Tag Archives: ancient

Heavenly Jewelry Terms

starting with “H”

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Habille – some people are never satisfied, are they?  Unable to remain content with the lovely, first incarnation of cameo jewelry, the gentry of the 1840’s decided that the new ‘it’ item would be Habilles.  These are excessively large cameos that actually have other pieces of multi-dimensional jewelry placed on the figures depicted.  Meaning, the ivory lady hanging out in the cameo may be wearing diamond earrings and a necklace.  The name ‘Habille’ was used because “tacky” was already taken.

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Half-Hunter – is exactly what it sounds like (not really).  A ‘Hunting Case’ is the metal encasement that protects a pocket watch, ostensibly while you are on gentlemanly pursuits like day-laboring, engaging in a vigorous croquet match or, of course, tiny game hunting.  The half-hunter is when the glass is exposed – surely only wildly adventurous types would sport such a brazenly reckless and potentially unsafe device.

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Hallmark – much like the sappy greeting card company of the same name, a Hallmark is an intaglio (branded into the metal of fine jewelry) that is very respected and beloved by the peoples of the world.  The term is derived from the stodgy old British practice of goldsmiths being required to have their wears ‘assayed’ (analyzed for genuineness and caliber) at the official Goldsmith Hall – which the O.G.s (old goldsmiths) commonly referred to as ‘The Hall.’  Hence, a hallmark is an official grading of the quality of the metal, stamped right on those lil suckers.

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Handkerchief Ring – is not at all what is sounds like (actually, it is precisely that).  Fancy folk of yesteryear just simply couldn’t be bothered to hold  their handkerchiefs (or, heaven forfend, place them in their pockets!), so a ring was devised that has a chain hanging from it that leads to yet another ring.  In this deliciously dainty and completely necessary second ring, one could slip a handkerchief, or “nose rag,” through and let it flounce about, as the wearer went about their foppish affairs.

Handy Pins – are pins that happen to be handy.  Certain individuals, who happened to be alive during the late 1900’s, just needed a hand keeping their clothing fastened together.  These individuals may or may not have been aware of the somewhat recent invention of the ‘button.’

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Heishi – this is a jewelry style specific to San Felipe Pueblo and Santa Domingo natives now living in the American southwest, primarily New Mexico.  The main identifying characteristic of this jewelry type is the appearance of small shell and bead stones artfully arranged together.  Tiny holes are drilled into these elements which allow for string or twine to hold them tightly together.  Often turquoise, or stones of this hue, are used.  Many tourists who venture to the southwest purchase such items, looking strange as they return to their homes wearing the beautiful bracelets and necklaces along with their Crocs.

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Hellenism – or “heck-enism” for the easily offended, is the ancient Greek-specific style that was brought back into fashion by those crafty Neoclassicists around the 1700s.  See, Helen of Troy (that of ancient Greece, not upstate New York) was a Greek historical/mythological figure who was essentially the Joan Rivers of her day; adored, revered and a wicked judge of fashion.

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Higa – is one of the funnier things on this list.  A higa is a hand amulet, similar to the peace invoking ‘hamsa,’ only in this breed the hand is arranged in a way that is …not so nice.  With the thumb poking through the pointer and middle finger, the higa illustrates a very old, very dirty type of insult (use your imagination to figure out what that is supposed to represent…)  Higas still pop up in modern jewelry, especially in South America, and obviously make great gifts for people who are despised/clueless.

Holbeinesque – you know you’re cool when an entire style of jewelry is named after you.  Such is this case with Hans Holbein, who was tearing up the hot German art scene during the early 1500s.  Holbeinesque jewelry is recognized for having a nice sized center stone, typically oval, surrounded by chrome laden, intricate enamel work.  Became all the rage during the 1870s, in what was defined as the Neo-Renaissance period (much like when modern people go to the Renaissance Fair and speak in awful faux British accents).

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Hololith Ring – aside being fun to say, this is a lovely loop that adorns the finger, cut from one solid piece of gemstone or mineral.  This style of cutting gems is popular with the always jazzy jade.  The fairly preterite invention of Hololith rings symbolized a momentous step in gemstone liberation, as the proud gems showed they ‘don’t need no metal to be a strong, independent ring.’  Work.

Honeycomb – this is a design style made enormously successful by the fancy brand Van Cleef & Arpels during the economically booming epoch of the 1930s.  Those not living in the Dust Bowl would treat themselves to bracelets crafted in this snazzy pattern, which was actually borrowed from the ‘garter bracelets’ of the Victorian period, which were actually borrowed from bees.

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Horror Vacui – Mwah-ha-ha!  Yes, this jewelry classification is indeed scary.  Translated from the beautiful, dead language of Latin, this means “fear of empty space.”  In jewelry terms this signifies pieces that are completely jam packed with bulbous gemstones, gaudy designs and other hard-on-the-eyes objects.  A style endemic to many crowns, coronation items and floral pantsuits that your Aunt Rosy just can’t live without.

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Hotel Silver – any white metal that is desperately trying to pass itself off as authentic silver is referred to by this euphemism.  So don’t be fooled if someone tries to sound like they are giving you a fancy type of metal when presenting you with some bogus hotel silver (it really should be called “Motel Silver”).

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 -Joe Leone

Delightful Jewelry Terms

Terms starting with “D”

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Daguerreotype – combining science, fashion and technology, the daguerreotype is second only to the diamond encrusted Apple Watch in  the coolest inventions in the world of jewelry history category.  Developed in 1839 by French photographer/innovator/dawg, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, it’s a sort of photograph that would appear on a copper plate, after it was subject to host of potentially lethal chemicals.  Anything for fashion, dahling.

Damascene – is a method used to decorate a metal surface with gold or silver wire inlay in order to create a “scene,” or depiction of an event.  Initially popular in Asia, the Mid-East and eventually Europe, this style of artistry is credited with inspiring the first person to ever use the phrase “…You’re making a scene.”

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Decade Ring – should obviously be given as a present to someone every 17 years.  Thought to have been developed during the 1400’s, the decade ring has ten protrusions jutting out along the band.  These were used to keep track of the ten prayers Christians were supposed to say (like rosary beads), but also doubled as excellent bowling pin counters as well.

Demantoid – Sadly, no: this is not a demented demon humanoid.  This is a gemstone that had quite the time finding its own identity.  Initially mistook for peridot and a host of other greenish sparklers upon its discovery, it was eventually deemed demantoid (which means “diamond-like” or “Shines bright, but only like a diamond.”)

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Diaperwork – …now that doesn’t sound that fancy at all… This term is applied to a style of patterning where interlocking shapes are repeated over and over in an alternating manner (to oversimplify it).  This can achieve an intricately beautiful effect, and, it should be noted, will never not sound funny.

Diaphaneity – refers to the way that light passes through an object.  A degree of scientific complications only rivaled by the amount to syllables in this word, there are three basic forms of diaphaneity; opacity, translucency and transparency (this last one isn’t a reference to a parent that has elected to switch genders).

Dichroism – is a doubly daring and dazzling dance of light!  When light refracts out of a gemstone in two different shades (when viewed at varying angles), this is the phenomena of dichroism.  It’s like getting a ‘2 for1’ special at the disco ball store.

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Difficulta – is exactly what it sounds like; hard.  It’s a fairly esoteric term applied to the action undertaken by artists who attempt to create new forms, but the execution of said forms is increasingly difficult to achieve.  A lot of Renaissance artists strove to master this, but its popularity died down as people became lazier with each generation.  A modern Renaissance of this kind is taking place in the fast-paced and illegal world of Graffiti Art.

Dog Collar (Collier de Chien) – answers the age old question in the jewelry world of “Who let the dogs out?”  This type of close fitting necklace became all the rage during the Edwardian period, as Queen Alexandra was always seen wearing a one that featured multiple strands of pearls (allegedly because she had a gnarly scar on her neck – possibly from a vampire attack?)

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Doublet – is the name given to a tricky little, partially fabricated gemstone made up of two components.  Typically, the top (crown) will be an authentic stone (of a lower quality), which is then slapped on top of a brilliant, synthetic bottom (pavilion), thus producing a wondrous (yet falsely achieved) sparkle.  Doublets are the Wonder Bra of the jewel world.

Doublé d’or – this just denotes a piece of jewelry that is “gold plated,” but since it is in French it sounds fancy and not tawdry, like it truly is.  “Plating” is essentially the technique of painting an alloyed gold substance on to a plain ole, base metal, thereby deceiving the onlooker into thinking that you are indeed a fancy-pants.

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Druse – when you view the inside of a large crystal or geode and see a jagged layer of smaller crystals jutting out all over the place, this is said to be druse.  Druse can make for an interesting accent to a jewelry piece, or as a really sharp and painful loofah replacement, in a pinch.

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Dull Lustre – while this is clearly an oxymoron, it is a very specific term that describes the type of ‘partial shine’ given off by ivory.  It’s no coincidence that if one purchases newly acquired ivory jewelry, which is derived from endangered animals, they are themselves are a ‘dullard.’

-Joe Leone

Alluring Jewelry Terms

(Starting with “A”)

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This is the first installment of a multi part series on the etymology of some of the more esoteric, unconventional and ancient phrases in the wondrous world of precious metal and gemstone-based jewelry.

À jour – much like ‘soup du jour,’ this term is extra fancy, and extra French; it means “to the day,” and is as delicious as a lobster bisque.  À jour is a type of jewelry setting that became intensely popular in the 1800’s (just like the sexy steam locomotive and the scintillating stereoscope) where the back of the piece is left open.  This is so the sun can hit it with luscious light and BAM: instant solar style, as the jewel shimmers with glowing glee and bright alacrity.

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À la mercure – Ok, this one can be mercurial (and lethal).  Like the name suggests, we’re dealing with actual mercury here.  It’s a type of ‘gilding’ where you meld gold and mercury into a deadly stew and then gently apply it to a jewelry piece (like you would with White-Out to a sensitive document).  Then you burn the heck out of it with a torch or, in a pinch, a lighter with a saucy burlesque dancer etched on to it.  The heat from the fire sizzles the mercury away, leaving behind a smooth golden finish (just don’t breathe while doing this, kids!)

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Aiguilettes – now commonly known as the name given to Christina Aguilera’s children, aiguilettes originally referred to thin little strips of material that held ribbons in place on women’s dresses in the 1400’s.  These stylishly ‘sharp’ items (derived from the French word for needle, “aguille”), became more and more fashionable and were eventually constructed from gold and featured various glittering gems.  They usually appeared in pairs, forming a small “v” or “bird in the distance in a painting” shapes.

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Allochromatic – just like the Allosaur that gets eaten in Jurassic World, this term has epic connotations.  The phrase “allochromatic” is applied to gems that exhibit a certain color…that is not what their chemical components dictate it should actually look like, but rather a hue which is purely visible due to the impurities therein.  Confused?  Good.  Here’s a nice example of allochroma in action: the highly valuable gemstone Sapphire.  Now, sapphire is blue, right?  Dead wrong! (as if you’ve been huffing mercury)  Sapphire is naturally a clear gem in it’s unadulterated state.  However, typically when it forms, iron and titanium particles get in there, alloying the true chemical composition.  These dirty little elements are what give sapphire that azure allure we know and heart.

Alluvial – this one is a little slippery: literally.  The phrase is really just an adjective meaning “deposited by water,” and in the jewelry universe this refers to precious metals (gold, silver, the Lord of the Rings ring) left behind in riverbed rocks.

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Amorphous – Honey Boo-Boo and Momma June jokes aside, amorphous things have no form at all.  What this means in gem terms, is that they are devoid of a “crystal structure.”  Popular gemstones such as amber and opal are amorphous, making them both great gifts for someone whom you want to express the message “Our love has no…form.”

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Arabesque – those who frequent hookah lounges will be familiar with the ornate and intricate style that is Arabesque.  Jewelry with extensive filigreed is often in the Arabesque category, which was definitely #trending during the 1500’s with the Renaissance art crowd.  Arabesque designs feature a lot of flowing flowers, hearts and in some rare cases, shawarma samples.

Archaeological Revival – this term is sort of self explanatory, but cool nonetheless.  When art loving Europeans of the 1700’s began digging stuff up from the Roman and Egyptian Empires, they fell in love with the style and started replicating it like mad.  Wearing a Cleopatra inspired golden asp headpiece became totally en vogue with the bourgeoisie crew.

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Argentan – if you receive a shiny silver gift with an intaglio on it proclaiming this word, then you have a right to be miffed.  It means that the metal is masquerading as actual silver, but, sadly, is not.  This information can be extremely useful when deciding whether or not to melt jewelry pieces down into bullets to combat attacking werewolves.

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Armilla – is just a super fancy word for an ‘armlet’ – a bracelet for the upper arm.  These have been around since the times when people fought lions with their bare hands for the entertainment of the masses (usually on the TNT network).  Roman soldiers wore these to signify rank, as well as for an excuse to show off their biceps.  Today, hordes of  inebriated girls wear them at Coachella.

Assay – is not that thing you had to write to get into college.  Assay is the procedure that jewelry items undergo to analyze the precise content of the precious metal they contain.  The results are often stamped right on the little guys (ie – “24 kt gold” or, in some less than fortunate cases, “100% tin foil”).

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Asterism – akin to the mighty asteroid, soaring through the cosmos, the concept of asterism is equally ephemeral and can scorch you if you attempt to grasp it.  …Well, not really.  It just signifies a star-like shape that forms when light hits certain, inclusion laden gems and then reflects out in said stellar fashion.  Basically, it’s like looking at a jewel-born asterisk*

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Aventurescence – if you are a gem and you possess this quality, it means you are ready for adventure!  …Or something to that effect.  When stones have aventurescence, they have an entirely unique brand of sparkle to them.  Gems that exhibit this property are chocked full of various mineral inclusions that are too hard to spell or pronounce (and in some cases, sound completely inappropriate).  Not a believer?  Just try to say “fuchsite” in polite society and see what happens.

-Joe Leone 

A Diamond’s Journey from the Mine to a Finger

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The story of your diamond (or that diamond you were eyeing online a minute ago) began 3.3 billion years ago and 100 miles below the Earth. That’s right, your diamond is older—like, way, way older—than the T. Rex. In addition to being beautiful, it’s ancient.

The process of its journey to its current state of existence also involved a volcano, a laser, a girdler, a blocker, a brillianteer, a boiling session in a vat of acid, a painstaking beauty contest, several sheets of paperwork, and, let’s face it, many, many marketing dollars.

When the Earth decided to make diamonds, it required a few things: a temperature of 1,700 – 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, 650,000 – 870,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, a carbon source, and a cozy spot in the Earth’s mantle.
Continue reading A Diamond’s Journey from the Mine to a Finger