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January Birthstone

Garnet

What’s the January birthstone?

Unlike December, where there are four birthstones, the January birthstone is a single stone: the garnet.  January birthstone

But—surprise—on the bright side, the garnet comes in a variety of colors. Most people think of garnet as a deep red stone (which it is as shown in the picture on the right).

Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers can pick from a rich palette of garnet colors: greens, oranges, pinkish oranges, deeply saturated purplish reds, and even some blues. But not all garnets are as abundant as the red ones. A green garnet, tsavorite, is rarer and needs rarer rock chemistries and conditions to form.  The variety of garnets is shown in the photo below. To learn more about the Garnet, its history, myths and varieties go to the encyclopedia of gems. It is published by GIA, an authority on everything gem.

A brief history of the Garnet (source: GIA educational site)

Thousands of years ago, red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of Egypt’s pharaohs, and were entombed with their mummified corpses as prized possessions for the afterlife. In ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.The term carbuncle was often used in ancient times to refer to red garnets, although it was used for almost any red stone. Carbuncle was thought to be one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God.

Centuries later, in Roman scholar Pliny’s time (23 to 79 AD), red garnets were among the most widely traded gems. In the Middle Ages (about 475 to 1450 AD), red garnet was favored by clergy and nobility.

Red garnet’s availability increased with the discovery of the famous Bohemian garnet deposits in central Europe around 1500. This source became the nucleus of a regional jewelry industry that reached its peak in the late 1800s. Browse our jewelry collection by going to our website.

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Antique or Vintage Jewelry

antique ring

How to identify Antique or Vintage Jewelry

If you are interested in older (vintage) or antique jewelry, an important issue you have is  how to identify antique or vintage jewelry.  After all,  just because someone tells you it’s antique or vintage, doesn’t make it so. You need to know how to look for tell-tale signs that the piece is actually what they say.

Here are five ways about how to identify antique or vintage jewelry:

  1. Look at the findings and fittings on earrings
  2. Identify the findings and fittings on brooches
  3. Determine the material
  4. Use color to guess the time period
  5. Check out the marks and hallmarks

We will discuss each point below.

 1: Fittings and Findings for Earrings

The invention of different earring findings will help date your jewelry. Jewelry findings are ready made pieces that jewelers use such as clasps, pin stems, hinges, etc. Fittings refer to the parts that can be custom-made for a piece.

The drawing below shows the styles when they were introduced into the market. In order of date, the styles are named as follows: shepherd hook, image two is not named, kidney wire, screw-back (pierced), lever back, screw-back, post & butterfly, spring clip, and omega back. 

Earring posts

Brooch backings

 2: Fittings and Findings for Brooches

 First of all, most answers to understanding jewelry can be found by looking on the backs or undersides. Brooches have evolved over one hundred years, and the backs provide much of the information we need to date the piece. Again, the drawing above shows the different types of clasps used on brooches or pins with the approximate date as to when they first appeared.

Sometimes you will notice lumpy solder on the backside of a brooch. This can mean it was altered or repaired. It doesn’t mean it’s not an older piece, but it could be a newer piece altered to appear like a vintage or antique brooch.

But there’s more. Now onto a popular material, black jewelry.

 3: How to Identify the Materials of Black Jewelry

Black jewelry can be found in abundance at flea markets, estate sales, and antique stores. For you to Identify what the black material is can make a big difference in determining when it was made and how much it could be worth. Black jewelry most likely made of one of the following: plastic, glass, stone, jet, gutta-percha, crepe stone, bog oak, and bakelite. There are ways for you to test each one of these materials to determine what it is.

  • Color of stone: Vintage and Antique JewelryPlastic is the most obvious of all materials to decipher. Plastic is very lightweight and you can tap it on your tooth to hear a “click” sound. Use your loupe to look for a mold line. A mold line will go all around the piece splitting in two.
  • Glass will be heavier and reflects light. Holding it in your hand will warm up the material.
  • Stone would remain cold if you held it in your hand.
  • Jet is as light as plastic, and hard and coal-like in material.

And there are more ways to test:

  • Gutta-percha can also be black. It is made from the sap of a Malayan tree. It was used primarily in the Victorian Era. Running this material under hot water will cause it to emit a strong burnt rubber smell.
  • Crepe stone is another black material and is made of glass. It was introduced in 1883 by the Fowler brothers in Providence, Rhode Island. It was called English Crepe Stone and has a very distinctive look.
  • Bog oak is also another black material that is very easy to identify because it is oak wood that has been preserved in the bogs of Ireland. This jewelry is visually identifiable because of the Irish motifs.
  • Bakelite can be made black, but not all Bakelite is black. A good test for Bakelite is to put 409 bathroom cleaner on a cotton swab and touch a small hidden area. If the cotton swab is yellow after touching the surface of the tested piece then it is Bakelite.

 4: Using Color to Date Your Jewelry

Colors: Vintage and Antique JewelryThe use of color gemstones and enamel correlates to architecture and decorative art of the times. For example, color in the Renaissance was almost gaudy, while the use of color during the Victorian Era was somber because the death of Prince Albert caused Queen Victoria to declare an extended period of mourning. After the Victorian Era, the period of Art Nouveau utilized soft and delicate colors with rich gold and silver metals. This was short-lived as the Art Deco era moved to the forefront with its use of bolder colors and geometric designs. A devil-may-care attitude influenced the look.

Color palettes dominated different time periods throughout history. Knowing which color gemstones were predominant at certain times in history goes a long way in helping to date a piece of jewelry.

 5: Marks and Hallmarks

Hallmarks and markings are an important clue to help date a piece of jewelry. Most often these marks are hidden on the inside of a shank on a ring, the inside of a bracelet, or on the inside back of an earring. Using your loupe, you will often find some kind of mark identifying the jeweler, designer, retailer, or manufacturer. If you bring this to a jeweler, they may be able to date the piece based on the marks.

These marks can also make a tremendous difference on the value and collectability of the jewelry. Remember that the value is not always about the intrinsic value. The trademark can also provide information about when and where a piece was made.

Resources to show you how to identify vintage or antique jewelry

Good sources for this information can be found at: Researching Costume Jewelry History and the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers’ Marks  Plus this article appeared in Hobbylark.com By: Karen Malzeke-McDonlad, October 18, 2016. We borrowed it, with edits, so that you might learn from their thorough piece.

Of course, if you purchase antique or vintage jewelry from Regency Jewelry, you can rest assured we have done the research for you. You can trust it is antique or vintage if that’s what we tell you. Come in to our showroom to see our collection of beautiful antique and vintage jewelry and giftware. Our address, phone number, email and store hours can be found here. Can’t do that right now? Check out our antique and vintage jewelry on our website

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December Birthstones

December Birthstones

Oh you lucky birthday babies. You don’t just have ONE birthstone, you have FOUR December birthstones. They include Blue Topaz, Turquoise, Tanzanite and Zircon.

We’re posting some pictures of the December birthstones but to learn about the history and choices you have for December birthstones,  visit the GIA encyclopedia, where you can learn about each. For example the Zircon comes in a variety of colors as do the blue topaz and Tanzanite. Here’s the link to the site https://www.gia.edu/ so you can learn all about your birthstone. If you aren’t a December baby, you can go to the link and search for your birth month or birthstone (if you know it) and find out everything about its history, lore and the variety the stone is available in. You’ll be surprised.

Here’s what December Birthstones look like. Oh so, beautiful

Turquoise

Turquoise is a semi-translucent to opaque gem that ranges from blue to green and often has veins of matrix (remnants of the rock in which it formed) running through it. This December birthstone has been cherished for millennia. The pharaohs and other rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with it. Chinese artisans carved it more than 3,000 years ago.

The powers of Turquoise

The turquoise birthstone was thought to possess many beneficial powers, like guaranteeing health and good fortune. From the 13th century on, it was believed to protect the wearer from falling (especially off horses), and would break into several pieces at the approach of disaster. Hindu mystics maintained that seeing a turquoise after beholding the new moon ensured fantastic wealth.

This turquoise birthstone also played an important role in the lives of Native Americans. The Apache thought turquoise could be found by following a rainbow to its end. They also believed that attaching the December birthstone to a bow or firearm made one’s aim more accurate. The Pueblo maintained that turquoise got its color from the sky, while the Hopi thought the gem was produced by lizards scurrying over the earth.

December birthstones: Tanzanite
Cushion cut tanzanite ring with diamonds

Tanzanite is a newcomer but it’s exciting

Tanzanite may be a relative newcomer to the world of colored stones, but it was one of the most exciting gem discoveries of the 20th century. Blue stones emerging from Tanzania were identified as the mineral zoisite in 1962. Not until 1967, though, did prospectors locate the primary source for this December birthstone: the Merelani Hills. It was eventually named tanzanite in honor of its country of origin. The tanzanite birthstone is often described as “velvety,” mostly because of its deep and saturated color, which ranges from a pure rich blue to violet, with the blue considered most valuable.

Tiffany & Co. believed that tanzanite had international appeal and became its main distributor. In 1968, Tiffany launched a major advertising campaign to promote it. With its vivid colors, high clarity and potential for large cut stones, tanzanite quickly became a sensation. Today, it is not only a December birthstone, but it is also the gem for the 24th wedding anniversary.

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All About Opals

All About Opals…the history and lore Types of Opals

If you were born in October, then you want to know all about Opals. After all, it’s the October birthstone and it’s said to carry magical powers for those who wear it.

Writers have compared the stone to volcanoes, galaxies, and fireworks. Admirers gave them extraordinary  poetic names like Pandora, Light of the World, and Empress. In ancient Rome, this gem symbolized love and hope. The Romans gave it a name—opalus—that was synonymous with “precious stone.”

Because the stone has the colors of other gems, the Romans thought it was the most precious and powerful of all. The Bedouins believed that opals contained lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms. When Australia’s mines began to produce opals commercially in the 1890s, it quickly became the world’s primary source for this October birthstone.

Supernatural Powers?Perfect Opal Fire Stone

Many cultures have credited opal with supernatural origins and powers. Arabic legends say it falls from the heavens in flashes of lightning. The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have long considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity, and truth.

How they form.

Opal is the prodTypical Opaluct of seasonal rains that drenched dry ground in regions such as Australia’s semi-desert “outback.” The showers soaked deep into ancient underground rock, carrying dissolved silica (a compound of silicon and oxygen) downward.

Bluish OpalDuring dry periods, much of the water evaporated, leaving solid deposits of silica in the cracks and between the layers of underground sedimentary rock. The silica deposits formed opal.

For more information about the history and lore of opals, go to the Encyclopedia of Gems. 

To view our collection of jewelry go to our website.

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