Published 26th June 2012
There is an early 19th century enamelled gold snuff box in our July 2012 Fine Sale that is a fine example of the enameller's art. Such boxes were often given as gifts, the best examples commissioned by royal households. Enamel is produced by melting powdered glass, which becomes a hard vitreous coating on metal. It is a technique dating from earliest times and was used in ancient Egypt, Greece and China. It is immensely durable and lends itself to attractive colouring and decoration.
Jewellery created in the early 20th century is often referred to as 'belle epoque', and there is a black opal and diamond cluster ring that is a good example of the period in this fine sale.
Belle Epoque was originally a period in French history dating from around 1890 and ending with World War One, so the equivalent of the Britsh 'Naughty Nineties' in the Edwardian period, which also had a reputation for glamour and exotic design. It was the last time the seriously rich upper classes could revel in their wealth and their partying lifestyles (morals were mainly for the beneft of the working classes!) This exoitic world is reflected in the colourful and stylish designs of jewellery of the period.
Diamonds cut and polished in the 19th century have a different appearance than those cut today. This cushion shaped diamond was cut circa 1870 and subsequently re-modelled as a solitaire ring in the 20th century.
Diamonds have been synonymous with engagement rings from the early 19th century - a connection heavily promoted by jewellers and De Beers ever since. Their properties as eternal, durable and beautiful gem stones are legendary but they have been the root cause of wars, theft and murders. As the lady said 'Diamonds are Forever'.