“Sorry darling but you’re dumped.”

Under what circumstances should you return an engagement ring? Jewel Citizen explores this thorny subject.

Certain times of the year are thought of as being especially romantic, St Valentine’s Day without a doubt the most celebrated. We couldn’t really avoid it if we tried could we? Bouquets in the florist, cards in the supermarket, perfume adverts on television, romantic recipes in the Sunday supplement, and for those in love there’s a sense of expectation. How many times have we heard something along the lines of “I think my boyfriend might propose on St Valentine’s Day!”? Who hasn’t fantasised about the proposal, the romantic setting be it in Rome or Venice, and of course the sparkling ring…

And it used to happen thus: the lovers’ eyes share a knowing glance, he falters, she smiles encouragement, he takes a deep breath and slips his hand into a pocket, her heart skips a beat, he produces a ring box, her smile broadens, he drops down onto one knee, she wants to dance with joy, he asks her the burning question, she nods, he slips a diamond ring onto her finger, they kiss. Isn’t that how it goes in films? But of course these days we live in a more enlightened world and the two lovers preparing to tie the knot don’t necessarily need to be of the opposite sex.

Yet for those tortured souls who find themselves trapped in a less than satisfactory relationship St Valentine’s Day often acts as a catalyst for change. Will they ever make it up the aisle? Do they even want to bind themselves to another in (un)holy matrimony? Pent-up expectation builds as in the fermentation of champagne en triage when alcohol and carbon dioxide threaten an explosive release.

But what about a more metaphorical kind of pressure brought about by ‘the most romantic day of the year’? Or pressure brought about simply by a relationship going past it sell-by date. So, you want to get yourself out of a lacklustre romantic entanglement or marriage? Or perhaps your partner is the one who wants to cut and run? And the burning question is this: do you keep the ring or hand it back?

Now guys and girls, how would you handle a partner who demands the return of your engagement ring? Perhaps you’d willingly hand back a jewel that represented a failed romance? Or would the stubborn streak in you never even consider parting with something so precious?

Jewel Citizen spoke to two people whose relationships floundered around St Valentine’s Day and asked for their views. It was illuminating.


She just let go

“It really depends on how and why the break-up happened.” said Anonymous, 37, “I lived with a guy for 5 years and we only got engaged towards the very end, actually around the time when things were beginning to slide. We argued a lot; we found fault with each other. It was hard enough coping with living in the house he’d once shared with his ex-wife but then I found out by chance that my engagement ring was the same one worn by his ex. To top it all he completely forgot about St Valentine’s Day – that was the icing on the cake! For me it summed up everything that was wrong between us – I felt like an afterthought. The ring wasn’t a family heirloom or even very nice, just a small plain diamond solitaire. When I left him I was frankly glad to see the last of it. Handing it back with dignity was cathartic. It felt like the right thing to do.”


A tale of two paramours

Isabella, 29, has a different very take on the matter. “This must sound really terrible and to this day I don’t know how I got myself into such a sticky situation, but a couple of years ago I was engaged to two men at the same time. I was doing online dating and started to meet quite few men for casual dates. After a while it boiled down to two serious contenders. The hardest part was choosing one over the other and so for a few months I continued to see them both. Things got much more complicated though when they both proposed to me in the same week. It was sheer madness. Two men, two rings…

Everything came to a head pretty soon after that. I remember a dreadful scene one February evening when they both turned up at my block of flats at the same time. Somehow they must’ve talked and realised they’d both been duped because suddenly there was shouting and abuse directed from the street up towards my apartment window. One of them dashed a bouquet of roses against some wrought-iron railings, swearing as he did so. It was awful – so embarrassing and humiliating. God knows why but I threw one of my engagement rings out of the window in a fit of pique and it ended up rolling into the gutter and then down a storm drain. I kept the other one though, a beautiful Victorian pink diamond ring. Needless to say both relationships ended after that night. Should I have returned the pink diamond? Hmm…” Isabella falters only momentarily then smiles “but it was a gift. It was mine. I later sold it at one of the big London auction houses and used the money to go travelling.”


Jewel Citizen wishes neither to condemn nor condone Isabella’s behaviour. Every relationship break-up is unique and so it’s hard to make sweeping generalisations, however good manners would really suggest the following:

In nearly all cases an engagement ring is given as a conditional gift, meaning it’s given on the assumption that the recipient will marry the donor – if the donor of the gift breaks off the engagement then it’s perfectly acceptable for the recipient to keep the ring. If however on the other hand the recipient breaks off the engagement then they really should give it back.

A married woman whose relationship breaks down should feel it within her right to keep her engagement and wedding rings.

(The above is just an opinion on the subject and doesn’t take into account the legalities of the matter which of course may vary from country to country.)


Ruby – the ‘king of gemstones’

Jewel Citizen takes a look at this mythical blood-red stone

(photo courtesy of Woolley and Wallis)


Ruby is by far the most expensive of all the coloured gemstones – exceeded only in price per carat weight by rare blue, green, and pink diamonds – and has been coveted for millennia.

The stone of kings, and the king of stones

Ruby is a stone of legend. When we think of desire, romance, passion, anger, and fury we tend to associate the emotions generated with the colour red. Roses are red; we see red when we’re angry; the vital lifeblood coursing through our veins is red – the very colour of a ruby. Perhaps that’s why since ancient times this red mineral has been so highly revered – in ancient Sanskrit the ruby was called ratnaraj which translates as ‘king of precious stones’.

It is mentioned several times in the Bible – for example in the the Book of Proverbs where Job claims, “The price of wisdom is above rubies.”, and in Exodus where the ruby is noted as one of the stones visible in the high priest’s breastplate. Pliny the Elder mentions ruby in his ‘Natural History’ in which he refers to its hardness and density.

Burmese legends

A Burmese legend claims that about two thousand years ago a great dragon laid three eggs. From the first egg hatched the future King of Bagan, from the second an Emperor of China, and from the third came the gems and rubies of the Mogok Valley.

There was a such a strong belief in the stone’s metaphysical properties that a ruby was sometimes inserted into a warrior’s flesh so that it would protect him from harm when in combat.


The Glenlyon Brooch in the British Museum which dates from circa 1500 – 1530. This examples contains garnets, however rubies would also have been used in jewellery of this period.


Medieval European myths.

We can trace the etymology of the modern name ruby to the old French word rubi, back through Medieval Latin and rubinus lapis meaning ‘red stone’, to the Latin word rubeus meaning ‘red’. The belief in the supernatural powers of ruby that had persisted from ancient times continued through the Middle Ages and into the Early Modern Era. Henry VIII’s Spanish first wife Catherine of Aragon’s ruby ring allegedly lost its brilliance and colour as the Tudor monarch was preparing to reject her in favour of Anne Boleyn.

In another such example, the German author, Wolfgangus Gabelschoverus, writing in the year 1600, said whilst travelling with his wife: “I observed by the way that a very fine Ruby (which she had given me) lost repeatedly and each time almost completely its splendid colour and assumed a blackish hue.” After his wife died the stone apparently reverted to its original colour.

Rubies were used as widely as talismans, and for protection. They were thought to bestow the wearer with good health, success in love, and good fortune. Brooches were worn that contained magical inscriptions and gemstones to protect their owners. The Glenlyon Brooch in the photo above is inscribed with the names of the three wise men who visited the infant Christ, and their names would have been recited as a charm.

So what exactly is a ruby?

Ruby has the same chemical composition as sapphire – they are both the mineral corundum – but ruby owes its red colour to the inclusion of chromium oxide and occasionally to iron. It’s generally accepted that there needs to be 2% or more chromium present for a stone to be called a ruby, and even then it’s not an exact science. Iron can further modify the red colour, the effect of which can be seen for example in darker red Thai rubies.

Whilst corundum comes in many colours only red examples are termed ruby – all other shades are sapphire. That’s why sapphire comes not only in shades of blue, but also in fancy colours e.g. green, white, yellow, purple, and pink. Having said that, there’s some debate amongst gem dealers as to where the line crosses over between pink sapphires and rubies.



The photo above shows a Sri Lankan pink sapphire on the left, a ruby in the middle, and a pair of Mozambique rubies on the right. The difference in colour between the pink sapphire and the ruby in the middle is so slight that it’s difficult to see with an untrained eye.


Before modern gemological testing methods were invented rubies were often confused with other red stones, notably spinels and garnets. The Black Prince’s Ruby, a gift from the King of Castile to the Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1367, and now set into the Imperial State Crown, was thought to have been a ruby for centuries but is actually now recognised as a red spinel.

The Timur Ruby (also in the Crown Jewels) is another such imposter and was only discovered to be a spinel in 1851.

Why are some rubies more desirable than others?

As with all gemstones there are many reasons why one stone will be more desirable than another including origin, colour, clarity, cut, and size. Pigeon’s blood red is considered the best colour – a deep crimson, and Burmese mines have traditionally yielded the most outstanding examples, due in part to their low iron content which gives them a stronger fluorescence, and traces of vanadium which impart a pinkish-red hue. Rubies also come from mines in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Thailand, Afghanistan, and more recently from parts of Africa including Mozambique.

Extraordinarily large sums are paid for the best rubies. Sotheby’s in Geneva set a world record in May 2015 when they sold the 25.59 carat Burmese ‘Sunrise Ruby’ and diamond ring for CHF 28,250,000 (approximately $30,000,000). The existence of a stone of this size and one displaying the vividly saturated colour known as ‘pigeon’s blood red’ is thought to be quite miraculous.


Source: “Carmen Lúcia Ruby” by greyloch – under Creative Commons license

The 23.1 carat Carmen Lúcia Ruby in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, which was found in Mogok, Burma’s ‘Valley of Rubies’, in the 1930s


Mozambique – a 21st century source of rubies

The resource-rich country of Mozambique is a relatively new source of rubies, and with the Montepuez discovery in 2009 comes the world’s largest ruby deposit. The Montepuez Ruby Mine, in which London-based coloured-gemstone mining company Gemfields has a 75% stake, now accounts for approximately half the world’s supply.

Gemstone dealers and jewellers are rightly excited by the new source of material because many Mozambique rubies rival those found in Burma, although however some still prefer the ‘pedigree’ of Burmese material. Marcus McCallum, a gemstone dealer based in London’s Hatton Garden, said his personal preferences favour “the quality of the stone rather than being all about its ‘birth certificate’ – a beautiful ruby is a beautiful ruby, end of.”

Leading jewellers such as Bulgari, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels have begun to use Mozambique rubies in their creations, suggesting that it really is all about the intrinsic quality of the stone and not necessarily the origin.


Fabulous jewellery coming soon to auction

Jewel Citizen picks 4 opulent brooches

Summer is here – the air is warm, the sky is blue, and here at Jewel Citizen I’m getting all of a flutter about a number of jewellery auctions that’ll soon be taking place in the UK.

This coming week, on the 11th of July, it’s Sworder’s ‘Jewellery and Silver’ sale, shortly followed by Lawrences ‘Jewellery’ sale on the 13th of July, so no doubt I’ll have a busy viewing schedule. And a quick trip up to Knightsbridge, London is a must to see the jewellery being offered at Bonham’s on the 19th.

An event I really can’t wait to view and attend is Woolley and Wallis’s ‘Jewellery and Watches’ sale, which is happening on the 20th of July. It’s always a treat to receive one of their beautifully-illustrated catalogues, and I was delighted there was one waiting for me at home when I got back from a recent trip abroad. The jewellery to be offered is predominately antique, estate, and vintage, and at the more affordable end of the market than many of the pieces to be found in their ‘Fine Jewellery’ sales. Having said that I’m seeing many exquisite things in this catalogue and am sure the event will be a great success.

Confession time – I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ about brooches at the moment! A few years ago they were something you’d only really see on older women; I’d even go as far as to say that a lot of top quality inherited pieces found themselves unloved, unworn, and gathering dust. A friend of mine inherited her grandma’s jewels and left them in a bank vault for years. With tastes changing I’m sure a lot of you now feel very differently about the ultimate item of versatile jewellery.

So naturally I’m drawn to some of the vintage brooches in Woolley and Wallis’s upcoming sale. I’ve picked out just 4 of my favourites because it’d be hard to do justice to all the jewellery in such a short article.

The first one is a 19th century Egyptian-influenced scarab brooch pendant, shown above, comprising of a deer-headed mythical creature clutching two feathers, its wings with enamel decoration, and suspending three articulated scarabs. Estimate GBP 2,500 – 3,500. Such a dramatic piece, I’d feel like Cleopatra if I wore it.

A less spectacular but equally beautiful piece is the Regency gold and turquoise dove brooch shown below. Since ancient times doves have symbolised love and peace, and appear in the symbolism of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. Turquoise is a stone often worn for luck. The bird carries in its beak a forget-me-not flower, and to the reverse is a glazed compartment containing hair. Estimate GBP 400 – 600. I’d attach this brooch to my hat, or perhaps to a sash – anywhere but the classic lapel! The possibilities are endless…

Lizards and salamanders were popular motifs in late Victorian jewellery and this particular example is a 10cm long multi-gem brooch, pavé-set all over in silver and gold with opals and diamonds, the head set with a circular-cut demantoid garnet, and ruby eyes.

Dating to the reign of George III is my final choice – an amethyst and diamond pendant brooch in gold and silver. With an estimate of GBP 600 – 800 it’d look fantastic securing a silk scarf, attached to an evening purse, or even against a hat.

To view these brooches and many other pieces of jewellery visit www.woolleyandwallis.co.uk

(photos courtesy of Woolley and Wallis)

Jewel Citizen goes back to school

Graduates of 2017 proudly showcase their work at The School of Jewellery Ireland

During the last evening of my long interlude in the Emerald Isle I was fortunate enough to have attended a private viewing of The School of Jewellery Ireland’s 2017 Graduate Exhibition, an event being held in the school’s Dublin studios until the 6th of July.

Graduates, family members, and friends admiring the collections

Deirdre O’Donnell, a renowned goldsmith, businesswoman, and tutor is the founder of The School and to this day remains very much its guiding force. For two years The School has been offering a full-time, year-long ‘Certificate in Jewellery and Goldsmith Skills’ course, and in addition this year saw the first graduates from the Higher Certificate course. Having attended The School myself I’ve got high hopes for the graduates and their work.

For anyone organising an exhibition there are always going to be pertinent questions: Will enough people show up on the launch night? Will the event be well received? Will it all go smoothly and to plan?

As I entered the Graduate Exhibition gallery and made my way into the throng it was clear that not only was the jewellery excellently presented in tall well-lit glass display stands, but it was also of outstanding quality. I sipped a glass of wine and waited for an opportunity to view the work.

It would be hard to do justice to all the graduates in such a short review and if I focus on just a few of the collections it’s in no way intended to be dismissive of the others.

Sinead Murphy, who is soon to be launching her own brand under the apt name Cosmic Boulevard, unveiled a cohesive body of work that originally had the working title ‘things I see in the sky’. Clearly a stargazing lady, Sinead’s creations include a show-stopping multi-gem UFO ring, delicately engraved silver pendants and bracelets based on the sun and moon, and her ‘Stellar’ cocktail ring, a substantial silver statement piece featuring a fashionable open top encircled by dark inky-blue sapphires.

Sinead Murphy’s collection on display at The School of Jewellery Ireland

For some jewellers humour and the evocation of positive emotions is an essential part of what they aim to create. Yvonne Kelly succeeds in this with her whimsical flip-flop pendant and earrings, each miniature rendering of footwear conjuring up mental images of beach holidays and summer fun.

Phenomena of the natural world and geographical locations play a key part in many of the graduates’ collections – there are ocean and beach themes, trees, lizards, jellyfish, and other wild creatures – and in addition to this some designs are clearly influenced by their creators’ hobbies and interests. The Camino – a pilgrimage route through Europe which ends up in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain – is the inspiration behind another very interesting collection.

Theresa Fee’s work, as seen in the photo below, features an engraved amulet pendant set with amethyst, its hollow interior allowing the wearer to secrete within it a photo, small prayer scroll, or written wish. Drawing on her love of Asia and yoga, Theresa’s ‘Om’ collection of earrings and pendant combine stylised lotus leaves with delicately pierced om symbols.

Theresa Fee’s jewellery which is inspired by her love of Asia and yoga

Deirdre O’Donnell commented, “The Full Time Certificate courses at The School of Jewellery Ireland are designed to offer graduates all of the practical jewellery and goldsmith skills needed to develop a career in the jewellery trade. This year’s graduates have excelled in creating their jewellery collections and the end of year exhibition is a great opportunity for them to showcase their hard work. We have every confidence that they will go on to achieve great things in their future careers and wish them every success!”

Further information about The School of Jewellery Ireland, its course schedule, and the Graduate Exhibition may be found on www.theschoolofjewellery.ie

Masterpiece London 2017

Some of my favourite jewels from this year’s show

Earlier this week I was thrilled to have been in London for Masterpiece, one of the world’s most exclusive art and antiques fairs. An annual event since 2010, the fair is held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in a specially constructed marquee with the facade of a red-brick Georgian building. The sleek and modern interior accommodates approximately 150 exhibitors, Scott’s Seafood & Champagne Bar, and fine dining restaurants such as The Ivy Chelsea Brasserie, and Le Caprice.

It’s estimated that over a billion pound’s worth of fine art, antiques, jewellery, and antiquities are offered at the fair, giving it the feel of a luxurious museum where everything is for sale.

As I walked through the red carpeted entrance there were no doubts in my mind that soon I’d be gazing upon the crème de la crème of jewels.

Wartski, the London dealer specialising in Russian works of art and particularly those of Carl Fabergé, never fails to disappoint with its selection of period jewellery.

The photo below shows a brooch in the form of a cicada c1900 by Frédéric Boucheron, the delicately-executed wings with plique-à-jour enamel work.

A multi-gem pendant brooch by Gustave Baugrand drew my attention for its bold 19th century Egyptian-revival design. Centred with a rock crystal panel and enamelled portrait of a goddess and set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, the lower border set with carved emerald scarabs. Paris, c1865.

One of my favourite pieces with Wartski this year was an enamelled pansy plaque-de-cou by René Lalique, seen on the righthand side of the photo below. I imagine that this exquisite piece would have formed the central part of a choker-style necklace and perhaps been held in place by ribbon.

After a rejuvenating glass of champagne it was time to move on to Symbolic and Chase. Their exhibition area is darker, which gives it something of a nightclub ambience, with artfully-lit cabinets containing many important pieces of jewellery.

I simply adore pearl necklaces and soon found one to covet – the natural-coloured double-row pearl and diamond necklace in the photo below.

Many visitors to Symbolic and Chase were drawn to an emerald, pearl, and diamond sautoir incorporating an historic 114 carat vivid yellow diamond, by JAR, Paris. The yellow diamond is currently the largest certified old-cut cushion-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond known in the world. It was formerly in the collection of Countess Rosario Zouboff, and auctioned by Christie’s in 1962.

In summary, many of pieces of jewellery offered at Masterpiece this year rivalled those held in the collections of leading museums around the world. Masterpiece really is an event not to miss.