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ABOUT ANTIQUE JEWELRY

V - Z

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
One of the leading twentieth-century jewelry firms, founded in Paris in 1898 by the Arpels brothers (Julien, Louis and Charles) and Alfred van Cleef. In 1930, Van Cleef & Arpels created the minaudière (a portable vanity case) that remained popular for the next several decades. In 1935, it introduced the invisible setting which allows gemstones to be set along a metal grid in such a way that no prongs or bezels are visible. Van Cleef & Arpels is known for its high quality jewelry of unique design and its pieces are both valuable and collectible.

 

VAUXHALL GLASS
A type of glass produced in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Vauxhall, England and often sold as souvenirs of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It is characterized by its clear, deep colors (usually deep red or black) and mirrored backing. Common motifs were butterflies and flowers.

 

VENETIAN CHAIN
A type of chain popular during the Victorian period that consists of interlocking flat links of metal. It gets its name from its similarity to the binding of a book. Also called a book chain.

 

VERMEIL
A piece made of sterling silver that is covered in a layer of gold.

 

VERSO
A term meaning ‘on reverse’.

 

VEVER
One of the leading French jewelry houses of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The firm was founded by Pierre Vever in 1821 and was joined by his son Ernest in 1848. It wasn’t until Ernest’s sons Paul and Henri Vever joined the firm in 1874 that it began to get international acclaim. The brothers continued to create high quality gemset pieces and introduced the firm to the Art Nouveau style. Henri Vever was the most highly-regarded Art Nouveau jeweler after René Lalique and wrote a historical tome entitled French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century. Vever also employed guest designers such as the artist Eugene Grasset to create unique and unusual jewelry designs.

 

VICTORIAN
The Victorian period is named after the reign of Queen Victoria, who was on the English throne from 1837 until 1901. Within this period there are three distinct phases: early, mid and late Victorian. As Victoria came to the throne and began her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert, the early Victorian period focused more and more on sentiment and tokens of love. Jewelry was soft and delicate, with a focus on floral and sentimental motifs. Then with the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the whole country was thrown into mourning and memorial jewelry came to center stage. Jewelry became strong and bold, reaching massive proportions in the 1860s and 70s. Finally, towards the end of the century, jewelry began to lighten up again, focusing on diamonds and feminine shapes. Popular Victorian motifs are flowers, nature and especially serpents, which are considered a symbol of eternal love.

 

VICTORIAN REVIVAL
A period in the 1940s in which there was an increased interest in Victorian style. Victorian Revival pieces are often created in a similar style as their original counterparts and utilize more contemporary construction methods.

 

VULCANITE
A hard, black rubber derived from tropical trees, introduced to Europe in the 1840s. Originally used as insulation, jewelers quickly found its use in jewelry due to its durability and light weight. It was especially popular when used in mourning jewelry as an imitation of jet.

 

WALDEMAR CHAIN
A type of watch chain that features on one end and a spring catch on the other. The swivel holds the watch while the spring ring holds an accessory such as a fob or seal. See also WATCH CHAIN.

 

WATCH CHAIN
A chain that features a swivel on one end to hold a pocket watch and a swivel or spring catch on the other to hold a key, fob or seal. Watch chains are usually worn left to right across the vest with each and sitting in a pocket. They were in use until the popularization of the wristwatch in the late nineteenth century. See also ALBERT CHAIN and WALDEMAR CHAIN.

 

WHEAT MOTIF
A motif symbolizing friendship and the riches of the continuation of life.

 

WHITBY JET
Jet is a carbonized black substance formed from ancient driftwood. It was mined in Whitby, England for several centuries and gained popularity when Prince Albert died in 1861. Queen Victoria was grief-stricken and adopted the strict code of mourning, with the rest of the country following suit. Jet (and jet substitutes) were appropriate for full mourning. Because jet is lightweight, easily carved and takes a nice polish, it became popular for mourning jewelry. Between the popularity of cheaper substitutes such as French jet and a general weariness of wearing mourning dress, the use of jet began to decline in the 1880s.

 

WHITE GOLD
An alloy of gold developed in 1912. White gold is alloyed with a high percentage of silver, nickel or any other white metal. It is characterized by its pale silvery-gold color.

 

WIENER WERKSTÄTTE
Literally ‘Viennese Workshops’, a workshop that was an offshoot of the Viennese Secession and worked in a distinctive decorative style dubbed the Wiener Werkstätte Style. The workshop was founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser and included artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The Wiener Werkstätte was a fusion of the ideals of the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts Movement as well as the Glasgow School, all of which were reacting against what followers saw as the slavish mass-produced copying of historic styles. Artists chose instead to focus on simple shapes, restrained ornamentation and superior craftsmanship. Wiener Werkstätte created jewelry, textiles, ceramics, pottery and furniture that featured avant-garde designs and quality materials.

 

WITCH’S HEART
A heart shape that features a crook at the tip. While used for centuries, in the Victorian period it became a symbol of the ‘bewitching’ power of love.

 

WOLFERS FRÈRES
One of the leading Belgian jewelry houses and Belgian Court Jeweler of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The firm was founded by Guillaume Wolfers in Brussels in 1841, whose son Louis joined the business in 1850. It wasn’t until Louis’s sons Philippe, Max and Robert joined the family business in 1890 that it began to receive international acclaim. Philippe became one of the leading Art Nouveau jewelers and created pieces with a Japanese influence until he stopped making jewelry in 1910 to focus on sculpture and silver.

 

YELLOW GOLD
The natural color of gold, which is usually alloyed with a small percentage of other metals to make it more workable.

 

ZIRCON
A variety of gemstone that comes in a several colors, including reddish-brown, green, blue, purple and yellow. Zircon has a high luster similar to that of diamonds and was very popular in the Art Deco period. Zircon is the modern birthstone for the month of December.