The opal has fallen in and out of favor throughout history. It went through a particularly tough time in the early and middle 1800's, when a novel by Sir Walter Scott cursed the opal as a bad-luck talisman. In his sensationally popular book Anne of Geuerstein, the heroine lives a terrible life and dies a tragic death all because of the bad juju brought upon her by her opal ring. Luckily, Queen Victoria (in her infinite wisdom) helped bring an end to this silly superstitiion when she commissioned opal jewelry as gifts for her daughter's wedding guests. The opal's triumphant return to favor might also have had a little something to do with the late 19th century discovery of abundant opal mines in Australia which made the gemstone much more readily available. This Deco era cluster ring is crafted in 18k yellow gold and platinum and features a luminous rectangular opal cabochon accented with a total of 24 single cut diamonds.
ART DECO (1915 – 1940)
Art Deco is highly recognizable for its minimalism and futurism. Simultaneous art movements—Cubism, Bauhaus—informed the geometric style, along with “exotic” foreign influences like the Ballet Russe. Motifs like ziggurats and sunbursts, stripped of visual clutter, conveyed the optimism of an increasingly technological world.
In jewelry, the predominant use of white metals let colorful gems take center stage. Stones that were opaque and true in color, like lapis lazuli, onyx, jade, coral, and opal were worked into designs alongside more precious and brilliant gems, like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Extra-long beaded necklaces and tasseled “sautoirs” followed the narrow flapper silhouette.
The baguette cut was an Art Deco innovation, and the decade saw increased use of other angular diamond cuts, like the precise caliber cut and the emerald cut. Synthetic gems, like sapphires, were celebrated as a scientific marvel. Marcel Tolkowsky, 21 years old at the time, published the design for the round brilliant cut in 1919.