Mystery and Glow

This mesmerising moonstone ring has recently left our boutique to find a good home.  The lovely lady who bought it asked if she could have more background information on the Arts and Craft American ring and because this is a rare and unusual piece I thought I’d share it on the blog as well.

Arts & Craft (1890-1920) was a movement more than a style because it encompassed a philosophy, an attitude more than just a style. The pioneers of the movement wanted to revive the simplicity of the past in innovative designs and react to the increase use of mass-produced jewellery and loss of the human touch; they wanted to rebel against the excesses of the Victorian ornament. The movement originated in Great Britain and its most enthusiast supporters argued that for a piece of jewellery to be considered Arts & Craft, it had to be made entirely by hand from start to finish and the handicraft had to be apparent, therefore hammer marks or imperfections would be visible.

The materials used were quite cheap, usually silver and cabochon stones, most often moonstones or blister pearls and enamel, the aim being to provide affordable jewellery to the average consumer. However, the work involved to create such a piece was so intensive, that most often Arts & Craft jewellery commanded high prices and only the well-off people could actually afford them. Later on, Liberty commissioned Arts & Craft style jewellery designed by famous artists, but they were machine-made reproductions of original designs, which is another story for another time.

The American Arts and Craft movement took a lot of inspiration from the British, but it distinguished itself by use of more precious materials like gold or even platinum and faceted stones and made less use of enamel.

This particular ring is quite special because you can clearly see that the hand engraving, the scrolling and the bezel set of the stones were hand-made, but there’s a remarkable craftsmanship in the detailing of the work. The engraving on the band is exquisite and shows very little wear at the base.

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The moonstone, a signature stone for the Arts & Craft movement is large and transparent with a strong blue sheen (the phenomenon is called adularescence and the blue tone ands to charm and value) which makes it a fine specimen directed to the collectors rather than the average jewellery consumer. The moonstone is also in very good condition considering the gem is soft and easy to scratch and especially considering it is approx. 100 years old. The sapphires have an old cut. Their purplish blue tone, the uniform colour and lack of inclusions would refer them as Yogo sapphires, which are only mined in a small area in Montana, USA (mind you, this is just a supposition as this sort of information can be provided as certain only after extensive and in-depth lab testing).

blue sheen

What is even more fascinating is that while brooches and necklaces were abundant during the Arts and Craft period, the rings are quite rare, as are the earrings, especially in gold with fine stones. So this ring is a rare piece. The high craftmanship and expensive materials led me to think that the jeweller who made it had to be a well known one, but lacking a distinctive signature (most of the pieces of the era did) it’s difficult to identify the maker, even with such a particular style. From my research of known American Arts & Crafts jewellers, the design of the ring is closest to the Tiffany pieces created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. I do not believe it to be a Tiffany piece and I assume this ring was a commission by a designer who perhaps followed Tiffany’s style and I would love if somebody with a similar piece helped me find out more.

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