jewelry history

Ring brings ancient Viking, Islamic civilizations closer together

More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.

An inscription on the glass inset reads either “for Allah” or “to Allah” in an ancient Arabic script, the researchers report February 23 in Scanning.

Scandinavians traded for fancy glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as 3,400 years ago (SN: 1/24/15, p. 8). Thus, seagoing Scandinavians could have acquired glass items from Islamic traders in the same part of the world more than 2,000 years later rather than waiting for such desirable pieces to move north through trade networks.

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Forget Google Glass, Android Wear, Smartwatches or contact lenses that give you night vision. Instead let’s talk about the awesomeness that is this 17th century Chinese abacus ring. It’s wearable tech from the Qing Dynasty, perhaps the world’s oldest smart ring.

Measuring a mere 1.2 centimeter-long by 0.7 centimeter-wide, the miniature abacus is a fully functional counting tool, but it’s so tiny that using it requires an equally dainty tool, such as a pin, to manipulate the beads, which are each less than one millimeter long.

“However, this is no problem for this abacus’s primary user—the ancient Chinese lady, for she only needs to pick one from her many hairpins.”

[via Fashionably Geek and Gizmodo]


Holy psychedelic rocks, Batman! These awesome stones aren’t stone at all. They’re made of a substance called Fordite, also known as Detroit or Motor Agate. All of those beautiful layers are old automobile paint, countless layers of it, that accumulated in car factories over the years back when they cars were spray-painted by hand and excess paint dripped onto the metal tracks and skids that transported cars through the paint shop during the painting process. Thanks to the high heat that was used to bake the paint onto the cars, the layers hardened enough to be cut and polished into these beautiful industrial gems.

“Not much is known about how the pieces left the old factories, but it is assumed that ‘some crafty workers with an eye for beauty realized that this unique byproduct was worth salvaging. It was super-cured, patterned-like psychedelic agate, and could be cut and polished with relative ease!’”

Today this captivating material is shaped and polished into rings, necklaces, earrings, and of course beautiful stones like you see here. Because the painting process that created this substance no longer exists, Fordite is considered to be increasingly rare. But there’s still enough around to get some for yourself if you like. Check out the Fordite website to learn more.

Visit My Modern Metropolis for additional photos.

Hair pins were the sign of a respectable married woman in Italy. Like all Italian hair ornaments, they were first worn at the wedding, and after that on feast days and special occasions. Only the unmarried and prostitutes wore their hair loose.

Hair pins were worn throughout the country, but the most numerous and interesting come from the north. They were usually worn at the back of the head, piercing and securing the thick braids of hair. They were inserted diagonally or horizontally, so that the decorative heads stuck out at the side of the face. The number of pins worn varied by district. In some places they were worn all round the head, like a fan, but the largest were usually worn singly or in pairs.

This pin is one of a pair. They are both marked with silver marks which show they were made in the Papal States between 1815 and 1860. They were originally worn with an elaborate headdress of gold ribbons topped with a pompom of red velvet, which has also, most rarely, survived. They were bought as part of the Castellani collection of Italian Peasant Jewellery at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867. The hair pins cost 18 shillings each, and the gold ribbons £1 12s.


Diamond kokoshnik of the Russian Empire.

Traditional kokoshnik was made of birch bark (later of cardboard), trimmed with expensive cloth (brocade, satin), then lavishly decorated with pearls and precious stones. This technology is not quite suited for the XVIII century, and the kind of headdress is not very in harmony with the dresses of the time. And kokoshnik turned into a tiara-kokoshnik or as it was called in Europe, the tiara in the Russian style.

Left to right.

  • Great collier russe (Russian necklaces), presumably dating from the beginning of the XIX century. Indian and Brazilian diamonds, mounted in gold and silver. Necklace can also be worn as a tiare russe - tiara sewn on velvet kokoshnik. All outstanding beam suspension are numbered from 1 to 59 and have hooks on the back side.
  • Tiara, the form of Russian kokoshnik, created at the beginning of the XIX century. Tiara originally belonged to Empress Elizabeth A., wife of Alexander I. Tiara showered old Brazilian diamonds total weight of 275 carats of old, rimmed in gold and silver.
  • Wedding gift for the daughter of Alexander II - luxury diamond tiare russe (Russian tiara). This tiara inherited the daughter of Maria Alexandrovna, the Romanian queen Maria.
  • In 1825, the Russian Emperor Nicholas I gave the tiara with sapphires his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna in honor of their accession to the Russian throne.
  • Diamond kokoshnik ordered Cartier Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich a gift to his daughter Elena (1882-1957) on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Nicholas of Greece in 1902.
  • Kokoshnik with drop-shaped diamonds and pearls, made the court jeweler Bolin in 1841 and found in the chambers of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. In the diamond arches suspended 25 pearls.
  • Emerald diamond kokoshnik made ​​to the court jeweler Bolin for Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. Kokoshnik parure was a member of the emeralds that Elizabeth Feodorovna received as a gift for the wedding. Earlier this parure belonged to the mother of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Empress Marie Alexandrovna . Court jeweler Bolin made ​​this kokoshnik-tiara of gold and silver with seven cabochon emeralds, framed by elegant diamond weave . These emeralds are inserted into another tiara-kokoshnik.
  • Tiara with sapphire cabochon, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.


*My blog about the Romanov family*