When selecting the vintage engagement ring and wedding bands for yourself and your fiancée, it is important to know a little something about jewelry terminology.
The diamond sits on a plate of platinum or gold and is surrounded by a wall of metal that is perpendicular to the plate.
Prong setting is different from bezel setting in that equal parts of the bezel are removed leaving prongs to cover the edge of the diamond. The Tiffany solitaire setting is prong set.
Bead setting is different from prong setting in that small beads of platinum or gold are pushed over the edge to secure the diamond. Pave setting is bead setting over an expanded area of diamonds.
This is a procedure where diamonds are set side by side along a groove and are secured by hammering the sides of the channel wall over the edge of the diamonds.
Diamonds are set in such a way that no metal is showing. No prongs, beads, channels or bezels are used. Grooves in the diamond girdle are set into a metal framework below the surface giving the illusion of diamonds suspended without any metal around the diamond.
Parts of the Ring
The head of the ring is the top of the ring, the prongs and setting that hold the diamond.
The shoulder is the top part of the band of the ring next to the head.
The shank is the lower part of the band of the ring.
Types of Metal
Platinum is a metal that comes out of the ground pure and white. It is soft but tough and pliable. It is resistant to knocks and will last for generations.
Gold is mixed with other metals (alloys) to make it strong enough for jewelry. For instance, 14 karat gold is 14 part gold and 10 part alloys. White gold is yellow gold mixed with certain alloys such as zinc or nickel to make it white. It must be rhodium plated (a type of platinum plating) to cover any hint of yellow. Pure gold is 24 karat and is too soft for jewelry.
Ring resizing is done when a ring becomes too large or too tight. A ring is too large when it keeps falling off. It is too tight after weight gain, during pregnancy or after eating too much salt. When the ring is consistently too tight, it should be resized to make it more comfortable. Ring resizing does not hurt the ring.
Retipping is a procedure where prongs have been broken and need to be replaced or retipped with the original metal for the safety of the diamond.
An engagement ring is the first ring given to the woman at the time of the proposal. It is typically a diamond engagement ring but the stone could be a colored gemstone as well.
A wedding band is a band that is given at the time of the wedding. It can be made of platinum, gold or other durable metal.
An eternity band is a wedding band that contains diamonds or colored gemstones that go all the way around the ring.
An anniversary band is a band with diamonds or gemstones that are contained on the top of the ring going half-way around. It can be used as a wedding band or can be given as a gift for an anniversary.
Carat has to do with the weight of the diamond. One hundred points equal one carat. For instance, a three quarter carat diamond is written .75ct.
Karat has to do with the measure of the purity of gold, fourteen karat (14kt) or eighteen karat (18kt).
There are many ways to set a stone including bezel setting, prong setting, bead setting, channel setting and invisible setting to name a few. Each style of setting offers a different visual appearance and manner of setting. It is important first to decide how to protect the diamond and whether the diamond is a main stone or a side stone.
A simple setting that can highlight the diamond or simply frame it for protection. The diamond sits on a base plate and the diamond is surrounded by a wall of metal that sits perpendicular to the base. Then the wall’s edge is pressed over the edge of the diamond, securing it and framing the diamond as well. It is often used to protect the points on a marquis, princess cut or pear shaped diamond. You will see this setting in modern jewelry and vintage jewelry as well.
Prong setting is different from bezel setting in that equal parts of the bezel are removed leaving prongs to cover the edge of the diamond. Much more of the diamond is showing. The traditional tiffany solitaire mounting is a prong setting.
Bead setting is different from prong setting in that a small bead of metal, gold, platinum or silver is pushed just over the edge of the diamond creating a way to secure it. Bead setting is different than pave setting which means to pave. Bead setting covers one row of diamond setting where pave setting is bead setting covering many rows of diamonds over an expanded area.
Channel set diamonds can be used with most types of diamonds-round, princess cut, emerald cut and baguette. This is a procedure where the diamonds are set side by side along a groove and are secured by hammering the sides of the channel walls.
Invisible set diamonds are set in such a way that no metal is showing that would cover the diamonds. No prongs, no beads, no channels or bezels are used. This technique is two centuries old and was developed by the French. Grooves in the diamond girdle are set into a metal framework below the surface. The procedure is difficult to do so you will not find many jewelers that can create or repair this kind of jewelry setting.
Much like jewelry of the Georgian era, Victorian era jewelry is inspired by nature in its designs. In most cases early Victorian era designs are delicately and intricately etched into gold. Items like Lockets and brooches become very popular during the era. Colored gemstones and diamonds are some of the most popular forms of jewelry worn by Royals and a those select people with an eye for fine detail.
During the Early Victorian Era, the jewelry industry benefited from mass production techniques that shaped the industrial revolution. Machines were created to help stamp jewelry out of thin sheets of metal. For the first time, jewelry became affordable to all economic classes and was not just a sign of royalty or wealth.
Hair-work jewelry became a way for people to express themselves and was an important part of Victorian era styles. Women of the era would purchase special kits to make watch fobs to rings containing hair. All hair was boiled for a period of time and was then divided into sections of 20-30 hairs each. Companies offered services that could make a large variety of items from hair strands. They charged fees ranging from $5.00 to $15.00 depending on the item that was produced. Hair during the Victorian era became more valuable than silver.
Historical Background of the Early Victorian Era
The industrial revolution is underway and Victoria becomes Queen of England in 1837. Many new jewelry making methods are introduced, making it more affordable for a developing middle class. This was the start of the Romantic Period in jewelry design.
Like most young women of her time Queen Victoria was also fond of jewelry. Many of the gifts that she gave to other royal members were unique pieces of jewelry. Even though she was expected to marry for political reasons it was a fortunate coincidence that she was very much in love. She married her German cousin Albert in 1940.
Victorian Jewelry Featured Items
Jean Schlumberger, born into a family textile manufacturing family on January 24, 1907, loved the art of drawing. Dissuaded from this love of drawing, his family sent him to Berlin in 1930 to pursue a career in banking. The next year, defiant Schlumberger moved to Paris to “develop his artistic creativity”.
Schlumberger enlisted in the French army during World War II, in England’s army under General Charles de Gaulle and in the Free French Forces in the Middle East.
After the war, he moved to New York City and designed clothing for Chez Ninon. In 1946, Ninon together with his partner Nicolas Bongard, opened a jewelry store.
Ten years later, Walter Hoving invited Schlumberger to join Tiffany & Co. who ultimately became a Vice President. He was given complete freedom to create his style of fantasy jewelry and ornaments. During his first year, he created the Tiffany Diamond Mounting which is still in use today and the “Bird on a Rock” which holds the 128.54 carat yellow diamond in the legendary Schlumberger style. He was the first out of four creative designers given the freedom to stamp his name into his jewelry designs. Schlumberger loved the idea of the mythical unicorn, phoenix and Pegasus although most of his designs came from the sea, sea creatures and plants.
Some of Schlumberger’s famous clients were The Mellons, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, The Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. He was known to have created bangle bracelets of 18 karat gold leaf covered by vivid translucent colors of red, green or blue. Because Jackie Kennedy was so often seen wearing the bangles in photographs, these bangles became known as “Jackie bracelets”.
Schlumberger won the Fashion Critics Coty Award in 1959 and the French Chevalier of the National Order of Merit in 1977. He celebrated his 30th year anniversary at the 1986 exhibition of Tiffany & Co.
In 1995, Schlumberger was honored in the French Musee de Arts Decoratifs.
He returned to Paris and died at the age of 80 in 1987. He was buried at Isola di San Michele.
Rene Bolvin, goldsmith and engraver, started his firm in 1890 after buying out several workshops such as Soufflot or Marret.
In 1893, Bolvin married Jeanne Poiret, sister of famous fashion designer Paul Poiret, at which time they acquired several more workshops. Together they moved to 38 rue de Turbigo in Paris. Their first clients were Mellerio and Boucheron.
By 1905, Boivin no longer needed to produce work for other firms. They were busy creating jewelry for a small loyal group of clients. He was best known for floral-motif and gemstone jewelry. Later, Boivin became audacious with his work which included bestiary realistic and mythological animal miniatures. It also included a series of cats. He ignored the Art Nouveau trends and created chunky pieces influenced by Egyptian, Syrian and Persian designs. Although not well received at the time, these designs became popular after his death in 1917.
After his death and during World War I, Jeanne, his wife took over the Boivin business. She hired Louis Girard to manage the firm and then hired Suzanne Vuillerme as her designer, who worked for the firm until 1931. Later, Juliette Moutard came to design for Boivin’s from 1931-1975. Her daughter, Germain, also began designing for the firm in 1938.
The best known designs by Boivin’s were created by these women. Although never signed, their pieces were unique and distinctive enough that everyone knew they were a Boivin cutting edge design.
Art Deco was popular at the time but they created sizeable bold pieces of jewelry as well as simple Assyrian swirls. The designers used yellow gold and preferred working with semi-precious gemstones and materials such as ebony, sandlewood and tiger skin. Their designs included angels, mermaids and unicorns which became widely popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The daughter, Germain, took over the business when her mother retired. In late 1976, the business sold to Jacques Bernard who had been working with Boivin’s since 1964.
In 1991, Boivin’s sold to the Asprey Group.
Orange Blossom jewelers started in the early 1900’s. The company was purchased in 1990 and all molds for the jewelry were destroyed. Some Orange Blossom jewelry is still being produced in Canada.
In 2003, Martin Ross Group Inc. purchased the Canadian division of the Orange Blossom Company. They are known for their beautifully fashioned engagement rings and wedding bands and are made with high quality components using creative jewelry designs. Traub Manufacturing Company’s Orange Blossom line offered grooms wedding rings in 1928.
Jewelry collectors and brides wanting a stylish vintage diamond engagement ring or wedding band are attracted to these beautiful hard to find rings.
The Italian firm, Buccellati, is known for its beautiful handcrafted items designed in gold and silver and in platinum and gold. They used their unique engraving skills which included designs that imitated linen, parallel engraving which creates a sheen appearance, engraving that criss crosses and designs based on nature-animal, leaves and flowers. Their most delicate texture engraving is called modellato, which “consists of reproducing several designs chiseled in three dimensions on a minuscule scale”, usually used as decorations on boarders.
In the mid eighteenth, century Contargo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan. In 1909, at the age of 12, Mario Buccellati apprenticed with the highly respected firm, Beltrami & Beltrami, in Milan.
In 1919, Buccellati took over the firm and renamed it Buccellati. Because of his unique handcrafted items such as Buccellati watches and rings, Buccellati became international known.
Later, four of his five sons entered the business-Frederico, Gianmaria, Luca and Lorenzo. They opened new stores in Rome (1925) and Florence (1929). In 1951, he was the first Italian craftsman to open a store in New York on Fifth Avenue.
In 1967, Mario Buccellati died and his four sons split the business. His sons, Lorenzo and Frederico, took over the stores in Italy. Luca and Gianmaria assumed responsibility for the stores in the United States and expanded into Hong Kong in 1970, Monte Carlo in 1976 and Paris in 1979.
The third generation of Buccellati now owns the company and they have grown internationally.
Seaman Schepps, son of immigrants, grew up in New York’s Lower East Side and was famous for his clunky retro and 1950’s jewelry. He traveled from New York to California at the turn of the century as a part of a deceptive get-rich-quick scheme. He arrived in Los Angeles with a great deal of cash and opened a store known for its antiques, jewelry and other expensive objects.
Schepps’ efforts during the next twenty years produced great success and received a great deal of attention. He was shown on the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Although the idea of clunky jewelry had been around since the twenty’s, his jewelry was different in that it contained varying color combinations and unorganized placements of gemstones. He preferred colored gemstones to diamonds for his jewelry collections. Schepps enjoyed using pastel colors, such as water blue aquamarines, light sapphires, emeralds and rubies, as well as topaz, citrine, pale pink quartz and rock crystal. He also found jade, turquoise and lapis hardstone interesting material to work with. Schepps enjoyed whimsical themes of sea life and animals. His use of ebony, coral and turquoise created interesting curb-linked bracelets. His work included the use of uncommonly cut gemstones which made his jewelry unconventional and fascinating. Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Warhol, President Roosevelt, the Duchess of Windsor and certain members of the DuPont, Mellon and Rockefeller families were among some of his clients.
In the 1960’s, Seaman Schapps retired and his daughter, Patricia, took over the business. In 1992, Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenjam purchased the business and, to this day, still produces jewelry in the stylish Seaman Schapps style.
Famous celebrities like Ashley Judd, Oprah, Katherine Hepburn, Greta Gargo and Joan Crawford were among the clients that were captivated with Verdura’s jewelry designs. His style was whimsical yet still elegant. Fulcodi de Verdura was the jeweler of “high society” in the nineteen thirties.
In his early years, Verdura lived at his grandmother’s prestigious country mansion. Like other children, he played with his sister and friends. He was known to romp at a nearby beach and play in the massive grounds of the country mansion. There were many animals on the grounds and Verdura spent a great deal of time with them. He was surrounded by art and culture and 4,000 books in the mansion’s library. He was engulfed with many paintings and antiques on the premises.
He received a very small inheritance at the death of his grandmother which required him to get a job. He joined the army but was sent home with a shoulder injury.
He lived the life of a playboy when he inherited the Dukedom at the age of twenty three. He attended parties with artists and royalty in Palermo. His artistic talents were noticed by Linda Porter, the wife of composer Cole Porter and became motivated to leave for Paris hoping to become an artist.
Coco Chanel noticed his artistic talent and hired him as a “textile designer”. Soon he was making her signature bracelets with Maltese crosses set with cabochon shaped gemstones. She loved his bold, brightly colored bulky pieces. Military and Bzsantine themes inspired him. He was known for his “jewelry in shapes of pomegranates, eggplants, prickly pears and violet posies”.
After the stock market crash in 1929, the jewelry trade declined and Verdura left for America. Cole Porter helped him set up his new store on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1939 after working with Paul Flato, a jewelry store owner.
Soon he was creating whimsical jewelry and cigarette cases for the rich and famous. He designed jewelry with the themes of seashells, seahorses, animals and insects in his untraditional jewelry.
He never married or became an American citizen. Verdura retired in London and wrote his autobiography.
In 1984, Walter Landrigan purchased his store. Verdura created four thousand sketches which were used to design future jewelry.
David Yurman, as a jewelry designer, is known throughout the United States as a jewelry craftsman and jewelry designer. He owns 18 boutiques which include New York, Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills. Today, David Yurman jewelry is worn by many celebrities including Bradd Pitt, Charlize Theron and Renee Zellweger. His classic signature sterling silver cable bracelets are considered a staple for women. He currently enjoys a world-wide reputation.
Yurman was born on October 12, 1942 in Long Island, New York. From an early age, he was captivated with design and art. As a student, he sold statues out of the cafeteria at school.
He thought of himself as a designer and dropped out of college in the 1960’s. He was known to have mingled with such artist as Norman Mailer, Ken Kasey and Franz Klein.
Years later, Yurman was apprenticing with sculptor Jacques Lipchitz who had previously worked with Picasso. He later met painter Sybil Kleinrock and they became a couple. He spoiled her with his own jewelry creations which were admired by others who wanted to purchase them.
David Yurman and his sweetheart, Sybil Kleinrock, moved out of Greenwich Village to the countryside and opened their first company, Putnam Art Works in the early 1970’s. That is when they came to understand craftsmanship and jewelry design. The David Yurman line then became a brand.
By 1980, his cable bracelets became his signature piece of jewelry and are now coveted by women all over the world.