G for Garnet

Garnet is one of the oldest known stones to man. It is the first gem mentioned in the Bible, in Hebrew “nophek”. Indeed the Talmud mentions garnet as being Noah’s only source of light in the Ark in the form of a carbuncle. A carbuncle often refers to ancient red garnet and red stones in general. It was one of four stones to be given by God to King Solomon.

Garnets have also been found to adorm Egyptian mummies, set in necklaces and other jewels. The oldest red garnet bead necklace to have been found is believed to be from 5,000 BC.

In ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.

Because the gem comes in such a wide range of colours, they each have a specific name.

The green garnets are also called tsavorite – named after the Tsavo Game Reserve in Kenya where it was first found by British geologist Campbell R. Bridges in 1967 and named by Harry Platt of Tiffany & Company.

My favourite is perhaps the demantoid garnet for the inclusion it sometimes hold: a horsetail. An inclusion is any material trapped within a stone during formation. In the case of a horsetail, a formation of golden feathery inclusions of chrysolite form in curves resembling the tail of a horse.

Rhodolite is a purplish red variety. Red garnets are also called almandine, pyrope, whereas the more orangey type are called spessartite, almandite and hessonite.

Red garnets were made even more popular in the mid-16th century when a large deposit was discovered in Central Europe. It became one of the most widely traded gems by the late 1800s.

Its current retail cost could reach £38,000 at a specialised antiques jeweller.

Garnet rates a 6.5-7.5/10 on the Mohs scale. The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was created by Friedrich Mohs in 1822 and determines the scratch resistance of minerals when scratched by another mineral.

The Mohs scale is used to manufacture everyday objects: your mobile phone’s screen glass is made of a material that scratches at level 6, some at level 7.

Garnets are stable to light and chemicals which make it a popular choice to set in jewellery. However, it should always be cleaned with care as these gems are sometimes treated to make their appearance even more desirable. The most common treatment for this gem would be fracture filled: if there was a small fracture within the stone, it would be filled with resin or similar composite to fill in the gap and make it look “flawless”. The fillings can usually be spotted with a magnifier and causes a flash of light when positioned at the right angle.

In general, it is safe to assume garnets are untreated. But the economic impact on garnets such as demantoid and tsavorite can dictate whether a stone is treated or not. These two types are garnets are often considered to be the most desirable and usually found in small sizes, so their value goes up significantly with size.

Fabergé Platinum Round Demantoid & Diamond Set Halo Ring selling for £34,200. Mounted in platinum, it has a 2.50cts round demantoid garnet with an SSEF certificate indicating it is Russian, and has been heating to enhance colour, and set with 130 round white diamonds totalling 0.90ct.

If the budget doesn’t stretch that high, other garnets, like rhodolite, are far more common in larger sizes.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of garnet. It offers a multitude of different readily available hues to suit all sorts of budget. The key then when choosing an item with garnet is really to think with what outfit would look best with that colour.

Photomicrography – What it is and how it helps us in determining the value of a gem

As a valuer and gemmologist I work with gemstones daily. Testing, grading and valuing coloured gems is a personal highlight of my work and it was around 5 years ago when testing a Ceylon sapphire that I first fell in love with photomicrography.

I noticed that viewing the stone under the microscope allowed me to dive deeper into understanding the gem and its value. Since then, what was a routine part of gem testing has become a hobby of mine and I can spend hours viewing one gemstone, trying to capture the perfect photomicrograph. In 2021 I was awarded second place in the Gem-A photography competition for this image.

So what is photomicrography?

Put simply, photomicrography is the photography of objects (gemstones in this case) under a microscope.

To begin, I start by thoroughly cleaning the gemstone or item of jewellery I am working on. It’s important not to have any dirt, grease, or dirt on the stone prior to inspection. I will then spend some time viewing the stone in several positions and angles to allow me to find the perfect inclusion scene for my photography. It’s not uncommon for me to spend 30 minutes just getting the perfect lighting and angle for my image. Sometimes I take several photographs at very slightly different focal lengths and then stack the images together using computer software. This can create a sense of depth within the finished piece. This image is made from a stack of 20 photomicrographs.

What can photomicrography tell us about a gemstone?

Natural or Synthetic?

With a higher level of zoom than a jeweller’s loupe, the microscope allows us a more in-depth view of the gem. This can allow us to determine if a gemstone is natural or synthetic; in this image of a synthetic ruby for example where we can see curved striae indicative of Verneuil Flame Fusion growth. In the case of natural stones, we may find crystal inclusions, colour-zoning and/or fingerprints. The microscope can also be a useful step in identifying synthetic diamonds.


We can also detect treatments such as coating, dyeing and fracture filling. This image shows a natural ruby which has been lead-glass filled to improve its apparent clarity. This is an important treatment to be able to identify before carrying out any repairs as the filler is unstable and can degrade severely under high heat, like that of a jeweller’s torch – or by cleaning in ultrasonic or steam cleaners. You will see from the image that the surface of the stone appears ‘crazed’ under magnification. At a higher level of magnification we may also encounter bubbles within the glass, another tell-tale sign of treatment.

Heat treatment is considered a standard treatment within the trade for most gemstones but for sapphires and rubies most importantly, evidence of no heat treatment can increase the stone’s value greatly if the stone is otherwise of nice quality. This image shows undissolved rutile ‘silk’ inclusions within a Sri Lankan sapphire. This is evidence of no, or very low heat treatment and allowed me to value the stone accordingly.

In the following image we see amber containing ‘sun spangles’, which are indicative of heat treatment.

Origin Determination

Another important use of photomicrography is determining the origin of a gemstone. In this image we can see a three-phase inclusion which contains a liquid within a cavity, a gas, and a solid which in this case is a calcite crystal. There are also some blocky two-phase inclusions visible. This emerald was determined to be of Zambian origin. Determining the origin of a gemstone allows us to value it more accurately as some localities carry a premium, such as Colombian Muzo emeralds and Burmese sapphires and rubies from the infamous Mogok.

Let’s look at a price comparison to show how origin affects a gem’s value. In the case of this emerald from Zambia, the retail price per carat was £4950. The equivalent stone of same quality but with a Colombian origin would have a retail price per carat of £5850, that’s more than an 18% price difference.


For me, photomicrography is an incredibly useful tool which allows me to accurately value gemstones. But its also become a passion and something I thoroughly enjoy doing. I am always trying to improve on my image quality and find new stones with interesting inclusions which people may not have seen before. If you’d like to see more of my photomicrography, you can check out my Instagram page: Instagram.com/Sammantha_maclachlan_fga_ltd

Helen Bradley (1900-1979)

Many of us promise ourselves that we will take up painting in retirement, few of us ever do and even fewer stick at it and only a tiny few achieve commercial and critical success with their Art. Helen Bradley was one of these tiny few and in her own uniquely British way she created a whole new life for herself with her Art when at the age of 65 she began painting pictures each one recalling a memory of her Edwardian childhood. To begin with her paintings were a way for her to show her grandchildren just how different a place the world was for her as a child in the Edwardian Era.

Born in 1900 Helen Bradley was like the late Queen Mother, the same age as the century she lived in. She was born in Lees just outside Oldham in Lancashire and showed enough early artistic talent for her to study Art but only for one year from 1913, when as for so many others the Great War intervened stopping her art studies in their tracks , then marriage and children followed.

At first glance you might think that Helen Bradley’s paintings look a little like L S Lowry’s figure compositions, however she had her own unique style and technique just as Lowry has his. Indeed the two artists met early on in Bradley’s career, they got on well and Lowry continued to encourage Bradley in her work and the two developed a firm friendship. Neither artist followed or was influenced by the other and both held a strong admiration for each other’s work.

The majority of Bradley’s figure pictures depict specific remembered events and are often accompanied by a story handwritten in biro on a parcel label and usually attached to the back of the picture. These notes explain to some extent what the viewer is looking at in the composition and the characters, Bradley sets the scene for us to share her memories and individual characters the most famous of which is Miss Carter . This excerpt from her online biography explains a little about her characters.

She mixed a little pink colour, she painted the dress of a tiny figure. From that moment was created the enchanting land that was to delight millions. The figure she painted was that of Miss Carter (who wore pink) who features in most of Helen Bradley’s paintings. Other characters you will find are her mother, grandmother, her three maiden aunts, Mr Taylor (the bank manager) Helen herself with brother George and their dogs Gyp and Barney and many others.

These narrative paintings were first exhibited at The Saddleworth Art Society in 1965, followed by a London exhibition in 1966, and a sell out exhibition at the appropriately named Carter Gallery in Los Angeles in 1968.

In 1971 Jonathan Cape published the first of four books “And Miss Carter Wore Pink”. This was an instant success. German, French, Dutch and Japanese editions were published, and a special edition produced for the U.S.A.

Requests for illustrations of her work were satisfied by the publication of 30 Signed Limited Edition Prints, 3 Unsigned Limited Edition Prints and 11 Open Edition Prints.

Magazine features, appearances on television and radio endeared Bradley to the general public and led to her being awarded the M.B.E. for services to the arts, unfortunately she died on the 19th of July 1979 shortly before she was due to receive her M.B.E. from Her Majesty The Queen.

The market for Helen Bradley’s work is very well established and her work is regularly available at auction and in galleries and I hope that this little snapshot will whet your appetite for further investigation perhaps even a purchase. To start with you could consider buying one of her beautifully illustrated books of story pictures, all are out of print but are available online or in specialist galleries for around £15 to 30, the signed limited edition prints start at around £350.

The Queen’s Portraits

Throughout history the Crown has used portraiture to define and promote its official image – the image which each successive monarch chooses to portray itself to the Nation. These images, whether they show the monarch as a great head of State, or as a triumphant military leader or even as the embodiment of middle-class values, have eventually come to define the visual culture of each passing generation.

On 9th September this year, Elizabeth II became the nation’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Throughout her long reign the Queen has overseen the greatest political and social changes this county has ever seen. She was born into a country which still sat at the centre of a global empire, and during her reign she oversaw the evolution of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The United Kingdom has emerged from a post Edwardian society to a vibrant, modern, multi-culture one. All this in one lifetime.

From Cecil Beaton to Pietro Annigoni, from Andy Warhol to Lucian Freud, and more recently Jamie Reid to Chris Levine – Britain’s longest reigning monarch has been painted by some of the greatest artists of her time, with each image recording the ever-evolving relationship between the Queen and her people. But what is unique about the Queen’s portraits in the history of royal portraiture, is that her face has been appropriated to become an icon of popular culture. She is both a Queen, a Pop icon and a defining symbol of punk subversiveness!

In celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee, we have put together a short survey of the Queen’s most famous portraits throughout her reign.

Cecil Beaton

The fashion designer, Cecil Beaton, was unusually chosen to take the official coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth on June 2, 1954. The image he created came to define the first decade of the Queen’s reign and symbolised the new Elizabethan age she heralded in. At its heart, the image is fundamentally rooted in the tradition of Royal portraiture, with the Queen shown in all the majesty of her Coronation robes – with the Imperial State Crown on her head and the orb and sceptre in her hands. Beaton manages to capture the Queen as both intensely royal but also yet somewhat vulnerable due to her youth.

Interestingly, whilst this is an intensely traditional image, the medium of photography with which it was created, together with Beaton’s visual trickery also makes it a surprisingly modern one. Although the image appears at first glance to be set in Westminster Abbey, the photographer actually employed a theatrical backdrop for the photo, which was taken in a drawing room at Buckingham Palace.

Pietro Annigoni

In 1954, two years after her coronation, the Italian artist Pietro Annigoni painted the first of his two famous portraits of the Queen. Commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers in London, the painting is universally considered the most beautiful ever painted of her and is the queen’s known favourite. The artist shows the beautiful young queen in the magnificent robes of the ancient Order of the Garter and set within a beautiful Italianate landscape worthy of any Renaissance master. The resulting image is a supremely elegant and glamorous one, which has appeared on stamps and currency in British dependencies across the world.


In 1969, at the request of the Queen, the National Portrait Gallery in London, commissioned Annigoni to paint her portrait again. This time, however, the artists decided not to paint her as a glamorous young monarch, but rather as a much more remote Regal figure, silhouette starkly against an almost abstracted background. As the artist said himself, “I did not want to paint her as a film star, I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility,” said the artist of the striking difference.

Jamie Reid

The 1970s saw Punk Rock explode onto the British scene. Anti-establishment and anarchic, Punk challenged everything the previous generation held dear, and its influence was truly global. How ironic then, that one of Punk’s greatest images is Jamie Reid’s famous Sex Pistol’s album cover showing the Queen superimposed across the Union Jack! The figure head of the Establishment being used to subvert itself. To this day, it is one of the most influential images of the Queen of all time.

Andy Warhol

In 1985, the king of Pop Art Andy Warhol, produced his Reigning Queen’s portfolio of prints – a set of 16 portraits of the world’s four reigning Queens – Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland and of course, our Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Warhol chose to depict these female monarchs, as powerful matriarchs – queens who ruled in their own right and were not queens through marriage. These portraits represent independent female authority, a different view on femininity in comparison to Warhol’s portraits of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Billy Boy.

Lucien Freud

In 2001 one of Britain’s greatest living painters, Lucien Freud, painted his tiny but highly controversial portraits of the Queen. Originally meant to depict the Queen informally without a crown or tiara, Freud had to subsequently expand the canvas by 3.5cm when he decided to include the 1820 Diamond Diadem! Without doubt the most controversial
of all the Queen’s portraits, this tiny work has divided audiences since it was first exhibited. Whilst certainly not one of her Majesty’s most flattering portraits, the way that Freud has disregarded the entire tradition of Royal portraits is certainly unique.

Alison Jackson

Whatever next – the Queen taking selfies?! Well not quite! This faux royal family selfie is the work of Alison Jackson, a British photographer who has made her reputation creating convincing personal photos of intimate moments experienced by British celebrities using look alike actors. Alison Jackson’s genius lies in her ability to cast convincing doppelganger actors in the role of her famous sitters in entirely convincing, yet fake situations. One can only guess that Her Majesty must get a kick out of such fun…..the Queen as a social media savvy influencer monarch!

Chris Levine

In 2004, British artist Chris Levine created what can only be described as a modern classic when he produced his, Lightness of Being portrait of the Queen. The work which he produced in various formats, shows the Queen beautifully dressed in white fur and pearls, wearing the 1820 Diamond Diadem. However, what is disarming about the image is that the Queen is depicted with her eyes closed in contemplation.

The artist explained how the image came about, “I wanted the Queen to feel peaceful, so I asked her to rest between shots; this was a moment of stillness that just happened.” The resulting image is indeed peaceful and calm, yet it is also full of gravity and power – a monarch who has reigned over us for 70 years.

The Queen’s Handbags

Walking down Regent Street on a sunny afternoon this week and one cannot forget how important 2022 is for Her Majesty the Queen, 70 years doing any job is virtually unheard of so a celebration to mark the occasion is certainly befitting.

Whilst we look forward to not only an extra bank holiday, but many celebrations around the United Kingdom and the world, Queen Elizabeth will no doubt take it all in her stride in a simple and understated manner, much like her handbags.

The queen has always been known for supporting and almost endorsing Launer Handbags. The Queen Mother had purchased one in the 1940s after Sam Launer had relocated to the United Kingdom after Nazi persecution in Czechoslovakia during The Second World War, and it is rumoured that the queen still owns these pieces that date to before she came to the throne. The brand was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1968.

The royal collection of Launer handbags now comprises over 200 individual pieces though, with the favourites reportedly being the Traviata, the Diva and of course, the Royale. It is said that she orders around five pieces per year with custom elements to each, and no doubt Launer will have made sure to make something special for this year’s celebrations.

The values of these bags are almost insignificant compared to many others that we see on a day-to-day basis, with values usually being less than £3000, but they are all hand made in Britain and command a strong following with Lady Margaret Thatcher being another fan of the brand.

It is hard to imagine, but a considerable amount of time and effort has been placed in providing the queen with the perfect bag. It must have long handles so it doesn’t get in the way when she is meeting people, it must also be fairly lightweight as she doesn’t keep much in there during the day – apparently only a pen, spectacles case, lipstick, hand cream and mints make it into the royal handbag.

If you are ever lucky enough to meet the Queen at a function of any sorts though, be aware if she places her bag on a table and looks around the room….This gives her staff a five minute warning that she is ready to leave and to prepare!

So congratulations to The Queen, and to Launer for 70 years of a true British Icon, may there be many more.

Lab-Grown Diamonds

What is HPHT?

HPHT stands for high pressure, high temperature and is one of the primary methods used to grow diamonds in a lab.

This diamond growth process subjects carbon to extreme temperatures and pressures and is meant to replicate the extreme heat and pressure conditions deep within the earth where natural diamonds form.

This pressure is what makes the difference between:

Scientists first grew diamonds in a laboratory in the mid-1950s. These diamonds were too small for jewellery, however. Production of larger, gem-quality crystals began in the mid-1990s for both jewellery and industrial purposes.

The newer method, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), involves filling a vacuum chamber with carbon-containing gas that crystallizes on a synthetic diamond seed. This method uses lower temperatures and pressures than HPHT.

Turns into:

Coring to remove the outer layer is needed once the process is finished, about 6-10 weeks later.

CVD is best at producing 1-3 carat diamonds in the range J-G colour. They are often treated with HPHT to improve their colour. Whether they are subsequently treated or not, these are synthetic diamonds.

Some people might refer to lab-grown diamonds as imitations or simulants, but this is incorrect. Actual imitations like cubic zirconia or synthetic moissanite only look like diamonds and have very different chemical and physical properties that allow trained gemmologists to identify them easily. However, lab-grown diamonds are more challenging to detect.

There are some characteristics which help gemmologists in laboratories identify if a diamond is synthetic and, if so, to understand which method had been used to grow the diamond.

Some synthetic diamonds might glow for a minute or more after an ultraviolet lamp is turned off. This is called phosphorescence and is typically only seen in synthetic diamonds.

GIA, one of the leading gem laboratories, use a fluorescence imaging instrument called a DiamondView™ to examine diamonds. This instrument reveals the growth patterns within diamond crystals.

The real challenge comes with identifying tiny diamonds called melée (below), which make up a dramatic portion of the diamond trade.

So why are these diamonds so popular?

Simply put, lab grown diamonds are more affordable than mined diamonds of comparable size and quality. They can sell for up to 75% less than mined diamonds, due to lower expenses, a shorter supply chain, and a more competitive market.

It does not mean that lab grown diamonds are “cheap”: the process of cutting, polishing, and certification also carries a similar cost whether they be mined or lab grown.

However, because the mined diamond industry’s supply is restricted and controlled, it leads to artificially inflated prices, which does not happen in the lab grown diamond industry.

Ethical and eco-friendly

Approximately 10 square metres of earth is disturbed and almost 3,000 kgs of rock waste is generated for each carat of diamond that is unearthed.

It was highlighted in a report that “lab grown diamonds are seven times less impactful to the environment than mined diamonds, use significantly fewer resources and emit a fraction of the air pollution.”

Essentially, lab grown diamonds are the only ethical and eco-friendly diamonds, guaranteed to be conflict-free.


Whichever diamond is chosen, lab grown or natural, they are always the best option for engagement rings and hardwearing jewellery, being the strongest material known to science, rating 10 on the Mohs scale.

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was created by Friedrich Mohs in 1822 and determines the scratch resistance of minerals when scratched by another mineral and is used to manufacture everyday objects: your mobile phone’s screen glass is made of a material that scratches at level 6, some at level 7.

This differs from diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia and moissanite, where the quality is nowhere as close as that to diamonds allowing them to easily scratch, chip, and lose their shine as well as being heavier and therefore more uncomfortable to wear.

To be certain of the identity of the diamond you are buying, make sure you buy a diamond with a certificate from a reputable laboratory such as GIA who offer diamond grading reports or lab-grown diamond reports.

Constable at the V&A

Last month I was given the most wonderful treat. I started my morning in the V&A picture rooms, looking at the Turners and Constables in the Sheepshank Bequest. How his descendants must hate his philanthropy; there are hundreds of millions of pounds worth of paintings hanging there.

Then I moved on to the Isabel Constable Bequest. Isabel was the last surviving child of John Constable and in September 1888 gifted the residual contents of her father’s studio to the Museum. There are 395 oil paintings, sketches, drawings, watercolours and sketchbooks in the bequest, of which a mere twenty odd were on view.

However, I had the good fortune to be taken behind the scenes to the secure lock-up, where the others are stored, by Emily Knight, daughter of my old friend Richard Knight (ex-head of Old Masters at Christie’s, London), who curates these treasures for the Museum.

I am particularly interested in Constable’s oil sketches, most of which were painted out of doors and many inscribed with a specific date and time of day, revealing much about his working practices. Here I was, backstage, taking them off the racks and holding them in my hands for a closer look. I have done this sort of thing before, so they were perfectly safe! Nevertheless, to be holding such precious objects in my hands was a great privilege. Sketches by constable can make seven figure sums these days.

Oil sketches were not always so precious, well not in commercial terms anyway. Constable never sold any, but he had been sketching in oil from around 1802, for example “Dedham Vale: Evening” when he was 27 and was particularly active from 1808 onwards. In his lifetime they were not considered independent works of art, by John Constable or any of his contemporaries, but formed a database of scenes he felt worthy of recording, which might be used as inspiration for large easel pictures in the future. He was an inveterate recorder of things around him and travelled with a large and small sketchbook and pencil everywhere he went, even on honeymoon! He is famous for saying that he never saw an ugly thing in nature and no man has ever devoted his life to portraying the landscape of his childhood with as much passion and brilliance as John Constable did. Indeed, it is the brilliance of these vivacious and spontaneous oil sketches dashed off on card, paper, strips of canvas, wood, or whatever came to hand, that chimes so well with modern taste. When trying to catch the play of light, as a rainstorm passes over the sea, as in “Weymouth Bay” of 1816, Constable does not have time to conform to the painting style of his own age, as a result of which, his oil sketches are timeless.

A selection of these dynamic little paintings is about to leave for an exhibition in Romania and then on to further venues in Eastern Europe. I was glad to have the chance to see them before they go and wish them bon voyage.

Marilyn Monroe – Shot Sage Blue Marilyn

She was THE film star of her day, and at the auction on 9th May 2022 at Christie’s New York, she proved that her star power was as strong as ever!

In under four minutes of bidding, Andy Warhol’s 1964 painting of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, sold for $195,000,000 to an unknown buyer, making it the highest price achieved for any American work of art at auction – comfortably beating the world record of $110,500,000 that Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982 made at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2017.

Described as ‘the most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation’, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one of only 5 works Warhol produced in this series – each in different colour variations.

The paintings were stored at The Factory, his studio on East 47th Street, Manhattan. It was here that the artist, Dorothy Podber, stopped by and asked Warhol if she could “shoot” them. Presuming she meant with a camera, he said yes, but instead she pulled out a revolver and shot all but the turquoise print in the forehead! Warhol had the four paintings restored and they became known as the “Shot Marilyns.”

The work was the undoubted and much-anticipated star lot of the Christie’s Monday sale, which itself kicked off New York’s spring season of mega auctions. As such, it was always going to attract huge interest, eventually selling to Larry Gagosian for an undisclosed client.

The sale itself was made up of 36 lots consigned from the estate of the legendary Swiss dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann, with all of the proceeds going toward their foundation, which supports health care and educational programs for children. Interestingly and very old school in approach, none of the works were backed by financial guarantees, which is a system whereby the auction houses provide sellers with a minimum price at which a third party or the auction house has committed to purchase the work even if it fails to sell on the day.

Perhaps a risky approach one might think, however, after 2 years of pent-up demand from collectors, and with huge amounts of money sloshing around, and with such star works on offer, it was a risk well worth taking, with the overall sale achieving $318,000,000 for the Ammann charitable foundation. Lucky them!

It all goes to show that quality will always win out, and the best works will always achieve the strongest prices. That said, having Marilyn on your side can’t hurt either!

F is for Filigree

The word filigree derives from Latin “filum” meaning thread and “granum” grain. It is a form of intricate metalwork, usually made of gold or silver. The Latin words gave filigrana in Italian which itself became filigrane in 17th-century French and shortened from filigreen in English.

The technique consists of using tiny beads or twisted threads, sometimes both, soldering them together or to the surface of an object, such as a bracelet or brooch for example. The result is a highly artistic and detailed work of art.

Its origins can be traced back to the Egyptians and along the coast of the Mediterranean. Archaeological digs have found the technique to be incorporated into jewellery dating as far back as 3,000BC.

“Necklace in gold filigree of Queen Twosret and earrings of her husband Seti II. Discovered with a cache of jewellery inscribed with the names of Seti II and Twosret in the Gold Tomb (KV56) at the Valley of the Kings, West Thebes.

The cornflower and ball beads in this necklace were made by soldering wire rings of several different diameters into the desired forms. The piece is an early example of the technique known as filigree. New Kingdom, Late 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292- 1189 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.”

It was greatly used by Portuguese goldsmiths, using both gold and silver filigree.

The elaborate metalwork also included techniques such as granulation, wire and scroll.

The small beads are applied to the surface through heat with visible solder. This technique was used by the Etruscan civilisation of ancient Italy in Tuscany, western Umbria and
northern Lazio (700-300 BC). Its style was made famous with Etruscan revival jewellery, modelled after the ancient Roman empire. The most famous jewellery designer to create Etruscan Revival pieces was Castellani.

“The head in the form of a thyrsus, an ancient Greek stylised pine cone, with twisted wirework decorations, bearing Castellani’s double C’s hallmark on the base, all to a yellow gold pin, circa 1860, measuring 2.5 x 1.1cm, the pin measuring 4.9cm long, gross weight 4.7 grams.

A collectable stick pin in the shape of a pinecone, made in London around 1860 by Castellani. This charming pin features twisted wirework filigree decoration, a technique used in Ancient Etruscan jewellery, and would today make a perfect and eye-catching addition to a silk tie.”

Though it is an ancient jewellery technique, it is still frequently used in today’s jewellery, especially in Asia and particularly in Indian jewellery.

The technique should not be confused with cannetille. Filigree’s fragility and delicateness suggests lace, in a flat form. Cannetille has a 3-dimensional aspect to it, sometimes with added repoussé work to it – which is a method of hammering metal into relief from the reverse side.

There was a renewed popularity for filigree in Italia and France between 1660 to the late 19th century, with the fashion reaching its peak in 1830.

A decade later, the precise and time-consuming technique of filigree and cannetille had been replaced by repoussé, which offered a similarly inexpensive artistic and decorative way of setting stones.

Like many metalwork techniques, its origin is far behind us but its use and technique are forever evolving. It is understandable that this craftmanship would be a favourite for different cultures
and throughout time. Though some modern pieces of that style may be inexpensive, the cost of purchasing a traditional parure reflects the art and the know-how that is filigree.

“A fine Georgian citrine and gold parure, consisting of a necklace, a pair of earrings and a pair of bracelets, the necklace consisting of an oval-cut faceted citrine surrounded by a gold frame of foliate design, suspending three detachable drop-like pendants, each centrally-set with a pear-shaped citrine, all suspended by a double strand of tubular mesh chain with box clasp of similar
design, set with an oval faceted citrine, each bracelet with a clasp of similar design, each centrally set with an oval faceted citrine, to a gold mesh ribbon-like bracelet, the earrings of matching gold foliate design consisting of an oval-cut faceted citrine suspending a pear-shaped faced citrine, all mounted in yellow and rose gold, circa 1820, accompanied by original fitted box, the necklace measuring approximately 38cm long, gross weight for the suite 71.5 grams.” Selling for £37,500

Watches Update

Well, if we thought that 2020 couldn’t be surpassed in the watch world – we could not have been further from the truth!
We must start (we really do) with what was without doubt the biggest drop of 2021 – the Tiffany/Patek Phillipe 5711 – 1A/018

We are all very aware that one of the most desirable watches in the Patek Phillipe arsenal is due to be retired this year and as such the last 18 months have been spent by watch aficionados talking about how the standard Patek Phillipe 5711 has risen to the ranks of a £175,000 wristwatch when compared to a few years ago – it really is astonishing.

So, when the powers that be decided a send-off to conquer all others was required – they called in the big guns, and that robin egg blue dial appeared from nowhere. 170 will be produced and available exclusively from Tiffany boutiques and one can only imagine how these may perform on the secondary market – in a recent charity auction, one of the 170 sold for a jaw dropping $6.5 million, which is simply staggering for a watch that retails at a few bucks over $52,000.

Now some people amongst you will be aware that Tiffany has recently been acquired by LVMH and this moment has clearly been defined by the 5711 – 1A/018, it even has a little nod to the recent acquisition on the engraving of the caseback – a little brash? Maybe, but I am fairly sure that most watch people won’t notice the difference and hope that the work between the two companies will continue as it has done for the last 170 years.

As far as the rest of 2021 happened – it was pretty much a continuation of 2020, with rises across the board of Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, and of course… Rolex sports models.

At the start of 2021, a 116610LN could be acquired on the secondary market for just short of £10,000 now, it’s closer to £16,000. Considering back in the pre covid days of 2018, on a good day you could get one for closer to £6000 – it hasn’t been a bad investment and if you bought the green bezel model – well that’s a completely different story!

Other highlights of 2021 have included the Bremont ENG300 – Whilst the English brothers may have had to fight off some arguments about the origin of parts of their watches, this new model has what appears to be a well-researched in house movement, that really is a game changer for the UK watch industry.

The Cartier Solarbeat, is certainly a watch for the risk taker – a person that wants a classical design with one of the most forward-thinking developments of the year – a solar powered Cartier, its doesn’t sound right saying it, but could you tell the difference? At a really good price point as well, one would have to be brave to bet against it being a huge success.

Finally, what has to be my watch of the year is the Tissot PRX, starting at under £300 (yes, three hundred pounds) it is an amazing retro design with hints of the big boys, but with a price tag that makes it far more accessible to enthusiasts on a lower budget as well.

What will 2022 bring? It’s difficult to say but with watch shows being planned for throughout the year, and design teams back at their desks I am sure that there will be a few surprises ahead!