Gemstones In Ancient European Jewellery

A number of the stones used in ancient European gemstone jewellery have defects (technically named inclusions) which look simply dreadful to modern eyes; but until the end of the seventeenth century, when a jeweller discovered the brilliant cut which revealed the complete beauty of this diamond, no one appears to get worried greatly about gemstone?s clarity. Although stones which were comparatively clear were naturally preferable, men value them for their magic power, their color or their size, as opposed to their fineness. In case a jeweler did choose to cut on a rock, he probably restricted himself to simple table-cut: this is, he sliced off one side, and set the stone with the cut side uppermost. Very little was known about mineralogy in pre-Renaissance days, and less about refraction and reflection of light, therefore tries to cut a gemstone might well be catastrophic.

Polishing a gemstone, however, with powder ground down from a bead tougher than itself was a different matter. By doing this the jeweller could achieve a smooth surface, smooth edges and a uniform silhouette; whereas when he attempted to cut it, then he might shatter it to splinters. Polishing and engraving-another certain and tried technique that was unlikely to damage the stone-were much safer than just cutting.

Hence the diamonds set in jewelry of the Carolingian period are weathered or polished stones, mined in Europe, the Middle East or India, considered to have medicinal or magical ability, and with a thickness of rich and shining colour. There were rubies from India; garnets from Bohemi; lapis lazuli and sapphires (the latter?s name being applied to the prior ); emeralds, amethysts, beryl and aquamarine; amber, the fossilized resin of the ancient forests, which was well known and valued since the beginning of recorded time: turquoises and cornelians, each of which the Egyptians too had gathered; pearls and jet, for which the Romans had had a fantastic liking: all these were stone which were relatively simple to discover, or that could be mined in fairly shallow workings.

From the main there were two styles of placing for the diamonds used in early jewellery: the box placing and the collet. At the former, the jeweller made a small metallic box without a lid, placed the gemstone indoors, and hammered the metal edges down to hold it in position. A collet set is quite similar, but the surfaces of the box were cut so that a lot of the stone might be seem, and claws were occasionally incorporated for the interest of safety. Each gemstone was separately set.

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