Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jade - The Stone of Heaven

I have a friend who grew up in Japan and inherited the most amazing collection of Asian treasures.  The pieces range from antiques to mid-century modern and the items range from carpets, furniture, porcelains, art and jewelry.  It has been my pleasure to sell many of their beautiful items for them.  They have been going through a collection of jade and selecting pieces to sell.  I thought I would share what I have learned about this prized stone.

 Jade is the most precious of all gems to the Chinese, even more precious than gold.   No wonder it is said to be the incarnation of the cosmic principle and possess the five essential virtues of Chinese philosophy, compassion, modesty, courage, justice and wisdom.

These ornamental stones were being brought to Europe from China and Central America and were called jade. For over 7000 years jade was used to make utilitarian items and artistic creations. In the mid 1800's it was realized that the name jade was being applied to two different minerals. Both were exquisite and they were hard to distinguish from each other. The end result is that there are two different stones and they are both called jade.

Jadeite and nephrite have very different chemical compositions and are classified by gemologist as different species. They both occur in the same color and translucency range, both are very hard and they were traditionally used for the same purposes.  Even though it is common to refer to both gems as jade it is more proper to use or include the species jadeite or nephrite.

Jadeite varies from translucent to opaque and from shades of green, brown, orange, red, lavender and yellow to gray and near white. Jadeite has the full range of jade's colors.  Color is the most important factor in determining value.  The emerald green jade, called Imperial Jade, is the most valued and highly sought after by collectors.  Lavender is the second most valuable color.

Nephrite is more common and found all over the world and in greater quantities than jadeite.  The greens and grays are most common but it is sometimes found in brown, yellow and white.  The translucent white to light yellow is known in China as mutton fat jade.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Most Mysterious Woman in the World

I am fascinated with all things Leonardo.  He was an artist who's scientific knowledge is reflected in his art, an engineer and inventor.   He loved animals and was a vegetarian.  He despised war yet developed deadly weapons. His work is even more fascinating in that it is packed with symbolism and  code.   I recently read an article about art experts from the National Cultural Heritage committee in Italy having discovered tiny letters painted into the eyes of The Mona Lisa. They examined the Mona Lisa after finding a book in an antique shop that claimed there were tiny hidden symbols in the eyes.  The symbols were discovered  by viewing magnified images of the 500 year old portrait.

The symbols are not visible with the naked eye but are seen clearly with a magnifying glass.  The right eye appears to have the letters LV, possibly for Da Vinci name.  There are symbols in the left eye as well but more difficult to make out. Symbols were also found painted in a bridge in the background of the painting.

Art historian Silvano Vinceti said the letters B or S, or possibly the initials CE, were discernible, a said they were clue to the identity of the model who sat for the painting. The Mona Lisa  has often been identified as the wife of a Florentine merchant, but Vinceti disagreed, claiming Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa in Milan. Numbers found on the back of the painting suggest it was painted in the 1490's when Da Vinci was in Milan and that the model was from the court of the Duke of Milan.

On a trip to France I was able to visit the beautiful town of Amboise and the chateau where Leonardo spent the last years of his life.  He may have been buried at the Chapel of Saint-Hubert on the grounds but mystery surrounds his final resting place as well.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Years Eve Celebration

Celebrating the new year is the oldest of all holidays. The first celebrations were in Spring in  ancient Babylon and after much tinkering January 1 became the first day of the new year when Julius Caesar established the Julian Calender in 46BC.  And there have always been the parties that span the night to early morning of the new year.

It's the perfect time to wear dazzling jewels.                                                                                                                                                                             

Kenneth Jay Lane


An Unsigned Beauty


Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gift of Antique Jewelry

Antique jewelry crafted of precious metals and gemstones can be an affordable luxury. The craftsmanship in the beautifully detailed designs of antique jewelry is becoming a lost art.  The hand work in antique pieces make them unique.  Many of the elements used in these designs are becoming harder to find as well. So, while contemporary jewelry is valued based on the elements used to make up the piece, antique jewelry may cost less but have a greater worth because of the fine workmanship and rare stones and gems.  And, an antique piece will appreciate over time. 


Carved Ivory Chrysanthemum Earrings

                                  Shell Cameo in Sterling Silver Frame

Rare Alexandrite  and Pearl Lavaliere

 Taille d'epargne Bracelet

Amethyst and Pearl Festoon Necklace

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Look What I Found

Every collector has something they search for to complete their collection.  We look for that piece we have seen or read about that makes our heart race.  For every person it is different and for different reasons.  My Holy Grail of jewelry is the elusive Har Cobra.  The cobras are rare and expensive.  I knew that one day I would own one but I thought it would be way in the future.  I can't explain my excitement when I found this treasure in an estate. OK,  I found it.  Can I negotiate a price I can afford?  Happily I did.  Now I want to show him off.  

I'd love to hear your stories about what you collect and what your quest is for.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hull Pottery

I have always loved Hull Pottery.  The color and shapes of the vases are fascinating.  We had many pieces in our home when I was growing up.  A lot of them were wedding gifts to my parents who were married in 1949.
These beautiful vases are also favored by many collectors and there is even a Hull Pottery Association.

The Hull Pottery Company began manufacturing in 1905 in Crooksville, Ohio.  The first items were dishware and utilitarian items.  In 1917 they began making art pottery. The most collectible pieces were made from the 1930's through the 1950's.

The Hull Pottery Company began manufacturing in 1905 in Crooksville, Ohio.  The first items were dishware and utilitarian items.  In 1917 they began making art pottery. The most collectible pieces were made from the 1930's through the 1950's.

The pieces made before 1950 were marked Hull USA and Hull Art USA on the bottom.  They may have paper tags as well.  After 1950 the bottoms were marked Hull in script or block letters.  Every piece is marked with an item number.

Monday, December 13, 2010

For The Birds

Bird figurals are always a popular theme for costume jewelry.  Birds capture our imagination and we envy their  freedom of flight.  They are the perfect pallet for jewelry artist to work their magic.     

This peacock brooch is a Panetta creation.   The quality is exceptional and as with all of their work it has the look of fine jewelry.

                                                         "Kissing Peacocks"
                                                       A Nolan Miller design

Lea Stein, Paris 
Created with her unique layered
 and compressed acetate process.

Hand carved  and hand painted Takahashi      hummingbird. 

Coro Heavenly Swallows Duet and earrings.

         Matisse Renoir copper and enamel stylized bird brooch, "Windsong".

Boucher Peacock

A 1930's or 40's enameled brooch with large paste stones.

BSK enameled peacock

A jeweled and enameled Boucher Hummingbird