Antique carved two row diamond ring, circa 1890. A 15 carat yellow gold ring set with two rows of ten cushion shaped old cutdiamonds in claw settings with an approximate total weight of 1.30 carats, the junctions set with twelve round rose cut diamonds in bead settings with an approximate total weight of 0.12 carats, above a gallery and shoulders carved with scrolled decoration, on a tapered half round shank, and with an approximate combined diamond weight of 1.42 carats.
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ANTIQUE Any item judged to have been made at least 100 years ago.
In reference to gemstones, a unit of weight, abbreviated 'ct'. 1 carat is equal to 0.2 grams.
In reference to gold, a unit of purity or fineness of gold and gold alloy, expressed as a number out of 24 parts by weight, e.g. '24 carat' signifies pure gold, '18 carat' 18/24th gold in the alloy, et cetera. Also abbreviated as 'ct'.
Originally derived from the carob seed, called quirat in Arabic, a seed of naturally uniform weight.
CUSHION A square or rectangular stone with rounded corners and deep crown facets, found almost exclusively in antique jewellery.
GALLERY On a ring, the area below the setting, usually described as pierced, carved, swagged, scrolled, ornate etc.
OLD CUT Refers to a stone cut with a rounded outline and large culet, predominantly prior to 1910. This style was meant to maximise light return in low light conditions, namely candlelight.
ROSE CUT A method of cutting stones dating from the mid-seventeenth century. The stone has a flat base and rises to a faceted pointed top. The diamond is cut with 24 triangular facets in the shape of a hemisphere. In all seven principal variations of the rose cut the facets are hexagonally arranged and the base of the stone is flat.
GALLERY The vertical part of a ring which supports the central settings of the bezel, which is often pierced or engraved.
SHANK The part of the ring that encircles the finger, not including the top piece or head.
Diamonds have been prized for their unique physical attributes for millennia. Formed of crystallized carbon, they are the hardest substance on earth. It is unsurprising then that diamonds have long been the symbol of strength, invincibility and eternal love.
The first significant source of diamonds was India, more specifically a region known as Golconda. These diamonds are particularly prized for their lack of impurities, resulting in colourless diamonds of supreme clarity and brilliance. Many of the world's most famous were found in the Golconda mines, including the Hope diamond and the Koh-i-noor.
From India diamonds were carried along the Silk Routes of Central Asia, through Turkey and thence on to Europe. It was during this time that Venice became a major diamond trading centre, with Bruges and, later, Antwerp at the northern end of the route. India remained the primary source of diamonds until the eighteenth century, by which time the mines there had been largely depleted. Rather fortuitously, around the same time diamonds were discovered in Brazil. This source, however, was short-lived, and ran out in the mid-nineteenth century.
But yet again, a new source immerged to replace it, this time one of much more significant supply. In 1866 a child in South Africa found an unusual looking stone, which turned out to be a twenty one carat rough diamond, now known as the ‘Eureka' diamond. Shortly thereafter, in 1869, the discovery of an 83.5 carat diamond-the ‘Star of South Africa'-confirmed the significance of the deposits.
The now famous DeBeers Company, founded by Englishman Cecil Rhodes, controlled all of the diamond deposits in South Africa from the time of its establishment in 1888. And so it came to pass that London became the world's rough diamond trading centre, as all stones passed through his London offices, while cutting carried on in Antwerp, and later Tel Aviv and New York. Today South Africa remains a major source of world diamonds, joined in the twentieth century by Canada, Australia and Russia, which helped to break down the DeBeers monopoly.
Though most people think of diamonds as colourless, diamonds can form in most any colour of the rainbow, including black.
GOLD A metallic element which is the most ductile and malleable of all metals, and impervious to corrosion, thus making it ideal for use in jewellery. Pure gold is yellow in colour. It is usually mixed with other metals, such as copper and silver, to create an alloy, such as white gold or rose gold. The unit of measurement used to express the percentage of pure gold in the alloy is the carat, for example '18 carat gold'.
CLAW A claw setting is one in which the gemstone is secured via a number of metal 'claws' above the girdle of the stone, typically no less than four. This method was an innovation of the late nineteenth century, and most famously featured in the 'Tiffany setting' invented by the famed American jeweller Tiffany & Co in the 1880s. Prior to this gemstones were surrounded by a metal collet (or strip of metal formed around the girdle) which had the disadvantage of blocking light from passing through the gemstone.
BEAD SETTING A type of setting in which small beads of metal are placed at intervals around the perimeter of a gemstone in order to secure it to the mount.