ISADORAS BLOG

unabashedly sentimental

Niello

Every day at Isadoras is Throwback Thursday, as we spend our days playing with the pieces of the past. But I thought I would begin taking an extra moment each Thursday to share a bit of jewelry history. Today I would like to talk about niello, a jewelry technique that I am currently obsessed with.

So what is niello?

The short answer is that niello is both a black metal alloy and a piece of metal decorated with niello.

niello-chain

a Victorian niello watch chain

So what is the long “ish” answer?

A labor intensive and artful way to create jewelry, silver is etched or engraved. Then the niello alloy (The niello alloy is composed of copper, silver & lead that is mixed multiple times with sulfur to create a black power or paste.) is worked into the silver jewelry’s grooves. The metal is heated so the black metal alloy is hardened within the jewelry’s engraving creating a high contrast look, almost enamel-like, but distinctly different. The piece of jewelry is then polished.

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Antique niello cigarette case

Sometimes I have an easy time expressing why I love something and sometimes I find it very difficult to put into words why something captures my imagination. With niello it is the latter. But I’ve attempted to articulate my thoughts because I think niello is too beautiful not to be spoken of.

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Victorian niello silver chain

I think some jewelry is built on its statement value or the force of its idea. But with niello I feel like it is all in the details. Sure there are a lot of ways to express the contrast between silver and black and yet the way niello expresses this contrast is subtly its own. Unlike enamel where the black is layered over the metal, the black of the niello alloy and the silver exist on the same plane, creating a pattern, that almost tapestry-like, is built into the fabric of the piece. The pieces therefore age together and exist together in a holistic way. I think this is why I like niello so much. I love how metal looks after it has been worn for many years, the act of being loved giving it a different and richer luster than newness. And with niello you get both the complexity of multiple tones of metal and the luster of age in each piece of antique jewelry. -xo Miko

Please visit our website for more beautiful niello jewelry!

 

Colored Stone Vintage Eternity Bands!

I adore vintage colored stone eternity bands for their versatility and presence! They are wonderful to pair with your engagement ring to create a beautiful complimentary accent, OR to wear alone as a wedding or engagement ring.

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Here are a few of my favorite unique and vintage eternity bands:

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Isn’t this Art Deco Ruby Eternity band wonderful? See the engraved side accents?

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Shop ISADORAS ETERNITY BANDS for more vintage options HERE.

What is Chrysoprase?

In the store I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about the stone chrysophrase so I thought I would re-publish this post from 2011 about one of my favorite little known stones.

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Vintage Chrysoprase Ring

 

Often mistaken for jade, chrysophrase is a beautiful opalescent green color and is part of the same rare quartz family chalcedony, as onyx, agate & carnelian.  It gets its beautiful green color from nickel and it rates a 7 on the Mohs scale. So it is sturdy enough to wear on a regular basis!

Chrysoprase-Photo Via philip botes

Chrysoprase, Photo from Pinterest

 

Like many of my favorite gemstones it has a long history.  The word “chrysophrase” comes from the Greek “Chryso” meaning gold and the root word “Prasinon” meaning green.  And the ancient Greeks and Romans used chrysophrase to make beautiful cameos and intaglios. Chrysophrase can also be found in the decoration and jewelry of the Ancient Pharaohs.  And in ancient China it was believed to balance the Yin and Yang, while in India it was believed to heal a broken heart.

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Art Deco Chrysoprase Necklace

 

Historically one of chrysophrase’s biggest fans was the famous Peter Carl Fabrage who featured it in many of his exotic pieces.

In our store I am drawn to chrysophrase pieces used in Arts and Crafts jewelry and Art Deco jewelry. –xo Miko

Please visit our website for more beautiful chrysoprase jewelry!