Tag Archives: French

The Mythical Mazarins: A Weird Tale of History’s Most Famous Diamond Group

via Wikipedia.en
via Wikipedia.en

History is no stranger to diamonds with epic, tumultuous and storied pasts; the Shah, the Black Orlov and the Hope, to name a few.  However, there hardly exists a famous diamond nomenclature that is used to describe a multitude of stones; eighteen of the sparklers, to be exact!  Let’s delve deep into the recesses of gemstone history to discover the odd origins and sprawling paths that this collection of famed gems have ventured down. 

It began with one man; Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino (born on July 14th, 1602).  Unless you’re really bad at guessing this type of thing, you’ve correctly assumed he was of Italian descent.  Early on, he left his home in the Kingdom of Naples and sought education, by the Jesuits, in Roma.  However, for reasons only known to the intriguing Naples native, Guilio all but renounced his heritage, moved to France and fully ensconced himself in full French fashion.  Forgoing spaghetti for escargot, he altered his moniker as well, now assuming the identity of one “Jules Raymond Mazarin.”  Through a series of fortunate events, ‘Mazarin’ was able to utilize his syncretic education and weave his way into the close knit community of French aristocrats and nobles.  His apparent charms knew no end, despite his alleged gambling problem and proclivity to chase married women; namely, the Queen of France.  Now here’s where his somewhat apocryphal tale gets significantly weirder.  Mazarin, despite not holding any previous titles in the clergy and being a married man (a marriage he was rumored to have been forced into to repay a particularly hefty debt incurred through unbridled gambling), was somehow able to ascend to the role of Cardinal.  Admission into such a high position in the Roman Catholic Church has never been a simple task, so there is much speculation about how this truly went down.  Through this auspicious and serendipitous trajectory, Mazarin was able to amass his amazing amalgamation of gemstones.  

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While the legend of Mazarin is steeped in many unsubstantiated stories and wild rumors, historians have narrowed down a few solid possibilities for his rapid ascension to Catholic fame.  One such theory is that French Cardinal Richelieu (the right hand man to the current king, Louis the 13th) was visiting Rome and was introduced to a plucky, young Mazarin.  He promptly invited the seemingly sedulous scamp to venture back with him to Paris, to try his hand at bourgeois Parisian life.  Under Richelieu’s wing, Mazarin quickly adapted to the politics of French Catholicism and became all but indispensable to the religious magnate.  A mainstay of the royal court, Mazarin now found himself rubbing shoulders with his holiest of holies, the Pope, and his kingliest of kings, Louis XIII.  By 1641 ole Louis Louis had appointed Mazarin a Cardinal himself, thus sealing the once-Italian’s legacy.  While many believed King Louis to fancy the not-so-fair sex, there is no direct evidence linking his tastes in gentlemen of the court to why Mazarin was able to slip in so seamlessly.  Nevertheless, Louis would kick the bucket a mere two years later; a victim to tuberculosis.  This would pave the way for Mazarin to further secure his status as a royal player…

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Mazarin now seemed destined to procure the favor of the recently widowed Queen Anne.  One interesting snippet about him and the Queen that circulated involves his love of the gamble.  While playing a card game in court (or whatever 17th century folk did that involved betting), Mazarin was on a real hot streak and had a huge pile of gold in front of him.  As the amour-deprived Queen walked into the room, Mazarin impulsively put all his winnings on the line.  He won the bet and immediately began fawning all over the Queen, attributing her fortuitous aura to his hearty haul.  This (among other undisclosed, most likely naughty things) would garner the Queen’s esteem, and once Cardinal Richelieu was dead and out of the picture, she named Mazarin the First Minister of France.  From that point on Mazarin was co-calling the shots in France.  Acting as a virtual stepdad to the lil’ king Louis the 14th (more hearsay dictates that Mazarin and the Queen took clandestine vows of their own), Mazarin and Anne were not only knocking knees but were leading the nation.  Times were not always smooth sailing, as phalanxes of the French people revolted here and there, but Mazarin kept his head held high until he finally succumbed to illness in 1661, leaving behind a wake of questions as to how such an unknown person could reign so supreme.  

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Now on to the diamonds.  Unfortunately, the actual origin of the majority of the 18 stones remains shrouded in mystery.  Two of the best known diamonds in the collection, however, the “Sancy” and the “Mirror of Portugal” do have definitive roots.  They both essentially were collateral turned into actual payment from the King of England, Charles I’s widow, Henrietta, to a dude named the Duke of Épernon – who subsequently sold the diamonds to Mazarin.  Wanting to further bolster his collection, Mazarin sequestered some more stones from England’s coup captain and interim ruler, Oliver Cromwell.  Amongst these new stones came the first ever “brilliant” cut diamond – which has yet to relinquish its title as ‘engagement ring stone of choice.’  When Mazarin passed over to the great cathedral in the sky, he willed his 18 diamonds to the French Crown.  His faux stepson, Louis the 14th, had three of the gems forged into his “battle” sword and donned them with pride (at his hip, of course, never in actual combat).

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It would seem that this Brobdingnagian assortment of priceless diamonds would have been solidified in history as major gemological mainstay, but, alas, twas not meant to be.  More than a century after Mazarin’s death, a bold robbery took place; the Garde Meuble, where the stones were tucked away, was ransacked and 12 of the stones were lost forever (including the much beloved Mirror of Portugal).  While these gems were all substantial in size, and thus fairly easy to recognize, popular belief is that they have been recut over the years to avoid detection.  If you’d like to take a gander at some of the remaining diamonds, three of the diaphanous stones are on display at the Louvre in Paris.  Alas, most of the Mazarins live on in memory, myth and mystery alone. 

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-Joe Leone 

Inspirational Jewelry Keepsakes

(Jewelry Terms: I, J & K)

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Idiochromatic – much like an idiosyncratic gemstone enthusiast, stones of this ilk are essentially pure at heart.  That is to say that the hue exhibited by this type of gem is a result of its integral chemical components, not from impurities in the stone.  The other kind of gems are called allochromatic (like the sultry sapphire) and appear a certain shade because they are laden with beautifully colorful dirt.

Ingot – oddly enough, this is not a French term and so it is pronounced exactly how it looks.  This describes a precious metal that has been rolled, drawn and stamped to create specific pattern or design.  In non-jewelry form, an ingot can take the shape of a bar, brick or seriously valuable paperweight.

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Inro – are nifty little carrying cases that handily attach to one’s kimono.  If you didn’t catch on, they are made in Japan.  Usually crafted out of wood or metal (or for the murderous sect, tortoise or ivory), these cool cases have various metals, lacquers and shells inlaid to construct artful scenes and marvelous creatures (ie, Godzilla wreaking havoc on the populace).

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Inseperables – no, not you and your friend Stacy in 6th grade.  This is a brooch that came into fashion during the 1830’s, replete with two stick pins that are held together with a tiny little chain.  No one knows why this style disappeared or why it’s name looks like a distinct misspelling.

Invisible Setting – this is a type of ring setting that you can claim you have given your lover when you actually have given them nothing.  Actually, its a setting type that makes a row of featured gems appear as if there is nothing holding them in place.  This is achieved by cutting tiny divots into the gem girdles and then securing them with a minuscule matrix of wires.  Gemstones mounted in this kind of setting can look like a row of teeth (presumably held straight with Invisalign braces).

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J

Jabot Pin – yup; you jab this pin right into yourself.  On either end of the pin are fancifully arranged jewels.  Each side sticks into clothing so the only thing one sees are the sparkling jewels, not the dangerous pin mechanism underneath.  Jabot refers to that frilly ever-so-manly swath of fabric that men of the mid-1600’s adorned with cocky glee; the jabot pin holds said lacy puff piece in place.  During the Art Deco explosion of the 1920’s, women took a shine to Jabot pins, making them an indispensable facet of flapper fashion.

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Japonaiserie (aka Japanesque) – any jewelry item that exhibits influence from Japan, typically those embossed with lacquer.  These got hot in the western world at the end of the 1800’s.  Elements commonly found on such works include bamboo motifs and etchings of provincial peoples fanning themselves.  The best way to care for this type of jewelry is to wax on, wax off.

Jarretière – this is a trendy bracelet that looks kind of like a chic little belt for your wrist.  Often made from metal patterned with geometric shapes (like the honeycomb), this comely clasp came into style during the 1800’s and hasn’t really waned yet, as you can still find them in Saks Fifth Avenue and Claire’s Accessories alike.

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Jasperware – Fashion (and, naturally, pottery) maven Josiah Wedgwood developed this porcelain-esque product which mimics onyx, but also allows for you to have a white design on the surface.  This material was used to make cameos and other fun pieces during the 1700’s, but eventually died out in terms of popularity.  Perhaps an integral lesson in survival learned by Wedgwood’s grandson: Charles Darwin.  #FashionOfTheFittest

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Jou-Jou Or – the adorable French term for “toy gold,” which is a gold alloy that has a fairly low karat rating of 6.  It is also the proper way to address the first two potential people to be chosen for something, in a row of three, pending the picker has an audible accent (ie: “Jou, jou or…jou.”)

Justaucorps – the end of the 1600’s saw France gripped in Justaucorps fever.  It’s a relatively trim and fitted coat that suddenly, unapologetically flares out at the waist (basically, a groovy disco jacket of 17th century Europe).  Included on this jewelry aggregation because the buttons were usually constructed of diamonds, gold, gems, silver and perhaps even small, mirrored balls that reflected light in a totally far out way.

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K

Keeper Ring – sometimes jewelry can be more about function than fashion.  The Keeper Ring is just that; a band that keeps another, more costly ring from slipping off one’s slender digits.  These became necessary during the 1700’s, when more people starting wearing diamond rings (and possibly eating greasy fast food).  Eventually they would be deemed ‘guard rings,’ and they went from just utilitarian bands to fairly fancy things.  They now not only keep the expensive ring in place but also add some extra blingage to it.  The third incarnation of a keeper ring is the obviously binder clasp that secures loose leaf in your Trapper Keeper.

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Kitemarks – are little insignias that the 19th century British began stamping on their jewelry to indicate the date that the specific jewelry design of a piece was officially registered (similar to a hallmark).  The date would be found in a diamond or kite shape.  It’s kind of like the original copyright date found at the front of a book (not the publication date).  Those who opposed this and suggested that they should just stamp the date that the piece was forged on the metal were told to “Go fly a kitemark.”

-Joe Leone

Glorious Jewelry Terms

Starting with “G”

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Gallery – much like the photo galleries you are ‘click-baited’ into viewing online, a gallery in the jewelry realm typically aids in making the main attraction (gemstone) look even cooler.  A series of designs or repeated patterns, usually accompanying a center stone or other precious material, is what constitutes a gallery in this sense.

Gardinetto – if you’ve got a bunch of sapphires, rubies and emeralds you need to show off, you need a practical way to present them; luckily the enterprising Italians came up with the gardinetto.  This is a little jewelry basket (or pot or coffee can) of flowers, where the gems can reside.  Most commonly used as a trinket to trade amongst lovers during the mid-1700’s, gardinettos rose to fashion once again during the extravagantly fabulous Art Deco period (the roaring/raging/raving ’20’s).

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Gaud – this is a very neat little orb that hangs from, typically, a rosary.  This tiny ball can be opened and inside there are often entire scenes carved within, usually straight from the Bible, replete with sacred saints and other symbolically significant peeps.  Mostly made of wood and resembling walnuts (these kind are actually referred to as ‘nuts’ – hence the term “religious nut”), gauds can sometimes show up in metal forms.

Georgian Silver – around the inception of the Baroque period (referring to 1600’s Europe, not necessarily when poor people were feeling especially ba-roke), people began to notice that setting white diamonds in silver made them really sparkle.  Fast forward a bit to the Georgian era, when silver mines in South America were booming and India was popping out and polishing more diamonds than e’er seen before; thus, the perfect recipe for silver Euro-ring fun!

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Germanic Jewelry – when you think of Goth jewelry, you probably imagine black bats, big pewter crucifixes and scary goblin pendants, not ornately decorated gold with glorious, colored gems inlaid.  The jewelry of the Germanic tribes (the 5th century Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals …Hoodlums, etc.) greatly resembled that of the Romans, as these tribes had been under their resplendent rule for generations.  Basically a lot of colored glass, precious stones and intricate designs on gilded materials.

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Giacomo Raffaelli – if there is a name synonymous with the mastery of mosaics, it’s Raffaelli.  This 18th century born italian artiste was so adept at crafting mosaics, he eventually was able to create a ‘micro mosaic.’  These tiny masterpieces could then be used in jewelry design, much to the delight of late period Settecento (1700s) donne everywhere.  Thankfully, this concept would become mass produced and is now responsible for breathtaking Cosplay jewelry items everywhere.

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Gimmel Ring – is basically two bands that are twisted together to form one complete ring.  Used as symbols of betrothal during the Renaissance, where the groom would wear one ring and the bride to be the other (essentially, his and her engagement rings), which the bride would absorb into one fused ring on the day of the wedding.  A little gimmicky, these gimmel (which is actually derived from the Latin word, gemellus, for ‘twin’) rings would sometimes contain a secretly inscribed baby and skeleton under the main stone, as an eerie reminder that you are born with nothing and you die with nothing, and that nothing is forever.

…How romantic.

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Girandole – All the rage during the 1600s, these are earrings that consist of three teardrop shaped gems which hang down from a fanciful bow design.  Once the 1700s rolled around and people started to view these as “le lame” the earrings would typically be broken down into their component parts and redesigned into less heavy (and not so gaudy) earrings and other jewelry types.  Hence, we have the first instances of “jewelry repurposing” on record.

Girasol – Ok, this is the name ascribed to any type of gemstone that exhibits a milky luster that appears to drip along and mosey inside the stone as it is moved (or as the sun or Smurf nightlight or whatever light source hitting it is put into motion).  Girasols should never be given as a present to lactose intolerant individuals.  That’s just cruel.

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Glyptography – What do intaglios engraved into metal and cameos etched from a stone have in common?  Why, they are both are shining examples of glyptography, the ancient art of sending messages through jewelry.  Duh.  Long story relatively short, people were trying to text each other by carving things (called petroglyphs) into cave walls around 15,000 BC – Cut To a few thousand years later and folks were using these etchings to identify personal property with – these became “seals” and were eventually worn, for good luck, favor from the gods, and all that jazz.

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Gold à Quatre Couleurs – one can never have too much gold; or too many gold colored varieties at once.  This term, coined in the 1750s, means you have four different gold hued alloys all employed in one jewelry piece.  A repetitious pattern is often created to give the overall golden design symmetry, beauty and super ultra uber goldiness.

Gorget – getting gorged on a gorgeous gorget is just glorious, no?  This guy started out as a metal collar that had an open back (we’re talking during the ancient European times of roughly 800 BC), and would go through numerous iterations over the centuries.  It would eventually become more of a military thing, as soldiers would wear them for protection.  Various cultures changed gorgets up a bit, crafting them from bones, shells, leather, ribbon, etc.  Certain designers working today have thrown the style back to the elder times, resorting to full on metal once again.

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Grisaille – this French expression means “in the grey,” and is not nearly as cryptic in jewelry practices as the idiom makes it sound.  It’s an enameling technique where first a black, or “noir” (again, really not mysterious), layer of enamel is applied to a surface, and then white enamel is later layered over it.  Depending on the degree of thickness of the white enamel, the various “shades of grey” are then expressed (again, really, nothing clandestine, mystical or seductive going on here; just boring enameling).  Some jewelry glazed with this process is said to be cursed (alas, there it is!)

Grotesque – is a vile piece of jewelry, like something purchased at “Hot Topic,” right?  Nope.  Stemming from the Latin “grotto,” translated to ‘hollow,’ this refers to the Roman practice of encircling a main figure with a bunch of finely carved out scrolls.  For instance, a #troll with #scrolls.

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Guilloché – if you are good with a lathe, you can probably bang out a really cool guilloché design.  Just in case you aren’t a jeweler, a ‘lathe’ is a deluxe engraving tool, and the guilloché technique involves forging a concentric pattern, that originates from the center of a piece and appears to ripple outward.  It looks like a water droplet in a pond, or a really angry cartoon character with those squiggly lines coming out of his head.

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Guirlande – usually showing up in the form of a gem encrusted floral wreath, the guirlande is a broach-like pendant.  Totally en vogue during the Renaissance period amongst the nobles, the NeoClassics dredged this style up and wore it with tons of throwback flare.

Gutta-Percha – this makes this list just because it is fun to say.  Aside from the fact that is sounds like a colorful Italian curse word, it’s a rubber-esque organic material that comes from “pantropical” trees.  It’s a stygian substance, and was used primarily in the ever-uplifting-to-wear ‘mourning jewelry.’

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Gypsy Ring – we conclude with the beautifully bohemian gypsy ring.  Key characteristics include a single stone, in a bezel mounting, that often is elevated just a hair above the band.  The cabalistic center gem can be of any variety, but cool stones like obsidian, onyx or dark amethyst make it all the more mysterious.

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-Joe Leone