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.
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.
Most people think of Tiffany as being jewelry or Tiffany Studios lamps. When talking about the stunning stained glass lamps and windows, you would be thinking of Louis Comfort Tiffany who created and produced these items in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Louis Comfort Tiffany was born to an affluent family in New York on February 18, 1848. He was known to have created these beautiful pieces of art for presidents and royalty such as Queen Victoria, the queen of England.
At the age of 18, he studied art under George Inness, an American landscape artist. Between 1865 and 1872, Tiffany traveled to Europe four times. He studied Islamic architecture, Romanesque, Moorish art and Japanese ceramics.
At the age of 24, after returning from Europe, he studied glass and mosaics and conducted experiments with hot glass exposed to fumes and metallic oxides. He began his pottery observations and experimentation at the age of 50. Over many years, the Tiffany Studio produced many stained glass lamps and windows among other pieces of art. He was one of the first to create electrical “home illumination” stained glass lamps for commercial use. Tiffany wanted to be able to supply his stained glass electrical lamps to everyone at any economic level and he did sometimes at the expense of company profits. He made most of his lamps between 1895 and 1920.
Art Nouveau is known for its sensuous curving and flowing designs with organic forms such flowers, leaves, dragonflies, butterflies, peacocks and spiders with webs. Tiffany incorporated this style into his lamps. He also produced stained glass lamps with the geometric lines of the Art Deco period.
His stained glass lamps and other pieces of art were prized and appreciated all over the world as they are today through reproductions. His career lasted 50 years and he is known to have worked with L. C. Tiffany & Association Artists, the Tiffany Glass Company, Tiffany Studios, Tiffany Furnaces and L. C. Tiffany Furnaces. He died at the age of 85 on January 17, 1933.
The Riker Brothers Firm, an American firm, was known for their work in plique-a-jour which included Art Nouveau styles, birds pendants and brooches. In the early years, they manufactured Masonic jewelry pieces, watch fobs and charms. In 1870, they included onyx and cameos to their Riker Brother jewelry collection and then platinum and gold. In 1916, they exhibited and included in their collection of jewelry, platinum with diamonds, pearls and gemstones.
In 1801, Newark, New Jersey was the location to be for jewelry production in the United States. That is when the slogan, “made-in-America” came to be known. Gold and silver were the metals of choice at the time.
Like many jewelry leaders, William Riker was born to immigrant parents. He was born in 1822 in Montclair, New Jersey. At the age of 15, he became an apprentice with Taylor & Baldwin and later with Downing & Hoyt in New York City.
In 1846, the firm Riker and Tay was established when he became partners with George H. Tay. They bought out the firm of Bliss & Dwight to acquire their stock and much needed additional space for expansion.
In 1849, Tay left the firm to become a gold prospector in California. Riker then became partners with Horace Goble. The company’s name changed to Riker & Goble.
In 1859, the firm moved again. Goble retired in 1864. The sons of William Riker joined the firm and the company’s name changed to Riker Brothers. They moved to a new location. The father died in 1898 and William Jr. became the head of the company. The brother, Joseph Ricker, left the firm and became president of Newark Manufacturing Jewelers’ Association.
The company moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1926 where it remained until the 1940’s.
The Idol’s Eye diamond weighs 70.21 carats and is described as a “blue white Golconda diamond”. Golconda is a mine in India known for its colorless and inclusion free diamonds. These diamonds are so rare that they would today probably only be seen at a Christie’s or another well-known auction house. The Idol’s Eye diamond is shaped like a combination old mine cut and triangular brilliant possessing a “slight bluish tinge”. The first mention of this diamond was in July 14, 1865.
It was later stated that the 34 Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) owned the Idol’s Eye. It is unclear where its name came from as the stone would not have been set in an idol in a country that was Muslim since the 8th century A.D. The Sultan Abdul Hamid was defeated in the very early 1900’s and in 1909, he lived in exile until he died in Instanbul in 1918. He made plans for his retirement sensing the political unease which included sending his jewels to a safe place. The servant he entrusted with this task turned out to be a traitor and sold the jewels in Paris. They later came up for sale in Paris on June 24, 1909. Later, a Spanish nobleman bought the Idol’s Eye diamond but kept it in his bank for years.
In 1946, the Idol’s Eye appeared and was purchased by a Dutch diamond dealer who sold it to Harry Winston in 1946. He then sold it to May Bonfils Stanton. She was known to have had a generous collection of jewelry since she was a young girl. She lived in self-imposed isolation and was known to have worn the Idol’s Eye diamond during her solitary morning breakfasts. After her death in 1962, all her jewels including the Idol’s Eye were auctioned off by Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York and the proceeds were given to her special charities.
Harry Levinson, a Chicago jeweler bought the Idol’s Eye for his wife for $375,000 who then sold it to Laurence Graff in 1979. Before the sale Levinson loaned the diamond to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The following January the Idol’s Eye and two other very large diamonds were sold to an unknown buyer.
The Great Star of Africa diamond was mined in Pretoria, Africa at the Premier Mine in June 25, 1905. This diamond is also known as the Cullinan I diamond named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the mine.
The Great Star of Africa, the largest diamond ever found until 1985, was found by Frederick Wells, the manager of the Premier Mine. He was given a finder’s fee of $10,000. The diamond was later sold to King Edward VII of England for $800,000.
The job of cutting the Great Star of Africa was given to the Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam as they had successfully cut the previous largest diamond named the Excelsior. After studying this fabulous diamond rough for three months, on February 10, 1908, the cleving blade had been placed at the prearranged point for cleving and the blade broke. The diamond was unharmed and the second cleaving device was used to spilt the diamond perfectly. It was the largest cut diamond until 1985 with the discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond.
The first cut produced two huge diamonds weighing 1,977.50cts and 1040cts. (These diamonds are known as the Great Star of Africa and the Lesser Star of Africa). Later, diamonds were cut into 9 major brilliant cut diamonds with 9.5cts of remaining unpolished pieces. The total diamond weight of the cut diamonds amounted to 1,063cts, losing 65% of the diamond rough. The two largest diamonds were kept by the King and he gave an 11.5ct diamond to the Queen. The Great Star of Africa or The Cullinan Diamonds are part of the Royal Scepter and are housed with the other crown jewels in the Tower of London. Queen Elizabeth II is the current owner of the fabulous diamonds.
Sending the diamonds to the King proved to be a security risk. As a diversion, they were arranged to be sent on a steamboat to England with a group of detectives. The actual diamonds were sent by parcel post.
Moonstone rings have the attribute of an alluring play of light. It has a glow that changes when the stone is moved back and forth. Moonstone is the birthstone for June and the 13th year anniversary.
Moonstones from Sri Lanka offer a scintillation of pale blue on an almost transparent background. The sensual, feminine stone coming from India have a “beige brown, green, orange or brown color. These colors with its glistening characteristics make it a perfect stone for moonstone rings and other moonstone jewelry. Some have a cat’s eye effect or a four spotted star sapphire.
In the Art Nouveau period, moonstone was a traditional stone to use in jewelry. Rene Lalique also masterfully used moonstone in pieces currently found in museums and private collections today.
As an uncut, stone it is very hard to see its natural soft shimmer because the stone needs to be cut to see its delightful play of color. Moonstones are most often cut into a cameo, engraved with faces of children or a cabochon shape.
Although moonstones come from Sri Lanka, this transparent stone with its soft bluish shimmer also comes from the United States, Brazil, Australia, Myanmar and Madagascar. The cost of these moonstones have risen sharply over time as the stones have become rarer.
Moonstone has one weakness. It is 6 out of 10 on the mohs scale of hardness and because of this, needs to be treated with care. A moonstone ring or other moonstone jewelry, which may have become dull overtime, can be given to a jeweler to bring the shine back.
Moonstone comes in many price ranges. The most valuable moonstones are larger, a more intense color of blue and are more transparent. The Indian moonstone is much more available and popular and thus more reasonably priced than the traditional blue color. For that reason, moonstones are available in many price ranges today.
Art Nouveau jewelry, from 1890-1905, had a very distinctive style. It came after the period that was very restrictive. The design of the Art Nouveau Period followed the way of the Arts and Crafts Period to a certain extent. Everything was handcrafted and became feminine and romantic. Flowing, curvy lines, organic designs like flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, poppies, orchids, irises, snakes and designs of a woman’s head or figure were commonly used.
Jewelry material that was used beside gold, silver and copper were shell, horn, ivory, tortoise shell, carved glass and enameling. Pastel gemstones like cabochon opals, moonstones, citrine, amber and peridot were used as well as pearls.
The signature designs were curvy and flowing as mentioned above. You could expect to see a woman’s head or figure with flowing hair, a butterfly or dragonfly in flight or beautiful budding flower designs as brooches or pendants. Rings contained flowers or flowers with leaves and filigree. Every piece of jewelry was truly a piece of art.
Plique a jour was also very popular. It was glass enameling that looked like stained glass connected to ribbons of gold, silver or copper. If you are lucky enough to have a piece of this jewelry, hold it up to the light and you can see through your piece of art. Plique a jour was also used to make vases and other objects of art.
Old plique a jour was extremely rare and one of a kind because only a small number of artists had perfected the art. This style of jewelry making required skill not only requiring a master jeweler but this person must also have been able to make translucent enameling, “in air”, which is enameling without backing. Truly a skilled art.