Enamel is a decoration technique in which a glass of certain composition is fused to the surrounding or under laying metal. Although the exact origins are unknown, the art of enamelling has been practiced since ancient times. The favor of adorning jewelry with bright colors has always existed and the use of glass created colors which nature – in the form of gemstones – could not provide for in ancient times. Excavations on Cyprus – in the Mediterranean – in the 1950’s brought cloisonné enameled jewelry to the surface which dates from the 13th and 11th century BC. These are, to date, the earliest enameled items found in this particular technique.
Although the ancient Egyptians decorated their royal artifacts with an ascendancy of colored gemstones, glass and faience, this was not an enameling technique. Rather a form of mosaic. Early Roman enamels were also of this type where they used pieces of multicolored glass (“millefiori”) and placed them in a predestined pattern. The gaps in between were filled with a glass powder which, after heating, fused the millefiori smalti together. Though this is similar to enameling, the glass did not fuse to the metals. It was only later that they started to place the smalti in a type of tube setting and then punching the metal over the glass, followed by heating at the appropriate temperatures which caused a fusion to the surrounding metal, that we can speak of a true enamel.
During the Byzantium era cloisonné enamel flourished in the Eastern Roman Empire as well as in many Celtic areas (as Gaul and in Britain). This technique has been known for over two millenniums and it could well have spread over Europe during the migration period which preluded the middle ages.
Art Nouveau (the term comes from French and it means New Art) is an art style which was mainly manifested in visual arts, design and architecture in the late 19th century and the early 20th century (1890 – 1914), almost in the same time in most of the cultures and European countries , but also in North America.
This style was spread pretty fast throughout Europe thanks to photo-illustrated art magazines and international exhibitions. Its name differed according to each country, so it was called “Modernisme” in Catalonia, “Liberty” in Italy, “Jugendstil” in Germany, “Secession” in Vienna or Prague.
Here are some examples of modern silver jewelry inspired by Art Nouveau:
Turquoise - New earrings from Turkey
Turquoise is one of the oldest known gems..
The name “Turquoise” may have come from the word Turquie, French for Turkey, because of the early belief that the mineral came from that country (the turquoise most likely came from the Alimersai Mountains in Persia (now Iran) or the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, two of the world's oldest known turquoise mining areas.)
Another possibility could be the name came from the French description of the gemstone, "pierre turquin" meaning dark blue stone.
Opal is a hydrous, silicon dioxide. It is unlike other minerals because it is not crystalline. It is considered to be a hardened jelly.
The name opal derives from the Greek Opallos, meaning "to see a change (of color)." Opals range in color from milky white to black with flashes of yellow, orange, green, red, and blue.
The varieties of gem opal are as follows:
Healing properties - It was believed that water, fire and heat are enclosed in Opal so it is a remedy for many diseases. Opal helps against heart diseases, calms nerves, guards against melancholy, and improves vision.
Magical properties - It is a stone of deceptive hopes and illusions, secret passions, superstitions, the favorite stone of magicians and alchemists. Opals intensify intuition and promote inspiration. Opals help recollect the past lives.
Opal is the birthstone for the month of October. Element: Water.
Many thousands of years ago, long before written history, human beings probably discovered the first pearl while searching the seashore for food. Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence, has been one of the most highly prized and sought-after gems. Countless references to the pearl can be found in the religions and mythology of cultures from the earliest times. The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them. Cleopatra reportedly dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win a wager with Mark Antony that she could consume the wealth of an entire nation in just one meal.
In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. The Greeks held the pearl in high esteem for both its unrivaled beauty and its association with love and marriage. During the Dark Ages, while fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces, gallant knights often wore pearls into battle. They believed the magic of these lustrous gems would protect them from harm. The Renaissance saw the royal courts of Europe awash in pearls. Because pearls were so highly regarded, a number of European countries actually passed laws forbidding anyone but the nobility to wear them.
During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe. Unfortunately, greed and lust for the sea-grown gems resulted in the depletion of virtually all the American pearl oyster populations by the 17th century. Until the early 1900's, natural pearls were accessible only to the rich and famous. In 1916, famed French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on New York's famous Fifth Avenue -- by trading two pearl necklaces for the valuable property.
But today, with the advent of pearl cultivation, pearls are available and affordable to all.
There are different types of plating that can be applied to silver jewelry. In most cases, the plating is done to give the jewelry better protection against scratches, to give it a different look/color, or to protect it from tarnishing.
Gold Layer - a fine sheet of gold is placed on top of the item, cut into shape and then soldered in place. The item is then polished smooth. Gold layer is more substantial than plating.
Gold Plating - a fine layer of gold which has been electroplated onto the item. This layer can be quite fine or quite deep
Rhodium finish -a fine layer of rhodium is electroplated onto the item. Rhodium is very bright and shiny like highly polished silver.
Rhodium belongs to the Platinum group of metals. All of them present outstanding chemical inertness (will not react or change easily) thus, rhodium will not tarnish whereas silver will. They are very expensive, so only a very thin plate is applied to reduce the amount of metal in the jewel. If not subject to excessive friction and wear, they will retain their look indefinitely.
Rhodium is the rarest and most expensive of all metals used in jewelry.
Palladium/Ruthenium finish - a layer of palladium or ruthenium is laid onto the item to form a pattern.
Ruthenium plating on sterling silver jewelry gives a dark grey black finishing that answers the call for a different color. In addition, ruthenium can effectively prevent scratches and abrasion on the surface, making sterling silver jewelry more durable. With ruthenium plating, surface oxidation and discoloring can be avoided to a large extent.
Cleaning your jewelry - It is very important to clean these types of finishes carefully - vigorous rubbing with a silver cloth will eventually wear the silver/gold/rhodium/palladium or ruthenium away.
For plated items with a textured finish, clean using either a silver dip type product and wash thoroughly. Dry using a soft towel and leave it to dry in a warm atmosphere.