European Jewelry

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Amethyst is making a rightful return to the forefront of jewelry.

Is purple a Valentine’s Day color? Maybe not, but it is the color of romance and passion and this year we can’t get enough of all shades of purple.  The gemstone of the February is Amethyst, - variety of quartz which is transparent and light to dark purple in color. And although amethyst is found on almost every continent the dark transparent and clean stones are relatively rare and always in demand. Fine amethysts are featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst was able to dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. 

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Depictions of Portuguese Merchants and Soldiers from the Court of Benin (and Nigeria); c. 1450s-1700s

Great Benin, where the King resides, is larger than Lisbon, all the streets run straight and as far as the eyes can see. The houses are large, especially that of the king which is richly decorated and has Fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such Security that they have no door to their houses.

- Lourenco Pinto, Portuguese ship captain, 1691 [see also Africa and the Development of International Law; ed. by Taslim Olawale Elias, Richard Akinjide, p 11-13]

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Hallstatt Bronze Spiral Bracelet, Central Europe, Austria/Hungary, Early 1st ML BC

Stunning - in fact one of the most beautiful of the variety seen - a spiral bracelet so well made that it is still flexible after nearly 3000 years of burial. With golden patina that indicates it either was a river find or was elevated in the tomb to avoid direct contact with the soil. 19 spirals in all and certainly once adorning the arm of royalty.

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Central European Bronze Age Spiral Armlets, 1200-1000 BC

It is unclear if armbands like this were worn for actual physical protection, but they certainly seem to have had a ritual/religious protective purpose. Armbands like this are some of the most famous symbols of the Bronze Age in Europe.

Anonymous French Jeweller

Cameo with the Bust of a Black Man and White Woman

France (16th century)

Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Médailles.

from TheRoot.com:

Among the panoply of images displayed by the courtly circles of Renaissance Europe, a jewel-like cameo such as this example played its own unique role as a statement of politics and identity. Cameos were worn as a kind of badge of allegiance to an imperial cause, or mounted on elaborate table pieces as signs of rank and privilege.