Archive for the ‘ The History of Jewelry ’ Category

The Unique Romanticism of Diamonds

What is it exactly that gives diamonds their uniquely captivating charm? Is it all in the shimmer, or the chemical make-up? These natural miracles make up a huge portion of the fine jewelry market, and are celebrated in projects ranging from engagement and wedding bands to tiaras, tennis bracelets, and more. Bridal jewelry might just be the most well-known and most obvious fine jewelry genre that incorporates these beauties, and there is no wonder why. Diamonds have long been associated with the romantic, and have become the centerpiece of international romantic tradition in the last few centuries.

Romantic Diamonds at Amidon Jewelers

Romantic Diamonds at Amidon Jewelers

The very use of the diamond engagement ring as a mode and method of marriage proposal originated in Austria, but that was not the first instance of romanticizing the diamond. These gemstones have found homes in countless ancient cultures, and their almost otherworldly beauty has given them many nicknames and fascinating origin stories. Some cultures believed they represented the tears of ancient Gods. Others believed they were slivers of fallen stars, or even fragments of the sky above. Seeing them for the first time with no other scientific evidence must have been uniquely mesmerizing. Supernatural conclusions only make sense.

The hypnotic effect diamonds can have has been long and well documented in literature and photography, giving us an insight on the general romantic nature of diamonds. While they are tied to specific romantic traditions, like the diamond engagement ring discussed earlier, they are also romantic in a general aesthetic sense, arousing a sense of deep appreciation for beauty. While this isn’t purely the reason diamonds are so highly regarded by human beings all over the world, it is a primary reason they are used in decorating, fine jewelry products, and why they adorn crowns and royal scepters.

Diamonds have also found use, interestingly enough, as cutting and forging tools. Given the hard nature of the diamond, they cannot be damaged when used for cutting. Our hyper attentive focus on the diamonds in terms of beauty often erases or distracts from the fact that they had and continue to have a lot of practical use outside of purely aesthetic pleasures.

There are so many different ways in which diamonds have become a natural part of our historical development, and the evidence is no clearer than in the modern era. Deepening our understanding of diamonds in a historical context will only help to expand our appreciation of these stunning naturally occurring gemstones.

The History of Ornamental Jewelry

There are dozens of occasions that we mark with gifts of fine jewelry, although sometimes we don’t think of these things as being connected with the idea of rituals. Some of them make a lot of sense – engagement rings commemorating the commitment to get married, and wedding bands to symbolize the cementing of that bond. Others might be a little less common – taking a teenager to get their ears pierced when they turn thirteen, for example, which was a tradition in my own family. Sometimes, these fine jewelry pieces are specific – pendants to mark the passing of loved ones are a common one. Other times, it’s more about having the piece itself. Consider the upscale ornamental crown pieces used in British coronation rituals. There have been dozens of crowns historically, some only used once or twice. What was important was that there was a crown, not so much whose crown it was.

Begin your own story at Amidon Jewelers

Begin your own story at Amidon Jewelers

 

Many cultures have very specific rules regarding jewelry and coming of age rituals and have employed these traditions for decades. In the San Carlos Apache Native American culture, there is a religious coming of age ceremony that draws on ancient mythology and involves the wearing of a ritual crown and other ceremonial jewelry that are worn only for the occasion itself. The tradition of jewelry and ritual is not limited to any one type of transitional celebration, and certainly is not just for the living. Consider the way that Egyptians would decorate their dead, creating entire elaborate fine jewelry pieces and ornate masks to mark the occasion, for just one example of how jewelry has been used throughout history to honor the living and the dead.

Many of us unconsciously mark exciting events in our lives with gifts. Mother’s Day is an occasion to buy fine jewelry and flowers, and that tends to hold true for birthdays as well, especially big markers like 30, 40, etc. There is certainly no doubt that fine jewelry has always occupied a very magical and special place in human history, and continues to thrive in that space between ritual tradition and spontaneity even in the modern age. The history is as rich as it is long, with incredible diverse variations as well as striking similarities in cultures all across the world. It seems that human beings have always recognized the power of ornamental fine jewelry pieces, and that is something that has not changed.

 

The Crown Jewels

Among the most famous fine jewelry pieces in the world are the British Crown Jewels. There are several sceptres, crowns, rings and other pieces of fine jewelry in the collection. Some of the more well-known pieces are home to the most valuable diamonds and gemstones in the world.

One such diamond, “The Great Star of Africa”, was discovered in the Premier Mine of South Africa in 1905, and currently boasts a value of around $400 million US dollars. Despite its original, uncut weight of 3106.85 carats, it is estimated this stunning diamond actually fell off of an even larger diamond.

Now, “The Great Star of Africa” – or the Cullinan Diamond – is embedded in St. Edward’s Sceptre. It is removable, and can also be worn as a brooch when it is not attached to the sceptre itself. The sceptre is on display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, alongside the other pieces in the royal collection. The Lesser Star of Africa”, which came from the same source material, has been a part of The Imperial State Crown itself since 1909.

The Imperial Crown is a stunning display of jewels all on its own. Given the highly visible and royal nature of the crown, only the finest materials are incorporated into the design. The current version includes over two thousand diamonds, over two hundred pearls, and a sizable collection of emeralds, rubies and sapphires.

By far the oldest crown in the collection is St. Edward’s crown, which was made from solid gold in 1661 for the coronation of Edward The Confessor. It is also one of the objects that Thomas Blood and his associates are famous for attempting to steal during the Crown Jewel Heist of 1671. The crown was flattened with a mallet in order to hide it better upon Blood’s escape. It was recovered and was most recently used in the coronation of Elizabeth II.

All of these pieces serve important ritual purposes even to this day, which is not the case in other areas of Europe. Some of the pieces in this collection date back to the 12th century, and are still used in modern coronation rituals. There was a time when fine jewelry pieces like diamond rings were only available to royalty. Now, they are more accessible than ever. One look at the Crown Jewels and the innumerable diamonds encrusted on the swords, sceptres and crowns, and it is no wonder why these gems and royalty were so inseparable.