The Secrets That Antique Jewelry Keep

We’re always pleased when jewelry reveals some of it secrets through hallmarks, maker’s marks and engraved details. However, some jewelry are meant to keep secrets; artisans have built compartments to protect the wearer’s valuables and tokens of significance, and encase them in some seriously fabulous materials.

 19th Century Etruscan Revival coach covers, from the Gray & Davis archives.

19th Century Etruscan Revival coach covers, from the Gray & Davis archives.

 Coach cover with the old mine cut diamond earring it encased, from the Gray & Davis archives.

Coach cover with the old mine cut diamond earring it encased, from the Gray & Davis archives.

Fashionable and functional in the 19th century, “Coach covers” are attachable orbs that cloaked valuable earrings to protect the wearer in transit (we assume from villainous highwaymen). Once the wearer arrived at her destination, she could remove the covers and let her diamonds out.

 A 15K gold brooch pendant with its original pin and catch made c. 1860.

A 15K gold brooch pendant with its original pin and catch made c. 1860.

 The brooch pendant's secret locket compartment, now fitted with a piece of brocade. 

The brooch pendant's secret locket compartment, now fitted with a piece of brocade. 

Jewelry that incorporated a loved one’s hair became popular in the seventeenth century and remained in fashion until the end of the nineteenth century. Pieces could be given as both a sentimental gesture (Queen Victoria gave hair jewelry throughout her life) or included as part of mourning jewelry to further personalize the token of remembrance. Jewelry with a glass plate built in, as well as some daintier antique lockets, most likely held beautifully woven hair; period jewelers were skilled at braiding and working it into compartments of brooches, pendants and rings.

 A 15K rosy gold locket ring with a buckle design and hand engraving, made c.1830.

A 15K rosy gold locket ring with a buckle design and hand engraving, made c.1830.

 Buckle ring hides woven hair around the band's center.

Buckle ring hides woven hair around the band's center.

Small ring compartments may have held other secrets besides hair. Rings crafted with a small lidded compartment for herbs, or something more sinister, are mentioned in ancient texts. Famous locket ring wearers included Elizabeth I and members of the powerful Borgia family. The ring’s use in fictional and real life drama buoyed their popularity in the 16th through 19th centuries.

 Victorian 15K gold and banded agate men's intaglio ring with locket compartment.

Victorian 15K gold and banded agate men's intaglio ring with locket compartment.

Larger locket pendants became fashionable c. 1860-1880, coinciding with increasing availability of portrait photography – for the first time, images could be created and mounted into jewelry that didn’t require the skill of a miniature portrait painter. Today, with the help of image resizing, we can put pictures into those small jewelry compartments so they may once again hold treasured mementos.

 French 18K gold Georgian locket with carved Garnet and scalloped edge of rose cut diamonds, c.1800. Rock crystal locket backing.

French 18K gold Georgian locket with carved Garnet and scalloped edge of rose cut diamonds, c.1800. Rock crystal locket backing.

 Early 20th Century 14K gold locket watch fob with black enamel and a spider design set with an old mine cut diamond.

Early 20th Century 14K gold locket watch fob with black enamel and a spider design set with an old mine cut diamond.

 Victorian 18K rose gold watch chain is hung with a shield-shaped locket containing a hinged disk of rock crystal. French Import mark c. 1838 - 1864. 

Victorian 18K rose gold watch chain is hung with a shield-shaped locket containing a hinged disk of rock crystal. French Import mark c. 1838 - 1864. 

From the Gray & Davis Archives

Below are a few of the fabulous jewels of Gray & Davis past. We’re glad these pieces went to good homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce!

From top to bottom:

- Hand Engraved Art Nouveau locket with sapphire cabochons

- French navette bracelet in gold and platinum set with moonstones and rose cut diamonds

- A fabulous pair of Victorian gold earrings

- Hinged snake bangle with enamel and gemstone head

- Edwardian cocktail ring with two large natural pearls and old mine cut diamonds set in platinum

A Monday Menagerie

We have quite a collection of animal-themed jewels at the moment.

A lovely lizard:

 Brooch, 18k gold, coral, diamond & ruby. 19th century, French. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Brooch, 18k gold, coral, diamond & ruby. 19th century, French. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

An Outstanding Owl:

 Brooch. 9k gold, Bohemian garnet. 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Brooch. 9k gold, Bohemian garnet. 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Some slithering snakes surrounding a scarab:

 Ring. 14k yellow gold, boulder opal carved as scarab. Art Nouveau c.1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Ring. 14k yellow gold, boulder opal carved as scarab. Art Nouveau c.1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

A ghostly goat:

 Intaglio seal ring. 14k gold, carnelian, early 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Intaglio seal ring. 14k gold, carnelian, early 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Two loving lions:

 Bangle. 18k yellow gold, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Bangle. 18k yellow gold, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

A foxy fox:

 Brooch. 14k yellow, ruby. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

Brooch. 14k yellow, ruby. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

And some busy beetles:

 Earrings. 14k yellow gold, Brazilian tortoise beetles. Mid-19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Earrings. 14k yellow gold, Brazilian tortoise beetles. Mid-19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Say YES to Wednesday: Antique Wedding Day Earrings

It should come as no surprise that we love the idea of antique earrings as part of a bride's wedding day trousseau. Earrings made a century ago sparkle just as brightly today, and are a rather elegant way to take care of that pesky "something old" category. 

For the cosmopolitan bride:

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This sophisticated pair of diamond and sapphire dangles are quintessentially Art Deco in their design; a perfect match for the city skyline visible from a swanky rooftop reception. 

For the classic bride:

 Pair of 1.30ct J/VS2 old mine cut diamonds in rosey 18k yellow gold settings. c. 1900. 

Pair of 1.30ct J/VS2 old mine cut diamonds in rosey 18k yellow gold settings. c. 1900. 

This timeless pair of earrings features exceptionally fine old mine cut diamonds sparkling from understated rosey gold baskets. These beautiful jewels haven't gone out of style since they were first fabricated c. 1900, and will most certainly be taken out of the jewelry box for many occasions long after the wedding day is over. 

For the romantic bride:

 18k yellow gold, platinum, pearl and diamond blossom earrings, c. 1910.

18k yellow gold, platinum, pearl and diamond blossom earrings, c. 1910.

For the bride whose ideal nuptials take place in a secret garden, we recommend these dainty blossoms crafted of rose cut diamonds and pearls. 

Three different styles for three different brides - which pair speaks to you?

Georgian Torpedo Earrings

Right now in the shop we have a great pair of Georgian "torpedo" earrings. These elongated gold drop earrings were popular in the 1820s and 30s, and often decorated with intricate cannetille wirework. 

 Georgian "torpedo" earrings in 15k yellow gold with cannetille rosettes and fluted dangles. c. 1830. Available for sale at Gray & Davis.

Georgian "torpedo" earrings in 15k yellow gold with cannetille rosettes and fluted dangles. c. 1830. Available for sale at Gray & Davis.

Here are a few portraits that illustrate how torpedo earrings would have been worn back in the nineteenth-century:

 "Young Brunette Woman," oil on canvas, British School 1830s. Offered by Hillcrest Collections via 1st dibs. 

"Young Brunette Woman," oil on canvas, British School 1830s. Offered by Hillcrest Collections via 1st dibs. 

  Senora Manuela Suarez Lastra de Garmendia  (1800 - 1875)   by Pellegrini. Quite a name and quite a hairdo!

Senora Manuela Suarez Lastra de Garmendia (1800 - 1875) by Pellegrini. Quite a name and quite a hairdo!

 Maria Teresa of Savoy, Duchess of Parma (1803 - 1879)

Maria Teresa of Savoy, Duchess of Parma (1803 - 1879)