Tag Archives: traditional birthstones

A Gemstone of the First Water (And no, not diamonds)

 

An enormous aquamarine crystal and Dom Pedro – the gemstone cut from it.

Aquamarine is the traditional birthstone for the month of March.

 

Aquamarine means seawater. It’s the perfect name, since the stone ranges from pale green to middle blues. The shade depends on the how much of different forms of iron impurities the stone has. (A different iron produces yellow and a combination makes a dark blue!)

 

Compared to emerald, it’s a relatively common form of beryl-it’s found all over the world, but most gem quality stones come from Brazil.

 

Pale aquamarines can be confused with many other types of gems.

 

In the 1740s a huge diamond was mined in Brazil. It became the property of the Portuguese royal family-the Braganzas. This Braganza Diamond vanished. Some believe it was cut into much smaller gems and set in the crown jewels. In this case the famous diamond might have been a particularly brilliant aquamarine or white topaz. (Apparently the reports can’t even agree on what color the diamond was-famous, but poorly reported!)

 

There’s a beautiful carved aquamarine, also of Brazilian origin, just recently acquired by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It’s known as the Dom Pedro and is 14″ long and almost 5 lbs.

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Topaz seems to be winning…

Erte’s Topaz, a part of his Precious Stones Suite, is a November gem of a different sort. It’s inspired by one of November’s traditional birthstones. (The other two being citrine and tigerseye. Since topaz also inspired a piece by Mucha, I think topaz is hogging the limelight…)

 

I’ve known of Erte for a long time, and in many ways he’s my touchstone image for Art Deco, but outside of knowing his style I never thought much too much about him.

 

So I hadn’t stopped to think about that iconic name, as streamlined and deco as his art. Not a surprise that it’s a pseudonym. I always link Erte to Paris, so it was a little more of a surprise is that he was born in Russia. His birth name was Romain de Tirtoff. He used the French pronunciation of his initials to distance himself from his career military family.

 

Erte was famous for his Art Deco fashion and set designs. Born in 1892 he was lucky enough to not only enjoy being part of the emergence of deco in the 1920s, but lived help its revival in the 1960s and his enduring influence on art and the fashion industry.

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