Online Jewellery Lexicon
Jewellery and its history
Human beings have had the desire to adorn themselves from the dawn of time. Initially using painting, body paint and natural colours and dyes produced from plants, earth and stones, they later developed body art into a system of symbolism that indicated the status of its wearer. Certain materials and forms of decoration were reserved for the use of specific people such as heads of tribes, chiefs, medicine men or shamans. The times and rituals chosen for the wearing of these adornments also varied depending on their nature. Certain types of ornaments and body art were carried out for specific occasions, such as betrothals, weddings and marriages. Only later did people begin to produce actual jewellery. The feathers and bones which formed the first 'jewellery' later gave way to ornamental stones. Jewellery production became more widely differentiated, with distinctive types of jewellery for specific occasions, forms of use and wearers, as people abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and established settlements. The tasks of daily life were shared among the community and individuals gained free time, enabling outstanding artistic creations to be produced even in the earliest periods of human history.
Bracelets and bangles are first mentioned extensively in medieval and Renaissance times. In Europe, gold bracelets were worn over clothing and against bare skin. Bracelets were extremely popular in the 16th century; lavishly and elaborately ornamented with gold, silver, precious stones and pearls, these accessories were coveted by all those who could afford them. Outstanding works were created in the Classical and Romantic eras. As travel for pleasure became more widespread, Oriental influences became more prevalent.
Brilliants (from the French for 'radiant' or 'lustrous') are diamonds cut in a special form. The term is often confused with 'diamond'; however, 'diamond' is applied to the raw gemstone prior to receiving the brilliant cut. Developed in the early 20th century, this cut is designed to enhance the diamond with breathtaking lustre and beauty.
Cabochon is an unfaceted round or oval cut used for gemstones, with a flat underside and convex domed top. The term comes from the French meaning 'head of a nail'. The RenéSim Rocks collection contains stones we have called 'faceted cabochons', a term indicating that these special stones in the shape of classic cabochons have been cut and faceted in a way that combines the features of both the cabochon and faceted cuts.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend: and Marilyn Monroe was not the only one to sense their magical attraction.
As the decades-old saying goes, 'diamonds are forever'. One of four possible modifications of carbon, diamonds are considered the hardest known mineral in the world even today. They have an array of uses in industrial processes such as grinding tools, and are also used in medicine for cutting tools (e.g. diamond scalpels).
However, the most prestigious use of diamonds is probably as high-quality gemstones.
Diamonds are regarded as the ultimate gemstones because of their ability to refract light and their brilliant sparkle. Their special features are revealed by cutting, a process in which individual facets are carefully worked into the raw stone using a predetermined scheme of angles. Cutting reveals the unique brilliance of a diamond from the body of the stone; popular cuts are brilliant, pear (pendeloque), emerald cut, navettte (marquise), baguette, oval and heart. The brilliant cut is the best-known, with a classic triangular cone shape. The value of a diamond is measured by its size (dimensions), clarity and colour. Diamonds may have many different colours from flawless white through yellow, orange, blue and pink (extremely rare) to black. The colour of a diamond is graded by comparing it to a set of 'masterstones'. Coloured diamonds are graded into 'fancy colours' based on a colour chart. White (clear) diamonds are graded into Exceptional White, Rare White, White, Slightly Tinted White, Tinted White and Tinted Color.
The beauty of a diamond also strongly depends on its clarity. A diamond may show internal structural imperfections known as inclusions. A grading system separating especially clear diamonds from others has been used since the early 20th century.
Clarity grades are: LR/IF (no inclusions visible even under magnification), VVS / vvss1 + vvss2 - 'very very slightly included' (extremely small inclusions, inclusions almost impossible to detect under magnification), VS / vss1 + vss2 (very small inclusions difficult to detect under magnification), SI / si1 + si2 (small inclusions, easily visible), P1 - piqué 1 (larger inclusions, immediately visible under magnification, hard to detect with the naked eye, brilliance slightly impaired), P2 (several larger inclusions, immediately visible under magnification, easy to detect with the naked eye, brilliance somewhat impaired) and P3 (numerous large inclusions, immediately visible under magnification, immediately visible to the naked eye, brilliance significantly impaired).
The size of a diamond is measured in carats. The carat is a unit of measurement which denotes the weight of a gemstone, but also the purity precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum etc.
The world's most famous diamonds:
Star of Africa or Cullinan I
The largest cut diamond in the world, it is set in the sceptre of the Crown Jewels of England (kept in the Treasury of the Tower of London).
Found in 1878 in the De Beers Mine, the Tiffany Diamond was purchased by the famous jeweller of the same name. It is still in the possession of the family.
Believed lost in 1931, the Blue Wittelsbach Diamond was rediscovered in Antwerp in 1961 after an eventful history. It is owned by a wealthy collector.
Kept in the "Green Vault" of the National Art Collection of Dresden, the Green Dresden diamond is believed to originate from Brazil. Other opinions claim that the diamond is the 'green tear' of Shah Jahan (the builder of the Taj Mahal in Agra).
The Hope Diamond is one of the most legendary and renowned diamonds in the world. The blue stone weighs 44.4 carats. It is said that the diamond was once in possession of the Indian god Vishnu, but was stolen from him; since that time the diamond has been under a curse bringing bad luck to all its owners. It was worn by the French monarchs Louis XIV and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, all of whom died under tragic circumstances. The stone was stolen again during the French Revolution and did not reappear until 1830, when it was purchased by Henry Philip Hope. Later owners of the Hope Diamond included Pierre Cartier and Harry Winston; the latter presented the stone to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 1958. The Hope Diamond is said to be worth between 200 and 250 million US dollars.
Diamond rings are available in a wide variety of different designs. A classic engagement ring is the diamond solitaire ring; other attractive options are memory rings encircled in diamonds, or rings that combine diamonds and coloured gemstones.
Ear jewellery (earrings, ear clips, chandelier earrings, post earrings, studs)
Archaelogical finds have delivered evidence that in ancient times not only women and children, but also men (primarily hunters and warriors) wore earrings as an integral part of their clothing. The Italian Renaissance period saw ear jewellery reach a culmination of artistry, as Italian women adopted the custom of wearing large gemstones and large pearls. As ear jewellery spread throughout Europe, styles and types began to diversify. While the north of the continent favoured pearls and gems on clips and studs in shorter, simpler and plainer styles, southern regions preferred long, dangling earrings and their vitality and movement.
Gold is a precious metal and a chemical element with the symbol Au. Gold is among the first metals that were worked by early human beings, and has been coveted for millennia. It is used as a means of payment (e.g. coins) and in the creation of jewellery, and is extremely valuable because of its permanent yellow lustre and rarity. Gold has served as an element of ornament and ritual, but also as the (former) basis of many currencies and thus as a cornerstone of our economic system. A number of gold alloys are used in making jewellery. Pure gold is known as 999 gold.
Necklaces and pendants (chokers, chains)
Necklaces and pendants have been worn as decorative ornaments since the dawn of humanity. They originally took the form of simple wood carvings or small stones worn around the neck as decoration to protect against spirits or demons; as our ancestors' skills in metalworking advanced, necklaces increasingly adopted ever more finely worked symbols and motifs in precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, enamel, steel). Neck jewellery established its status as a craft with pendants, chains, medallions, chokers and sophisticated, highly artistic creations. The church also played a significant role in the development of the pendant as a fashion accessory. Crosses and half-moons, for example, have been popular forms of pendant since Renaissance times. Choker necklaces are the finest and most complex form of neck jewellery and experience their pinnacle in haute joaillerie; designs may include bands of velvet, cord, leather or rubber and chains set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies or sapphires in heart, star or pear shapes. Fashion has played an outstanding role in the development of neck jewellery, inspiring many designers and creative artists to produce magnificent and striking designs. Today as ever, many a neckline is enhanced and further beautified by necklaces in styles from elegant and filigree to chunky and heavy, from short to waist-length.
The symbolic nature of neck jewellery and the status of its wearer also played a role in more modern times from the medieval era to the late 19th century. Only certain classes were permitted to wear and own specific precious stones; for example, the wearing of official decorations and certain gemstones such as opals was restricted to the aristocracy. As society advanced, the craft of jewellery making increased in sophistication. Metals such as gold, white gold, rose gold, red gold, silver, platinum, iron, steel and bronze were incorporated as elements of jewellery. Items of everyday use were transformed into desirable objects, and the creation of beautiful works of art reached its pinnacle in the 'era of kings and emperors'. The aristocratic classes used these objects to advertise their status and as a congenial way of expressing their appreciation of exclusive and beautiful things. In the industrial age and the early 20th century, the advancement of division of labour enabled major international brands such as Cartier, Boucheron, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, etc. - still familiar names today - to establish themselves and grow. Then as now, the jeweller's art, exquisite taste and supreme craftsmanship play key roles in the design and production of jewellery. Professions have become more specialised; today's world of jewellery spans not only goldsmiths, but also silversmiths, stone polishers, stone setters, dealers in precious stones, jewellers and even jewel exchanges or 'bourses', large-scale factories and large jewellery and luxury goods chains, department stores and costume jewellery, which allows everyone the chance to adorn themselves in keeping with fashion trends and to express their personal identity and individuality in unique and characterful ways.
Palladium is an extremely valuable silver-white transitional metal forming part of the platinum group of metals.
Pendants are classic jewellery pieces. They are often set with gemstones and used to create sparkling highlights on simple, modest chains; however, pendants often feature more striking highly ornamented designs.
Rings were originally not intended as decoration or adornment. In fact, a ring was the symbol or characteristic of a specific office; even today the high offices of churches (such as abbots, bishops and cardinals) wear amethyst rings, while the Pope wears the famous Ring of the Fisherman. Medieval faith and religion played key roles in the development of the ring. Rings with engravings of religious motifs became common among the clergy from the 12th century. Decoration or settings with gemstones were also popular among women, children and men alike. Ordinary citizens and farmers also wore rings. The common people followed the aristocracy in adopting the use of coats of arms, which conquered the world of jewellery in the form of seal rings. Gemstones were often associated with specific powers, their wearers seeking protection from disease and disaster and hoping for strength, calmness and equanimity. The early 17th century saw changes in the shapes of gemstones, and ornamentation and special cuts (such as figurative shapes) now came to decorate rings. Scientists and artists developed rings which had specific functions; a ring might now be the setting for a watch, or for astronomical or mathematical aids and instruments. As polishing techniques grew in sophistication, gemstone rings came to the fore and settings receded in importance, becoming plain and simple backdrops against which their stones could sparkle and shine. The best-known of all rings still retains its symbolic character today.
Rose gold is a special type of gold alloy used in jewellery, with a subtle rose hue created by the addition of copper.
As the name indicates, stud earrings are held in place by a stud or post secured behind the ear with a 'butterfly'. Stud earrings usually feature delicate, filigree designs and are a great way to create subtly sparkling highlights. The most popular settings for stud earrings are prong settings and bezel settings.
Yellow gold is a special alloy of pure gold used extensively in jewellery.