples' faces and be a part of their happy occasion is what drives me to build this brand and to come to work every day," he says.

For those in search of bold, stylish jewels to complement their every whim and mood, we cannot more highly recommend EFFY jewelry. We invite you to make an appointment to come in and meet with us to try on our selection of EFFY jewels.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Star Stones: The Allure of Asterism

This spectacular vintage star sapphire cocktail ring is centered with a massive 29.5-carat natural blue star sapphire. Cut en cabochon, this gorgeous stone has a complete, strong, 6-ray star that is slightly off center with excellent movement. Surrounding the beautiful center stone is a double halo of sapphires and diamonds. The inner circle is set with dark blue round faceted sapphires, while the outer circle is set with round brilliant white diamonds.

Asterism is a remarkable phenomenon in which a cabochon-cut gemstone reflects a 4- or 6-rayed star radiating out from the focal center of the stone. Asterism is most frequently seen in corundum, among members of the sapphire family. However, it is also found in varieties of quartz, moonstone, and garnet.{1}

Asterism occurs naturally when a stone contains rutile needle inclusions called silk. These intrusions in the crystal structure must occur in a specific pattern in order to reflect the star-like pattern on the polished surface of the stone.{2}

The most prized star sapphires have a star pattern which appears centered on the stone with long-reaching, crystal-clear rays.{3} In order to achieve this desired effect, skilled cutters must often cut a lower dome, leaving slightly bulging sides. In addition, they often leave more depth at the base of the stone than they might for other cabochon-cut stones. The bulging sides ensure better centering of the asterism, while the extra depth provides greater clarity of the star effect.{4} While these unusual parameters make it a little tricky for jewelers to mount a star sapphire, the results are worth far more than the little bit of trouble they might encounter.

When choosing a star gemstone, we recommend working closely with a reputable and knowledgeable jeweler. Asterism is a rare phenomenon, commanding a higher price per carat, and therefore requires specialized knowledge. Ask your jeweler to show you their selection under bright, direct light, since under diffused light the stone will not perform optimally.

Star stones are best examined with a single source of light, which allows you to move the light back and forth across the surface. This will demonstrate that the rays of the star are straight, nearly centered, and distributed evenly across the surface of the stone. Also, remember to include color, cut, and clarity in your assessment of a star stone.

The star will move across the surface of the stone, but it should appear somewhat static in its size, direction, and orientation. The highest quality star stones exhibit sharp and unwavering rays which stretch from girdle to girdle.{5}

At EraGem, we have a select number of star sapphires available. They range in color from light and bright pink (rubies) to pale and deep blue. It would be our pleasure to visit with you in our Seattle-area showroom to demonstrate the mesmerizing beauty of these phenomenal gemstones. Call today to make your appointment with one of our knowledgeable associates.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Smigel, Barbara W., "Star Stones (Asterism)," accessed at on August 15, 2015.
  2., "About Star Gemstones," accessed August 15, 2015.
  3. The Star Ruby Shop, "Cutting Process of Asteriated Gemstones," accessed from on August 15, 2015.
  4. Smigel.
  5. Waters, Michelle, "Gemstones with Asterisms and Chatoyancy," Harriet Kelsal Jewelry Website, accessed on August 15, 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is Green Your Color?

Green is cool and collected, calm and soothing, refreshing and mysterious.

It is rustling leaves on a warm summer afternoon.

Lush vegetation on a tropical island.

Green is a deep forest, a still meadow, a tantalizing lagoon.

Green has been called "the most 'organic' of colors," a hue that artists once made from corroded metals but now squeeze from a paint tube or mix on a palette from primary blue and primary yellow.{1} It evokes both mystery and refreshment and is associated with the serenity of nature and the youthfulness of spring.

What We Know About Green
  • In Daoist lore green was associated with the mountains and symbolized the purity of nature and the potential for eternal life.{2}
  • Green, though classified as a cool color, is well-balanced, drawing from the warmth of yellow and the coolness of blue.{3}
  • Green eases the sense of sight, providing a time out for tired eyes.{4}
  • During the Middle Ages green was considered beautiful because it was "temperate, balanced, proper...."{5}
  • In the West green is the color of health and vitality, as well as the color of conservationists and ecologically minded groups and individuals.
  • Modern Islamic believers equate the color green with material and spiritual wealth.{6}
  • Green is a color of Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace.{7}
Shades of Green

Sage Green, Bottle Green, Jungle Green

Forest, Olive, Lime, Pistachio

Green Jade, Green Apple, Green Grass

Verdigris, Zangar, Tea Leaf, Cucumber

Green's Personality Traits

  • Cool
  • Collected
  • Soothing
  • Peacemaker
  • Contemplative
  • Blanaced
  • Temperate
  • Lighthearted

If you found yourself lulled by the images evoked by the color green, or if you recognize yourself in green's personality, then you might enjoy wearing a green gemstone in your engagement ring.

Which Green Stone Should I Choose?

Well, you can't go wrong with an emerald. Emeralds are the green variety of beryl. With a Mohs hardness of 7.5-8, they are an excellent choice for daily wear. Emeralds range in hue from bright grass green, to moss green, to spring green. They can have either a bluish or a yellowish undertone. Flawless emeralds are difficult to find, so when looking at clarity we recommend consulting a gemstone expert to ensure that the emerald you choose will look good to the eye with little or no enhancement.

If you prefer a stone other than the emerald, then may we suggest a peridot, tsavorite, demantoid garnet, or green sapphire? Each of these stones will weather daily wear well. 

If you think green might be your color, then we invite you to visit our showroom for a chance to put your color to the test. We would love to show you our selection of green emerald, green sapphire, and peridot engagement rings.

Click here to schedule a visit today.

  1. Finlay, Victoria, Color: A Natural History of the Palette, New York: Random House, 2004, p. 265.
  2. Ibid., p. 257.
  3. House Beautiful: Colors for Your Home, New York: Hearst Books, 2008.
  4. Pastoureau, Michael, Green: The History of a Color, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.
  5. Pastoureau, p. 57.
  6. Gallienne, Amandine Guisez, Colorful World, London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.
  7. Pastoureau.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Are You An Op Art Bride?

What is Op Art?
Optical Art is precise and fascinating, sensory and psychological, jarring and enlightening. It emerged out of the modern art movement during the early 1950s. At first linked with kinetic art, the movement was launched with an exhibition called Le Mouvement in 1955 at Galerie Denise Rene.{1}

Both the kinesthetic and the Op Art movements were drawn to motion, with the kinesthetics harnessing physical/mechanical motion and the op artists experimenting with virtual/perceived motion. In a short time, the Op Artists began to establish their own platform on which to stand, reaching their peak with The Responsive Eye, a 1965 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. There, Victor Vasarely, Bridge Riley, Frank Stella, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesus-Rafael Soto, and Josef Albers, finally caught the attention of the world, and of the critics, of course.{2}

While the critics balked at what they perceived as gimmicks and tricks, the public flocked to the exhibit, drawn by the wonder and magic of illusions and afterimages. Unfortunately, the critics were unable to welcome Op Art into their circles, so the movement faded shortly after the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art ended. Though a blip on the broader screen of world art history, Optical Art continues to prevail as a movement in its own right, inspiring even today's most accomplished fashion designers.

Op Art Philosophy
When considering whether Op Art is your bridal style, you will first want to know what Op Art artists set out to explore and demonstrate in their work.

Op Artists were keenly invested in the exploration of perception, particularly of how the eye sees and responds to abstract geometrical forms and patterns.{3, 4} As a subset of the Modern Art movement, Op Art took many of its cues from the latest advances in technology while eschewing the common practice of referencing the past or recognizable shapes and forms.

Decidedly abstract yet carefully constructed with a foundation in mathematical and scientific principles, Op Art was the first art movement to marry art and science together intentionally.{5, 6} Op Artists set out to provoke immediate psychological and visual responses from their viewers. It was expected that this immersive perceptual experience would jar the viewer into recognizing the confounding nature of the human eye and its relationship with the brain and visual stimuli.

It was hoped that some of these viewers would realize that to some degree everything is relative to how we see what we see. While some people see movement in an image, others see static lines and patterns. While to some the color blue appears greenish, to others the same shade might appear to have violet undertones.{7}

Characteristics of Op Art
To achieve their ends, Op Artists employed a variety of forms to a number of basic principles. First, Op Artists focused on geometrical patterns and forms. While many of them kept their color palettes limited to black and white, some used color to enhance the visual responses of their viewers. More often than not, though, color was meant to further shock viewers by behaving outside of the norms typically associated with a particular hue.

Op Artists intended to evoke strong perceptual experiences in their viewers. To achieve this end they employed illusions, after effects, abstractions, and visual trickery.{8} Symmetry and mathematical precision was essential to the compositions, as well.{9, 10}

Are You an Op Art Bride?

Do you enjoy stark color contrasts and limited color palettes?

Are you fascinated by movement and illusion?

Are you precise and scientific in your approach to life?

Do you enjoy wonder and mystery of magic and optical illusions?

Do you want your wedding guests to walk away in wonder and awe?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you might be an Op Art Bride.

An Op Art Bride Might:
  1. Choose a patterned dress over solid white.
  2. Carry black and white roses instead of a colorful bouquet.
  3. Wear one white shoe and one black shoe.
  4. Wear moonstone or opal jewelry, the play of colors providing constant movement around her face and neck.
  5. Wear makeup that accentuates an unusual part of her face.
  6. Choose to alter the punctuation in her vows in order to emphasize unusual patterns in the wording.
An Op Art Engagement Ring

An Op Art bride will choose an engagement ring that confounds the eye. Perhaps it will have alternating rings of geometric patterns, like the above vintage diamond cocktail ring. This ring features concentric circles of white diamonds surrounding a single 1.22-carat round brilliant diamond. The inner circle is composed of smaller round diamonds, and the outer circle is composed of baguette diamonds. The effect is mesmerizing and somewhat disorienting.

Rings with multiple halos are another fabulous option for the Op Art bride. You might also consider choosing from the vast geometrical styles of the Art Deco period. Or you could choose a piece by Isharya, whose Op Art rings are fantastically rendered in yellow gold with white and black enameling.

If The Style Fits
So, does the Op Art label fit you? If so, here are a list of other considerations to make as you plan for your big day:

  • Wedding Color Palette: Black and White; Black, White, and One More; Yellow, Blue, Red; Magenta, Yellow, Blue
  • Wedding Locations: Museum of Modern Art; Zilinskas Art Gallery in Kaunas City, Lithuania; Ronchamp, Paris; the Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence
  • Hairstyle: '60s Pixie Cut; '60s Beatles' Bob; '60s Cropped Cut
  • Dress Designer: Ossie Clark; Marc Jacobs; Dolce & Gabana
  • Shoes: Especially Melissa by Gareth Pugh; Adidas Op Art; Coach Op Art
  • Flowers: Origami flowers; Dahlias; Passion Flowers; Ranunculus
  • China Patterns/Designers: Vincenzo D'Alba for Kiasmo; B By Brandie; American Atelier; 

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. The Art Story, "Op Art," accessed from HERE on August 28, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Phillips, Sam, ...isms: Understanding Modern Art, New York: Universe, 2012.
  5. The Art Story.
  6. Parola, Rene, Optical Art: Theory and Practice, Courier Corporation, 1996, p.iii.
  7. Phillips.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Parola.
  10. Roza, Greg, An Optical Artist: Exploring Patterns and Symmetry, Rosen Classroom, 2005.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Designer Spotlight: Neda Behnam

Neda Behnam Flower Motif Cocktail Ring.
Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry

This exquisite cocktail ring features a six-petaled flower set with fancy brown faceted diamonds. Each petal is rhodium plated and edged (click here for detailed photo) in pavé white diamonds. A single leaf accents the ring, hugging the finger when worn. It is set with bright green tsavorite stones. A golden pistil emerges from the middle, centered by a bright white diamond.

This gorgeous ring captures perfectly the essence of Neda Behnam's signature design elements. First, it is inspired by nature, as are the majority of her pieces. Her collections include a number of lovely floral and animal designs. Many of her pieces feature her signature rhodium plating, which affords her work the depth and contrast that make her pieces come to life.

Every one of Ms. Behnam's jewels are intricately tooled by hand. Though she favors white diamonds and platinum or yellow gold, she often liberally sprinkles a dose of true-to-life colors, using precious and semi-precious stones.

Neda works closely with her husband, Samuel, who has created his own line of silver jewelry called Samuel B. Together they sell their wares through their SoHo Boutique label. With over 25 years of experience, Neda has developed a philosophy of design that encompasses the wonder of nature with an emphasis on intricate details.

"When a woman wears jewelry, it's a statement about who she is. She expects to be noticed and pays attention to the smallest of details when it comes to making a purchase," Ms. Behnam says.{1} Neda's attention to detail is most evident in the white diamond edging on the petals, the green tsavorite leaf, and the gold pistils on this floral cocktail ring.

As a breast cancer survivor, Ms. Behnam is deeply invested in committing herself and her craft to benefit the search for a cure for breast cancer. To that end, she created a line of jewelry featuring diamonds set in precious metal in art deco and vintage-inspired designs.{2} Ten percent of every online purchase of a Diamonds for a Cure® jewel is donated to Stand Up to Cancer®, an organization dedicated to researching innovation in cancer treatment.{3}

In addition to her high-end line and her jewels made for SoHo Boutique and the home shopping networks, Neda Behnam also pours herself into her foundation Diamonds for a Cure®. Neda believes that, "like life, diamonds are precious," and therefore represent best the search for a cure for the treatment and cure of breast cancer.{4}

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Market Wired. "SoHo Boutique by Neda Behnam Taps Into Fall Art Jewelry Trends--Top 5 to Buy." November 7, 2008.
  2. Diamonds for a Cure. "About DFAC Mission Statement." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  3. Stand Up To Cancer. "Why We're Different." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  4. Overstock. "Neda Behnam, Inspired by Nature." Accessed from on August 25, 2015.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jewish Wedding Customs

A Jewish marriage requires that the groom signs the Ketuba
the marriage contract which legally binds him to provide
physical, emotional, and spiritual support to his bride.

To the Jewish people, marriage is a mystical act of atonement.{1} A moment in time when two become one, when the individuals coming together are sanctified from their past transgressions and allowed the privilege of beginning a whole new season of life together, with only the present and future ahead of them. It is a time of supreme celebration and eternal commitments made before family and friends. A Jewish wedding is a profound experience, both for the bride and groom and for those who attend the celebration.

A Jewish marriage is a partnership, and as such begins well in advance of the ceremony. After a match has been made, a Jewish couple will work both together and individually to establish their spiritual foundations. Some rabbis recommend that others plan the wedding, thereby allowing the bride and groom to remain free of the distracting frictions that can arise during the planning of such a big event.{2}

For a week before the wedding, the bride and groom are encouraged to refrain from all contact. This "fasting" builds anticipation and excitement for the wedding day and night. In addition, beginning at dawn on the morning of their ceremony, the couple is expected to fast from all food until after the ceremony has been performed. This fast symbolizes the purity with which they will approach their union, for all of their past sins are forgiven on this day.{3}

While many American Jews wear western wedding attire, a white gown and black tux, traditionally the groom wore a white kittel (robe) as a symbol of his own purity.{4} Still in isolation from one another, the bride and groom greet their guests as they arrive. The bride is seated upon a throne, queen for the day, while the groom mingles among his guests as the king he has become in their eyes.

At this time, the festivities officially begin with the tish (Yiddish for 'table'). At his table, the groom offers a lecture on that week's Torah portion. It is tradition for the groom's friends and family to give him grief during this "important" moment in his day. While he endures jibes and ribbing from his peers, his bride enjoys the company of her women friends and family in a separate room.

In some Jewish traditions, the next step is for the mothers of the bride and groom to break a plate together. This act symbolizes the gravity of the commitment the two lovers are about to make. Just as a smashed plate can never be fully restored, so two people will never be the same again if their marriage breaks apart.{5}

Next come the B'deken and the signing of the ketuba. Depending on which Jewish tradition is followed, one will come right before the other. The ketuba is the marriage contract, and while it implies the acquisition of the bride by the groom, in practice it is a legally binding agreement signed solely by the groom declaring his intention to provide food, clothing, shelter, emotional support, and pleasure to his wife throughout their union.{6} This document is typically artfully presented, as seen in the photograph above, and belongs to the bride. She will typically display it prominently in their home.

It is during the B'deken that the bride and groom see each other for the first time after a week apart. The bride is seated upon her throne, surrounded by family and friends. Her groom approaches, accompanied by his father and his future father-in-law as well as a band of musicians, to cover her face with her veil. This veiling symbolizes that while appearances are important, her inner beauty, her soul, and her character are of utmost importance to him.{7, 8} It can also symbolize the groom's promise to protect and cover his bride for all their days.

Together at last, the bride and groom proceed next to the chuppa, a decorated wedding canopy held aloft over the couple to symbolize the new home the couple will build together. When the bride arrives, she will circle the groom seven times, representing her "protective, surrounding light" which will illuminate their household "with understanding and love from within and [protect] it from harm from the outside."{9}

Beneath the chuppa the rabbi pronounces blessings upon the couple, wine is sipped, and the groom offers his bride a plain gold band without blemish or ornamentation as a token of his commitment to her. The ring is placed upon her right index finger. At this point their marriage is official, and the seven blessings are read by the rabbi and/or honored family members. Following another sip of wine, the breaking of the glass takes place. In this moment, the joy of the day is set aside as the groom shatters a wine glass with his foot in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In this way, the couple assures that even above the joy of their union, Jerusalem holds pride of place for them. The sound of shattering glass is the cue for the crowd to shout "Mazaltov," after which time the newlyweds are secreted away for fifteen minutes of privacy, their yichud.

Together in secrecy, they will break their fast and eat a light meal together while their guests are served outside in the banquet hall. In the past, it was customary for the couples' first experience of physical intimacy to take place during this brief but sacred time.{10} This is not typically the case these days, though I imagine a fair amount of smooching takes place during this time.

After their sacred alone time, the couple is reunited with their wedding guests, and supper is eaten together. After dinner, the "Grace After Meals" is recited, and sometimes the seven blessings are repeated. And then, the dancing begins in earnest until the night is over.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Becher, Rabbi Mordechai. "The Jewish Wedding Ceremony." OhrSomayach. Accessed August 25, 2015.
  2. "Engagement." Accessed August 30, 2015.
  3. Shulman, Shlomo (Chaplain). "Guide to the Jewish Wedding." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Becher.
  7. Shulman.
  8. The Knot. "Jewish Wedding Ceremony Rituals." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  9. Becher.
  10. The Knot.