Sapphire, whether from Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Thailand, Africa, or Montana US, all have the same chemical composition - they’re all corundums. The difference lies in their growing environments and the trace elements present during their formation.
Quality characteristics such as color and saturation, sparkle or “life”, cut and color modifiers help us determine a sapphire’s country of origin. Traveling to the source, like we have done in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Madagascar, and Africa, has allowed us to understand the sapphire markets intimately and learn from the dealers themselves where these stones come from.
All gemstones form in environments where small amounts of trace elements are present. Trace elements provide gemologists with clues to determine both general body-color of a gemstone and its country of origin.
On a basic level, trace elements are what sets apart a chunk of clear corundum from an blue sapphire, from a purple sapphire, or a pink sapphire. I like to think of them as gemstone dyes, coloring the main clear body-color of the gemstone. Blue sapphires, for instance, are colored by the trace elements iron and titanium.
Though essential in color formation, through what gemologists call color centers, this isn't the only clue trace elements give us. They also give us insight into where a gemstone formed, or its country of origin. Specific trace elements, in certain quantities or concentrations, are only present in specific countries or even specific mines within those countries. Kashmir sapphires, for instance will have very different trace elements than a sapphire from Thailand, even if they are the same general body-color.
To shop these three rings featured above, click below:
Pink Sapphire Solitaire in Traditional Retro Engagement Ring Mounting - SOLD
The finest Ceylon sapphires are the finest quality sapphire that is available in the market today. The stones come in a light blue to dark blue, where the darker the color, the finer the stone is. There is very rarely a Ceylon stone that is considered too dark, unlike a Thai, Australian or African stone. Ceylon stones have a true cobalt blue color, unlike an Australian or Thai stone that has more of a black-blue color.
Because Ceylon sapphires tend to be on the lighter side of the color spectrum, and they are generally cut very deep in order to bring out the saturation of color. We look for stones with a medium depth. A stone that is too shallow will causing windowing and lower saturation of color, while a stone that is too deep loses value because it “faces up” smaller than its actual carat weight.
We have been traveling to Sri Lanka for over 25 years and travel there almost annually to purchase their high quality sapphires and other rare gemstones. In Sri Lanka we are able to buy directly from the gemstone miners, who often cut and facet the gemstone, and sell the gemstone, seeing the whole process through. The country has not allowed any mechanised mining, or large businesses to come in with large equipment, which has allowed for the gemstone natural resource to be preserved for future generations. From our first trip to the island off the coast of India, sapphire prices have risen dramatically and what we considered our “secret fishing hole” has been opened up to many gemstone buyers from around the world!
Though we primarily seek out blue sapphire from the marketplace to pair with our antique and vintage mountings, we have also come home with beautiful purples, pinks, yellows and greens. These stones have the same crystal structure and chemical composition as blues, though they were exposed to different trace elements during growth. Through the process of heat treating, treaters can sometimes turn a light blue, yellow or brown stone into a blue stone, increasing its value and marketability.
Ceylon sapphires are considered the finest available sapphires in the world. Kashmir stones are known to be the finest material, but those mines have been shut down for decades and there is no reliable flow of gems from this region.
We are fortunate to have a large selection of Ceylon sapphire gemstones paired with our antique and vintage mountings for you to purchase. Whether you are looking for the perfect sapphire engagement ring, a Victorian era sapphire everyday ring, or an exquisite sapphire cocktail ring, please do not hesitate to send us a message with any questions!
The vast majority of sapphire that we have at Market Square Jewelers are Ceylon stones. We adore the varieties of colors, the richness of the blues and the amazing sparkle that they exude. Even the blue-green stone, the second one down, is a Ceylon stone! It's bi-colored nature is absolutely one-of-a-kind!
Shop this high-end stack, starting from closest to the wrist to end of the finger:
Blue-Green BiColored Sapphire in Yellow Gold Filigree Mounting - SOLD
East to West White Gold Filigree Sapphire Ring - SOLD
Blue Ceylon Sapphire East to West Mounting in Yellow Gold - SOLD
The sparkle of this Ceylon stone is quintessential of this region! I adore both this stone, which has so much life, and the unique mounting it's presented in!
A quintet of Ceylon sapphire engagement style rings, yummy! Each of these stones are so rich in color - much darker than traditional Ceylon sapphires.
The current sapphire mined in Australia is more plentiful than Ceylon stones. These sapphires are a navy blue color and are much less expensive than some of the others we have discussed, making Australian stones affordable and beautiful!
The vast majority of what we see in commercial modern jewelry is sourced from Australia. These stones are mined, often shipped to Bangkok to be cut, where mining costs are much less expensive, and sold to large jewelry manufacturers.
Australian sapphires work perfectly for the commercial market because they are relatively uniform in color and are plentiful so they can be mass produced in jewelry. Sapphires sourced from Australia can be seen in antique jewelry because they are more of a modern discovery.
Australian sapphire is typically a dark navy blue, with green undertones. This is what most people think of sapphire color; it is rich and dark and looks great on a variety of skin tones. As the gemstones become too dark or black, they lose value dramatically. These blue/black stones are sometimes called “onyx” sapphire.
The lighter blue sapphire on the left is a light Ceylon stone, a beautiful sky blue. The one on the right is one of our finest Australian stones, beautiful in the richness of its blue color. Notice the haziness to the stone in comparison to the way the Ceylon stone shimmers in the light.
Also called Yogo sapphires, Montana sapphires are mined from the Yogo Gulch. They tend to be light in color (blue, yellow and brown) with grey undertones.
Our friend Lonnie, who starred in our documentary “RockMen”, has mined and faceted these gemstones for 20 years. We first met him because he contacted us to sell his faceted stones. He then became an international traveling partner and gemstone buyer for us, traveling to places like Colombia, Brazil, Thailand, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and India.
Montana sapphires are usually small in size and faceted as a round brilliant. They do not command nearly the value that Ceylon stones do, but many can have a bright and lively sparkle that is similar to the sparkle of a Ceylon!
We especially love these sapphires because they were mined, cut and fashioned, and sold to us all in the United States. For someone interested in sapphire and who wants to support US products, this is a great option! They’re quite beautiful too!
This bi-colored Montana sapphire is set in a rose gold Victorian mounting. Shop it here.
Kashmir sapphires were mined from the Kashmir region of northern India (at 14,500 ft)! They are considered the finest sapphires in the world. Mined for about 40 years, between 1880-1920s, these stones are not available in the modern markets. Because we work with antiques, we do see these stones in Victorian and early Deco jewelry from time to time. If we can confirm that the stone is a Kashmir, through a trace element test from the GIA, the price of the gem increases dramatically.
The GIA can sometimes identify whether a stone is from the Kashmir region by looking at the trace elements found in the gemstone, though sometimes even this test can come back inconclusive. Because each region has trace elements that are unique to the region, the GIA can conclude where the stone came from.
Kashmir sapphires are known for their velvety blue color, caused by parallel lines of silk running through the stone. They are also considered the finest color, a corn-flower medium blue color. Though the finest Ceylons can rival a Kashmir stone in color, it is inaccurate to call a Ceylon stone corn-flower blue color. This color distinction is reserved only for Kashmir stones.
We have had under ten true Kashmir sapphires during our 33 years in business, these stones are incredible rare. Unfortunately we do not have a photo of a Kashmir stone to share at this time, but this Ceylon sapphire rivals the incredible beauty of a Kashmir any day! This stone truly has a velvety luxury to its color.
This simple, delicate curve has been a favorite motif of artists and jewelers for thousands of years. Although the crescent moon appears on talismans and jewelry from some of the oldest of archaeological finds, in vintage jewelry we see it most often in Victorian and Art Nouveau era pieces.
Art Nouveau designs of the 1910’s were heavily influenced by mythology, and the Roman goddess Diana was a favorite subject. The goddess of the hunt, her image was carved into cameos with her bow slung across her back and a quiver of arrows behind her shoulder. Perhaps because it echoes the shape of her bow, the crescent moon has long been symbolic of the goddess Diana, and she often is represented with a crescent moon crown on her head. Jewelers and artisans sometimes crafted crescent moon brooches that were longer and slimmer than the standard, as though they were ready to be strung, and used by the goddess on a hunt!
Why, you might ask, is the crescent moon the perfect wedding gift? Many crescent moon pieces are accompanied by floral motifs, such as blue and white enamel daisies or green leaves. These flowers translated to ‘honey’ and the crescents to moon. Wearing these pins told everyone that these couples were on their honeymoon! Different flowers meant different things as well: blue forget-me-nots meant true love, violets were for faithfulness, and the daisy meant innocence!
Many, if not most, crescent moons in vintage jewelry are worn as brooches. These brooches can be pinned to a bridal veil, or the wrapping of a bouquet for a special touch to a wedding ensemble. In some cases, we can convert crescent moon pins to pendants or necklaces. Please feel free to ask for details on your favorite one by contacting us here! Heirlooms in the making, these stylish crescent moons are timeless!
One of my first pieces of jewelry was a bloodstone pendant, my father gave me, set in a simple four prong silver mounting. The piece was particularly special because the red specks formed two dancers beneath a glowing orange moon. For me, this stone symbolizes freedom of expression, beauty of nature, and the ability to just "let go"!
We have a special love for bloodstone here at Market Square because of its rich historical significance in antique jewelry and the way it creates pictures with its forms and colors.
Here at MSJ, we have a love for all stones that display themselves as art, like bloodstone. We find beauty/art/pleasure in so many gemstones that the earth has given us to enjoy!
To view our current collection, click here, otherwise keep reading!
Often found in Victorian era jewelry from the turn of the century, bloodstone's deep green color looks fantastic against the luster of the rose gold of the era. We will sometimes find original Victorian pieces with bloodstone, but often these gemstones are scratched, damaged or broken and they need to be replaced. Our collection of German cut bloodstone has been used to replace these stones to bring the antique pieces back to their original condition!
We also have a fantastic gem polisher, who can re-polish and buff nicks and scratches from worn stones. Read about our repair services here.
The most beautiful bloodstone is material that has a dark green solid background with a high contrast of blood-red specks - this is the kind of material we are always looking to purchase. Our stash has dramatically decreased since we came online in 2013 - bloodstone has a unbelievable following.
Though our best gem-grade bloodstone is set into fine gold, we do have sterling silver pieces with bloodstone. These larger cabochons often have other colors in addition to the red and green, such as brown and orange. To view our sterling silver pieces with bloodstone, stop into one of our four brick and mortar locations.
Red inclusions of iron oxide, or red jasper, dispersed throughout the stone can range from red to brown in color. It is the bright red, drop shaped inclusions that give the stone the name "bloodstone". Some varieties of bloodstone contain ‘plasma’, or bluish-gray to yellow streaks and spots; however the finest bloodstone is a deep, nearly black shade of green with distinct red flakes.
Bloodstone is an ancient gem, regarded throughout history as having assorted powerful metaphysical powers. Once the only birthstone for March, bloodstone remains an alternative to aquamarine, and is the primary zodiac stone for the sign of Aries.
The original name for bloodstone is heliotrope, or ‘Sun Turner’ in the original Greek. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, used a mirror made of Bloodstone to view solar eclipses nearly 2000 years ago!
Read up on March's other birthstone, Aquamarine: Aquamarine Gemstone: March's Cleansing Birthstone
Bloodstone has long been used in symbolic and talismanic jewelry. One of the most significant gems of the Christian scriptures, one story states that the red drops formed as the blood of Christ dripped from the cross and fell upon the ground. This legend has prompted the use of Bloodstone in many Christian cameos, intaglios and signet rings, especially during the turn of the century.
Other thoughts on Bloodstone include the belief that wearing it makes one courageous and wealthy, while metaphysical attributes include: clairvoyance, to guard against deception, to aid in decision making and to aid blood in clotting, specifically after a wound. It is said that those who wear bloodstone receive respect and that "all doors are open to the wearer". Sounds like a good stone to keep around and wear often! I think it's time I pull out my moon-lit dancers from my jewelry box and wear them for a while!
To view these and all of our other bloodstone jewelry, click here.
I have been totally obsessed with stacking bands lately! Since the introduction of the Elizabeth Henry stacking bands, I have been playing with gold colors, gemstone combinations, textures, and widths regularly! I've been amazed at some of the unusual combinations that surprise me, like the combination of old and new in one of the photos below. Or how a pop of ruby-color can transform the stack!
Simplicity rules with this set. These prong set diamonds twinkle like Christmas lights on the hand. Though all three aren't identical, they sit together beautifully!
Here are a couple examples of bands like the ones featured above:
I wish I could practically wear all of these on one finger! I think I've gone to heaven over this stack. All five of these estate rings are crafted in yellow gold with white diamonds.
Bands Featured Above from Top to Bottom:
I think of stacking rings like layering clothes. Each layer adds a new element to the outfit. But over-do it, and it can look gaudy. Sometimes a ring does really deserve its own finger or an entire hand!
The rings above are an example of a combination of new and old. A 1950's floral band with diamonds is paired with a yellow gold diamond and ruby band. A modern infinity diamond ring is paired with a high-end ruby baguette tapered band. Each combination is surprisingly perfect.
Bands Featured Above from Left to Right and Top to Bottom:
White Gold Floral and Diamond Band - SOLD
Above are some of the newest stacking rings in our collection. Thin bands, wide bands, but always with diamonds.
From left to right:
I love mixing metals. I often pair a rose gold Marjorie band with my platinum engagement ring set. I love the way rose gold and platinum look together; the whiteness of the platinum really illuminates the rosy nature of the gold.
Gold is the perfect medium for jewelry because it alloys with many different materials, like copper, silver, brass and nickel. These alloys allow the material to take on different hues, such as rose, green, yellow and white respectively.
Standing alone, these colors of gold may be less apparent then when they are next to one another, like in the photo above!
Bring on the stack, ladies!
Featured above from left to right and top to bottom:
Floral White Gold and Diamond Band - SOLD
"Regard" Antique Cigar Band - Not Online, Come Shop our Dover, NH Store
Modern Two Tone Wide Single Diamond Band - Not Online, Come Shop our Dover, NH Store
Aquamarine, literally translated from the Latin, means "Water of the Sea", a name given to this beryl both for its unique color, and for its soft, watery translucence. The gemstone is believed to be a healer of one's body by both soothing and cleansing it, as ocean water would.
Aquamarine is part of the beryl family of gemstones, which also includes the well-known emerald, pink/peach morganite, yellow heliodor, and red beryl. Being part of the same family means all these gemstones share the same chemical composition. Their color differs only because of the trace elements present during their formation.
Featured above is the largest beryl ring that we have for sale. This 49.66 carat green beryl is often the original color of many aquamarines before the heat treating process begins. This gem has the same chemical composition as aquamarine, it simply grew in an environment with different trace elements than aqua, making its primary body color green. Shop this ring here.
When we are buying aquamarines in our marketplaces, we are looking for stones that have these characteristics: pure blue color, free of major inclusions that impact beauty, precise cut that brings brilliance to the gemstone, and sparkle or what we call "life" of the gem.
When evaluating color, the most sought after aquamarines are medium blue. Generally, the deeper in saturation of blue, the more valuable the aquamarine. Undertones of green in an aqua are quite common and quite beautiful, but can bring the value of the stone down. If the stone's dominate color is green over blue, it is considered green beryl, not aquamarine.
Further below in the article, we discuss aquamarine's common treatment: heat. This treatment often deepens the blue color and eliminates green undertones, hence increasing the value.
Aquamarine is typically not a gemstone that inherently has many inclusions, so we look for gemstones that are "clean". Aquamarine can form long, line-like inclusions that can appear as faint parallel bands throughout the gemstone, especially as you rock it back and forth in the light. That being said, it is rare for us to sell an aqua with this kind of clarity!
A precise cut is so important for gemstones that can be on the lighter side, like aquamarine. Stones can easily become washed out and lose their color if the cut isn't proper. We have been fortunate to purchase many of our aquamarines from a former stone cutter, who fashioned these gemstones with so much precision and care. Cutting technology has improved so much over the past 30-40 years that we are having many of our older gemstones re-cut to bring out their beauty and enhance their value.
Traditionally, Brazil has been the source of the most aquamarine globally, with thousands of mines across the country. One spectacular specimen, found in 1910 in Minas Gerais Brazil weighed 244 pounds and measured 19 inches long!
Only 3-5% of what is being produced in Brazil is of high enough quality for us to purchase. On our buying trips to the country, we will go through hundreds of parcels of aquamarine before we find stones that meet our standard of quality at the price we want to pay.
A parcel of aquamarines from one of our recent buying trips in Brazil. To shop all items featuring aqua, click here.
Some of the finest aquamarine is currently being mined in Southern India, a place we frequently travel to. These aquas have smokey grey blue undertones and some of the deepest saturation we've ever seen. Their color is absolutely breathtaking! We have been fortunate to purchase a few small parcels of this Southern Indian material to offer to our customers. Here are two rings featuring our Southern India Aquamarine. Click on the image for more information.
Here's an example of Aquamarine coming out of Southern India. This gemstone was set into a swirling rose gold classic mounting! Shop here.
A classic style everyday ring set with our deepest Southern Indian Aquamarine. Shop here.
Typically when aquamarine is mined, it has a blue/green cast to the color. Heat treating is a routine for these gems, as the treatment brings out the deep, crisp blue undertones and eliminates the less desirable green. Aquamarine is particularly well suited to heat treatments, as the low inclusion rate of the crystal structure means the gem responds well to this standard, stable treatment. Generally, the darker the blue color of aquamarine, the more expensive and highly valued it is.
Aquamarine is a gem of happiness and everlasting youth. It aids insight, gives one foresight and helps to induce sleep through the process of "letting go". Aquamarine is especially important for those traveling over waters, as it protects, cleanses and soothes the wearer during turbulent or traumatic times.
From left to right and top to bottom, here are some of our favorite aquamarines currently available:
We are totally obsessed with this custom made wedding set from the Elizabeth Henry Collection. One of our customers from our Portsmouth, NH location came to us to update her wedding set with an Art Deco filigree flare. After choosing the Greenleaf mounting and the Marjorie Band from the Elizabeth Henry Collection, our metal smiths went to work!
For the Greenleaf engagement ring, we soldered a plate to the top of the engagement ring to accommodate a slightly smaller diamond and to ensure its security. We then added eight delicate prongs to secure the center diamond in place, making sure the diamond sat flush to the top of the ring. I love how the Greenleaf mounting shows off the diamond - making it seem like it has a larger presence on the finger. What a beautiful update for this set!
To adorn the Marjorie band further and use all the materials the customer supplied, we set her additional small diamonds between each of the hearts in the band. All cast in 14k white gold, this set's ornate filigree and floral detail work is to die for!
Wondering what a custom conversion like this would cost? It is very affordable! Send us a message or contact us at one of our brick and mortar stores for more information. Please include details such as carat weight or millimeter size of your diamond, what material you would like the ring, and whether you would like diamonds set in the band. We would love to help you create the custom engagement piece you have been dreaming of!
Above is a photo of the original engagement ring that our customer brought in. What a beautiful update for this set!
Thank you to Gail, our manager at the Portsmouth NH store, who had the vision to make this engagement ring and wedding band come to fruition. And to our customer, who trusted the process for this beautiful recreation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Wondering what else our talented team of metal smiths can do? We offer full jewelry repair in all four of our brick and mortar locations. Check out our blog post on jewelry repair here!
With three full time jewelers and over 60 combined years of experience at the jeweler's bench, our team of metalsmiths can meet all your jewelry repair needs. We specialize in antique jewelry restoration and we work in all precious metals: platinum, gold, silver and palladium.
Whether you need your rings sized up or down, prongs re-tipped on your engagement ring, a diamond replaced in a wedding band, a ring re-shanked, or any other general jewelry needs, our experienced metal smiths are here to service you.
In this shot, one of our jewelers is finishing sizing a ring by smoothing the solder joint so the seam is invisible. With few exceptions, we always "cut and add" material to rings when they are sized. This ensures that the shank (or base of the ring) is not thinned out after the ring is re-sized.
A selection of disks for cutting and buffing, as well as some burrs for stone setting. All the tools of the trade.
One of our jewelers is working on a solder seam on this antique band. Using a torch, a jeweler is able to quickly flow solder into a seam in the ring to solder it in place. If you've ever had the pleasure to watch a jeweler work, this part seems like magic!
Antique jewelry is what we do! Bring in your heirloom pieces for our expertise working with delicate filigree, antique diamonds, enamel, rare gemstones, and other specialty items. Our metalsmiths are experienced in working with fine gemstones, and antique pieces that need specialty care.
On the bench for the day is an Art Deco synthetic sapphire ring, a modern sterling silver and tourmaline ring, a garnet ring from the Elizabeth Henry Collection, and a vintage ruby halo ring. Our customers keep us busy!
Because we work with antiques, we are able to provide parts and components original to the time period of your jewelry. Have a cigar band that needs sizing? We will size it using rose gold from a similar time period in order to match the color and patina of the metal. Have a antique diamond ring that needs a specialty rose cut stone? We have that rose cut, mine cut, or single cut diamond, that will match the period of your jewelry.
When replacing a diamond in your jewelry, we are able to match the cut, the color and the clarity of the diamond so your jewelry looks original.
Here we are matching a white rhinestone to a large Art Deco brooch. It's a tedious job, but finding the perfect foil-back rhinestone makes all the difference!
In 2014 we purchased our first laser soldering machine. Now an integral part of what we do, the laser machine allows us to repair jewelry without using a torch or heat. This means that we can isolate problem areas in an piece of jewelry to work on that particular trouble area. This has transformed the way our jewelers repair pieces, and we are excited to offer this technology to our customers.
One of our talented jewelers working at the laser soldering machine. The laser has transformed the way in which we can work on your jewelry repairs.
Do you have a mounting with a scratched, damaged or missing gemstone? We can replace these gemstones with something you will love! If you have a mounting that needs a new zircon, black onyx intaglio, a rare sphene or a simple garnet, we would love the opportunity to help recreate your piece into something you'll love.
Here's a small selection of colored gemstones that are ready to be sorted into our gem safe! I see blue topaz, tanzanite, amethyst, zircon, emerald and a few aquamarines. I could sift through these beauties all day!
These marcasite frames are ready to find centerpieces to make them complete! We not only use our repair materials for our customers, but we are always using them to restore our pieces that we sell in our four retail stores!
We offer both traditional bead restringing and knotted restringing on silk and nylon. We also have an array of clasps and findings, both modern and antique.
A beautiful hand-knotted strand of antique pearls just coming out of our repair shop and back to the owner.
We also do pearl replacement and we have a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and price points available. Here's a small sampling of pearls waiting to be sorted by millimeter size.
Our watch repair staff works on both your contemporary watches and antique and estate wrist and pocket watches. We are fortunate to have a staff that is able to get your pieces in working order for a reasonable price.
As collectors of costume jewelry parts and components, we are able to replace missing or broken parts for our customers. Whether it is a clasp, a bead, or a rhinestone, we will do our best to match and repair your pieces. Our laser soldering machine also allows us to solder on nontraditional metals that are often used in costume jewelry.
Here's a selection of blue and teal rhinestone foil backs that we use for costume jewelry repair. Our online customers do not see too much of our costume jewelry online, but stop by one of our stores in New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts, and you will realize how much we love the fun glittery pieces!
Whether your sapphire is scratched or you have an uncut gemstone that needs to be fashioned, we have a team that can take care of your needs.
A sampling of preforms our lapidarist is marking out for cabochons. These are samples of American agates and jaspers from all over the country. I see my favorite, a picture jasper called Biggs! The tray of water is used to wet the stone to see the final pattern for when the stone is polished.
We offer exquisite hand engraving services for our customers. Applications include: period-specifc monograms and lettering, portraiture, deeply carved family crests, custom/customer designed motifs, and floral band patterning.
This spoon-inspired bracelet is ready for its monogram! After it is finish-polished by our metalsmiths, it will be sent to our hand engraver, who continues to wow us with his expertise.
Have an idea? Bring in a photo or drawing of something you love and we will see what our jewelers can come up with. Love a mounting that we have but not the stone? We can help you find the perfect one! Some of the projects that we have taken on in the past include:
Prized for centuries for its beauty, amethyst is part of the quartz family and ranges in color from the palest lilac to the deepest midnight purple. Used in European jewelry for over 5,000 years, this royal purple gem was, at one point, as valued as sapphire, ruby and emeralds. Amethyst is the birthstone of February, and is traditionally given on the 4th, 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries.
A parcel of African Amethyst. This is one of our favorite gemstones to set into our vintage and estate mountings. To shop our collection of Amethyst jewelry, click here.
Amethyst's ideal color is called “Deep Siberian” and has a primary purple hue, with secondary flashes of blue and red. While amethyst is a common stone and found in many locations throughout the world, the best amethysts are found in Siberia, Sri Lanka, Zambia and Brazil. Most of the faceted amethyst in the market is eye-clean, meaning it lacks visible inclusions. When sourcing our stones, we seek evenly saturated, deeply colored stones with intense flash and shine to set into our collection of fine gold and sterling silver vintage mountings.
Above is a photo of one of our finest Zambian Amethysts set in a retro rose gold mounting. This rich, deep purple color is what we are on the hunt for. Finding these gemstones in this size range is getting more and more rare! To view this beauty, click here.
A gorgeous men's vintage amethyst ring set in an antique yellow gold mounting from the 1910s. Unfortunately this beauty has sold, but the picture is worth ogling at! Click here to view all our amethyst jewelry.
Above is the Zelda Ring from the Elizabeth Henry Collection. Beautifully reproduced filigree work in perfect condition, set with an incredible Zambian Amethyst. Click here for more info.
Legend has it that if you drink from an amethyst goblet, you will be able to drink the entire evening without feeling the affects of the alcohol. Amethyst is also believed to guard against addiction and used for centuries to cure hearing disorders, insomnia, headaches and other pain. Sources attribute amethyst to balance mental disorders and to bring peace, courage and protection to the wearer. It is also used as a warning stone and grows pale if physical or mental sickness or danger is approaching.
I'm obsessed with the detail work of this mounting! AND, the amethyst against the rich color of the yellow gold is just perfect. To view this ring, click here.
From left to ring, here are some of our favorite amethyst rings up for sale in our shop now:
We've picked a few of our favorites, but browse our website for Amethyst jewelry that matches your style. Or, visit our brick and mortar shops in Portsmouth, NH, Dover, NH, Newburyport MA, or Portland ME.
How did Market Square Jewelers begin? // What got you started in the antique jewelry business?
When traveling to Antiqua as a teenager in the early 70's, my father purchased a number of shell necklaces from native craftspeople. When he came back to Cape Cod, he hustled the beaches in his hometown reselling the necklaces to tourists visiting for the summer. He always said, as simple as it is, this was where Market Square Jewelers was born!
As for me, I was born into this company! I grew up taking naps in the back of the stores, working in them as a young teen, and absorbing the gem and jewelry business first hand from the time I could walk and talk. After I finished college, I attended the Gemological Institute of America and received my Graduate Gemology degree. When thinking back on my decision to be part of the business, there was never a time when I thought I’d be doing anything else. Antique jewelry and rare gems are in my blood.
What sets the store apart from other jewelry stores--even other antique jewelry stores?
Now a two generation company, we have not lost sight what we do - marry antique or vintage gold with gems and restoring/refurbishing/recreating historical objects to their most beautiful selves! Though we try to restore our pieces to their original condition - we are also recreating them to have new lives and personalities. For a piece that originally had a piece of red synthetic spinel, we now are replacing it with a ruby, a pink sapphire or a tourmaline. Our objective is to bring out the best in every piece of jewelry!
Being a small family business, we are very intimately involved with our customers and their needs. There is not a single purchase that becomes “just a drop in the bucket”. Every purchase has a great impact on how we grow and change as a company. This intimacy allows us to have relationships with every one of our customers - whether we are customizing a charm bracelet, recreating a lost piece from antique components, or sourcing an unusual gemstone.
Most Exciting Moments in Career
I remember the first sale on our website, marketsquarejewelers.com. Launching our site was a huge endeavor: refining our look, inventory management, perfecting product photography, blog content, copy writing, etc. I remember the first sale that we made: a pair of simple gold earrings. There was definitely some shrieking and running down the hall of the second floor giving the gals high fives. We all hugged and were so excited and had been working so hard to see it happen! We were all smiles! Our work had finally paid off!
This was one of the first banners on our first rendition of marketsquarejewelers.com. Taken by the talented Alex Estee, our online sales manager!
Any jaw-dropping or memorable pieces you’ve sold throughout the years?
It is hearsay that the Gemological Institute of America has only seen 10 taaffeites in all the years they have been identifying gemstones; we own one of them. Being nerdy, when it comes to rare and unusual gemstones, finding this gem and having the opportunity to buy it has been one of the most exciting moments!
In addition to the taffeite, I will always remember one yellow heliodor beryl ring, set in platinum and adorned with diamonds. The ring was our fist sale on our Etsy shop, MSJewelers. Etsy was the first online sales venue where we saw success. In the beginning of our venture online, it was the sale of that ring that caused excited sleepless nights, early mornings and fueled the drive to move forward.
Don't mind the photograph! This is the heliodor beryl ring that was our first sale on our Etsy shop, MSJewelers. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I received the order!
Tell us about the Elizabeth Henry Collection
The Elizabeth Henry Collection spawned from my desire to recreate some of the most incredible antique engagement rings and colored stone pieces we have had over the 30 years we have been in business. High quality antique jewelry in excellent condition is getting harder and harder to source. By recreating some of these pieces, we are able to provide both an antique option and an Elizabeth Henry option.
I chose to name the collection using my maiden name, Henry, as a tribute to my roots and my father. I love my maiden name; the way it sounds, its rich heritage, and the way it connects me to my family. The collection would not be possible without my father's unrelenting love for colored gemstones and commitment to Market Square Jewelers. By keeping Henry, I hope to honor both my father and MSJ. Read about the history of MSJ through my father's eyes here.
This picture was taken from my office, where the walls are adorned with velvet wallpaper ornate crimson wall paper. Previously a law office, I instantly fell in love with this space.
Goals for the future?
As a woman who is now expecting her second baby, one of the greatest challenges is being a mother and a business woman. I have so many goals for this business, including expanding our online presence, continuing to develop the Elizabeth Henry Collection, suppling our customers with heirloom quality jewelry, and continuing ways to give back to the communities that we live and work. But, my biggest challenge and goal is balancing all of these things to be a loving and present mother, a supportive boss, and a smart business woman.
Anything else you would like to mention?
I just would like to say how thankful I am to our loyal customers. We have customers who have been buying from us for over 30 years from our stores in Newburyport, MA and Portsmouth, NH. These people feel like family to me and many have watched me grow up in the family business. Thank you for your support, and your commitment to this company. We couldn't do this without you!
For our online customers, though I haven't met many of you in person, we are connected in many other ways! Keep sending us your Instagram posts, your emails, and your feedback. I see every one and it does really shape the way we continue to do business. We are so very thankful.
We just sold the most amazing oval emerald in our Portland, Maine store; a 5 carat oval in a simple yellow gold mounting. One of the customer's biggest concerns was how best to care and maintain this high-end and rare gemstone so that she can always enjoy it and eventually pass its beauty to a family member.
In this post, you will find information about how to care for your emerald jewelry, whether antique or modern, so that it looks beautiful for generations! Curious about what we have available for sale? Click here to view all emerald jewels.
Emeralds and Their Inclusions
All emeralds have inclusions. Emeralds form in a turbulent environment which means they form with many fissures, fractures, and internal inclusions. Their inclusions are actually one of my favorites because they from in three phases (solids, liquids, and gases). In rare cases, inclusions will form where these three phases are together in one inclusion. The photo below shows a series of liquid inclusions with a solid (the square) and a gas (the circle) bound by the fluid.
A three phase fluid inclusion of halite, water, and carbon dioxide within an emerald.
Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro, courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America .
The vast majority of the emeralds that we have for sale at Market Square Jewelers come directly from Colombia, the finest emerald source in the world. To date, we have made two trips to Colombia in the past five years in order to stock our inventory with these high quality gemstones. We are due for another trip soon!
Cedar Oil Treatment
The vast majority of the emeralds coming from Colombia have been cedar oil-treated and our stones are no exception. This is a simple treatment where the emerald is immersed in cedar oil (which is quite thick and viscous) under heat and pressure. The heat and pressure allow the oil to penetrate the stone, which fills in the natural surface reaching fissures/inclusions within the emerald. Once the emerald is cool, the cedar oil returns to it's very thick, sticky state, which makes it hold very well within the emerald.
Cedar oil is used because its refractive index is very similar to that of an emerald (basically meaning is reflects light the same way) so it's a great way to camouflage/reduce the appearance of the natural inclusions to the naked eye. It's a very stable process and is semi-permanent. Over a long period of time, the emerald will loose some of this oil, and re-oiling is something that can be re-done to keep the emerald looking it's very best.
Emerald Care and Cleaning
With all emeralds, care must be taken when cleaning, as ultrasonic cleaners or harsh solvents/chemicals can remove the cedar oil completely. Jewelers use ultrasonic cleaners for most gemstones, but never for an emerald. The vibrations and chemicals used to remove dirt and debris from a diamond ring, for instance, could remove all the cedar-oil from an emerald. Never put an emerald in an ultrasonic cleaner!
We recommend simply water and an old toothbrush to clean the emerald. Please, no harsh chemicals, no scrubbing your floors wearing your emerald jewelry, and again, no ultrasonic cleaner!
We are happy to answer any questions you may have about emerald care. Please feel free to contact us here.
Rhodolite Garnet, Raspberry Garnet, Pink Garnet!
A guide to this pink garnet gemstone!
We just sold the most amazing rhodolite garnet last week and I'm missing it! It was a classic cushion cut shape set into a sleek and modern yellow gold half bezel - the perfect set up to show off the beauty of the gemstone. We posted it on our Instagram page and it quickly got snatched up. Packaging that one up for our customer, I am having a little bit of Rhodolite Garnet withdrawal. Here's my medicine - a little post about one of my favorite gemstones and all the other beauties we still have in our four shops!
Rhodolite garnet, meaning “Rose Stone” in Greek, is often called raspberry garnet because of the pink/purple undertones to the dominant red color. It is one of our favorite gemstones at MSJ because of the liveliness of its sparkle, the depth of the pink color, and the affordability in comparison to other gemstones in the same color range (like tourmaline and sapphire).
Rhodolite garnet from Tanzania. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: Dr. Eduard J. Gübelin Collection
Cutting | Faceted and Cabochon
When buying rhodolite garnet, it is almost always already cut and faceted. Very rarely we have found the stone cut into cabochon form. Generally cabochons are fashioned out of more included material and set into materials like sterling silver.
Rhodolite Garnet Value | Color, Saturation and Carat Weight
Rhodolites can be found in all variations of pink/red; rosy-pink, raspberry-red, purple-pink, purplish red. The most sought after rhodolite garnets are the gemstones with raspberry hue with red body color. Sri Lankan stones are notorious for having this beautiful raspberry-red color range!
As with many colored gemstones, the greater the saturation of color, the more valuable the gemstone. As soon as the stone tips that scale, and become too saturated, the stone begins to lose value rapidly. As always, the liveliness of the gemstone, often due to the way it was cut, is an important feature.
Like all fine gemstones, the higher the carat or weight, the more valuable the price per carat is. Fine Rhodolite Garnet can fetch 2-5 times the price as red material!
Rhodolite Garnet Inclusions | Gem Identification; Hardness and Refractive Index
Like all garnet, Rhodolite has a hardness of 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. When tested on a refractometer, to get its refractive index, the stone falls somewhere between pyrope and almandite garnets (Pyrope 1.720-1.756 and Almandite 1.770 - 1.820).
Often we identify garnet based on our experience of color and inclusions, but if there is any question, we will perform an refractive index on the stone. Rhodolites typically have small crystal inclusions that are not visible to the naked eye.
Have a question about one of our Rhodolite Garnets or any of our pieces? Contact us here.
Victorian Rose Gold Jewelry
Rose gold was the favorite metal of the Victorian era, particularly in the British Empire. It was often accompanied by blue sapphire, mined from British-ruled India. These precious gems made their way to London, where they were often set by master jewelers into rose gold mountings! Their color, a dark, cobalt blue with midnight fire, were the perfect complement for rose gold. Sapphire and rose gold, often with seed pearl accents, remains a popular combination even in modern jewelry today!
Art Deco Rose Gold Jewelry
As fashions changed, white gold became a more popular color for jewelry. Still, rose gold can be seen in Art Deco era pieces! Used as an accent, rose gold can often be found as an actual rose bordered by green gold leaves in the frame of a cameo or on the shoulders of a ring. See examples of multicolored gold pieces here.
Retro Era Rose Gold Jewelry
Retro era rose gold was shinier, brighter, and bolder in color. New technology in jewelry-making allowed goldsmiths to combine rose gold with white and yellow gold in the same piece of jewelry. This meant that rose gold took on a new cast, tending more towards a peachy, fiery hue that contrasted beautifully with the white and yellow gold! The same theory was applied to the gems used in rose gold jewelry. Instead of sapphires, bright red rubies became a popular choice for rose gold rings! See some of our rose gold ruby rings from the 1950s here!
Modern Rose Gold Jewelry
Rose gold remains popular in current fashions, although the tone of the color has once again changed. Modern rose gold tends to have a pure pink cast with very little of the peach tones of the Victorian era. Russian rose gold is perhaps the pinkest, with a pure pink color that evokes youth and energy!
Shop here for modern rose gold pieces from the Elizabeth Henry Collection.
Whether you prefer the romantic history of rose gold from the Victorian era, the bold rose gold of the Retro era, or the rich, pure pink of the Modern era, we’re here to help you find the perfect piece of rose gold jewelry!
Shop all our rose gold jewelry here.
What is rose gold?
Rose gold is gold that has been alloyed using copper to give it a pink color.
Is rose gold still 14 karat?
A 14k gold ring is 58.5% gold, with other metals making up the remaining 41.5% If copper is used in that remaining 41.5%, the gold will be rose in hue!
You have a piece listed as rose gold, but it looks yellow to me. Why is that?
Rose gold, particularly from the Victorian era, can be a little difficult to define. Modern jewelers use a set formula to create their colored gold, but jewelers 100 years ago were a little more artistic! Sometimes the color of the gold is a judgement call, or the gold looks a little different when viewed in different lights. Feel free to ask us for more photos, or to send you a picture that shows both the jewelry you’re interested in and a piece of yellow gold so you can compare!
What is Hamilton Gold?
Hamilton Gold is a term used by antique and estate jewelers to describe rose gold jewelry that is not quite as rosy as other pink gold. We describe jewelery as Hamilton gold when it is not quite considered rose gold and not quite yellow gold, rather, its color is right in-between.
What is Pink Gold?
Pink gold is simply another term used for rose gold. Both are trade terms for jewelry that has been alloyed with copper.
First discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the 1860’s, demantoid garnet soon became a sought after gem of European aristocracy. This green gem was set in jewelry of every type, from simple Victorian rings to ornate lavalier pendants. For years it was a favored treasure, until, eventually, the mines became depleted. While this scarcity meant that demantoid garnet declined in popularity, it increased the value of the gem, making it a collector’s item!
In more recent times, demantoid garnet has been found in other places, and is mined in Italy, Iran, Namibia and Madagascar. Still rare, this amazing gem continues to evoke images of Victorian era Europe, of fancy dress balls and the luxurious parlors of royalty.
Why is demantoid garnet green? I thought all garnets were red!
Garnets come in a variety of colors, although the rarest is by far green! This rich color is caused by the presence of certain minerals during the formation of the stone. Demantoid garnets from Russia, Italy and Iran can also contain ‘horsetail’ inclusions. These inclusions look like a spray of fine filaments, or like a horse's tail! Stones with these inclusions are prized by collectors.
An example of horsetail inclusions in a demantoid garnet from the Gemological Institute of America
My birthday is in January. Can I use this as a birthstone ring?
Absolutely! The traditional birthstones suggested for each month are based on gems themselves, not their color! If you prefer green garnets to red (and you wouldn’t be alone!) then demantoid garnets are the perfect birthstone for you!
Can I use demantoid garnet for my engagement ring?
Yes, you can! The rarity and beauty of demantoid garnet make it a nice alternative to diamond for an engagement ring. There’s a few things you should know, though, before you make the decision. Demantoid garnet is very rare in large sizes, so you will likely be looking at stones that are much smaller in weight. Demantoid is not as hard as diamond, like all garnets it rates between a 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. This means it should be worn carefully, and removed when doing house work, working outside, or in any situation where it may be abraded or scratched.
View our Collection of Demantoid Garnets, here!
One of the oldest watches in our collection, this antique watch was made in 1799.
At the time this piece was created, watch movements and cases were sold separately. A watchmaker would craft each timepiece by hand, and then wholesale his movements to jewelers, who might either fit the piece in a particular case, or, allow the customer to choose a case and watch separately. This custom has resulted in many watches which bear the name of one person or maker on the movement and a different one on the case or face of the watch.
The movement of this watch is a fusee, a rare type of movement that runs not just on coiled springs, but also employs a grooved cone wound with a tiny chain, which coils around another post in a pulley system. Inspired by the winches and counter balances of the rigging of sailing ships, this method was used to refine the timekeeping of the movement by regulating the speed at which the mainspring unwinds.
This movement is inscribed with the watchmakers name, C Davidson, and home city: London. Research could provide no watchmakers registered in London around this time with the name of Davidson, however, a Charles Davidson, watchmaker was operating at this time near Dundee, Scotland. It can not be proved, but we believe that this watch was made in Scotland, but inscribed with the city of sale - London - instead of the city of manufacture - Dundee. There’s several reasons that this might have been done, but the most likely is simply to fetch a higher price for a piece marked with the cosmopolitan city ‘London’! This watch, like all fusee movements, is a key wind, and keys have been provided.
While the movement of the watch has some mystery to it, the case is a little more straightforward. Stamped inside the inner case are four marks. The center is the case-maker’s stamp: BN. A lion above is indicative of Sterling silver, with a purity of 92.5%. To one side, a crowned leopard indicates a London origin for the case. This is a double cased watch, with a hinged glass cover and hinged movement. When we first opened this watch, papers were found tucked inside - these were not the usual watch papers included in the original purchase, but hand cut discs of newsprint that were used to pad the watch in the 1800’s. They appear to be from New Haven, Connecticut, adding another layer to the mysterious history of this antique piece!
We have one more watch created by Verge Fusee in our collection, click here to view it.
Unearthed Mysteries Behind Green Garnet
Tsavorite and demantoid garnet have many similarities. They are both from the garnet family, they are in the same color range, and they are both a 6.5-7 in hardness. So what makes these two stones so different?
Though both tsavorite and demantoid are of the garnet family, they are different at the species level. Tsavorite is a grossularite garnet and demantoid is an andradite garnet.
Demantoid garnets have my favorite type of inclusion in gemology: horsetails! These wisp-like inclusions start at an apex and expand outward resembling a horse's tail in the wind or an exploded firework. Generally, you cannot see these inclusions without the help of magnification, though almost every demantoid garnet will have some trace of this type of inclusion.
Tsavorites on the other hand, have very typical colored-stone inclusions. Though generally eye clean, gemologists will see needle-like inclusions, fractures, graphite platelets and fingerprints.
Demantoid garnets have a very high refractive index and dispersion level, which is higher than a diamond! This means that when you look at a demantoid you will see fire displayed in the gemstone through flashes of multicolored light. Demantoids are usually cut in such a way so this fire is exemplified. Cutters will fashion the gemstone with a small table and larger pavillion facets.
Tsavorite garnet is fashioned like many colored stones. Tsavorite will give you white and green light back to your eye. You will not see the intensity of fire as in demantoid.
Demantoid garnet was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1868. Until 1919, at the start of communist Russia, demantoids were widely used and became popularized by Peter Carl Faberge’s jewelry. There are now deposits in Namibia, and in 2009 a deposit was found in Madagascar.
Tsavorite garnet was first discovered in Tanzania in 1967 by Charles Bridges. Tiffany & Co. marketed the gemstone in the early 70s to the public. Since its popularization, Tsavorites have been extremely valuable and difficult to find in large sizes.
Because demantoid garnet was discovered much earlier than tsavorite, demantoid is often found in antique and estate jewelry. In addition, when Market Square Jewelers refurbishes a antique piece of jewelry, we will attempt to replace a gemstone with an age-appropriate match.
Love antique jewelry or unique gemstones? Demantoid might be the stone for you.
Love the vivid green of tsavorite and its cutting-edge discovery? Tsavorite may be the one!
Wow Wow WOW! This collection of Native American jewelry just makes me drool!!! Purchased from one collector, this series features massive rings, huge bracelets, bear claw necklaces and squash blossoms, and a couple of sets with incredible chunks of American spiderweb turquoise. Shop our Native American Collection by clicking here.
When stuff like this comes our way, I try on every piece - imagining what it was like to work on each handmade item. Starting with finding the piece of treasured blue green turquoise, cutting and polishing it, and then creating a sterling mounting for each individual nugget.
Traditional Native American jewels, feature bold and bright contrasts of colors, such as turquoise and red/orange coral - this collection is no exception. Bold silver surrounds these pieces with organic floral motifs and brights balls of polished silver.
The rings below feature intarsia, a term used for stone inlay commonly found in Native American pieces.
Most times with new acquisitions, we polish all our pieces. This collection, on the contrary was not polished to perfection. So much of the beauty of these pieces lies in the patina of the metal - and the oxidation of the silver.
I worn this handmade belt as a bracelet - the slides move around a leather strap.
To see all of this Native American jewelry, plus others that are not featured, visit our Native American Collection by clicking here. You can always contact us with further questions about any of our items, by visiting our contact us page, here. We love Native American pieces and are so excited to have this collection to share with you! Enjoy!
Yes, I am one of them too! Us December babies have THE BEST birthstone, zircon!
Ranging from blue, to champagne, to burnt orange, zircon is an incredible gemstone that ranges in color dramatically! Most of our zircons are a vivid medium blue, with undertones of green. The more vibrant the color, the more valuable the gemstone. The lighter the stone, typically the less expensive.
Most often zircon will be fashioned and faceted in a round shape, showing off the beauty of the double refraction. Though sometimes, we will find emerald cuts and ovals; these are a much more rare cut.
When I asked for the story of Market Square Jewelers, my father came up with this masterpiece. I have never met someone so passionate about his "job" and business. Market Square Jewelers is a product of his passion, commitment and hard work. This is his story of Market Square Jewelers - told from his mouth, and his perspective. Enjoy!
"Our business started when we were in high school, making bead necklaces from natural stones, shells and metals. In the late 70s, we expanded our interest to cabochons and then to faceted gems. Because most jewelers and crafts people buy so few natural colored gems, we found it almost impossible to sell enough wholesale goods to survive. In the early 80s we learned the gem market from the streets of Boston and once we understood how to buy market value precious metal in the estate market, our future was written.
How do we show the most beautiful gems, cabochons or faceted, in the most incredible gold or silver settings we can purchase? This marriage between the earth’s treasures and these historic gold pieces continue to surprise us, even over thirty years later. New gemological technology has allowed man to dig deeper for gems whilst old manufacturing systems built beautiful filigree settings and fantastic embossed items.
We hope you like our inventory of gems and settings. No matter the value, we are focused on one piece at a time. There is no question how much we appreciate our great local clientele that shop with us here on the east coast and how much we appreciate you for your interest and enthusiasm around our goods. Thanks."
-PeterThis photograph, from left to right features, Nelson Tracey videographer from Los Angeles, Peter Henry owner of Market Square, Shyam Gem Broker in Sri Lanka, and Lonnie McCulloch International Gem Buyer for Market Square
The Victorian Era of jewelry and design technically began with the 1837 Coronation of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India. In reality it took a few years for the young queen’s love of art and fashion to become influential, with her style truly taking hold in the early 1840’s.
Queen Victoria reigned for over sixty years, until her death in 1901. When she took the throne, motorcars were unheard of and railroad trains were considered the height of new technology. Her rule saw the Colonial period rise and fall in India, the opening of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, the American Civil War, and the rise of the suffragette movement. All of these historical events influenced the designs of the times, but perhaps none so much as the Queen’s own mourning for the death of her beloved Consort, Prince Albert.
The Victorian Era is generally divided into three periods: the Romantic Period, The Grand Period and the Late, or Aesthetic Period.
The early years of the Victorian Era represented a movement away from the Georgian ideals, replacing rationalism with spirituality and mysticism. The jewelry of the Romantic period reflected the courtship and marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert.
Her engagement gift from Albert was a ring, which started the tradition of engagement rings! This one of a kind piece was in the shape of a snake, holding its tail in its mouth; a symbol of eternal love and wisdom. Her birthstone, an emerald, was set in the snakes head. Queen Victoria set the tone for her nation, and so engagement rings using the bride’s birthstone became wildly popular.
Clothing of the day covered women head to toe with high necklines and bonnets, hiding throats and ears. Because of this, necklaces and earrings of the times are few. Instead, brooches, rings and bracelets were often bold to emphasize the ideal of delicate hands and features. Bright gemstones in large sizes were popular, including amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, moss agate, ruby, and topaz. Rings often included interesting natural materials like coral, ivory and tortoise shell into their design. The Georgian period tradition of halo settings transformed from circlets of diamonds to strand of seed pearls floating in a frame around the center gem.
The natural world inspired many of the motifs of the times with themes such as bouquets of flowers, birds, snakes and dragons. The early part of the Victorian era also saw gemstones that were attributed with magical properties and special meanings. Pink coral was said to protect the wearer from evil and disease, ruby to symbolize passion; seed pearls to depict tears. The Romantic Period was a time of fairy tales and magic!
The decade of the 1860’s was tragic for Queen Victoria. The passing of the Queen Mother in 1861 was quickly followed by death of her beloved Prince Consort, Albert. In addition, the start of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln deepened the international mourning.
Death was a constant presence in the Victorian times, and so the traditions surrounding mourning were elaborate and quite strict: Full Mourning, which required an entirely black wardrobe and jewelry, was worn for a year. Half mourning, grey and somber tones in both jewelry and clothing, extended for the next six months. There were entire industries dedicated to mourning fashion, with wealthy women buying new wardrobes of black clothing upon the death of a loved one. Even servants dyed their clothing black, and might purchase jewelry to match, and so mourning truly became an industry.
In addition to wearing all black, mourners coveted mementos of the deceased. Mourning jewelry became popular, such as lockets to hold a photo or lock of hair. Memorial rings appeared, featuring elaborately woven hair and intricate engraving. Most often these pieces were made with jet, onyx or gemstones with deeper tones, such as garnets and amethysts.
Counterbalancing this season of mourning as fashion came the beginning of tourism for the upper classes and those of a scientific demeanor. The excavation of pyramids along the Nile created a fascination with Egyptian themes, such as scarabs, falcons, ankhs and the images of the Egyptian Gods themselves
For others, the plundering of pre-Roman Etruscan tombs in Italy was more interesting. Jewelry designers spent much time recreating Etruscan granulation techniques to replicate the jewels discovered in the archaeological digs that delved into the art of these ancient civilizations.
In the 1870s, a major opal discovery was made in the British Territory of Australia. Diamonds had been discovered in South Africa in 1867, and were becoming widely available for the upper classes. The world exploration continued with a French expedition to China, which created in new interest in jade. These international discoveries and fresh new materials widened the world of jewelry design.
New Designs for a New Class:
The rise of the middle class, and the growing power of their purchasing dollar lead to a surge in demand for “Fine Costume” jewelry – pieces that were as carefully crafted and as immaculate looking as the jewels worn by the upper crust, but at a lower cost. Advances in technology helped meet this demand, with goldsmiths bringing gas and steam engines into their studios to create materials such as rolled gold fill and mass produced silver pieces. Pyrite, cut steel and marcasite glittered like diamonds in the right light, and surged in popularity in these glittery, expensive looking costume pieces. Thanks to the high quality of craftsmanship, much of this jewelry has survived and is still being worn today.
The Industrial Revolution, Sherlock Holmes, the Suffragette Movement.. these are the characteristics of the final period of the Victorian Era as well as the designs it influenced!
As the clothing of the day became lighter and more functional, jewelry of the day became lighter and smaller too. This change is characterized by the 1890s drawings by Charles Dan Gibson, who’s “Gibson Girl” was independent, well-read and free spirited.
Women were increasingly involved in the business world, and newly popular sporting activities such as bicycling led to dramatic wardrobe changes, wearing much less jewelry during the day. Small stud earrings became popular, as the last Victorian hairstyles exposed the ears. Around this time is solitaire rings begin to be seen. The aesthetics of the Art Nouveau era were starting to be seen during this time – with soft curves and shapes accented by delicately colored amethysts, emeralds and opals.
Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch ever to sit the English throne, and the longest reigning Queen in all of history. The fashion period named for her, The Victorian Era, is as wide ranged as the empire she governed, as changing as the roles she played in life, and yet as iconic and timeless as the the Queen herself.
Heirloom piece can make especially meaningful bridal jewelry, passed down from generation to generation with an aura of love and family already a part of the ring. Unfortunately, with that lovely sentiment comes a generation’s worth of wear and tear, as well! Heirloom pieces, be they twenty years old or from the 1800’s, can almost always be restored. This refreshes the piece and makes it secure to wear for another lifetime, without disturbing the spirit of tradition in which it was given.
The first thing to check when evaluating heirlooms is the condition of the prongs. The prongs are responsible for keeping the stone safe and secure, so check that they are laying flat against the gem, that they are not paper thin, and most importantly, that there are none missing! Now’s a good time to look at the stone itself, and take note of any cracks or chips that might be a problem in the future.
Next we look at the undercarriage: Engagement rings are usually worn alongside wedding bands, and this can cause uneven wear to the sides of the ring. Finally, check out the shank, or back, of the ring. This is the area that will be worked on when the ring is sized, so take note of any engravings you’d like to keep for sentimental reasons! If the metal is worn very thin, a new shank may be in order.
Heirloom jewelry can be fairly new, or it can be a hundred years old! No matter how many generations it’s been passed through, there’s sure to be some wear. Correcting this wear gives you the chance to tailor the piece to perfection!
Although pearls have been prized for thousands of years, the culturing process only started it’s existence around the 1800’s with the culturing of “blister pearls” and soon replaced the previously popular mother-of-pearl industry. The perfection of the culturing process along with the modern pearl market and international trade industry really only came into its own in the last fifty years and is credited (mostly) to the work of Kokichi Mikimoto and his associates. One of the first Post WWII Japanese entrepreneurs to open stores in the United States, along with major marketing campaigns and creative sales approaches Mikimoto is now a world wide recognizable brand associated with luxury and romance.
More often than not people assume that the term “cultured pearl” is synonymous with “imitation” or otherwise implicates that the pearl is not a genuine one. In reality a cultured pearl is no more or less genuine than one occurring in nature and typically takes much more time, energy and resources to produce. The only differences between the two are rarity and the fact that human intervention began the process of creating the cultured pearl, other than that the rest is all taken care of by the mollusks as in their natural and normal biological processes! Comprised of aragonite, a calcium carbonate crystal, pearls come in a range of natural colors and exhibit wonderful luster that makes them appear as if they glow from within.
The journey that a tiny cultured pearl must take in order to become that sumptuous strand or set of striking earrings is massive and requires work from many nations and hands. For instance, depending on the country, some farmers must grow their own stock of mollusks, raise them to maturity, nucleate the animals with tiny mother-of-pearl beads and wait months, even years to produce enough pearls to make any returns on initial investments.
The pearls are then harvested, cleaned, sorted, sent to market for either wholesaling or directly to manufacturers, trading hands hundreds of times before ending up on a retail sales floor or around your neck! In other words, culturing pearls by no means denotes an inferior product, but are the product of many hundreds of years of trial and error as well the fruits of a global market place and the simple but extraordinary creatures that make them.
1. Skin Tone and Gold Color
Skin tone plays an important factor in which ring will look best on your hand. Before stepping into the store, consider whether you have cool or warm skin tones. Cool skin tones usually have pinkish or reddish undertones and warm skin tones will have yellow or golden undertones. You’ll find that cool skin tones favor white metals, such as silver, platinum and white gold; while warm skin tones go beautifully with yellow metals such as gold, copper or bronze.
In addition to skin tone, it’s also important to consider gold color. Gold comes in four main colors – white, yellow, rose and green. Take your time trying rings on your hand and see what works. You might be surprised at which colors look best on your hand!
2. Width of Band
Once you have a basic idea of color, start trying on rings! You’ll need to browse around to find the best band width for your finger. Look at the at the distance between the two knuckles on your ring finger. When you are trying on rings, take two bands from each extreme and put them on the hand. If you have long fingers, you’ll find you can wear a wider band. The same advice goes for matching a band to an engagement ring – try on different widths to see what has the best proportion on your hand!
Your lifestyle will help you figure out how high you want the ring to sit off your hand. If you play sports or work with your hands, you might want something that is very low profile. If you want a band that is low to the skin, you could try on an antique band from the Victorian era which tend to be very low profile. Alternatively, you might be drawn to a thicker style. Wear each option around the store for a few minutes to make sure it is comfortable, try texting or writing to make sure the band fits your lifestyle.
4. Antique Engagement Rings
You love your antique engagement ring, but are having a hard time finding the right band to go with it. If you are planning on wearing your ring and wedding band together all the time, look for a contour designed to interlock with the matching engagement ring. You might be able to customize the band so the rings fit right against each other. You can also seek out an antique wedding band to match from the same time period as the engagement ring.
5. Gold Content
Pure, raw gold that has been refined from ore is 24K, or 100%, gold. It’s also quite soft, extremely expensive, and an intense shade of yellow. Gold is alloyed to harden it, to change it’s color and to make it more affordable. 10K gold is the least expensive, and also the hardest, gold alloy commonly used in wedding rings, while 18K has a greater heft, and price tag, but will wear quickly to a wonderfully soft patina. 14K, the standard in America, is a balance of price, durability and value!
Ask a friend
If you want a surprise proposal, a great way is to ask a friend for her ring size. Even if she doesn’t know, she could be the one to subtly ask. She could also take your girlfriend engagement ring shopping just “for fun” and report the size back. We always have groups of girlfriends trying on rings in the shop and we will write down everyones size. She can then casually drop the card back with you for the correct size.
Sneak a ring
You can snag a ring from her jewelry box. Make sure it is a current ring she is wearing and that you know what finger it is on. Even if it is not her ring finger – we can typically help you approximate the size. Just make sure it’s not her favorite ring, or she will be tearing apart the house looking for it.
Send us a picture of her hand
We’ve seen enough hands over the years to be able to help you find an approximate size of her hand. Just send us a photo of her hand with or without rings on it, and we can help you determine the size.
Buy the ring and size it after
This is the most popular and reliable option. Unless you know her size exactly, lots of times you will have to adjust the ring to make sure it fits after the proposal. You can find a local jeweler to size the ring exactly for her hand. She can always get it readjusted later too!
While modern jewelry is produced in lots of tens, or even hundreds of thousands of identical pieces, antique rings were crafted in much smaller production runs, with each individual mountings finished by hand. This means that each vintage ring is unique, bearing small details that are individual and beautiful. We’ve worked with couples for over 30 years to find the perfect vintage or estate piece for their taste and budget.
We Feature Antique Diamond Cuts
The way a diamond is faceted, or cut, is as distinctive as a fingerprint. While modern cuts focus on glitter and glitz, antique cuts can glow as though lit from within! The high dome of Old Mine Cut diamonds will look like a romantic full moon in some lights, while others will reflect entire rainbows of color!
At Market Square Jewelers, It’s not all diamonds
While the practice of giving a ring to signify engagement goes back hundreds of years, the use of diamonds is a more modern variation. We set our antique engagement rings with a variety of stones, from the finest Ceylon Sapphires in every shade of the rainbow, to truly unusual, colorful gems like spinel and zircon!
We Focus on the Craftsmanship
‘They don’t make them like that anymore. Literally.’ Compare two filigree pieces, one from the modern era, and one from the Art Deco era, and you’ll see some major differences. While the modern piece may look clunky and thick, the antique filigree will be crop and clean, and of much finer detail.
We Feature Modern Gemstones in Estate Rings
Many of our pieces feature antique gemstones that are extremely rare today. In some instances, we set an antique or vintage mounting with a new gemstone hand picked from our extensive collection. We do this to enhance the beauty of the piece or to replace a gemstone that was worn or damaged.
This is what Sharon G had to say about her experience at Market Square Jewelers.
This summer Market Square Jewelers fulfilled for me what I thought was an unattainable dream wedding ring set!
From Michigan to New Hampshire I was chasing what I thought to be a unicorn ring, a nonexistent replication of my great grandmothers orange blossom wedding band that I could wear stacked as my ten year anniversary band. I came into the shop after being inspired by pieces posted in their online Etsy shop then realizing this was also the same shop I had walked past every summer while visiting my family vacationing in Maine. Imagine my amazement to not only find the vintage 1940's orange blossom band I had been looking for in their Portsmouth shop, but it fit and locked right onto my finger as if it was always meant to be there.
After being completely blown away with my magical find I was eager to visit the Dover shop which had even more vintage settings, this allowed me to explore the idea of restoring my wedding ring, my prongs had worn down and I was no longer able to wear my ring every day as I once had. Being that my husband had picked this ring himself and me being sentimental I wasn't sure about altering my original ring and I didn't want to abandon it all either, I was completely undecided and looking with options open. Not only did I fall in love with MSJ but I fell I love with a vintage diamond prongs, setting and all.
With the knowledge of the Jewelers at MSJ I was able to verbalized my vision and they made my dreams come true. I'm still blown away by the magic that happened in those 9 short days. I am purely in awe when I look at my new wedding ring that was reset with a vintage diamond just waiting for me to find it, the orange blossom ten year anniversary band I never thought I'd find and a necklace I had set with my original diamond from my wedding ring which shines brighter and looks even more stunning on my neck then it did on my finger.
A million thank you's to Jess from Dover MSJ and Gail from Portsmouth MSJ I will forever be grateful. No one else will ever be handling my jewelry again.
Sharon outside of our Portsmouth, NH storefront Sharon and her mom outside our Dover, NH storefront