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Posts Tagged Sapphires

A Special Jewel & True Original

by on October 29th, 2011

Multicolored Sapphire & Diamond Necklace in Titanium with Matching Earrings

There is a rare breed of contemporary jewelry that, the minute it is made, one knows it will endure the vagaries of fashion and never become the victim of boredom.

This multicolored sapphire necklace is one such enduring example. Mounted in titanium, it combines quality material with superb design and craftsmanship. Built in Geneva, in one of the world’s finest workshops, it was so difficult to make the designer vowed he would never construct jewelry using these techniques again.

Titanium is one of the most difficult metals for a jeweler to craft; it is temperamental and stiff, so if mistakes are made the work must be scrapped and begun again. Gold and platinum are much more forgiving.

The audacious way that the designer has mirrored the brilliant colors of the sapphires in the titanium itself (through a painstaking scientific process that is difficult to describe and harder yet to understand) is what makes this a masterpiece.

Instead of creating a piece that could be considered gaudy or gauche, he has transformed what could have been a predictable multicolored sapphire necklace into something both elegant and utterly unique.

A Lesson in Time & Taste

by on October 28th, 2011

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

The 1930’s were a glorious period for the great Greenwich estates. Stone cutters, plaster workers and wood carvers put extraordinary finishing touches on grand houses; classically trained landscape architects designed wondrous gardens, then left in the hands of hereditary stewards; families hosted splendid dinner parties in wide backyard fields.

It was a time of grandeur, and within these walls, jewels of simple, but powerful beauty were worn with ease and abandon.

Below is a star sapphire of over 50 carats, beautifully set during that period. The rays of the star, glowing on fields of microscopic minerals riding the crystalline structure, extend vividly to it’s horizon.

30 Carat Star Sapphire Ring

An Elegant 30ct Star Sapphire Ring

Mimicking the geometry of this asterism, the gemstone is enhanced by triangular and kite-shaped diamond shoulders. These side stones were carved with no regard to the amount of diamond dropped away on the cutter’s floor to achieve the perfect symmetry demanded to follow the points of the central star.

My grandfather always maintained that to truly judge a jewelry craftsman’s care and ability, you have to look beneath, in this case inside, the piece; he’d have been thrilled by this ring.

Between bridging of platinum polished to mirror-like brightness (only achieved by “thrumming” leather or cotton strings through the ring’s openings for days), is the original owner’s cypher.

Cypher Underneath the Sapphire

The Original Owner's Cypher

To cut sapphire at all- the second hardest of substances- it takes a diamond; and to fashion this perfectly entwined monogram, it took a master cutter, working a graver formed from a diamond and then skillfully wielded in the most delicate and hardest task imaginable: carving an elegant cypher.

Pop used to say that the thirties were a time when you had to have taste to have money. Although some might suggest that this no longer remains the case, this jewel from one of Greenwich’s truly “Great Estates” could make you a believer that it once was the rule.

P.S., so would seeing Old Mrs. Wilshire, who early on in my career had her chauffeur stand outside the store’s door, holding a brace of massive, dignified wolfhounds…

An Antique Sapphire and Diamond Flower Spray Pin

by on July 1st, 2010

Victorian Sapphire & Diamond Flower Brooch

Victorian Sapphire & Diamond Flower Spray Pin, $28,000

The Victorian era is often described as being rich, opulent and grandiose, particularly in the fine and decorative arts; however, in between lofty tiaras and dripping necklaces, many pieces of jewelry display grace, elegance and a timeless appearance. Figurative jewelry was also extremely popular, and, in particular, flora and fauna were interpreted in almost every way.

This sapphire and diamond brooch dates from around 1860, and is a perfect example of exceptional workmanship combined with an elegance that translates to an object considered beautiful in any era. Set with a 15 carat natural Ceylon sapphire, the scroll leaves have a sculptural quality that is much more three dimensional than many pins one sees from this period. The flower has a long curved stem suspended in the wind in an arching line of diamonds perfectly proportioned for the shoulder it is to rest on.

To use contradictory terms this is understated elegance that has tremendous impact for the sophisticated lover of jewelry.

A Stunning Sapphire and Diamond Fringe Necklace by Harry Winston

by on July 1st, 2009

Harry Winston Diamond & Sapphire Necklace, 41.93 total carats of sapphires and 74.58 total carats of diamonds ($450,000)

Harry Winston Diamond & Sapphire Necklace, 41.93 total carats of sapphires and 74.58 total carats of diamonds ($450,000)

Legend has it that when Harry Winston was just twelve years old, he recognized a two-carat emerald in a pawnshop, bought it for twenty-five cents and sold it two days later for eight hundred dollars. For Winston, it is just the first tale in a storied career of one of the truly great American jewelry designers.

At the age of twenty-four, Winston opened his first business in New York City known as the Premier Diamond Company. Twelve years later, he founded the company that bears his namesake and began to manufacture his own jewelry designs.

By 1950, Winston was acknowledged as the uncontested “King of Diamonds”, owning, at one time or another, as many as one-third of all the famous diamonds in the world, including the Idol’s Eye, the Crown of Charlemagne and the Briolette of India. In addition, Winston was responsible for the cutting of numerous famous diamonds, including the Jonker, the Taylor-Burton, the Star of Sierra Leone and the Vargas, and he donated three important diamonds to the Smithsonian: the Hope, the Portuguese and the Oppenheimer.

In 1978, Winston passed away, but his legacy lives on in the enduring power of his vintage jewelry. There is a glamour and excitement to his designs and lifestyle, which combined to make him the most famous jeweler in the world.

Terry Betteridge recalls riding Winston’s famous triangular elevator to his Fifth Avenue office in New York City with his Dad, “When I visited Winston in Manhattan, it was like visiting the Wizard of Oz. He was more than just a talented jewelry designer; Winston was an entertainer who found a way to make his diamonds and company seem magical.”

A trademark of Winston’s jewelry style is light open platinum settings that give the appearance of diamonds floating on air. This technique is seen in this magnificent sapphire fringe necklace, in which a series of perfectly matched natural sapphires are suspended from light flexible articulated lines of platinum-set colorless diamonds. This creates powerful yet distinctly feminine jewelry.

Rubies and Sapphires: Fireworks for any Occasion

by on July 1st, 2009

Ruby & Diamond Cluster Earrings and Sapphire & Diamond Cluster Earrings, from $5,000.

Corundum. Although it sounds like an obtuse problem, corundum is actually the mineral that composes some of the most sought after gemstones in the world.

Most people know corundum as a ruby if it is red and a sapphire if it is blue. Depending on where it is found, the mineral tends to take on a particular hue, which is why the fabulous “pigeon’s blood rubies” are often from Burma and the more tame, somewhat purplish “reds” are usually from Thailand. Famously, the most beautiful blue sapphires are from mines in Kashmir, but stunning, somewhat differently textured blue sapphires are well known in Burma as well and still other paler, but still brilliant, “blues” are found in Ceylon.

Although rubies and sapphires found in a particular place tend to look the same, there will always be black sheep in any family, and Burmese rubies are occasionally awful, even though all of the most expensive rubies in the world are from Burma.

Rarely, pinkish orange stones are discovered, and are known in the trade by the name “padperadscha” to evoke the color of an exotic jungle flower. In addition, many blackish green sapphires come from Australia.

Generally, true pink sapphires suffer from both a relative lack of interest and fairly large supply, while most green sapphires that Betteridge has taken in, I have given to children to keep and play with, as they generally have little to no value.

As a rule, the prettier the stone is, be it pink or red, yellow or blue, the more expensive, relative to the desirability of its general color it will be. For instance, the finest Burmese ruby might be $250,000 per carat, but a gem-quality, pink stone more like $20,000 per carat. Similarly, a “knock you down pretty” Kashmir sapphire might be $70,000 per carat, while the finest yellow sapphire ever found might only be $1,000 per carat.

At the end of the day, it comes down to basic economics: the extreme scarcity of fine, large “reds” and “blues” makes these forms of the fabulously colorful corundum particularly valuable.