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!
Subscribe Now to our Newsletters
Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for July 2007
IN THIS ISSUE:
- July's Birthstone: The Ruby
- Vessel Sinks Work With Antiques by The Harp Gallery
- Caring For Your Vintage Rhinestone Costume Jewelry by Jayme Stoffer of Sunnyside Farms Antiques
- July Editor's Pick: Historical Blue and White Staffordshire
JULY'S BIRTHSTONE: THE RUBY
Ruby has a special place in the world of gemstones. Few other gems are steeped in as much lore and legend as Ruby, and few are the subject of so many modern enhancements and controversy.
The written record of Ruby extends back thousands of years. The name Ruby, from the Latin "rubor", has been applied to other red gemstones over the years. In the 16th century, European writers credited Ruby with the ability to preserve mental and physical health, to control amorous desires, to dissipate unhealthy vapors, and to help settle disputes. It was revered in India, where its' Sanskrit names were interpreted as "king of precious stones" and "leader of precious stones". The red glow of a fine ruby suggested an unquenchable flame, and legends exist of rubies that glowed, even in the dark. It was said that a ruby thrown into a pot of water could cause it to boil. A ruby could protect one from harm, although some cultures believed it actually had to be embedded in the flesh to protect one from battle wounds.
Marco Polo writes of the balas ruby mines in Afghanistan, in his Travels. The mines he described actually produced red spinels and rubies, and today the term balas ruby is considered a misnomer for red spinel.
The world's most famous "ruby" probably came from this area. The Black Prince Ruby surfaced in Spain in the 14th century. Don Pedro of Castile seized it from the defeated Prince Mohammed of Granada. He soon gave it to The Black Prince, Edward, Prince of Wales, as payment for military support. The stone was in Henry V's helmet at the Battle of Agincourt, where it is credited with preserving Henry's life, when his helmet was split by a battle-axe. James I had it set into a crown, and it has been used in many other crowns since then. It resides today in the Imperial State Crown, along with the Cullinan II diamond and several historic sapphires. The foil backed stone was discovered to be a red spinel, rather then a ruby, when the stone was being cleaned or reset.
Rubellite, a fine red variety of tourmaline, and garnet have also been mistaken for ruby.
Synthetic ruby was first developed in the early 19th century, but was not commercially viable until the early 1900's. Many times, that big red stone in grandmother's ring, the one that must be a ruby because it is so old, turns out to be one of these early synthetics, known as Verneuil rubies or flame fusion rubies. Stones described as Reconstructed Ruby or Geneva Ruby are usually a variation of this type of stone. Several newer methods of creating synthetic ruby have been developed which produce stones with a more natural appearance. Ruby is also imitated by glass and by assembled stones, doublets, composed of a variety of materials.
Ruby is found in many areas of the world, including several mines in the United States. Some of the newest finds are in Africa. Burma (Myanmar) is considered the finest source in the world for ruby. The Moguk Valley produced the traditional Burmese ruby, famed for its intense red "pigeon blood" color. Most production in modern Burma is from the Mong Hsu area. These stones are often very cloudy and have a less desirable purple tint, and are normally enhanced to improve their color and appearance.
Miners and processors have used treatments to enhance the color and appearance of rubies for decades. Basic heat treatment to improve color has been traditionally used and is often undetectable. In recent decades, new treatments to improve the appearance of stones with natural cracks and fissures have been developed. Voids in the stone can be filled with glass and glass-like materials. Some of the newest treatments involve heating chemically treated low quality stones. Some claim this is a "fracture healing" process and some claim the stone created is an unnatural hybrid. Any known enhancements of any gemstone should be revealed, and a seller should always reveal an enhancement which is non-permanent, or has a major affect on value, or which decreases the durability of the stone. Some lower priced varieties may also be treated with dyes. Some treatments are permanent and stable, while others are far less satisfactory.
Enhancements have increased the supply of ruby available. It's not just for use in the crowns of kings anymore. Ruby can cost as little as a few dollars per carat and as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars per carat. High quality untreated stones will demand a premium price.
Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum. It is an aluminum oxide, colored by trace elements of chromium. Any other color variety of corundum is considered a sapphire. Some disagreements occur concerning the fine line between a ruby and some pink sapphire. Corundum is a durable stone, with ruby and sapphire being tied for second place as the hardest known gem material, next to diamond.
It can be hard to separate some synthetic ruby from natural stones, but the trained eye, with proper magnification and lighting, can do the trick in many cases. Ruby often has a distinctive pattern of inclusions, which indicates natural material. A similar pattern in garnet can cause it to be misidentified as ruby by the inexperienced. Additional tests require specialized equipment and training.
Some rubies are truly phenomenal, exhibiting asterism, the presence of a 6 pointed star in the stone. These star rubies are imitated by simulated and synthetic stones, as well as natural garnets and spinels. One of the best known star rubies, the DeLong Star Ruby, a 100 carat Burmese stone, gained a lot of notoriety when it was stolen in a famous 1964 theft. It was recovered and is safely displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Ruby may also display a cats-eye effect, known as chatoyancy, in very rare instances.
Another variety of ruby which you will encounter, often on carvings or artisan pieces, is ruby-in-zoisite. This material, which is translucent to opaque, actually is a combination of lower grade ruby and zoisite, possibly with some hornblende thrown into the mix. Due to the large difference in hardness between the materials, carving can be quite difficult.
Those lucky enough to be born in July can wear this beauty as their birthstone. It is also associated with Capricorn. It is also a traditional gift for 40th anniversaries. Since its fiery red color is also associated with passion, it is a favorite for Valentine's Day gifts.
VESSEL SINKS WORK WITH ANTIQUES BY THE HARP GALLERY
"It is hard to be funny when you have to be clean," Mae West
We all need a sink to clean up in, and the proliferation of great designer vessel sinks has opened a world of possibilities to recycle all manner of antique cabinets, chests and tables as vanity cabinets. Endless design possibilities can create a truly unique bathroom in almost any style. Juxtaposing historic pieces with contemporary fittings generates excitement, and many vessel sinks cleverly mounted on cabinets are really works of art. Sinks are available in countless styles and colors of glass, painted porcelain, brass, copper and nickel. Faucets have many different finishes in traditional and modern configurations. Antique and vintage dressers, sideboards, writing tables, work benches, and baker's tables can all be recycled into sink cabinets that are one of a kind, reflecting your individual taste and creativity. Many of these pieces are much less expensive than than the charmless mass-produced cabinets seen in home centers and bath design shops. It takes a little more planning and vision, but the result is certainly worthwhile.
One example uses a late Victorian or Eastlake washstand from the 1880's. Originally made for a bedroom in the days before plumbing, a bowl and pitcher would have sat on the marble top, and the waste jug would have been behind the door on the bottom. Built of solid walnut, the original beveled mirror and marble top were fitted to accommodate a glass vessel sink and brushed nickel contemporary faucet. The stunning result is functional and truly unique. A craftsman easily drilled the marble top, made adjustments to the interior of the chest, and the installation was relatively simple. The result is an elegant and historic look.
Another bathroom recycles an Art Deco cabinet from about 1930 that was meant to hold sheet music next to a piano. Now fitted with a textured glass vessel sink and a waterfall faucet, this adaptation of an antique piece was even simpler. Compact enough for a small bathroom, this installation is bright and cheerful with the clean, sleek lines of the 1930's.
Countless antique and vintage pieces of furniture can be adapted to hold a sink. I suggest ignoring the original function of the furniture, judge how much the piece appeals to you, and consider its size and scale for your project. Take the time to find a piece you really like to live with. As Willie Nelson says, "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Bathroom sinks can be so much more fun than the "hospital equipment" look of the past. Surprisingly, historic cabinets are the latest innovation not only in bathrooms, but in kitchens as well, anywhere a sink would be convenient. Go for an exciting or timeless look - "Exuberance is beauty," according to William Blake. Of course, recycling a historic piece is so much better for our environment as well.
We invite you to visit Harp Gallery Antique Furniture.
CARING FOR YOUR VINTAGE RHINESTONE COSTUME JEWELRY BY JAYME STOFFER OF SUNNYSIDE FARMS ANTIQUES
Glittering, glitzy, sparkling, dazzling. These are just a few adjectives for describing vintage costume jewelry made of rhinestones. Those of us who can spot a vintage rhinestone brooch on a table half covered with other collectibles from 100 yards away know the thrill of the sparkle! Over the past twenty years, costume jewelry has made a major comeback. Collectors are paying top dollar on the Internet and at auction houses for rare pieces from the makers of Boucher, Trifari, Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg, and the like. Sparkling clear rhinestones and flawless enamel work can make the price double or in some instances, triple the going asking price. This is why it is so important to properly care for these lovely jewels to ensure a long lustrous life for your sparkly treasures.
Did you ever happen to notice when closely inspecting your vintage rhinestone jewelry it appears to have black specks underneath the stones? Or did you just find a fabulous early Trifari brooch designed by Alfred Philippe circa 1930's that is filled with cloudy gray-black rhinestones where you know a row of dazzling crystal clear stones originally were? As both a dealer and collector of vintage costume jewelry, it is discouraging to find an early rare piece that needs a major overhauling of stone work. The best way to stop this from happening is to learn to properly care for the pieces in your collection.
Rhinestones have been used in costume jewelry for centuries. Dating as far back as the 13th century in places such as the Czech Republic, rhinestones seem to have always been a staple in the jewelry world. In 1891 Daniel Swarovski revolutionized the rhinestone business forever. Swarovski is known as being the frontrunner in the rhinestone industry. His next invention, the creation of a vacuum plating of silver or gold foil for the backs of the stones reduced the need for more expensive and time consuming hand labor. The deterioration of this foiling is what usually leads to the "deadened" look of a rhinestone.
Since it is the foiling that makes the stone more brilliant, it is also the foiling that will make the stone less brilliant. Moisture is the number one reason for the stones losing their sparkle. Once the foiling gets the slightest bit of moisture behind it, it will start to darken and you will begin to see those dreaded black spots. The most important rule of thumb is to never submerge your rhinestones in cleaning solutions of any sort. To clean the stones, simply grab a soft cloth or better yet, a soft bristled toothbrush and try to "dry brush" first. If it looks as if they need a more thorough cleaning, I like to dip a Q-tip into a little all natural glass cleaner and very carefully wipe the stones after squeezing the tip of the cotton swab until it is practically dry. However, be careful that you do not take the finish from any aurora borealis stones. The coating on an aurora borealis stone is quite fragile and can be removed or scratched by even a soft cloth. Once done, let the piece dry for a few hours and then carefully store your jewelry in a cloth pouch, never plastic as it may retain moisture inside the bag that will eventually get trapped and therefore ruin the stones.
Perfume is another toxin to rhinestones and jewelry in general. Not only are the chemicals used harmful to the stones, but the coating it leaves behind will surely damage your stone in time. Hairspray and liquid foundation are other no-no's and will destroy your beautiful pieces. Your own body's perspiration will harm your jewelry also. Keep your rhinestone jewelry out of direct heat and do not allow them to go through extreme temperature changes. The glue that was used many years ago tends to lose its hold when either in too hot or too cold regions.
To store your newly cleaned treasures, follow these simple guidelines. If you would like to lay your treasures in a drawer for safekeeping, simply lay a cloth between them. If you lay them atop one another, you may inadvertently scratch the stones or their finish or worse, chip a stone. Many people find that storing their collection in the nut and bolt hardware organizers that home improvement stores sell is an excellent way to keep your collection organized as well as keeping the jewels safe from moisture and sunlight. The individual pull out drawers works well for keeping the items separated from one another to lessen the risk of chipping or scratching a stone. I purchase mine at Sears, for they seem to have the best prices on the bins and also carry styles that have four to five rows of smaller drawers and two rows of larger drawers in each bin. The large pot metal pins of the 1930's era fit well in the larger drawers, as well as demi parures and bangle bracelets.
If you follow these simple steps, your jewelry will stay sparkling for a much longer period. Please feel free to browse my shop, Sunnyside Farms Antiques right here on Ruby Lane for a vast array of sparkling beauties from the past! We offer a variety of jewelry dating from the 1800's to a few select contemporary pieces.
We invite you to visit Sunnyside Farms Antiques.
JULY EDITOR'S PICK: HISTORICAL BLUE AND WHITE STAFFORDSHIRE
Expanding rail services and the opening of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1777 meant huge quantities of ware could quickly be transported to the seaside port of Liverpool for shipment around the world. But it was the American market to which much Staffordshire blue and white transfer printed pearlware, creamware and ironstone eventually was shipped. Improved transfer printing techniques meant that by about 1810 production was steady and the great demand exhibited in the United States for English dark blue and white dinnerware could be met.
Table china bearing popular scenes was prolifically produced by Staffordshire factories and shipped to the eager American consumer until about the middle of the 19th century, when demand began to wane. It is known to collectors today as Historical Staffordshire because so much of this ware depicted early views of cities like New York and Boston. There were also interesting engraved images of localized architectural or natural wonders, many of which are now gone, as well as nautical scenes and landscapes.
Patriotic designs were produced at some factories, too. They illustrated popular American heroes from the United State's war for independence and pro-American vignettes from battles which not so long before had divided the two nations. Evocative of the political turmoil and conflict of the time just prior to when it was produced, Historical Staffordshire can seem to prove the equation that peace equals prosperity for all.
Subscribe Now to our Newsletters
© 1998-2013 Ruby Lane Inc. ® All Rights Reserved.
Press the Back button on your browser to return to the previous screen.