Strung in Gems

Amit Kapoor writes about a new collection of gemset necklaces featured on The Story.

New Delhi: The necklace is a piece of jewelry that has a long history of being worn by both men and women. Necklaces were often used as a way of making distinctions among various cultures.

Historians and archaeologists have discovered that the necklace originated maybe forty thousand years before it was originally believed. Archaeologists believe that the oldest known finding was from 30,000 B.C. It was made of stones, animal teeth, bones, claws and shells strung onto thread, similar to the concept of today’s necklaces.

Later, in 2500 B.C., necklaces began to be made from precious metals like gold. The ancient Egyptians made necklaces ranging in complexity from simple strings of beads to highly complicated patterns set with a variety of precious and semiprecious materials. They also had the broad collar and pectoral type of necklaces that both men and women wore, especially the wealthy and royalty. These necklaces were often richly ornamented and were an important part of Egyptian attire. Many of these necklaces were buried with their owner when they died and were excavated several centuries later providing critical information about this ancient civilization.

Gold was abundant in the ancient Greek Empire, particularly during the rule of Alexander the Great. The ancient Greeks used gold to fashion necklaces and many other types of jewelry for many centuries. During the first century A.D., the Roman style of jewelry, which used gemstones cut in circular or rectangular shapes, became popular.

Later on, it became a fashion for women to wear several necklaces at once. The greater this number, the higher the level of wealth or class it indicated. For a few years, the popularity of necklaces waned until the late 14th century, when they regained popularity.

Now, necklaces are popular among all cultures and peoples. Necklaces are worn for a variety of reasons. The most widespread of course is personal ornamentation. Another important reason people wear necklaces is for their religious significance. Necklaces with images of Saints or a simple cross are among the most widely used in this category.

Necklaces have been around for many, many years and will most likely remain so as they are a versatile type of jewel that can constantly be reinvented to stay trendy. They have been made from everything from animal bones and teeth to rare gemstones, from shells and beads to metals and resins.

Adorned, a collection currently featured on The Story includes an eclectic selection of necklaces set with unique gemstones like variously coloured quartz, agate, turquoise, labradorite, fluorite and ammonite in quirky designs.

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Quartz: A Varied and Versatile Gem

In conjunction with the collection Mogul – Jewels by SYNA on The StoryAmit Kapoor of Saffronart shares a note on Quartz and its properties

Being very simple in its chemical composition and structure, Quartz is one of the most common mineral species found on earth’s crust. It is made up of Silicon and Oxygen (SiO2), both of which are abundant. Under precise conditions, Quartz may form in various colours (as a result of various impurities), including Amethyst (purple), Citrine (orange to yellow), Smoky Quartz (grey-brown), Lemon Quartz (yellow-green), Rose Quartz (pink) and Rock Crystal (colourless), to name a few.

Throughout the world, varieties of quartz have been, since antiquity, the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewelry and gem stone carvings. Quartz is known to have been used as gemstone during Greek times; the ancient Greeks associated the mineral with Bacchus, the god of wine, and believed that wearing an amethyst prevented intoxication.

Unusually, Quartz crystals have piezoelectric properties: which means they develop an electric potential upon the application of mechanical stress. A common piezoelectric use of quartz today is as a crystal oscillator. Quartz clocks and wristwatches are familiar devices that use the mineral.

Today, these gem varieties are used extensively in jewelry in a wide array of colours, shapes, and designs. The current collection on The Story called Mogul – Jewels by SYNA includes an extensive variety of the gem species Quartz: a small treasure to own.

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Amber: A Journey Into the Past

Amit Kapoor of Saffronart shares a note on this organic gem from pre-historic times

New Delhi: Amber is hardened tree resin with a dual distinction: one, being extremely old – up to 150 million years – and two, having been used to craft ornaments for thousands of years. Amber has been appreciated for its colour and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Valued as a gemstone, amber is made into a variety of decorative objects.

Amber was discussed by Theophrastus, possibly the first historical mention of the material, in the 4th century BC. The Greek name for amber was elektron, meaning ‘formed by the sun’, and it was connected to the sun god (Helios), also known as Elector or the Awakener. According to the myth, when Helios’ son Phaëton was killed, his mourning sisters became poplar trees, and their tears became elektron or amber.

Because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes contains animal and plant material as inclusions. The presence of insects in amber was first noticed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, and this led him to theorize correctly that, at some point, amber had to be in a liquid state to cover the bodies of insects.

Insect trapped in amberImage courtesy: Wikipedia

Insect trapped in amber
Image courtesy: Wikipedia

The scientific community is interested in amber for different reasons, most famously for studying the organic inclusions found in some amber samples. Perfectly preserved plant-structures and the remains of insects and other small creatures, which became trapped in the sap as it oozed out of the tree, have been found in amber, increasing our knowledge of the flora and fauna of prehistoric times.

Insects included in amber formed the basis of the movie ‘Jurassic Park’, whose story involves the cloning dinosaurs from DNA found in dinosaur blood sucked up by prehistoric mosquitoes preserved in amber. The movie generated great interest in the gem.

Sun Spangles inclusion in amberImage courtesy: Wikipedia

Sun Spangles inclusion in amber
Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Amber may be treated to darken them or create beautiful inclusion called ‘sun spangles’, which have the appearance of bright circular marks.

Amber is also used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and set in jewelry. Most often, amber is found in small nuggets which are opaque and brown in colour, however it does occur in naturally wide variety of colours ranging from yellow to brown to reds and even blue! Red and blue are the rarest colours, and fetch a high value.

The necklace in the collection Everything that Glitters on The Story by Saffronart is an exceptional example of amber in large sizes and a desirable orange colour.

Reconstructed Amber bead necklace weighing approximately 794.31 caratsImage courtesy: Saffronart

Reconstructed Amber bead necklace weighing approximately 794.31 carats
Image courtesy: Saffronart

‘When Gold Blossoms’ at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong Center

Amit Kapoor of Saffronart on an upcoming exhibit of Indian temple jewelry at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong center

Gold earrings in the Shape of Cobras

Gold earrings in the Shape of Cobras Image courtesy

Hong Kong: Opening this fall at the Asia Society’s newest center in Hong Kong is the exhibition ‘When Gold Blossoms’, featuring Indian jewelry the Susan L. Beningson Collection. As the Asia Society notes, the title of the show “refers to the strong preference for gold in South Indian jewelry…and explores the significance of ornamentation and adornment in Indian culture. The title is also a reference to the nature-inspired designs found on the jewelry, from ear studs each in the form of a lotus to armbands featuring petal and leaf weaving.”

Gold earrings in the Shape of Lotus Flowers

Gold earrings in the Shape of Lotus Flowers.               Image courtesy


A Mango Shaped Nose Ring

A Mango Shaped Nose Ring. Image courtesy

An Enameled Crown set with Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds

An Enameled Crown set with Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds. Image courtesy

Celebrating the intricate craftsmanship and design sensibility of Indian temple jewelry, this exquisite collection was previously exhibited at the Asia Society Museum in New York in 2004-05, in a show curated by Dr. Molly Emma Aitken. Included in this travelling exhibition are over 150 pieces of jewelry created primarily in South India as jewels for daily wear as well as offerings for deities in various temples. Displayed alongside the pieces will be vintage photographs illustrating the ways in which these jewels were worn and used.

This exhibition is a must visit for serious jewelry enthusiasts.

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