Thursday, March 18, 2010

Celebrity Jewellery Watch: Period and Antique Engagement Rings

It would seem that period and antique engagement rings are becoming increasingly popular with international celebrities.

Perhaps the first to kick off this recent trend was Welsh beauty Catherine Zeta Jones, who in 2000 received a ten carat antique marquise cut diamond engagement ring dating from the 1920s from Michael Douglas, with an estimated value of around two million dollars. Though not of Hollywood fame, in 2005 Camilla Parker Bowles was given an Art Deco diamond ring by Prince Charles. Set with a central emerald cut diamond flanked by six diamond baguettes, it was once owned by the Queen Mother. Another family heirloom, Scottish actor Ross McCall proposed to American actress Jennifer Love-Hewitt in 2007 with an antique diamond ring that had been in his family for over one hundred years. The following year another American starlet, Scarlett Johansson, became engaged to actor Ryan Reynolds with an antique cushion cut diamond solitaire on a gold band. And in late 2009, the Spanish pair Penelope Cruz and Javier Barden became engaged, the ring being an antique sapphire and diamond cluster ring on a gold band, all the stones in collet settings. Finally, just this year British comedian David Walliams proposed to his Dutch supermodel girlfriend, Lara Stone, with a period ring dating from the 1930s composed of a diamond centre stone with diamond set shoulders.

It is no surprise that the world’s most stylish women are wearing antique engagement rings, as they will ever be a fashionable yet timeless choice.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Celebrity Jewellery Watch: The 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Female stars at the 2010 Academy Awards, the unchallenged fashion event of the year, displayed a definite trend in their choice of jewellery: diamond bracelets. Nearly every major actress was wearing some form of diamond set jewel around her wrist, whether it was wide or skinny, on its own or layered, monochromatic or set with coloured stones. The preeminent woman of the night, Best Actress award winner Sandra Bullock wore a diamond line bracelet punctuated with circular diamond set links. Diane Kruger, who played in the Oscar-nominated film Inglourious Basterds wore a simple diamond tennis bracelet, though composed of quite large stones. The ever trend-setting Sarah Jessica Parker wore a number of slim diamond bracelets piled high on one arm, including a diamond rivière necklace that had been looped around the wrist. Demi Moore, Charlize Theron, Mariah Carey, and ingénue Amanda Seyfriend all wore wide diamond bracelets, many dating from the Art Deco era. Maggie Gyllenhaal, one of the nominees for Best Supporting Actress, wore a different style on each wrist, one of which was an Art Deco diamond bracelet set with a large carved emerald and further accented with cabochon sapphires, and the other a yellow gold and diamond Retro cuff.

View the jewels on

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Figures of Fancy: A History of Figural Rings

Figural jewellery—jewellery in the form of human or animal figures—has been made for millennia. Jewels of this kind were fashioned by the Mesopotamians as early as 3000 BC, and were likely used as amulets, or symbolic objects of protective function. Examples also originate from ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Celtic, Chinese, and South and Central American cultures. Figural jewellery is categorized into two types, either with figures in the round, or with figures set against a background. Rings in particular lend themselves to designs of the first category, with full figures making up the shank of the ring.

In the modern age, figural jewellery, very often rings due to the suitability of the form, became fashionable in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, particularly in France, Italy, and Germany. An evolution of their ancient amuletic use, Renaissance figural jewels often displayed a theme or told a story, frequently Biblical or mythological. Albercht Dürer, the famous Renaissance German artist, is known to have designed rings of this type. Many figural rings from this period incorporated gemstones, as seen in designs for rings by Pierre Woeiriot, a French artist and goldsmith, dating from 1561.

Figural rings became popular again in the latter half of the nineteenth century, first in the guise of various revivalist styles, including the Gothic, Classical, Egyptian and Renaissance modes. Gothic revival style rings integrated full length figures of angels and saints. Sphinxes, pharaohs, and serpents can be found in Egyptian revival style rings, and Greco-Roman gods and nymphs in Classical revival style works, both drawing on ancient examples. Rings in these two styles were regularly set with intaglios, which again were inspired by their ancient counterparts. Renaissance revival designs largely mimicked the human and mythological forms of the Renaissance originals discussed above.

Around the turn of the twentieth century jewellers working in the Art Nouveau style embraced the use of the human form, especially nudes. These rings, like the original Renaissance jewels, were often allegorically themed. They are distinctive from the earlier revivalist figural rings in their swirling, intertwined designs, so characteristic of the Art Nouveau.

Whatever their age, ancient to antique, figural rings allow the wearer to bear not only a piece of beautiful jewellery, but also a piece of sculptural art, and as well as a myth.


Diana Scarisbrick, Rings:  Jewelry of Power, Love and Loyalty, Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Hugh Tait, 7000 Years of Jewellery, The British Museum Press, 2006.

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