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.

Thursday, March 11, 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

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.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Diamond Wing Brooch attributed to Carlo and Arthur Giuliano

One of the most collectable makers of antique jewellery is the London house of Giuliano, founded by the Neapolitan-born Carlo Giuliano, and succeeded by his sons Carlo and Arthur Alphonse. Though unmarked, this piece is likely to have once been a part of a tiara or hair ornament made by Giuliano due to its similarity to other signed pieces by the firm. There are five known pieces, in addition to the present jewel, by Giuliano which are comprised of a pair of diamond set wings with a larger stone or stones placed at centre. All five—a convertible hair ornament/brooch, a tiara, and three brooches—appeared in Wartski’s 1989 exhibition Artists’ Jewellery: Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts, and additionally two of these five are featured in the book of the same title by Charlotte Gere and Geoffrey Munn. The present piece is most similar to the diamond hair ornament with removable brooch, which is signed ‘C & AG,’ and in a fitted Giuliano box. The most obvious differences are the detachable hair comb, signature, and fitted box. The format of the brooches, however, are highly similar, both with pavé set diamond wings and two opposing pear shaped diamonds set at centre, the number of stones and exact placements only varying slightly. Wartski generously confirms authentication of the brooch to the Giuliano firm, being that the piece was at one time in their possession, as is indicted by its current fitted Wartski box.

As it is unmarked, the question yet remains as to whether the brooch was produced under the tenure of the father or the sons. Of the five other known winged Giuliano pieces mentioned above, four are marked ‘C & AG,’ the mark of Carlo and Arthur, who ran the shop from 1895 until 1914; the remaining winged jewel is unmarked. Therefore, due to the similarity with the brooch portion of the diamond hair ornament marked ‘C & AG,’ as well as the other three signed winged pieces also marked ‘C & AG,’ it seems reasonable to conclude that the present piece dates from the era of the sons.

Regarding the design itself, winged brooches set with large central stones were popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century, due in large part to a revival of Ancient Egyptian motifs. This image appears frequently in Ancient Egyptian iconography, though in a highly linear form. The original symbol was composed of a pair of wings extending from a central orb, oftentimes incorporating a pair of serpents, the three elements together representing the holy trinity of Ancient Egyptian gods. The aforementioned winged Giuliano tiara relates strongly to this emblem, with an ovoid star ruby set at the centre of the wings, all supported by twin serpents. Though some European designers stayed true to the authentic linearity in their Ancient Egyptian-inspired jewels—such as the famous jeweller Fortunato Pio Castellani, with whom the senior Giuliano trained--many also freely adapted the format, as was done in these Giuliano pieces, with their angelic, undulating wings. Giuliano also sometimes modified the original symbolism of the form, and attached a completely different meaning to another of their winged jewels. Set with a cabochon sapphire between diamond and enamel wings, this brooch was commissioned as a birthday gift, and, according to an original note, the wings were to represent ‘the flight of time.’ Other jewellers of the period also took up the format, often adapting it with a heart-shaped centre stone, or omitting the central element entirely. Today diamond wing jewellery is still extremely fashionable, as is demonstrated by the popularity of Garrard’s diamond ‘Wing’ collection, a testament to the timeless style of this important antique jewel.


Charlotte Gere and Geoffrey C. Munn, Artists’ Jewellery: Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts, p. 147-151.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Own the genius of Schlumberger

Imagine having the chance to possess a piece designed by one of the world's foremost jewellery designers of all time...

Imagine being given the chance to invest in a once in a lifetime work of art...

Now imagine you can wear it everyday as a symbol of love...

This Tiffany engagement ring, signed by Jean Schlumberger, who in his lifetime designed jewellery for princes and presidents, socialites and movie stars, is quintisessentially of its time. It epitomises the glamour and free thinking of the 1960's. As with all signature pieces there is a unique style to this ring. See the fluid lines inspired by natural forms. The cross/over diamond cocoon that holds the centre stone gently without detracting from its magnificence. The cut down settings that Sclumberger himself was so fond of, exposing the maximum amount of the diamonds whilst keeping them safe.

Then there is, the centre stone. A 4.11ct drop shaped old mine diamond. Most likely to have come from the Brazillian mines in the 1700-1800's and to have been handed down through the generations. Schlumberger would have re-visioned the piece, seen the beauty in another form. Hand drawn a design, the client would have agreed and it would have been made. In a one off comission, the stone and its one hundred accompanying side stones, would have been reset into the ring we see today.

This ring is the epitomy of Jean Schlumberger and his work. It is the living proof that diamonds survive through the ages and are passed on, only to re-emerge with new identities. It is what antique and period jewellery means. To quote Sclumberger himself - 'it is the way and means to the realization of dreams'.

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.

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.