NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for February 2008
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Announcing Ruby Lane's New Blog: Notes from The Lane!
- February's Birthstone: Amethyst
- Valentines: Messages of Love By Suzan Miller of "SuzansTreasures"
ANNOUNCING RUBY LANE'S NEW BLOG: NOTES FROM THE LANE!
Happy New Year to all! Ruby Lane is pleased to announce the launch of its new blog: Notes from The Lane. This new blog is designed to complement the Ruby Lane site, offering articles on topics relating to antiques & art, collectibles, jewelry and everything vintage, as well as loads of tips on how to succeed as a seller in the online marketplace. It is designed to increase traffic and awareness of Ruby Lane and its shops and their items, and to serve as a participatory venue for all visitors, both Ruby Lane sellers and shoppers. Register on the blog and you can join in and comment on articles and add your own opinions and insights. We hope you'll stop by. Visit http://blog.rubylane.com
FEBRUARY'S BIRTHSTONE: AMETHYST
Amethyst is a popular gemstone and has been for many, many years. Ranging from light lilac tones to deep royal purples, amethyst is available in a wide range of prices and qualities. Even though relatively common and affordable, amethyst is used in fine jewelry, and worn by nobility.
Carved intaglios from amethyst have been unearthed at excavation sites of ancient cities. The kingdoms of Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and the Anglo-Saxon's were familiar with the material and used it in royal jewelry and other items. There are carvings in amethyst that exist today that are identified as from the Egyptian XII Dynasty, believed to be produced around 2000 B.C.E.
The name, from the Greek amethystos, translates roughly as "not drunken." This probably stems from the wine-like colors of the stone. Individual's drinking water from a carved amethyst chalice, where the water took on the color of ‘wine' from the amethyst when viewed from the outside, would certainly have the upper hand over their wine-drinking companions. In addition to preserving or restoring sobriety, some individual's believe amethyst contains mystical properties, improving the intelligence of the wearer, particularly in matters of trade and business. Some say it has a calming effect on those overpowered by passion, as well as preserving soldiers from harm and assures success to soldiers and hunters. The wine-like appearance of the stone has contributed to its use as an ecclesiastical gem.
A legend about the stone's creation credits the god Bacchus for its color. Bacchus issued a warning stating the next person he encountered would be devoured by his tigers. As luck would have it, this person was a beautiful maiden named Amethyst, on her way to the shrine of the goddess Diana. As the tigers pounced at Amethyst, Diana turned the maiden into a pillar of pure white stone, saving her from a worse fate. A remorseful Bacchus then poured his wine on the petrified body, giving it the color we know today. Most gemologists credit the color to the presence of iron, and to the interaction of iron and aluminum in this particular variety of quartz.
Amethyst occurs in transparent gem grades, as well as in more translucent material, which is used for carvings and beads. Major sources of amethyst are Brazil, Uruguay, and Namibia, followed by the United States and Russia to a lesser degree.
The color of amethyst ranges from a very light lilac to overly dark material. Prices generally are lower for very light or very dark material. The lighter material is often described as "Rose de France." Amethyst may have a strong secondary red or blue color component. Deep colored material with either red or blue flashes is sometimes referred to as "Siberian Amethyst." This generally is a color description, and does not imply that the material is actually from Siberia, although some of the Russian material does exhibit this desirable color.
Overly dark amethyst is sometimes heated to lighten the color. A variance in the intensity of the heat produces the yellow tones of citrine quartz, or green tones. When the material changes to the colors of citrine, it is sold and represented as citrine. When the material turns green, many suppliers sell it as green amethyst.
The green variety of quartz represented as green amethyst occurs naturally, but is most often produced by heating amethyst. The material is best described as prasiolite, although the name vermaine is also used sometimes. The material can range from a very pale green to deeper shades, and may be confused with peridot and tourmaline. The heat treatment of amethyst is undetectable in the finished yellow citrine and green prasiolite material.
While Ruby Lane and other online venues allow the material to be described as green amethyst, we encourage shop owners to include the word prasiolite in conjunction with the phrase. This will eliminate any possible confusion on the part of the customer and complaints about the use of what some gemologists consider an unacceptable misnomer, and will aid in online searches for your item. A search for "green Amethyst" or "prasiolite" will overlook an item using only the other term in a title or description.
Amethyst is imitated in glass, simulated stone, and in a true synthetic material. While glass can be easily detected by the trained eye in most cases, the simulated amethyst, which is normally synthetic corundum in an appropriate color, is harder to detect. The true synthetic material can only be separated from the natural material using rare and expensive detection methods. The presence of natural inclusions will help differentiate natural amethyst from glass and simulants, but may not always work with the true synthetic material. Amethyst may also be confused with iolite, purple sapphire, some tourmaline, and scapolite.
Amethyst was used in acrostic rings, such as "regard" rings. In these pieces, the first letter of the gemstone name represents a character in a word. A ring with a REGARD message might feature ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, and diamond. Amethyst is found in historical acrostic rings associated with the movement against the English corn taxes, which spelled out REPEAL.
During the Suffragette Movement, the color purple symbolized dignity, white meant purity, and green stood for hope. They were the official colors of the Women's Social and Political Union in England. Suffragist jewelry tends to feature amethyst, peridot, and either pearls or white enamel. These items, often exhibiting fine Victorian or Edwardian design and workmanship, are desirable as pieces of fine jewelry, as well as pieces of history.
In addition to its use as a February birthstone, amethyst is associated with the sign of Pisces and with 6th year anniversaries. There is also an association with Valentine's Day, and legend has it that St. Valentine wore a ring that featured an amethyst intaglio of Cupid.
It is normally safe to clean amethyst in an ultrasonic cleaning tank, but inclusions and certain aspects of crystal structure may endanger a stone cleaned in this manner. Steam cleaning should never used. Amethyst tends to fade when exposed to ultraviolet lighting for extended periods of time.
You will find a wide range of amethyst jewelry on Ruby Lane, from Georgian gold work to contemporary Artisan pieces. A large variety of prices and styles are available featuring amethyst in faceted, cabochon, carved, and bead forms.
VALENTINES: MESSAGES OF LOVE BY SUZAN MILLER OF "SUZANSTREASURES"
I fell in love with vintage valentines upon finding a small collection in a package of Victorian correspondence. The paper lace, flowers, tiny cutouts of cherubs and the sentimental poetry appealed to my romantic nature. Later, I discovered the charms of stand-up and mechanical valentines, and recently, I've added many brightly colored heart shaped valentines from the 1920's to my collection.
Lovers have always written messages and exchanged gifts, but the valentine card is a relatively recent creation. Esther Howland is credited with the popularization of the valentine in America and making it into an industry. In the early 1800's, Howland began making and selling valentines, using imported fancy papers, bits of lace, ribbon and satin. She soon employed a number of women, who hand assembled her elaborate multilayered valentine cards. These valentines were usually boxed and hand delivered. Expensive for the time, Howland valentines often cost as much as a month's wages for the common worker. They are rare and expensive today, selling for $100 and more.
Two changes in society helped make manufactured valentines accessible and affordable for the average person. The first was domestic production of fancy papers and lithography, the second was changes in the US postal system.
George Whitney began manufacturing embossed and die-cut papers in the mid 1800's. Whitney's stationery shop produced elaborate valentines, very much like Howland's designs, but more affordable, as the materials were made in the US. Whitney purchased Howland's business in the 1860's. Whitney's Victorian valentines used beautiful embossed papers, often gilded or silvered and layers of paper lace, with accordion folded paper springs to produce a three dimensional effect. Finished with tiny colorful die-cut pictures and lush poetry, these elaborate confections expressed Victorian sentiment and love of ornamentation. These valentines were hand assembled, and I have never seen two exactly alike.
Lace valentines by Whitney and other companies are becoming scarce. Collectors look for good condition, complexity of design and visual appeal. Prices range from $25 - $100. Paper lace is fragile, and small damages are very common and do not seriously affect the value. By the turn of the century, people preferred simpler designs, characterized by beautiful lithography and a single layer of lace. These valentines usually sell for $20 - $30.
In 1847, the first postage stamps were available in the US. Previously, letters were delivered and the postage collected from the addressee. In the 1870's, postcards became available, and Americans could mail cards and messages at a very low cost. Albums and scrapbooks were very popular at this time, and visitors might spend hours looking at a friend's collection of postcards.
The years from 1895 - 1915 are often called the "Golden Age of Postcards". Postcards reached a peak of popularity, and millions of postcards were mailed during this time. Manufacturers competed for the public's business with clever and innovative designs. Valentine postcards are popular with collectors, as many can be had for $10 and under. Unusual features, such as embossing, silver or gilded papers, real photos or artist signatures are particularly desirable. The early 1900's mark the dawn of the American automobile and aviation, and transportation themes are extremely collectible. A number of artists, such as Greenway and Clapsaddle, designed postcards, so always be sure to look for a signature on the design.
In about 1900 – 1920, the pop-up or stand-up valentines became popular. Some valentines had tabs on the side or a back prop so that the card could be mailed flat, then displayed standing on the recipient's mantle or parlor table. A favorite stand-up valentine had honeycomb paper. It could be folded flat, and opened to reveal the beautiful honeycomb paper fan.
Mechanical valentines of this era featured tiny arms that moved or tabs could be pulled to produce movement to another part. These valentines are often difficult to find in good condition, as people loved to manipulate them.
Many of the finest Valentines and postcards of the early 1900's were printed in Germany, as it was famous for high quality papers and lithography. During WWI, German imports were prohibited. German paper factories were destroyed during the war and never regained their importance in the American market. Valentines and cards marked Germany date from before 1915 and are very desirable.
Valentines of the 1920's and 1930's are usually printed in bright colors and feature traditional images of hearts, rosy cheeked children and flowers. The romantic poetry of the Victorian era was replaced by cute and cheeky rhymes. Puns and clever plays on words were common. The charming "Whitney-Made" valentines of this era are a personal favorite, particularly the heart shaped valentines. Hundred of designs are available, most under $10. In the 1940's and 1950's, valentines were mass produced and exchanged by school children. Early valentines are quickly disappearing, so some collectors have specialized in valentines made after WWII. Cartoon and comic book characters are especially collectible.
The style of valentines has changed over the last 150 years, but people's feeling is much the same. The messages written on cards reveal the emotions and concerns of the people who wrote them. The messages are most often loving and sentimental, but sometimes humorous or even cryptic. I enjoy these small glimpses into past lives and hope that you will, too!
We invite you to visit SuzansTreasures.
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