Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Five Famous Pieces of Jewelry

The Hope Diamond

The history of the Hope Diamond dates back to the early 1600s, when it was originally acquired by French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, likely from India, sometime between 1640 and 1667. Jean-Baptiste described the blue diamond, then a rough cut that's estimated to have weighed more than 100 carats, in his book Six Voyages, and included a sketch of it from all sides.(left)

History can't quite tell us when the rough diamond made its way to King Louis XIV, however, upon receiving it, he had the stone recut into what he would call the Blue Diamond of the Crown of France, a brilliant stone of more than 60 carats. After the king’s death in 1715, the stone was passed to his son, King Louis XVI, whose wife was Marie Antoinette. The stone disappeared from history in the 1790s when it was stolen. It was never seen again in its original cut state, but reemerged again in London as the Hope Diamond, now a much smaller version of its original.

Weighing just over 45 carats, the Hope Diamond has been displayed in Washington’s National Museum of Natural History since 1958. Its brilliant blue, which is likely caused by the presence of boron in its chemical makeup, captivates visitors near and far. In the 1990's, the Gemological Institute of America graded the diamond's color and officially named it a "fancy deep grayish blue." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

The Queen's Crown

It's not your traditional piece of jewelry, but the Queen Mother's Crown is another great example of
the historic relationship royals have always had with jewels. The crown was created in 1937 by the official Crown Jewellers, a position held by Garrard & Co. since they had been appointed to it by Queen Victoria in 1843. Garrard & Co. already had quite a reputation before this, having had supplied aristocrats and royals with jewelry and other fine gold and silver items since 1722.

In addition to the crown, Garrard & Co. have created a variety of well-known items including the famous sapphire engagement ring given to Princess Diana by Charles, now worn by Kate Middleton, and the real Heart of the Ocean inspired by the film Titanic. While equally, if not more famous than the Queen’s Crown, neither piece is superior from a gemstone perspective. Adorned with 2,800 diamonds, including one massive 105-carat center stone, the crown is without a doubt one of the most spectacular pieces of jewelry created in the 20th century.

The Heart of the Ocean

While its history is entirely fictional - loosely borrowed from that of the Hope Diamond - at least one of the existing Heart of the Ocean necklaces is 100 percent real. Based on its description by director James Cameron, two replicas were originally manufactured to be used in the movie. These replicas are both very similar in nature, with a large blue center stone surrounded by clear stones, hung from an 18-inch chain. Both looked stunning but were nothing more than costume pieces.
However, shortly after the movie was completed, the British Royal Jeweller Garrard & Co. created a real version of the beautiful movie prop by surrounding a magnificent 170-carat sapphire with 102 stunning white diamonds. In total, the necklace boasts 200 carats of gemstones, for which it fetched a price of $1.4 M at auction. The necklace has only been worn publically by Celine Dion at the 1998 Academy Awards. No one knows why she wore a turtleneck.

Elizabeth Taylor's Engagement Ring

Elizabeth's glamorous lifestyle got an early start. Her movie-making career began during childhood,
at the height of motion picture popularity, and her success continued well into adulthood, growing impressively as production studios began to place more emphasis on the quality the films they were making. Miss Taylor became one of the most critically acclaimed actresses of her time, so valuable in fact, that she became the first actress in history to be paid $1M for a movie role. The role was Cleopatra in the 1963 film Cleopatra, on the set of which she met her fifth husband, Richard Burton.

Elizabeth Taylor's famous engagement ring was just one of several impressive pieces Richard Burton lavished upon her during their often-scandalous decade long relationship, resulting in a jewelry collection that ultimately garnered more than $150M at auction after her death, the benefits of which were donated to ETAF - the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Cleopatra's Jewels

Cleopatra's jewels were largely thought lost until about 2,000 years after her death, when a sizable collection of artifacts began to be uncovered. Much like her portraits depicted, her jewelry pieces were elaborate, beautiful and ornate. When Cleopatra inspired Hollywood director Joseph L. Mankiewicz to create the 1963 film Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor was a natural choice for the part. Both women were adored, powerful and had expensive taste.

Cleopatra's wardrobe for the film was so authentic that it nearly
bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Costume designer Renie Conley spared no expense, spending nearly $200,000 on gold capes, ornate headdresses and fine, realistic jewelry.

The Queen of the Nile would have been proud. The self-proclaimed goddess was known to wear jewelry even while bathing, although this likely stems from the belief that certain gems possessed magical powers that could protect a person from evil spirits. Cleopatra is thought to have worn an amethyst ring to ward off inebriation, which probably came in handy since she engaged in nightly wine drinking binges with her drinking club, the Inimitable Livers.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Famous Masons: James Garfield

James Abram Garfield was an idealistic boy, a hard-working youth and an impressive college student. Before becoming president, he was a war hero and an impactful leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. His presidency was cut woefully short by an assassin’s bullet, but he most likely would have made his mark as a dynamic reformer and diplomat. Many of the ideals that he staunchly supported, such as religious tolerance and equal rights, were no doubt influenced by his personal faith and Freemasonry.

Historians believe that the 20th president grew up in greater poverty than any other. Garfield was born in a log cabin near Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 19, 1831. His father, an accomplished wrestler, died when he was just a toddler. He cared deeply for his mother, Eliza, and worked long days alongside his siblings to help her maintain their small farm. During his brief months in the White House, the president personally carried his elderly mother up and down the stairs.

Growing up, Garfield read one adventure novel after another and dreamed of being a sailor. It’s probably fortunate that this dreams never came to fruition; during the six weeks that he worked on canal boats, he fell overboard 14 times.

Still, Garfield soldiered on as a carpenter, janitor and part-time teacher to support himself and pay for his education. When he wasn’t burning the midnight oil, he liked to fish, hunt and shoot pool. He was known to drink alcohol in moderation, and he declined to take the temperance pledge.

At age 18, he was baptized into the Protestant denomination Disciples of Christ. He was later ordained as a minister. Although it never became a full-time job, he served and preached now and then through the years leading up to his presidency.

Garfield was a strong student and charismatic public speaker at Williams College in Massachusetts. After graduating in 1856, he taught Latin and Greek at what is now Hiram College in Ohio. Just one year later, he was made president of the school.

It was there that he met his future wife, Lucretia “Crete” Rudolph. They had a happy marriage that resulted in seven children. All grew up to be successful adults with notable careers. During White House renovations, Crete contracted malaria in the swamp behind the property. Happily, she made a full recovery.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Garfield enlisted to fight for the Union. Even without prior military experience, the 30-year-old’s leadership skills impressed his higher-ups. He soon became the youngest officer to hold the rank of major general. He distinguished himself in several battles and once made a courageous dash on horseback under enemy fire.

It is during this time that Garfield was initiated into Freemasonry. He became a Master Mason in 1864 and served as chaplain of his lodge. Interestingly, Garfield would later support the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, one of his Masonic brothers.

Garfield was still a soldier in 1862 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He had never even campaigned for the seat. Since qualified congressmen were scarcer than qualified soldiers, President Abraham Lincoln persuaded Garfield to resign his military post and focus on government. Garfield would go on to serve eight terms.

The congressman from Ohio was one of the Republican party’s most outspoken members. He faulted Lincoln for not vigorously prosecuting the war, called for the exile of Confederate leaders and supported seizure of Confederate property in the North. Garfield had campaigned for Lincoln, but he once referred to the president as a “second-rate Illinois lawyer.”

However, the two did agree on one thing: abolition. Garfield strongly identified with the anti-slavery views of the Republican Party, which was founded during his years at college. He supported African-American suffrage and education, and he was in favor of ending military occupation in the South.

Garfield opposed labor unions, the eight-hour workday and cooperative farm programs, which he called “communism in disguise.”

Much of Garfield’s congressional career was spent trying to appease both sides of the Republican party. The Stalwarts were ultraconservative while the Half-Breeds were progressive. He was praised and reviled in equal measure for his diplomacy and willingness to work with both sides.

He also became an expert on financial matters and served on several key committees.

Few legacies are untouched by scandal, and Garfield's is no exception. Garfield and other representatives were accused of approving federal subsidies for railroad construction and accepting stock shares in exchange for lax oversight. Garfield denied the charges and was never censured, but many had their doubts about his innocence.

Garfield’s presidency came about quite by accident. He was actually campaigning for his longtime friend John Sherman in the 1880 election. Because of an ugly split between the Stalwarts and Half-Breeds, choosing a nominee required 36 ballots. In the end, Garfield became the surprise, dark-horse nominee. In the closest election on record, he defeated his Democratic opponent by fewer than 10,000 votes.

Garfield was shot at a train station just 100 days after taking office. He was on his way to a Williams College reunion.

The shooter was Charles Julius Guiteau, an attorney with a long history of emotional problems. Guiteau was embittered about being denied an appointment in Garfield’s cabinet.

Garfield clung to life for about three months. Doctors were unable to locate the bullet in his back, so Alexander Graham Bell volunteered to find it using his latest invention, a metal detector. The device went haywire, so Bell's efforts failed as well. He was dismayed when he later learned that there were coil springs in Garfield’s mattress rather than feathers, which were more common. The coils probably interfered with the metal detector.

Garfield seemed to improve during a visit to the New Jersey seashore, but he took a turn for the worse and died there on Sept. 19, 1881. Vice President Chester A. Arthur assumed the highest office.

Garfield and 13 other U.S. presidents have embraced the principles of Freemasonry. Their belief in charity, tolerance, thinking for oneself and defending human rights have had immeasurable impact on American history.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Holiday Product Highlights

The holidays are always just around the corner, whether it's June or November. Birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas are all great reasons to give and receive jewelry. Today, we're here to highlight our favorite products and top sellers to help you decide which type of jewelry to give this year.

Titanium Rings

For the guy or girl in your life who appreciates finely crafted rings that are easy to wear, there's
titanium. Titanium is one of the lightest metals available, and can be matte, shiny or combined with other metals to create gold rings or rings with contrasts such as beautiful inlays. Because titanium is an abundant metal, it's highly affordable. The beauty of titanium is that is doesn't look or act cheap. Titanium is resistant to corrosion even in highly abrasive environments like salt water, and it's 100 percent hypoallergenic. These rings are as versatile as they are resistant to scratches, and are guaranteed to look flawless for decades. A titanium ring is an ideal wedding or anniversary solution but it's also great for everyday wear. Our most popular titanium ring are those with gold contrast. We agree that these rings look absolutely stunning.
The ring pictured here is 8mm in width and can be custom engraved on the inside or the outside. Custom engraving is free.

Tungsten Rings

If tungsten doesn't evoke images if strength and durability in your mind, it should. Tungsten is twice
as dense as steel and 10 times as hard as 18 karat gold. That's a lot of strength in such a small piece of jewelry.
We love tungsten because, like titanium, it is highly affordable but simply stunning to look at. Tungsten is incredibly versatile and can be paired with other metals to create beautiful contrasts. The black tungsten ring pictured here is our top seller, and we also simply can't get enough of it. The rose gold center stripe provides a touch of stunning brilliance and sophistication in an otherwise black ring: amazing.
Black tungsten can be brushed to be matte, as in this ring, or polished shiny. We offer a variety of black tungsten options, as well as silver tungsten in both matte and shiny finishes, gold and silver combinations, black and gold combinations and a wide variety of inlays.

Masonic Rings

If your guy is a Mason, a Mason ring is the obvious gift choice. But Freemasonry is also a fun topic
to explore. From the Blue Lodge to the York Rite, we offer a wide variety of Masonic rings you won't find elsewhere. Their design is unique and each ring has been carefully crafted to be detailed flawlessly.
We also offer Mason jewelry for women! Whether she's into exploring Freemasonry or simply curious, the Order of the Eastern Star ring pictured here will suit her perfectly. This ring is complemented with high-quality cubic zirconia and is made with stainless steel that's been polished to a high shine.

Fashion Rings

An affordable fashion ring doesn't have to be gaudy. Our selection of solitaire rings includes fashion
rings such as the one pictured here, perfect for a gift to a loved one or for yourself.
The affordability of this selection simply can't be beat. Whether the ring you choose is meant to be worn every day or just for fun or on special occasions, we know that it's important to you to have money left over at the end of the day. After all, romantic gestures aren't all jewelry.
This ring is made with 925 Sterling Silver and has an electroplated rhodium finish. Its accent stones are colorless simulated diamonds, or CZ, and its center stone a stunning 1.5Ct red simulated ruby.

Something Else

For the guy or girl who doesn't care to wear rings or where a ring might not be the appropriate choice,
we carry a variety of other jewelry options. Our most versatile selection can be found in the bracelets category, where you'll find accessories like the one pictured here. This silver magnetic clasp bracelet stands out to us because there is so much beauty in its simplicity. Black braided leather offers a simply yet artful look while polished stainless steel clasps give it a bold finish. This bracelet is absolutely perfect for both men and women; it is only 5.5 mm thick and has a circumference of 9".

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The 12 Gemstones of the Bible: Second Row

In June, we began exploring the role of precious gemstones in the Bible. One of the most well-known appearances of gems in the scriptures is in Exodus, when God explains how to construct the sacred breastplate of Aaron:

“Put four rows of beautiful jewels on the judgment pouch. The first row of jewels should have a ruby, a topaz, and a beryl. The second row should have a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald. The third row should have a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row should have a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. Set all these jewels in gold. There will be twelve jewels on the judgment pouch—one stone for each of the sons of Israel. Each stone will be like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes cut into it.”
Exodus 28:17-21

Last time, we discussed the gems found on that first row of the breastplate. Now we’ll study the next three gems of the second row: turquoise, sapphire, and emerald.


The first gem listed on the second row of Aaron’s breastplate is the turquoise. Turquoise has been found in excavations of early civilizations like Sumer (3500 BC) and it was mined by Egyptians on the Sinai peninsula. This bright gemstone was used for jewelry, beads, amulets, and inlays on furnishings—including the tombs and palaces of kings.

Like most gemstones on the breastplate, there is some debate regarding whether this stone was actually turquoise or a different color/gem entirely, but most scholars agree that it was likely the same greenish-blue of our modern day turquoise. Today, this gemstone is incredibly popular in jewelry and its color is influential in clothing trends and home d├ęcor.


In most versions of the Bible, the second gemstone on the second row is called a sapphire. However, this gem was likely not the same sapphire that we know and love today.
Sapphires were not known prior to the Roman Empire (300 BC), but the historian Elder Pliny (23-69 AD) described the sapphiros of the Bible as a luminous azure color with spots of gold, but by no means transparent. This description most accurately matches the lapis lazuli and not the sapphire of today. Therefore, it is generally agreed upon that this dark blue, gold-speckled “sapphire” is actually a lapis lazuli.

The emerald is the third stone on the second row of Aaron’s breastplate. Emeralds are one variety of beryl, the green stone in the first row, so many scholars and translators often interchange the two gems.

The earliest known emerald sources were the mines near the Red Sea in Egypt (later known as Cleopatra’s Mines) in 1650 BC. Cleopatra was enamored with these gems, and she gave engraved emeralds to guests as gifts and wore them to enhance her beauty. The emeralds of biblical times are most likely the same gorgeous green gem we know of today.

Stay tuned for more.
Do you have questions or comments? Leave them below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jewelry Trends Infographic

In our last post, we talked in detail about how certain events like war and societal expectations affect art and jewelry designs. In this post, we have broken down the main points into a comprehensive infographic.


The art deco movement began in the early 1900's and exploded after the First World War. Defined by bold, geometric lines and forms, art deco inspired everything from jewelry to the Chrysler building in New York. During the Depression when resources were less abundant, art deco transitioned toward more simplistic forms and became known as art moderne. Art moderne focused on large curves and long lines that appear aerodynamic (think the Airstream trailer). The style used the basic concepts of art deco but stripped them of their ornamental nature and sharp lines.

Sweetheart jewelry first appeared during the First World War, but really found its place on the heels of the Great Depression, at the start of World War II. Sweetheart jewelry pins and pendants were worn by women to support fathers, sons and sweethearts abroad.

The toll the Second World War took on art and fashion was combated head-on when the French designer Christian Dior took the stage for the first time in 1947. Using excessive, billowing fabrics, Dior created a line of women's clothing that's now known as the "New Look". His designs complimented the growing societal expectations of traditional gender roles at that time, and the look was heavily embraced.
Over the next two decades, fashion and jewelry changed little. But all that changed in the 1960's when art and fashion again began to mirror social movements that had begun to gather momentum. These included the women's rights movements and movements for racial equality.
It was the beginning of modern art and modern people. Jewelry became bigger, more colorful and more expressive. Modern industry helped to mass-produce jewelry affordably.

During the 70's, the concepts and philosophies of modern art grew exponentially. Alongside a booming economy, and with the availability of cheap materials such as plastics, we saw art and fashion woven throughout all aspects of life by 1980.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jewelry Trends: 1900 – 1980

Jewelry trends change frequently. From fashion items to wedding rings, jewelry can vary greatly over the course of a few decades and sometimes even a few seasons. The ever-changing faces of jewelry
can be influenced by a range of outside factors, from culture and art to shifts in economics.

During the early 1900s, jewelry was mostly reserved for the rich and famous. Inspired by the sweeping Art Nouveau movement, many jewelry pieces of the time were highly elegant, paying particular attention to the relaxed, curvy lines and feminine feel. The movement produced many great works of art, interior design and more.

While Art Nouveau was all the rage in the United States, a new movement had already begun in Europe. Known as Art Deco, the trend featured bold, geometric lines and forms, bright colors and expensive materials. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 ensured Art Deco would not become a focus within the U.S. for several more years. However, once the war had ended and the economy began to boom again, the fate of the more delicate Art Nouveau styles was sealed. The Roaring 20s, defined by immense industrial prosperity, social and cultural reform, and artistic freedom, favored bold and practical over dainty and elegant.

From the Chrysler building to everyday fashion, Art Deco became so prevalent throughout all facets of American culture and society, it is the style we most commonly associate with the 1920s today.

Like all art movements, Art Deco was destined for eventual reform. In some cases, economic prosperity provides the momentum for change. In the case of Art Deco, it was economic failure. With the start of the Great Depression came a major shift in priorities, and while Art Deco was still in favor, fewer opportunities for artists, architects and fashion designers existed, and Art Deco began to take on much more simple forms. A decade later, with the start of World War II, the complex aspects of Art Deco had been mostly abandoned and simplicity and streamlining were the new norm. During this time, the focus for jewelry also shifted once again, adding the element of hope and American patriotism to the mix.

Sweetheart jewelry first became somewhat popular during the First World War, but the concept really took off from 1939 to 1945. Designed to provide emotional support and a means of connection between sons and mothers or husbands and wives, sweetheart jewelry included brooches, pins and other small fashionable items that the wearer could don to show her support. These pieces oftentimes depicted the American eagle or the flag, and were sometimes accented with a single pearl.

After the war, jewelry and clothing trends initially included a lot of thrifting, repurposing and rationing. Then, in an effort to help reclaim France's fashion status, Christian Dior launched what's commonly known as "The New Look" campaign. The style included a lot of excess fabric, billowing skirts and an emphasis on a woman's hourglass form.

Falling in line with the growing societal expectations of the time, his style was gladly embraced throughout the Western countries. It paved a beautiful way for traditional gender roles, and over the next few years, women once again resumed more "feminine" lifestyles alongside their men.

By the time DeBeers announced their "A Diamond Is Forever" campaign in 1948, America was prosperous again, and many upper-class women donned the flashy jewelry to match the mood. During this time, jewelry commonly included expensive diamonds, pearls and other gemstones. It was also during this time that platinum became a popular choice for jewelry.

Over the next decade, to match the overall mood of American culture, jewelry trends changed very little. But there was something brewing quietly beneath the surface.

The 60s were a time for revolutionary change. The post-war days had long ended, a Cold War raged and nuclear threats were made and then squelched. Men conquered the moon, social movements gathered great momentum, racial issues and voting rights became hot topics, women challenged their roles as mothers and homemakers, and non-traditional art was introduced. Bold colors and new patterns emerged everywhere, ushering a new era of fashion for the 70s and beyond.

On the heels of this revolution, contemporary art found its foothold. The styles of contemporary art were characterized by conceptual statements, non-traditional mediums and vivid colors. During the decade of contemporary art, the line between art and pop culture was often blurred, as with Andy Warhol's images of Campbell's soup. Jewelry was no different.

The 1980s gave us reusable spacecraft, IMB and MTV. These were times of prosperity, optimism and a great forward momentum that launched us into an era of affordable, accessible and mass-produced…everything.

From gold to plastics, jewelry was as differse as the evolving world around it. Whether you were Barbara Streisand or Barbara Bush; Madonna or Cher, jewelry was exactly what you wanted it to be: a fashion statement, a status symbol and a wearable accessory you didn’t want to leave home without.

And that's our breakdown of jewelry fashion from the turn of the century to the 1980s. Think we've missed something? Let us know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 12 Gemstones of the Bible: First Row

 There are several passages that connect gemstones to religion in the Bible. Precious gems and jewelry held significance in the holy text, both for personal adornment and spiritual enhancement. Today, we’ll talk about three very specific gemstones: those found on the first row of Aaron’s sacred Breastplate of Judgement. Aaron was the high priest of Israel as well as Moses’s brother, and God commanded him to create the breastplate thusly:

“Put four rows of beautiful jewels on the judgment pouch. The first row of jewels should have a ruby, a topaz, and a beryl. The second row should have a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald. The third row should have a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row should have a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. Set all these jewels in gold. There will be twelve jewels on the judgment pouch—one stone for each of the sons of Israel. Each stone will be like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes cut into it.”
Exodus 28:17-21

Although the directions seem straightforward, the identification of the twelve gemstones is actually one of the Bible’s longest unsolved mysteries. The precise nature of each stone confuses even scholars since the Bible’s translations are so inconsistent.

For instance, across different versions and translations of the Bible, the name of the fourth stone varies between beryl, emerald, turquoise, carbuncle and garnet, stones that include colors from blue to green to red.

In addition, scholars have discovered with certainty that some of the ancient names for stones actually refer to entirely different stones today. For example, the terms “sapphire” and “topaz” in the Bible do not indicate modern day sapphire and topaz—they refer to what we know as lapis lazuli and peridot.

As the story goes, the breastplate contained four rows of three gemstones. Below, we’ll examine the first row.

Ruby Gemstone

The ruby is the first gem listed on the first row of Aaron’s breastplate. Like many other gems in the Bible, its actual identity is uncertain; rubies did not come into use until the Roman Empire around 300 BC, and there have been no rubies found in excavations of early Egyptian civilization. In addition, it would be difficult to find a ruby large enough to engrave on, and even then, its hardness would require a diamond to write on it. Other red gemstones, such as sardius, red garnet, and carbuncle have been used in various translations of the Bible as well as in research by geology, theology, Greek, and Hebrew scholars. Therefore, the red color of the first stone is essentially agreed upon, although the name is widely debated.


The second gemstone on the first row is referred to as “topaz” in the Bible. However, the true identity
of this gem is likely something different. Today, we know the topaz as a popular gem occurring in various colors including light blue and pale yellow. However, topaz was not abundant in Egypt around the time Exodus was written, making it unlikely that it was included in the breastplate. When the Bible says “topaz”, it is actually referring to what we know today as the green peridot; the term “topaz” probably refers to Topazios Island, the place where peridot was mined.


Green Gemstone
Modern day beryl is of the same species as emeralds, therefore the two gems are often confused. Because emeralds were once abundant in Egypt, it’s quite possible that the biblical breastplate text is actually referring to a true beryl. Although emeralds were not actively mined until some 500 years later when Cleopatra fell in love with their beauty, they did exist in the region during the time of Aaron and Moses.
However, other research and Bible translations call this stone a variation of names, including onyx, chrysolite and chalcedony. Some claim that the beryl of the Bible was a white or cream shade, while others are certain it was a green hue.

Have another interpretation of which stones were found on the first row of Aaron’s Breastplate of Judgment? Let us know by commenting below!