Thursday, October 22, 2009

Will you marry me?

Just a simple question. And yet it is accompanied by heart-stopping nerves, breathless anticipation and sheer relief.

That is, if the beloved – and the ring – please.

Why does so much thought go into choosing an engagement ring? Perhaps to answer that best we should go back to the beginning. The gesture has its origins in ancient Egypt where it was believed that the ‘Vena Amoris’ or ‘vein of love’ ran from the third finger of the left hand directly to the heart.

Later, the Romans fashioned ‘betrothal rings’, known as ‘annulus pronubus’, from iron to signify strength and permanence. As time went by these rings began to be crafted in gold with engravings and decoration, such as knots or clasped hands. In the year 860, Pope Nicolas I decreed that a ring was a ‘requirement’ to signify engagement and he stipulated that it must be gold. And so before the end of the first millennium, the gold engagement ring was synonymous with our Western wedding tradition.

And so when you step into Berganza today, you have at your fingertips the largest collection of antique engagement rings in Europe. Dazzled by the range, the styles and the stories, what do we advise our customer to bear in mind?

Uniqueness. An antique engagement ring is not mass-produced as most modern pieces are today. Instead they have been been created as a work of art for a discerning customer. They are like you, individual. Irreplaceable.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The most mysterious of settings

‘Serti Mysterieux’ or invisible setting as it is known in English has fascinated people for much of the last century. It is based on a very simple premise. You should only see gemstones, no metal should be visible in the setting.

In 1929, a relatively unknown Parisian jeweller named Jacques-Albert Algier developed and patented a method of holding a stone in place without pushing metal over it – no claws, no collets. He did this by carving a groove in the side of the gem and sliding the gem along rails of precious metal, setting gemstone next to gemstone and effectively masking the metal. It gave him what appeared to be an invisible setting.

In Spring 1933, Cartier picked up on this method of setting and used it sparingly, but with an already full catalogue of Art Deco pieces they did not pursue it further.

Enter Van Cleef & Arpels. This was the perfect firm for the ‘serti mysterieux’, with Alfred Van Cleef being an accomplished lapidary (stone cutter) himself and Julien Arpels a stone aficionado. Having founded VCA in 1906 they were keen to make a name for themselves. In December 1933, nine months after Cartier they filed a patent for a process they called ‘serti mysterieux’. VCA were not the only ones to use invisible settings, but of the few houses who did, they alone are responsible for popularising it.

One of the many difficulties in this particular setting is cutting a precise groove on either side of a stone. The stones used were so small and the level of precision required so great that they would have used crude saw blades made of silk and coated in diamond powder. The amount of stones broken in this process was enormous. They needed approximately 50% more stones to account for wastage with this type of setting. Invisibly set pieces would also take months to complete, with the more complicated pieces requiring even longer than that.

Not only did a gemstone have to be grooved in perfectly straight lines, but they also had to be faceted precisely to fit next to each other with no gaps. This calibré cutting required the lapidary and the jeweller to work hand in hand to ensure that all the component parts fit perfectly.
Serti mysterieux was an immediate success. It remains to this day the finest example of the jeweller’s capability for combining beauty with technical ability.

We are very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to purchase this rare vintage example of invisible setting. And, we hope that the lucky lady who gets to wear it will treasure it as much as we have.

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