Pliny the Elder famously wrote of the opal: “Made up of the glories of the most precious gems, to describe it is a matter of inexpressible difficulty: there is in it the gentler fire of the Ruby, there is the brilliant purple of the Amethyst, there is the sea-green of the Emerald, all shining together in an incredible union. Some aim at rivaling in luster the brightest azure…of the painter’s palette, others the flame of burning sulfur, or of a fire quickened by oil.” This lovely Belle Èpoque ring features a lovely bezel set opal flanked by platinum shoulders set with flinty rose cut diamonds. The 14k gold hoop is stamped with French hallmarks for metal content.
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.