A thick strand of an elephant's tail hair has long been regarded as a protective talisman. It's been used in jewelry for at least 1200 years in Africa, where the material was believed to ward off misfortune or harm. In slightly more recent history, during the British Raj (1858-1947), Western Europeans commissioned elephant hair jewelry as a souvenir of their Indian safari expedition. Colonialist adventurers plucked or cut tail hairs from their elephant mounts and combined them with precious gems and metals. These c. 1900 bangles are most likely of colonial Indian origin. The bracelets feature a single strand of elephant hair wrapped in 9k yellow gold.
EDWARDIAN (1900 - 1910)
The Edwardian era gets its name from King Edward VII’s brief reign at the beginning of the 20th century. His Danish bride Alexandra was young, lovely, and fashionable; with a taste for trendy pieces rendered in diamonds and pearls. The jewelry tended toward airy lightness, often in the form of lacy filigree. The world was changing rapidly, but lots of the jewelry still reflected the Victorian ideals of decorum and femininity. Ancient Roman and Greek influences remained popular.
“White” jewelry became popular as plentiful deposits of platinum were discovered in Russia and improved smelting technology made it possible for jewelers to work in the noble metal. Platinum was seldom used by jewelers in earlier years owing both to its scarcity and high melting point. The jewelry trade took advantage of its rigid strength to create opulent openwork settings for increasingly brilliant diamonds. The old European cut was perfected, rounder and squatter than old mine. This took stone-cutting one step closer to the mathematically perfect round brilliant cut, which is the most popular diamond cut today. The now-iconic square Asscher cut was patented in 1902.
Hot on the heels of platinum, the alloy mixture that produces white gold was formulated and patented in 1915 in New York City. With Europe in the grip of WW1, the American jewelry industry was poised to become a world leader and innovator.