How to Buy Lapis Lazuli Antique Jewelry

How to Buy Lapis Lazuli Antique Jewelry

Lapis Lazuli has been loved since antiquity for its intense, vibrant cobalt blue color. It can be flecked with either white or gold (calcite or pyrite).

A metamorphic rock, mainly composed of the mineral Lazurite, it usually originates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia or Chile. It is also mined, to a lesser extent, in Italy, Mongolia, the United States, and Canada.

Below you will find some of the many applications for Lapis Lazuli in antique and vintage jewelry:

Pietre Dure

Lapis Lazuli is also one of the principal stones used on Italian Pietre Dure (micro-mosaics).

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Necklace, 1808, Pietra dure, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, gold. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Acrostic

The Georgians and the Victorians, with their passion for acrostic jewelry (‘The Language of Stones’) used Lapis Lazuli to represent the letter ‘L’ for ‘Love’.

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Acrostic Pendant. 1830. V&A Museum.

Cameo and Intaglio

Many beautiful examples can be found of Lapis Lazuli used in cameo and intaglio.

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Lapis Lazuli Cameo. 1580-1600. Italy. V&A Museum.

Arts & Crafts

The Arts & Crafts movement designers favored Lapis Lazuli as the stone fitted in with their ‘beauty before perceived value’ philosophy.

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Arts and Crafts Pendant 1903. May Morris. Set with a variety of stones, including lapis lazuli. V&A Museum.

Art Deco

Art Deco Jewellery designers prized Lapis Lazuli as it suited their vibrant, bold styles.

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Art Deco Lapis Lazuli Diamond Gold Earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Cartier stands out as a design company who loved to use Lapis Lazuli during the Art Deco era.

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Lapis Lazuli Brooch. Cartier 1920-1930. V&A Museum.

Imitations

There are four other stones that can be mistaken for Lapis Lazuli and should be watched out.

These are:

  1. Dyed Jasper or Howlite. It will have a cobalt blue color but will not show the white or golden patches. (Known as ‘Swiss Lapis’).
  2. Sodalite, which is one of the components of Lapis Lazuli, looks similar but the color is much paler.
  3. There is a synthetic spinel which also imitates Lapis Lazuli. (Known as ‘Gilson Lapis’). This looks very similar but does not have the same random patterns shown in natural Lapis Lazuli.
  4. Azurite is not as hard and has a darker tint.

Tip: To see if a stone has been dyed, try removing the color with acetone.

Final note:

Lapis Lazuli has, of course, been used as a paint pigment since the late Middle Ages and has been a favorite of many of the great artists. This beautiful painting by Vermeer showcases not only Lapis Lazuli as a paint pigment but also a style of pearl earring from the era.

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‘The Girl With a Pearl Earring’. Vermeer.

It is highly recommended that only you purchase antique and vintage jewelry from a recognized dealer.

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How to Buy Onyx Antique and Vintage Jewelry

How to Buy Onyx Antique and Vintage Jewelry

Onyx, with its sleek and glossy beauty, has long been sought after for use in jewelry. It can be found in many beautiful antique and vintage pieces. 

Victorian Era 

Black onyx was particularly revered by the Victorians, especially during the Grand Era 1861-1880. The Victorians of this era loved all-black materials and the fashion of wearing mourning styles went far beyond that which was necessary.  They created a wide variety of jewelry items from all black onyx, including lockets, pendants, brooches, and earrings. They also mixed it with coral, turquoise, seed pearls, and rubies.

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Victorian onyx and rose gold earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Art Deco Era

Black onyx was also especially beloved in the Art Deco era as the stone lent itself to the bold and stark minimalism of the Machine Aesthetic. Jewelry designers used contrasting materials such as coral, jade, or diamonds to further accentuate the beauty of the black.

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Art Deco Diamond, Jade, Platinum and Onyx earrings. 1stdibs

Theodor Fahrner was a well known Art Deco designer who used onyx in many designs.

Cameo

Onyx is also one of the most popular materials for cameo as the bands are ideal for creating contrasting relief images. Sardonyx is the name for the brown and white banded variety of onyx that is often used for cameo and intaglio.

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Sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Augustus. British Museum.

Some Things to Know about Onyx

  • It is often thought of as being pure black but in reality, it is usually banded white and black or banded white and brown.
  •  It can come in a variety of other colors, such as shades of white, green, and red, but these colors are not generally found in jewelry usage.
  • Onyx is a variety of chalcedony. 
  • It can be differentiated from agate because the bands in onyx are parallel whereas in agate they are curved.
  • Onyx is cool to the touch, quite heavy, and has a highly polished and glossy finish.  For this reason, it can sometimes be confused with French Jet. 
  • The demand for pure black onyx has traditionally outstripped the supply so most all black onyx is dyed.  This is why most black onyx has such an even finish.
  • A trained eye can tell the difference between dyed and natural onyx under a loupe by looking for uneven surface color.

It is always recommended that you purchase antique and vintage jewelry from a recognized dealer. 

What is Mizpah Antique Jewelry?

  • Mizpah is from the Hebrew “watchtower”.
  • It comes from a passage from Genesis in the Bible: “And Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another”.
  • The word mizpah and sometimes the accompanying passage were engraved on many jewelry items during the Victorian era.
  • Often, the engraving would be subtle and only visible upon inspection.  But more often, the words would be the main feature of the jewelry item. 
  • Mizpah jewelry can be found in both gold and silver or other metals.
  • Antique Mizpah jewelry is considered to be highly collectible.

Typical Mizpah brooch.

Typical Mizpah brooch in gold