Stuart crystal takes it's name from the rock crystal jewelry worn by loyalists to the Stuart monarchy following the 1649 execution of King Charles I. Early Stuart crystal jewels typically feature a miniature of the King, or his cipher, under faceted rock crystal. These mourning pieces were worn discreetly (if not outright secretly) by supporters of the crown in the tumultuous years after his death. Later in the 17th century, Stuart crystal was made and worn for more personal (and less political) reasons, including in memory of lost loved ones. This rare c. 1700 Stuart crystal ring features a scene of two enameled cherubs dressed in colorful robes, a similar theme used in the mourning ring for James II at the V&A Museum in London
. The decoration is in fair condition, originally the angels would have held a wreath, crown, or skull between them with a cipher at the center. The pink foil that characterizes later Stuart crystal jewelry is faintly visible along the inner edges. The shoulders are set with brilliant cut rock crystal in silver, and the mounting is fashioned in 15k yellow gold with a flat hoop and fluted details at the back of the head.
GEORGIAN (1714 - 1837)
The Georgian Era was named for the English Kings George I, II, III and IV. Within the powerful nations of France and England, fine gemstone jewelry was worn only by the extremely wealthy, and the styles were regal and ornate. As imperialist war raged in the Americas, Caribbean, Australia, and beyond, the jewelry industry benefited: colored gems from all over the empire became newly available.
A mix of artistic influences from around Europe contributed to the feminine, glittering jewels of the era. Dense, ornate Baroque motifs from Italy showed up in Georgian jewelry, as did French Rococo’s undulating flora and fauna. Neoclassical style made use of Greek and Roman motifs, which were newly popular due to the recently uncovered ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Lapidary methods improved: the dome-shaped rose cut was popular, as was the “old mine cut”, a very early iteration of today’s round brilliant cut. The boat-shaped marquise diamond cut was developed around this time, supposedly to imitate the smile of Louis XV’s mistress, the marquise de Pompadour. Paste—an imitation gemstone made from leaded glass—was newly developed in the 18th century, and set into jewelry with the same creativity and care as its more precious counterparts.
Real and imitation gems were almost always set in closed-backed settings, lined on the underside with thin sheets of foil to enhance the color of the stone and highlight it's sparkle. This makes Georgian rings tough for modern women to wear, especially on an everyday basis: genteel, jewelry-owning ladies of the 18th century were not famous for working with their hands like we are. Nor did they wash their hands as much as we do. Water will virtually ruin a foiled setting, so take special care with your Georgian ring. Very little jewelry from this period is still in circulation, and it's very difficult to repair.