I’ve probably used that title before, but it has real poignancy now, as this is the last lot of AAA rainbow moonstone I am going to have for a while, and I may as well look for more at the end of the rainbow, along with the crock of gold. It’s 3mm rose cut round, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so if this is your thing, grab it now before it runs out. Lovely, clean material with bright blue, green and gold adularescence (flash). I’ve got it in both Hong Kong and US stores: the Hong Kong store has stones with the kite shaped-faceting and the US store has the triangle facets. Why is the AAA so hard to find now (and it is, and if you can find it, it is an arm and a leg jobby)? Well, as usual, it’s a supply and demand thing – people have become more aware of the fine grade moonstone in recent years, and more prepared to pay extra for it. But it’s scarce because of the way moonstone is formed, in many layers. This layered makeup is what gives the stone its classic blue or green flash, as light refracts off the layers and produces that unworldly sheen that appears sometimes suspended within the stone. A layered makeup is obviously going to most commonly produce a very fractured stone; which then interferes with the refraction of light and results in a poor flash. There is absolutely no shortage of this kind of material at all, but the clean material is obviously less common in nature. You can find it here in my Hong Kong store, and here in my US store, $3 per stone each in either store.
It’s fashionable to dismiss Freud these days – ‘Fraud’, my cognitive psychology professor at university used to call him. But before I did a psychology degree, I studied history and one of my history tutors observed that he developed his theories during a period where whilst sex was a taboo subject, death was not. These days, that has reversed, so that now death is a taboo subject. Which means that a great deal of things that the Victorians wallowed in, that gave them comfort strikes us as uncomfortable, even creepy. The practice of going into formal mourning for months on end seems morbid and unnecessary to many of us; the posing and photographing of dead relatives morbidly bizarre.
Mourning jewellery has been around since the 16th century but it became most popular following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, when Queen Victoria and her court went into heavy mourning for decades. This sustained an entire industry in the production of jet and jet jewellery for the town of Whitby in Yorkshire for years, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to mourning jewellery. Whilst browsing the pages of an auction catalogue, I came something known as hair mourning jewellery. Now, the idea of a lock of hair kept in a locket as a memento, not just of someone who has gone, but perhaps of their own wispy baby hair, or the hair of a loved one is not a strange one. However, the Victorians took the idea of hair as memento mori well beyond this, creating elaborate pieces of jewellery out of hair, often from the hair of a deceased loved one.
I have to say I have had to challenge my own revulsion on this one, because they do disgust me. I saw these pieces and just thought, ‘ugh’. And yet I am not revolted by the idea of a wig of human hair, or a hair piece, so what is it? The association with death added to a kind of sense that it’s all a bit grubby? To the Victorians there was nothing macabre or strange about such works; they were more about celebrating your connections to others, about sentiment and emotion.
And in fact, the fashion for hair jewellery was not just confined to mourning – elaborate pieces, sometimes made with hair from different people, acted as sentimental family trees. Women wove their own pieces, with patterns found in magazines, just as you might knit a sweater or crochet a pan-holder today. As for grubby, we live in very sanitary times, compared to almost the entirety of human history. In a time where heavy clothing would not be routinely washed in order to preserve it, and even the wealthy didn’t bathe as frequently as we do, there would likely be no association of dirt and a lack of hygiene with such items.
In fact, hair is not a bad material for jewellery in general and mourning in particular – ifyou’re looking for something that maintains your connection to someone who has gone, hair is both very personal and very decay resistant – as can be seen from the above pieces, all over 100 years old. If you want to know more about it, you can check out the website for the Victorian Hairwork Society here, buy yourself some brand-new non-antique hair jewellery here or grab yourself a copy of Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hair Work by Dr. Helen Sheumaker. As for me, I’ll be putting it in the basket of things that are interesting but I don’t need to own.
I’m so in love with these: beautiful rose-cut pears in a variety of exciting stones. A while ago I had some 3x4mm rose cut sapphire pears, and they were really popular, but I struggled to replace them, as it’s always a bit difficult finding nice quality sapphire at a price-point that doesn’t make you choke on your morning tea. Then I had a brainwave: tanzanite! The same colour and effect but much more plentiful and at a price that won’t stick in your gullet. I mentioned it to a customer and she said, ‘oh, how about opal? How about rainbow moonstone?’ So I said good plan and went to my supplier who said, ‘Pink tourmaline! Green tourmaline!’ So now we have all of those things. The tourmaline is not going to hang around. I don’t have a lot of it and it’s clean. I’ve already sold a fair amount of it. The tanzanite, moonstone and opal I have plenty of. The opal is very, very powerful. I mean, not in a mystical way; the play of colour is super-strong. It’s white Ethiopian material, so the play-of-colour appears suspended in the stone. The rainbow moonstone is AA grade, so a few wisps and veils but excellent clarity and strong adularescence. The tanzanite is light blue/violet depending on the angle of view, the pleochroic little so-and-so. I’ve got light pink and dark pink tourmaline and it is stunning, and green tourmaline as well which is unusual and which never hangs around long in its rose-cut form. Prices start at $6.10 for a light pink tourmaline stone rising to $10 for a dark pink. Everything else is in between!
You can find them on the Hong Kong site here, and on the US site here.
Our May 2017 newsletter is out and we have a cornucopia of new stock! The big story is the 3x4mm rose cut pears, in fantastic new gemstones, as above but we also have new tanzanite, labradorite, rainbow moonstone in other shapes and sizes and more! You can get the international newsletter here, and the US one here, and you can sign up at either website to make sure you never miss out!