Tag Archives: Van Cleef and Arpels

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

The World’s Best Jewelry Designers

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At times, jewelry can transcend mere fashion and reach the status of high art.  The following international designers consistently deliver their wares with such unpredictable ingenuity and stylistic acumen that they leave critics and consumers equally speechless.  Behold, the top ten highest rated jeweler designers currently dazzling the world stage.

Costis

credit: Costis.com
credit: Costis.com
credit: costis.com
Credit: costis.com

The Costis brand was officially established in 1994 in the land of piazzas and pizzas.  The key element that Costis employs in their designs is the concept of the ‘everyday turned fantastical.’  An ordinary pencil is transformed into a gem encrusted bracelet.  A fish monger’s barnacle laden net becomes a bizarrely fascinating and chic necklace.  Two kiwi slices are transmogrified into deliciously gilded earrings, while a skyscraper decadently descends to wrap around your index finger.  Whatever the commonplace inspiration, the pieces emerge as anything but ordinary.

Autore

credit: Pearlautore.com.au
Credit: Pearlautore.com.au

Autore has done a fabulous job of carving out a very specific and eye-catching niche for themselves.  They are the go-to designer for all pieces featuring the pulchritudinous pearl.  The signature element of their earrings, rings, necklaces and more, is this singular and most sought after treasure of the sea.  The pearls they showcase are not simply white, but come in a wide array of exotic and mixed colors.  Black pearls and south sea pearls are beautiful in their own right, but are brought to new levels of comely opulence when featured in Autore jewelry.

Efva Attling, Stockholm

credit: efvaattling.se
Credit: efvaattling.se

This Swedish designer brings an elegant and uniquely Nordic look to all her pieces.  There is something simultaneously warm (the bold colored gems) and icy (the sleek silver mountings) inherent to each of her stunning specimens.  Born Efva Katarina Attling, she spent a lot of time in the fashion world working as a model before crossing over to design.  She also,  un-ironically, was in a band called “X Models.”  The company motto governing their pieces is “beauty with a thought,” and you can really see how much thought goes into each alluring article.

via Wikipedia
via Wikipedia

Graff

credit: graffdiamonds.com
credit: graffdiamonds.com

Founded by the venerated Laurence Graff in 1960, this British jewelry behemoth has not shown any signs of slowing down.  Year after year the Graff conglomeration cranks out dynamic and dazzling numbers.  Graff is widely regarded as one of the premier designers in the elusive world of deluxe diamond jewelry.  Extremely rare and sought after diamonds, from pure whites to fancy vivids, are showcased in the Graff catalogue, a name synonymous with high end design and unlimited class.

Harry Winston

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Another monster name in the diamond jewelry world, Harry Winston is not afraid to push boundaries in his creations.  Having put a new spin on numerous classical looking pieces, from winter-themed, icicle reminiscent earrings to starkly striking, exquisitely contoured multi-colored diamond necklaces, Winston’s modern take on antique structures has been very well received.  This chap and his operation seems to be quite magnanimous as well; he coughed up the infamous Portuguese Diamond to the Smithsonian Institute in 1963.  Before that he relinquished the Hope Diamond to the very same museum.  You know you’re pretty financially sound when you can just give away the darn Hope Diamond.

Van Cleef and Arpels

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VC & A have been designing stunning and bold pieces since 1896.  Blending a variety of metals and gems in their jewelry, they somehow consistently make wondrously ostentatious works (that would come off as gaudy in the hands of less skilled designers).  As their pieces have been flaunted around the world on the likes of the Duchess of Windsor and film darling Grace Kelly, Van Cleef and Arpels has received quite a bit of international publicity.  Having famed diamond-ophile Liz Taylor as an unofficial spokesperson didn’t hurt this company either.  One of the more mystical design teams on this list, their items often contain wild floral elements, real and imagined creatures and even mischievous and whimsical fairies.

credit: vancleefarpals.com
credit: vancleefarpals.com

Piaget

credit: piaget.com
credit: piaget.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This swank Swiss outfit is known primarily for their luxury watches which just drip diamonds, but are major players in all high end jewelry forms as well.  Taking a piaget out of the book of adorable, Georges Edouard Piaget initially crafted a tiny watch workshop in 1874 on the family farm in a little hamlet in the Jura mountains of Switzerland.  As the company exploded onto the jewelry scene, they never lost sight of George’s primary goal of supplying superb craftsmanship and highly original designs.  Piaget currently owns and operates Geneva’s most massive jewelry workshop (something ole Georgey probably never dreamed of).  Their timeless timepieces adorn the wrists of anyone who’s anyone, including Athlete-of-our-Generation, Serena Williams (a testament to how sturdy the watches are too, as Serena wears hers while actually competing).

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Bulgari

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credit: bulgari.com
Credit: bulgari.com

Leave it to the Romans (or Rome-based designer Bulgari) to concoct a jewelry line that has some pieces which offer unprecedented, sheer regal elegance and others that look almost like the sleek shackles of an ancient (and stylish) prisoner.  Their signature, trademarked logo, where their name is spelled out “Bvlgari” (as the Italians of yore did not have a “u” in their alphabet), is as iconic as the brand’s illustrious assortment of pieces.  Bulgari boasts one of the most impressive collections of jewelry works which contain (some of) the world’s most sublimely scarce gemstones.

Cartier

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Cartier - via pinterest.com
Cartier – via pinterest.com
credit: Cartier.de
credit: Cartier.de

Cartier has never shied away from creating potentially polarizing jewelry parcels.  Perhaps it is because they are so highly regarded in the jewelry milieu that they have no qualms about engaging in daring experiments in form.  Their famous leopard head ring echoes lustrous Egyptian jewelry of yesteryear, while their “nail” ring embodies quite a funky take on modern design aesthetics.  As one of the oldest functioning jewelry companies on the planet (founded in Paris by Louis-Francois Cartier in 1847), Cartier holds a rich tradition of designing jewelry for the world’s most elite clientele, from heads of state to heads of movie studios to celebrity head cases.

Chopard

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The 1860, Swiss-born Chopard dynasty is unanimously held in the highest esteem in the realm of all things jewelry related.  Initially focused solely on watchmaking (the Swiss really have been adamant about perfecting watch designs), it wasn’t until over one hundred years after they were founded that they ventured into crafting other types of jewelry.  In recent years, Chopard has helped to pioneer the ‘green jewelry movement’ (which doesn’t mean it features just emeralds).  The official name given to their program is the somewhat ephemeral sounding “The Journey,” which was established to help create sustainable, fairly mined and assembled jewelry.  Hopefully all designers will follow suit in Chopard’s quest to design things that are as beautiful as they are ethically derived.

credit: us.chopard.com
Credit: us.chopard.com

 -Joe Leone