A type of ancient garment-fastener brooch consisting usually of a straight pin (acus) that is coiled to form a spring and extended back to form a bow and a catch-plate to secure the pin (the most common form of which resembles the modern safety-pin).

The early form had no catch and was used by passing the pin twice through the fabric and then bending it upward behind the head to secure it. Mycenaean and later examples were made with the pin coiled at one end to form a spring for a more secure fastening. Later they were made of two pieces of metal with the pin hinged to a bar having around it wire coils attached on each side of the hinge (a double-twisted or bilateral spring); this type was the precursor of the safety-pin invented in the 19th century.

Later the bow and the catch-plate were highly ornamented. Examples of the fibula have been made in gold, silver, and bronze. Some have been found at Etruscan sites in Italy, attributed to the 7th/5th centuries BC; it has been suggested that some of these were probably made locally, albeit some have also been found in the Illyrian region (now Jugoslavia).

Many fibulae have been ascribed to Anglo-Saxon make, an example with triple pendants has been recorded of Byzantine make, and there are a number of varieties from Romano-British sources.

A fibula is sometimes referred to as a ‘safety-pin brooch’. The term ‘fibula’ has been sometimes loosely used to refer to any type of ancient brooch, and conversely the term ‘brooch’ has been sometimes used to refer to a fibula; but clarity would be better served if the two terms are respectively confined to the two basically different types of fasteners.


Fabergé, (Peter) Carl

The Russian renowned for his artistic and imaginative creations in gold, enamelling, and gemstones, and best known for his jewelled eggs made from 1884 as Easter gifts from the Tsar to the Tsarina.

He was born in St Petersburg, studied at several European centres, and then joined the jewelry firm that his father Gustav (1814-81) had started in 1842. Upon his father’s retirement in 1870 he took over and soon, with his brother Agathon, enlarged the business. Later he was joined by his sons Eugène and Alexander.

He achieved international recognition after the Paris Exposition of 1900, and thereafter made articles for the Russian court, for Edward VII, and for other European royalty. Branches were opened in London and elsewhere, and the business grew to employ over 500 craftsmen.

Fabergé himself, although he probably designed some of the work, was not a goldsmith or enameller, but excelled in supervising the creation of the pieces as to which he required the most meticulous craftsmanship and controlled the selection of the types of stones, enamelling, and settings. Each type of work was executed in specialized workshop, and many of the pieces were signed with the marks of the individual workmasters, including, for the Easter eggs, Michael Perchin and later Henrik Wigström, and, for jewelry, Alfred Thielemann and later August Holmström.

The articles were mainly objects of vertu, such as carved animals and jewelled flowers in vases, as well as useful objects, e.g. frames, boxes, clocks, etc., but he also produced a small amount of jewelry, mainly conventional pieces (e.g. tie pins, cuff-links) reputed for the precision of their settings. He specialized in the varied use of enamels, such as work in plique à jour enamel and tour à guillocher, articles of metal of different colours, and a great variety of gemstones (often rose-cut diamonds and coloured stones cut en cabochon).

Many pieces were made in art nouveau style. The factory closed after the Revolution of 1918 and Fabergé escaped to Switzerland.

Engraved gemstone

A gemstone decorated with a carved or engraved design, monogram, portrait or inscription, incised as an intaglio or in relief as a cameo.

The stones most frequently so used were the agate and sardonyx, which could be carved in a two-colour effect, but some diamonds bear engraved names, dates, and inscriptions (remarkable in view of their hardness and the primitive tools available at the time), e.g. the Shah diamond, the Akbar Shah diamond, the Darya-I-Nur (Iran) diamond, and the Jahangir diamond, and some rubies and emeralds were also engraved.

The work was done originally with a bow-drill, and later on a grinding wheel with the stone, attached to a dop-stick, held against it; a modern process uses a revolving burr. The early process was used from ancient times in Mesopotamia, mainly for design in intaglio on a seal; later in Greece, in the Hellenistic period, gems were cut as a cameo to be worn ornamentally. The process was much used in Egypt for making scarabs and in Minoan, Myceneaen, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman jewelry, especially for cameos and intaglios depicting persons and mythological characters.

It was popular again in the Middle Ages when many of the cameos were thought to have amuletic powers. During the Renaissance engraved gemstones were made with original designs well as copying the classical examples. Such engraved gemstones continued to be popular in the 17th and 18th centuries; among leading Continental engravers of the 18th century were the Italian Johann Anton Pichler, the French Jacques Quay, and the German Johann Lorenz Natter.

Leading English engravers of gemstones were Edward Burch (1730-1814) and his pupil Nathanel Marchant (1739-1816), who depicted classical and contemporary subjects; others also produced accurate copies of ancient gems, but forgers, notably Thomas Jenkins in Rome, made cheap imitations.

Important collections of engraved gemstones were assembled by Pope Paul II (1417-71) and at the courts of the Gonzaga, the Este, and the Medici (some made for Lorenzo de’ Medici are inscribed with an abbreviation of his name, Lau.R.Med.) and also in England, e.g. by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646) and the 2nd Duke of Devonshire.

Imitations of cameos and intaglios were made in Jasper Eartenware by Wedgwood and in paste by James Tassie.

Important engraved gemstones have been set in jewelry in recent years, e.g. the emeralds in the Farah Diba Crown. Some of the gem-engravers of antiquity are identified by their mark. Many engraved gemstones are too large to be worn as jewelry and were made as ornaments for a gem cabinet; for this reason such examples (e.g. the Gemma Augustea) are beyond the scope of this site.

English square cut

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A modification of the brilliant cut of a diamond that has an 8-sided table to which abut 8 triangular facets alternating with 8 more triangular facets (the bases of which abut the girdle), and that has on the pavilion 8 similar triangular facets (the bases of which abut the girdle) and 4 large isosceles-trapezoid facets that meet at a point at the bottom (or 4 large 5-sided facets if they abut a culet), totalling 28 facets (plus the table and culet). The crown is not as deep as the pavilion.

The result is to take maximum advantage of the strong colour dispersion, but the fewer facets detract from brilliance. Also called the ‘English brilliant cut’.


Enamel Jewelry

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A pigment of a vitreous nature composed usually of powdered potash and silica, bound with oil, coloured with metallic oxides, and applied to porcelain, gold, silver, copper, glass, etc., as a surface decoration by low-temperature firing. Enamels are usually mixed with a flux to facilitate melting at a low temperature. They often sink deeply into the glaze of artificial porcelain, but are not absorbed into the feldspathic glazes of true porcelain or into the surface of gold, silver, copper or glass, and so remain on the surface of these, easily palpable to the finger-tips. The French term is émail, the Italian smalto, and the German schmeltz.

Empire Jewelry (1798-1815)

Empire Jewelry

Empire Jewelry

The revolution initiated a return to the classics and the Greek Cameo. This was probably stimulated by Napoleon himself who had on his foreign travels collected an impressive collection of these. Another trend inspired by the Napoleon wars was the creation of a certain type of jewel. The so-called ‘Fer de Berlin’ or ‘Berlin iron’.

Through the Greeks the Roman influence came to be felt as a matter of course. This manifested itself in jewellery in the form of mosaics. Mosaics can be divided into two distinct groups. The Pietra Dura and the Glass mosaics. Pietra Dura is a technique whereby flakes or chips of colored marble are pressed into a combination in hot wax. The Glass Mosaic was made by pressing pieces of glass, sometimes prejoined to form a picture, into the wax. These are fairly easy to date accurately. The fashion for these items started around 1830 and lasted up to around 1880. The earlier ones were for the most part made of monochrome (single colour) glass toward the 1880 however we find instances of glass being used in multi-layers. The artisan would no longer need to set pieces of glass together to create a pillar rather he could buy a complete pillar, shadow and all, and place it in his picture.To make life even easier, even a river, for instance, no longer needed to be made of more pieces of glass, for the artist could buy.


Colombian emerald engagement ring

Colombian emerald engagement ring

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Emerald, a variety of beryl, and one of the rarest and most valuable of the Precious Stones. It is green, ranging from pale to dark, the most valuable being very dark ‘velvety green’; the colour is derived from the presence of traces of chromium.

Flawless stones are extremely rare, and most specimens contain inclusions, called the Jardin (French for “garden”) of the emerald.

It is not affected by changes of light, as is a sapphire. Other, inferior, stones that are similar in appearance are green corundum, green tourmaline, demantoid, diopside, chrysolite, and hiddenite.

Emeralds in ancient times

The word “emerald” was derived from French “esmeraude” which in turn goes back via Latin to the Greek root “smaragdos“, meaning simply “green gemstone”. The ancient Incas and Aztecs, in South America where the best emeralds are still found today, worshipped them as a holy stone. However, probably the most ancient occurrences which were known are located near the Red Sea where mines were already exploited by Egyptian Pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C.. The mines gained fame under he name of “Cleopatra’s Mines”, but were already exhausted when they were rediscovered.

Emeralds were used in abundance by the Indians in Columbia before the Spaniards arrived c. 1538. The finest, dark green, were found in the Muzo Mine in Columbia by the Spaniards c. 1587, and these, known as old mine emeralds, were used as rounded pebbles called ‘Chibcha stones’, many of which were shipped to India and Persia; the next finest emeralds, of yellow-green colour, were from the El Chivor Mine (closed in 1625 but reopened in 1920). Other important sources have been India, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1955 (there called ‘Sandawana emeralds’ and being usually under one carat, but of good colour and free of inclusion), Zambia (from 1974), and Brazil (the stones having open veins that were filled with oil to improve the colour until the oil evaporated). In antiquity they were merely polished and drilled as beads or notched to be suspended (as still done in India and the Near East). In the West the stone is usually step cut in rectangular shape; but some are cut en cabochon (especially those that are chatoyant) or as brilliant.

Emeralds: color and clarity

What is surprising with emeralds is that, in spite of the beauty of the green they feature, inclusions are allowed, and nevertheless, in top qualities fine emerald are even more valuable than diamonds.

Large emeralds with no inclusions and of the better color are so rare that if you had one it’d be more expensive than a diamond. Therefore most emeralds will have inclusions – traces of an active history of origin characterising the gemstone. Fine inclusions, after all, do not diminish the value; on the contrary. An emerald of deep, vivid green with inclusions will be valued higher than an inclusion-free stone of paler color. Almost endearingly, experts call the many crystal inclusions or fissures which are so typical for this gemstone a “jardin”. The tender green plant-like structures in the emerald garden are considered as identifying characteristics of a naturally grown emerald.

Big and famous emeralds

Many centuries ago in the Veda, the ancient sacred writings of Hinduism, there was written down information on the valuable green gemstones and their healing power: “emeralds promise good luck”, or “The emerald enhances your well-being”. It does not come as a surprise, then, that the treasure chests of Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained most wonderful emeralds.

One of the largest emeralds in the world is the “Mogul Emerald“. It goes back to the year 1695, weighs 217.80 carats and is about 10 cm high. One side is inscribed with prayers, on the other side there are engraved opulent flower ornaments. The legendary emerald was auctioned off at Christie’s of London for 2.2 million US dollars to an anonymous buyer.

Emeralds have been coveted ever since ancient times. Some of the most famous emeralds can therefore be admired in museums and collections. For example, The New York Museum of Natural History not only shows a cup from pure emerald which was owned by Emperor Jehingar, but also a Colombian emerald crystal weighing 632 carats. The collection owned by the Bank of Bogota contains no less than five valuable emerald crystals weighing between 220 and 1796 carats. Also in the Irani State Treasure there are guarded some wonderful emeralds, among them the tiara of ex-Empress Farah.

Emerald’s reported healing properties:

  • guards against poison and venomous bites
  • cures epilepsy
  • induces fertility and prevents abortions
  • heals and relaxes the eyes
  • helps with stomach disorders, such as dysentery
  • induces sleep
  • aids in leprosy wounds.

Emerald’s reported power properties:

  • protection against demoniacal possession
  • increase brain powers
  • provide clairvoyance
  • mental clarity
  • strengthen love and fidelity

(Not that we necessarily promote or believe the above power and/or health claims, but we think they make for interesting conversation. We also would like to emphasize that buying a precious stone for any of such reasons is one’s own responsibility and Adin can not be held accountable if the obtained result is not as desired.)

Synthetic emeralds and other emerald imitations

Synthetic emeralds have been produced since 1930 (in antiquity 1946), as well as imitations in glass, which include flaws and inclusions but which are distinguishable by lack of dichroism. A deceptive practice to improve the appearance of an emerald of poor colour is painting its back and mounting it in a closed setting for concealment.