Tag Archives: precious metals

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

What Is Sustainable Jewelry?

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In recent times, some of the most popularly proffered buzz words relate to the environment.  “Going green,” “eco-friendly,” and “ethically derived” are just a few of the oft uttered (and marketed) phrases that are essentially straight forward and universally understood in their meanings.  But what exactly is “sustainable jewelry,” and why is it something to strive for?  Nobody is throwing their jewelry items in the garbage (hopefully), so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is this; the way that the precious metals and gems that make up jewelry pieces are obtained can have a significant impact on the environment.  First, the methods employed in removing these ores and stones from the ground can have an extremely negative effect on surrounding soil, vegetation and ecosystems.  Often, the surface soil of a mined area is completely decimated; this topsoil is the main area where new plants can grow, so after the mining is finished, the land remains barren.  Toxic chemicals used during this ‘soil stripping’ process obviously contribute to more of the same thing.  The chemicals which are disseminated about typically do not stop their subterranean spiral at the soil; they proceed downward to whatever water flows beneath, contaminating that as well.  Well, once the soil is poisoned and eroded and nearby water is rendered malignant, that’s it, right?  Nope.  There’s even a lovely sinkhole or two to look forward to.

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When thinking about this sort of environmental devastation, it can be all too easy to envision that this only occurs in remote parts of the world, where the environment is not regulated, correct?  Nope again.  The organization Ethical Metalsmiths reports that right here in the good ole US of A, one of the most virulent (and fervently active) industries is metal mining.  The unrestricted practices endemic to this business have lead to 96% of the nation’s annual arsenic emissions, and 76% of the yearly lead that is released into the atmosphere and earth as well.  The conditions in certain African, Central and South American countries are even worse as ground contaminants have reached alarmingly dangerous heights.

(more information on Diamond Mines)

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Next comes the hazards inherent in jewelry manufacturing.  Vast amounts of energy are routinely consumed to create different glass materials, which are frequently colored with noxious dyes.  These harmful substances then end up in the ground and leach their way into the water supply too.  Even if a company adheres to fairly strict practices in regards to the allocation of hazardous chemicals and the proper disposal of waste, there are still the production factors to consider.  Some companies may develop their jewelry through sound means, but end up creating a huge amount of waste in the packaging, delivering and distribution of their items.

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So when a brand or particular designer claims to make truly “sustainable jewelry,” they should be taking each and every one of the aforementioned environmental considerations into account.  In the actual creation of the jewelry pieces, they should be using recycled metals whenever feasible.  Such materials can be easily acquired, and dynamic designers all over the world have found innovative ways to let these up-cycled metals really stand out.  In addition to the metals used, various other vintage articles can be craftily assembled, making the jewelry not only environmentally conscious but uniquely conceived as well.  Rubber, vinyl, plastic; all make great additions to jewelry and can be literally extracted from places where they would otherwise go unused or harm their natural surroundings.  Many designers repurpose materials too; an old phone cord can be fashioned into a daring new bracelet, a chunk of chandelier crystal converted into a fascinating Art Deco inspired necklace.  The way that sustainable jewelry is put together must be considered also, in a manner that wastes as little natural energy and resources as possible.

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There are many designers out there today making totally sustainable, chic and wearable pieces.  Here is a list of just some of the coolest and most environmentally responsible talents currently revolutionizing the industry (from ecosalon.com).

When all is said and done, producing anything new will always require energy and resources of some sort.  Hopefully we can collectively agree that jewelry should be made in as sustainable a manner as possible.  It’s nice to own pretty things; it’s also nice to live on a pretty planet.

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-Joe Leone

Beautiful Jewelry Terms

(starting with “B”)

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Bail – yes, this is indeed what you had to lay out for your incorrigible grandpa that time he got caught shoplifting at K-Mart, but it’s also a glorious jewelry-related homonym.  The bail is that little loop that gets fastened to the top of a gemstone or pendant or Olympic Gold Medal that enables it to hang (or “chill”) from a chain.

Bakelite – there won’t be a ton of plastic-based things on this list, but the once highly sought after Bakelite is definitely one of them.  While it sounds like it gets its name from being baked in an oven (with less calories than usual!), its nomenclature stems from its creator, Leo Bakeland (and yes, his name clearly sounds like a dough-based amusement park).  Bakelite was conceived by this fellow in 1909 and peaked in desirability during the not-so-roaring ’30’s (mostly for its affordability and highly durable nature), as it was used in a wide gamut of jewelry items.

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Bandeau – is a headband, but in French; hence it is fancy.  They first rose to popularity during the Middle Ages in Europe, where they were simply constructed of jewels strung together with ribbons, which were tightly yanked and secured on to these Middled Aged ladies’ foreheads.  Later they were crafted out of various metals and took on a more tiara-esque look.  They saw a significant surge during the 1920’s Art Deco era (the flappers sure loved them some bandeaus), and fairly recently as well, as poet laureate Paris Hilton has been frequently sighted donning one.

Basket Mount – why, this is one fancy gemstone setting that creates the illusion that the stone is set in a woven, wait for it…basket.  Guess an explanation of that wasn’t really necessary.

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Basse-Taille – those who are in favor of the process of “translucent enameling” are typically said to be ‘All about that Basse-Taille.’  This term, in French, means “shallow cut,” and this is a reference to how the metal here is treated.  The metal is etched into very deeply, so that when a nice shellack of enamel is applied, it dries in various hues.  These different colors draw attention to the minute contours of the overall design.  This technique can often been seen in jewelry items that feature intricate shapes, such as leaves, butterfly wings, flower petals and replicas of Donald Trump’s hair.

Bavette – Is this from Bavaria?  No, no Bavette.  Here’s another phrase from the land of fine wine and stinky cheese.  Bavette in French means “bib,” and is used to describe necklaces that are constructed of numerous strands of beads (usually pearls), of various lengths.  They form a beautiful bib-shape, and can be used to showcase your opulence out on the town – or simply as a way to keep bar-b-que sauce off your camisole.

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Bayadére – this is just twisted.  It’s a necklace formed from a multitude of strands of “seed” (aka: tiny) pearls.  The strands are twisted around and around, like a pair of earphones in bottom of the jostled purse of someone desperately running to catch a bus.

Belcher Ring – is not necessarily named after those with audible indigestion symptoms.  Legend has it that this style of ring was christened after infamous English bare-knuckle boxer, Jem Belcher, at the turn of the 19th century; whether he was gassy or not remains a mystery.  The ring features a stone that is set in place with prongs that are fashioned out of the original, core metal of the band.  Also of note, is the fact that the guy’s name was Jem.

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Belle Époque – the “beautiful era” in France (1901-1915).  This was known as the Edwardian period in nearby, contentious England; for the contemporary king, Edward (aka “Fast Eddie”).  The designs of this stylish epoch are quite flowery and flowing, consisting of many floral patterns, intertwined lace and billowing bows (just like Belle’s outfits in “Beauty and the Beast”).

Benoiton – surprisingly, this is not the precursor to the Benetton line of clothing.  It’s a weird thing that women put in their hair during the 1860’s.  It’s made up of a bunch of chains that come out of the hair (reminiscent of a lovely octopus or spider) and then clamp down into one’s dress.  These non-functional hair clips first came into the public eye onstage, in a play written by satirist Victorien Sardou: the farce “La Famille Benoiton.”  They fell out of favor when scores of people began injuring themselves while brushing their hair.

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Billet-Doux – this one is a touch scandalous.  A French expression connoting a “love letter,” the jewelry manifestation of this took its form in flower based pieces – that were given to clandestine lovers.  The type of flower used would indicate a specific message, for instance:  roses symbolized true love, daisies conveyed purity, gardenias meant secret love.  Taking things to a Da Vinci Code level of crypticness, certain gemstones would be used in pieces, and the first letter of each stone (ie – “C” in crystal) would be used to spell out a covert message.  For example, Labradorite, Opal and Lazulite (“LOL”).

Biscuit – a) the most delicious item on the menu at KFC, b) what you call your sweetie, c) the name given to the sumptuous ceramic, porcelain, when it has not yet been glazed.

Bloom Finish – this is a complicated process that utilizes a vast array of deadly chemicals (the charming hydrochloric acid, to name one) to remove the shiny surface from gold and essentially leave it looking softer and “pitted,” like a morose teenager’s face.

Diamond-Lighthouse-selling-gold-braceletBluite – now here’s some good marketing in action.  Manhattan based jewelry company Goldfarb & Friedberg conceived this term around 1922 to describe an 18k white gold compound they sold which, they purported, was the closest approximation to platinum ever created.  They found that “Bluite” sold far better than their previous product “Greenish Gold.”

Bombé – looking exactly how they sound, these jewelry pieces are the bomb.  They exhibit a curved, bulbous shape, like that of a little explosive device.  Most common in ring and earring design, these were a ‘hit’ during the greater part of the 20th century.

via Queensbee.ru
via Queensbee.ru

Brown Émail – before your imagination begins to run wild, know that “émail” is the French word for “enamel.”  So this simply refers to enamel that has that particular, earth toned hue.  Interesting to think that the French have been using email for hundreds of years (…don’t be jaloux, England.)

-Joe Leone

Differences Between Silver, Gold and Platinum 

Diamond-Lighthouse-broker-rings-gold-silver-platinumEveryone knows the obvious discrepancies between Silver, Gold and the elusive Platinum, but there are many hidden facts that separate these precious metals.  Here we will break down the differences between Silver and Gold, and then Gold and Platinum (we wouldn’t want to insult Platinum by even comparing it to Silver).

Gold vs. Silver 

Gold 

known on the Period Table of Elements as “Au”, with the Atomic Number 79.

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 Historically, the most popular in all forms of jewelry, especially in both men’s and women’s wedding rings.  A huge plus is that it does not tarnish when exposed to the elements.  Unlike chicken at McDonald’s, gold naturally occurs in nugget form.  Gold has been used in coinage, jewelry and arts before recorded time.  The term “the gold standard” refers to the monetary policy that was used all the way until the 1930’s.

Gold is classified in “Karats”, ranging from 9 to 24.  All that these numbers actually connote is the amount of pure gold in the jewelry or item being described.  For instance, a ring that is 24K is, in essence, pure gold.  One that is 9K is mostly comprised of other metals, like silver or copper, and technically can not be categorized as “gold jewelry” (must be 10K or higher, by U.S. standards).

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