My original design was praised everywhere I went with the commission. I tried to have it done in Arezzo, but that proved impossible, as the Italians here are really doing only mass produced work, and Florence is just too expensive as it caters to the tourist trade.. So I sent it to various places in Maine, and eventually to Boston at the Jeweler's building. There, all my old acquaintances had moved on to small jobs, but using their suggestions, I found someone to do the work. As everyone was scared at the complexity of the work, I provided a simplified design. That will be done in a few weeks, when I will post the updates and photos of the finished product.
This is .60 cts. of blue diamonds in a rose cut. Rose cuts are typically lower in quality, just there for a little sparkle. They tend to be very old stones, though they are still cut in some places. The blue will be another reference to the sea, which was so important to our family and to all the islanders' lives.
A Lost Legacy
When I was fairly small, Mom showed me her legacy from Grammie.
There were a number of pieces of jewelry that had been handed down through the family to the oldest daughter from oldest daughter.
Some were quite old, and we did not know how many generations they had been handed down to, and one was a chain, sadly deteriorated, made from gold coins in Naples in the nineteenth century. This was commissioned by my great- grandfather Anerio Cincotta, for his wife Giovanna Cafarella.
There was a gold shield with a band across it. It had a hand on the front holding a bouquet of three flowers. Another was a pair of earrings with small pearls inlaid into a rather Paisley like shaped panel.
Mom always intended that these should be passed on to my sister Mary, but when she died, Mary was given the earrings, but the rest never appeared. It seems that my stepfather was not very good about keeping track of who was coming and going in the house after my mother died, and someone that we knew just lifted them. Either that, or he gave the pieces to another family member who was never intended to have them.
So a rather ancient legacy has disappeared, my sister and niece especially, cheated out of their inheritance.
So, as I have no children, I have decided to create a new heirloom that will represent the family and its story, that can be handed down through the family from my sister, to be used by the women of the entire family, and loaned to all descendants of Mary Rose Cincotta Cafarella, her mother Giovanna and their cousins.
When my husband John first found that he was sick, he decided to help me with the creation of this new heirloom. On our last trip abroad, he funded the purchase of these stones as a gift to my family to replace the lost pieces.
I thought about it for a long time and decided to create a wedding tiara, to be used by all the brides in the family. I do not know how long it will be till I can finish it, but at present, I have purchased all the stones. Hopefully the stones will have the significance to all who wear it, that I intend. Of course, it would be possible for the brides who wear it to add stones to it when they wear it.
Let's say that a cousin who was born in November wears it. She could add a few blue topaz stones to the tiara to make it her own for that day. Keeping it in the semiprecious area would make such a thing possible with little expense, and as long as the colors blend with what I have started, it could put a bride's mark on a heritage piece.
As it stands, I have the most expensive stones already for the tiara. The only additional expensive stones that could possibly be needed for a bride would be ruby and sapphire. Rubies have a very fine line between red and pink where the pink becomes a pink sapphire. Since the colors I am using are quite pastel, you would have to come pretty close to that pink sapphire line in order to blend with the other stones. Sapphires on the other hand can be all over the place in color and can be quite pale in color, so a bride could easily add them to it and blend nicely.
This is about .25 cts. of diamonds about .02cts each.
The other option would be for each bride to add a diamond to it. Something that a grandmother could point to and say, "This is the stone for my wedding, and this one was for your mother's".
We could also do stones that relate to where a bride lives. For instance, my branch of the family lives in Maine, so aquamarine and tourmaline would be excellent choices as they are both found there.
The basic thought was to display colors of the sea and the islands. The greens of the grape vines and sea, blues of the water, and pearls from the sea as well. The families were all somehow related to the seafaring lifestyle of the islands and the bounty of the land. So, here are the stones I have acquired.
These are the Aquamarines. Unfortunately I do not have a good photo. I assume that I can get a good photo at some point. This is a bit over 10 Carats of the stone which is a pale blue-green form of Beryl, which is often found in Maine. My mother lived much of her life in Maine, and this is also her birthstone for March. The larger, pear shaped center stone is similar to the one below which is not mine.
This pear shaped aquamarine is 2.6 Carats.
By the way, Queen Elizabeth has a rather large tiara with emerald cut aquamarines. The stones were a gift to the monarchy from Brazil.
Folklore about aquamarines is found at this site: http://valuablestones.com/aquamarine_m.htm
The eight of these that I have represent a half carat of Emeralds. These are rather pale in color to blend easily with the aquamarines without being jarring. Also they are rather small so they will not overpower them. Emeralds are my sister Mary's birthstone for May, and represent the agriculture of the islands...Grapes, Capers and Salina is the greenest of all the islands.
For some of the folklore about this stone, try this link: http://valuablestones.com/may_birthstone.htm
Here are two Old European cut diamonds totaling just under half a carat.
Diamonds are my niece Diane's birthstone, and of course represent weddings, durability and engagement. This cut was popular back in the 1930's and earlier.
There are 8 of these .10 ct diamonds.
Here is a .88 carat oval diamond to pair with the center stone. Not an old one but I think it will be lovely in the center.
Here is another pair of Old European cut diamonds totaling .63 carat.
Here is a .19 carat older but less irregular stone, not so high a quality, but a little less visible as it moves to the sides of the finished piece.
Here is a .20 carat diamond, which is older, but fairly modern. This one is again a little lower in quality. See the feathery veils in the stone.
Here is a .22 ct Old European cut diamond probably from the 1080s
To see some folklore about diamonds, try this address: http://valuablestones.com/april_birthstone.htm
When you mix lesser stones that may not be so white, with colored stones, the impact of yellower color in the diamond is lessened.
One great drawback will be the color of the metal. If I use yellow gold for everything, the yellowish color may not be noticeable in the diamonds, and warm colored stones tend to be set in yellow gold. However, we are working almost exclusively with cool colored stones here, and white may be all we can use to make the metal less obvious.
Emeralds are sort of "on the cusp", and are often set in yellow. We will have to look at the color of the emeralds when they arrive. If they are darker stones than I want, white gold may wash the color out a bit to help them blend.
We could use Electrum. This is a natural alloy of gold and silver. It warms the color of the silver, and cools the color of the gold. It is a sort of white gold, but can be controlled to match the stones.
There are also a number of colors of alloyed gold, like Rose, green and even apricot(my favorite) gold.
The total will be seven diamonds for the seven islands of the Aeolian Archipelago, though I may sprinkle in a few small stones.
The Aquamarines are also seven in number to represent the main islands.
Lipari, Salina(where Grammie was from), Vulcano, Stromboli, Panarea, Alicudi, and Filicudi.
There are fourteen 6mm cultured pearls for the seafaring lives of our people, and are the birthstone for Grammie in June.
8 pearls at 7.5mm each
4 pearls at 8.5mm each
Some of the lore surrounding pearls and other June birthstones can be found at this site: http://valuablestones.com/june_birthstone.htm
The stones I have for this tiara represent four months, March, April, May and June. Careful selection would be required to blend other stones with these. Not using special care could create a carnival like appearance. I am already apprehensive about the Emerald and Aquamarine being side by side.
For other months, there are good choices available, but the real key is to match the rather pale color of the Aquamarines, which is difficult with stones like Ruby, which by definition is rather intense in color to qualify for its name.
I suppose that a solution would be to place the harsher colored stones on the headband, surrounded by some of the pearls, or to get the palest stones that still qualify for the name.
Here are stones that I own to be used by brides for the other months.
Yellow Orange Garnet
The color does not show well in this photo.
January - Garnet
Garnets come in all colors except blue. There are pale yellows, usually with a brown cast, but careful searching will result in a nice medium yellow. They also are available in rather startling greens. The yellows might work if they were paired with the emeralds, but the greens would be jarring if placed anywhere but the band. Garnets can be quite affordable.
25 Marquise Amethysts
February - Amethyst
This purple form of Quartz comes in a wide array of intensities, and lighter colors might blend anywhere without a problem, but would probably pair best with the green emeralds or do well on the headband. Amethysts, especially the paler stones tend to be very inexpensive and might be found in almost all states.
A Pear Shaped Ruby
July - Ruby
Rubies are a real passion of mine, with their ideal, rich reds. However, they will be extremely difficult to blend anywhere with the other stones in this piece. Paler varieties are available, but are usually classed as pink sapphires, being chemically identical to sapphire except for the chemicals that produce the red in the Corundum, which is the name of the mineral. Tiny.. very tiny rubies might blend with the emeralds, and make these very expensive stones affordable, but would be best in the headband.
Three Oval Peridots
August - Peridot
This yellow-green stone would not be awful with the other stones, and though not thought of as particularly valuable, might be hard to come by. I love them, but many people find them to be less than pleasant in color. They were popular in carnival like jewelry in the 70s and 80s, often paired with pink tourmalines and citrines. However, they can be quite beautiful with pearls and diamonds. Again, this stone might be jarring when paired with most of the basic stones, and would be best in the headband.
A Pear Shaped Pink Sapphire
September - Sapphire
No problems here. Sapphire, a form of Corundum, like Rubies can be almost any color you can imagine. I thought about including pale pink sapphires in this tiara, for my nephew Rick's new daughter Lily, born in September, but I really had to stop somewhere, and my niece, Diane's upcoming marriage seemed like a logical place to stop since the colors were good up to there. Pink, green or blue Sapphires might blend successfully, if carefully matched in intensity to the other stones. Ceylon Sapphires are my favorites being a very pleasant pale sky blue.
October - Opal
Bad Luck, Bad Luck.. BAD LUCK. Not really...Opals have a bad wrap because they are terribly fragile. They have internal stresses that make just air pressure changes dangerous.(Like Emeralds) Boulder opal has a bit of stone attached to them, and they are less likely to break. Basically, Opals are the same material that the little moisture absorbing packets that electronics and clothing have in them. Silica gel absorbs moisture, and opals do well when soaked briefly in water on occasion. Opals would be completely inappropriate for this application, and if one was found, some brides might refuse to wear it because of the bad luck associations. Opals come as white, precious black, jelly and fire varieties. None would work here.
A Watermelon Tourmaline
A Pink Tourmaline
An alternative stone would be the rather affordable Tourmaline, whose pink form might be very pleasant in a similar way to the Pink Sapphires above. Green tourmalines tend to be rather olive to forest green and would not easily blend in. Tourmalines are common in Maine as well. This makes them a good choice for my branch of the family.
A Blue Topaz
November - Topaz
Most people hate Topaz, but that is because all they see is the horrible yellow-gold Citrine, which everyone thinks is Topaz, but is actually a form of quartz like Amethyst.
Topaz in its form known as Imperial Topaz is better, but still has a rather unpopular gold-orange-brown color.
Topaz also comes in pink, white and blue. Blue is very common these days and is often "helped along" with its color. Pale blue and pink varieties might blend well here, but the particular stones would have to be compared to see how they blend. White Topaz would look dull and cheap in this application.
December - Zircon
I always hated my birthstone. Rather too soft and easily abraded, it can look very cheap, though the blue varieties might blend well here. Zircon has a rather peculiar attribute. When you look into the stone, it appears almost fuzzy. The refraction of light in the stone doubles the visible lines and facet junctions in the stone. This also makes it appear cheap in my mind.
Turquoise and Tanzanite are alternates. Turquoise is not good here, but the blue-purple Tanzanite might work if carefully placed and the color carefully chosen. Tanzanite is rather hard to come by as very little is produced in the mines.
A Marquise Shaped Tanzanite
The other alternatives, like bloodstone and Sardonyx(which is also appropriate for August) would not be acceptable. It is unfortunate that this one dropped inside the brake housing of a car and was lost forever...I replaced it with a more purple specimen that I did not like so well, but I could not a get a nuce bluish one like this in the size I wanted. See the finished Tiara to look at the new one.
My initial design for the tiara.
The stones I have, all purchased over several years.
A rather blurry image of my design inspiration.
Here is the final tiara. The pendant made to go on a strand of pearls or a thick chain, and the matching earrings are still to come. this is nothing like the original design, but the jewelers could not figure out a way to produce the original design on the budget offered. So here is a simplified design. The hanging pearls have tiny blue diamonds on either side, but they were supposed to be smaller pearls, als the diamonds in the clusters of pearls are rather buried below the level of the pearls, but I will address those issues later. You may have to click on the image to see the entire picture.
Well, I got the rest of the set. I thought that I had already uploaded the picture, but lo and behold it was not there. They arrived with the earrings made with the two emeralds straight across where the design was as a V like a pair of leaves cradling a bud, and the pendant was to be in a sharp curve to be hooked on to a strand of pearls, but instead, I got this, set up to have a chain added. I have been pondering whether to send them back to Boston to be changed, but I think I can make changes on the pendant plan to include a white gold chain and two pearls at the joint, and perhaps just live with the configuration of the stones on the earrings.
A pair of diamonds totaling .34 cts.
G, SI 1.
Another pair of diamonds .34 ct. total weight.