2008/07/30

Emeralds



The word "emerald" was derived from French "esmeraude" which in turn goes back via Latin to the Greek root "smaragdos", meaning simply "green gemstone". The ancient Incas and Aztecs, in South America where the best emeralds are still found today, worshipped them as a holy stone. However, probably the most ancient occurrences which were known are located near the Red Sea where mines were already exploited by Egyptian Pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C.. The mines gained fame under he name of "Cleopatra's Mines", but were already exhausted when they were rediscovered.

What is surprising with emeralds is that, in spite of the beauty of the green they feature, inclusions are allowed, and nevertheless, in top qualities fine emerald are even more valuable than diamonds. Large emeralds with no inclusions and of the better color are so rare that if you had one it would be more expensive than a diamond. Therefore most emeralds will have inclusions - traces of an active history of origin characterising the gemstone. Fine inclusions, after all, do not diminish the value; on the contrary. An emerald of deep, vivid green with inclusions will be valued higher than an inclusion-free stone of paler color. Almost endearingly, experts call the many crystal inclusions or fissures which are so typical for this gemstone a "jardin" (meaning "garden" in French). The tender green plant-like structures in the emerald garden are considered as identifying characteristics of a naturally grown emerald.

Many centuries ago in the Veda, the ancient sacred writings of Hinduism, there was written down information on the valuable green gemstones and their healing power: "emeralds promise good luck", or "The emerald enhances your well-being". It does not come as a surprise, then, that the treasure chests of Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained most wonderful emeralds. One of the largest emeralds in the world is the "Mogul Emerald". It goes back to the year 1695, weighs 217.80 carats and is about 10 cm high. One side is inscribed with prayers, on the other side there are engraved opulent flower ornaments. The legendary emerald was auctioned off at Christie's of London for 2.2 million US dollars to an anonymous buyer.

Emeralds have been coveted ever since ancient times. Some of the most famous emeralds can therefore be admired in museums and collections. For example, The New York Museum of Natural History not only shows a cup from pure emerald which was owned by Emperor Jehingar, but also a Colombian emerald crystal weighing 632 carats. The collection owned by the Bank of Bogota contains no less than five valuable emerald crystals weighing between 220 and 1796 carats. Also in the Irani State Treasure there are guarded some wonderful emeralds, among them the tiara of ex-Empress Farah.

Emerald's reported healing properties:
  • guards against poison and venomous bites
  • cures epilepsy
  • induces fertility and prevents abortions
  • heals and relaxes the eyes
  • helps with stomach disorders, such as dysentery
  • induces sleep
  • aids in leprosy wounds

Emerald's reported power properties:
  • protection against demoniacal possession
  • increase brain powers
  • provide clairvoyance
  • mental clarity
  • strengthen love and fidelity


See some antique jewelry with emeralds

More information on precious stones and their healing and power properties.


2008/07/23

Regional Dutch Jewelry



Regional Dutch Jewelry or as they say in the Netherlands: streeksieraden.


The two jewels depicted here originate from Walcheren (Zeeland) and are manufactured during the 19th century. Most pieces of this type of jewelry, if not all, are all made in 14K gold.

These jewels have a special significance, as in those days one could not only tell the precise origin of a person simply by looking at what he was wearing but also what religion that person had, if she was married or not and well-to-do or not. Indeed, every Dutch village had its own costume and decoration. The jewelry was set almost exclusively with blood coral (from the Mediterranean Sea) and garnets originating from Bohemia).

Most of the times the clasps were made in gold filigree. (Filigree is in fact thin golden wire plain, twisted or plaited into refined motifs. This technique demands very high skills and precision from the maker.) People used to wear these jewels mostly on Sundays or holidays.

Basically in 1900, there were 10 different areas in the Duch province of Zeeland (the richest in terms of clothing variety) to which, very precise, jewels are to be attributed: Tholen, Noord-Beveland, Zuid-Beveland, Schouwen-Duiveland, Walcheren, Arnemuiden, Nieuw en St-Joosland Axel, Hulst and Cadzand.

Today, only 3 areas keep traditional clothing: Walcheren, Arnemuiden and Zuid-Beveland, although nowadays, mostly worn by elder women and people in folkloric dance groups.

2008/07/11

Platinum, from trash to treasure



Platinum has not always been considered to be the most precious metal to make jewelry from. Although there are some nice examples of platinum jewelry, people's attitude towards platinum has been different....

The word "platinum" is derived from the Spanish "platina", which means "small silver". The first traces of platinum date from the Thebes epoch (about 7th century before JC), from when a small box was retrieved, adorned with a platinum ribbon.

During the 15th century, the Spaniards didn't like the little white granules that soiled their South American gold and used to throw them away. A platinum sample finally reached Europe in 1741, and was analyzed by sir Charles Wood, who didn't manage to melt it down. It was only when oxygen could be isolated (after its discovery in 1774), that people were finally able to increase the temperature of flames enough so as to melt platinum and really start to discover its particular properties: malleable, eternal brilliance, hardness superior to that of gold, inoxydability...

It was after the Napoleanic wars that the English managed to separate platinum from the other metals that were extracted from the platinum mines (palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, ruthenium). Around 1820, the Russians discovered huge ores in the Oural. Only from the beginning of the 20th century, platinum was being used in jewelry. Its use started to increase when scientists discovered its catalytic properties (its ability to speed up chemical reactions).

From then on platinum became a strategic industrial metal until the end of WWII. Today, the use of platinum is returning to the jewelry industry, but platinum has also a very wide range of industrial uses, including use in the treatment of some cancers.

A cute urban legend does its round:
As platinum has not always been considered to be a precious metal, in Russia in the beginning of the 19th century, counterfeiters used platinum as the core for their "golden roubels", this because of platinum's high gravity. When, around 1870, platinum started to be recognized as a precious metal the price of it rose accordingly, it is told that roubels were then cut in half in the hope of finding platinum inside.... Even if it is not true, it still makes a cute story.