Monday, December 1, 2014

A Bohemian Rhapsody

Recently, I've seen a resurgence in the popularity of 'Bohemian Garnet' jewelry.  And the garnet is, which if I'm being honest here, by far one of my favorite stones second only to the diamond.  For me, it's the rich, blood-red color of the Bohemian Garnet that captures the imagination.  The depth of the color gives the stone an almost mysterious quality - a haunting beauty.  And, apparently, I'm not the only one.  The Bohemian Garnet has been haphazardly collected from Czechoslovakian river silts since ancient times and began to be exported to Europe in the early middle ages at the time of the Great Migration of Nations during the 6th to 8th centuries. 

This amazing, circa 1900 Bohemian Garnet ring is set in 14k yellow gold with garnets set in a circular,
3-tiered pattern is offered by The Vault Fine Antiques & Estate Jewelry on Ruby Lane, $895.

The Bohemian Garnet is a transparent to translucent mineral with a deep red color, belonging to the group of pyrops.  The Bohemian Garnet is a precious stone of small dimension (from 0.2 to 0.8 cm in size), fiery or blood-red in color (colored with a chromium admixture).  In 1679, Bohuslav Balbín gave the pyrope the name Bohemian garnet, and since then were the Pyrops found in the Bohemia called "Bohemian Garnet."  Its name is derived from the Greek word Pyropos, (pyr = fire, ops = eye) and from the English word Granatus.  According to the Mohs hardness scale, it has a hardness number of 6.5 to 7.5 and boasts exceptional color stability as well as resistance to heat and acids.

A stunning array of sizes & cuts of bright wine-colored Bohemian Garnets, this stunning bangle has an abstract floral
design which is truly lovely. The metal tests as very low karat (8-ish) gold, which is often referred to
as 'garnet gold', it was often used in Bohemian garnet jewelry.  It has a rosy hue. It is most likely English in origin
& dates to about 1880.  It is offered by Victoria Sterling through Ruby Lane & is currently on sale (Hint, Hint!), $1,190.

In the Middle Ages, the popularity of Bohemian Garnets waned a bit except for a few rare gold relics have been preserved from the second half of the 14th century.  But, it was not until the 2nd half of the 15th century that garnets began to be seen as decorations on liturgical silver such as chalices.  The peak period came under the reign of Emperor Rudolf II (ruled 1576 – 1610), who supported stone cutters and introduced the "right of first refusal" on garnets of exceptional size.  After 1700 the use of Bohemian Garnets became more widespread in jewelry.  Jewelries with small stones became fashionable in the 2nd quarter of the 18th century and so the Empress Marie Terezie issued a ban in 1762 on the export of Bohemian Garnets from the country. Thereby creating a domestic monopoly on the mining and working of the stones.  Stone-cutting workshops opened in Podsedice, Dlažkovice, in Světlá nad Sázavou, Třebenice, Horní Třebívlice and in Skalka. The Czech National Renaissance established the Bohemian Garnet as the mineralogical symbol of Bohemia.  It became an attribute of Czechoslovakian patriots and can be seen on the portraits of the wife of Václav Hank, the daughter of František Palacký, Božena Němcová, etc.).


Not only is the St. Maurus Reliquary inlaid with Bohemian Garnets, lapis & other precious stones, it also has an
amazing historical story as well featuring spies, Nazis & World War II - read more about it
at the Czech Republic Tourism website.  You will not be disappointed!

To help date garnet jewels from the 19th century, setting techniques are often used.  There are two primary garnet setting techniques which were used: grain and rivet (jewelry techniques).  In the 19th century, Bohemian Garnet jewelry makers successfully displayed industrial exhibitions through Czechoslovakia and abroad.  Thanks to their success at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958, Bohemian Garnet returned to the contemporary stage and started a new era in history of Bohemian jewelry production.  

Beautiful pair of Bohemian Garnet earrings in the shape of a flower head in 14k yellow gold from the earlier
part of the 20th century offered through Ruby Lane by Akaham, $370.

If you would like more detailed information about the Bohemian Garnet, check out this great article, Bohemian Garnet - Today, by Jochen Schlüter and Wolfgang Weitschat.


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