Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Birds and Feathers in History

by Ann Covode

Feathers have been in fashion for several hundred years.  Hats with feathers were all the rage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Feather Hat (2)We all know the iconic mega-feathered hats of the Edwardian era. The Edwardians were particularly enamored with plumage, but unlike their be-feathered predecessors, the Victorians and the Georgians, many a fine species of bird was taken to the brink of extinction by the incredible demand for ladies be-feathered hats.

Throughout history, hats have played a big role in indicating one’s status. We all know the famous scene in “The Duchess,” where Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, sports giant ostrich plumes in her giant hair, and starts a craze that would last decades. For the Edwardians, they took this to a new level, and often added entire birds to their heads, and sometimes these birds were fantastical creations cobbled together from several varying bird parts!GeorgeanaDuchess

Popular plumage for hats extended beyond ostrich, to include heron, peacock, egret, osprey, bird of paradise, pheasant…even vulture. The more “common” feathers for adornment were garden fowl, pigeon, turkey, goose, and coque/rooster. These feathers were made into plumes, pompoms, aigrettes, wings, pads, bands, breasts, and quills, and not by marchandes, milliners, and craftsmen in quaint little shops, oh no, by massive factories employing thousands of women and children, and dealing in hundreds of thousands of feathers per day. In 1900, in North America, the millinery industry employed 83,000 people!

The battle over the commercial trade in bird feathers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries “was one of the first times we saw a popular movement coalesce in defense of the environment, and not surprisingly it was to save birds,” says Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California and vice president of the National Audubon Society. American fashionistas were in a frenzy over feather hats. Haute headwear made from real bird plumage was seen everywhere. The delirium was so widespread, in fact, that by 1886, writes Douglas Brinkley in The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, “more than 5 million birds were being massacred yearly to satisfy the booming North American millinery trade.

Along Manhattan’s Ladies’ Mile — the principal shopping district, centered on Broadway and Twenty-Third Street — retail stores sold the feathers of snowy egrets, white ibises, and great blue herons.” He continues, “Dense bird colonies were being wiped out in Florida so that women of the ‘private carriage crowd’ could make a fashion statement by shopping for aigrettes. Some women even wanted a stuffed owl head on their bonnets and a full hummingbird wrapped in bejeweled vegetation as a brooch.”

By the late 1890s, women conservationists around the country were rallying to protect America’s birds. Like a confusing fall warbler, the national debate darted back and forth — lighting on the women of nature and the nature of women.

Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna Hall were the two-woman dream team responsible for taking down the 19th-century plume trade and establishing the National Audubon Society. Appalled by the number of birds being killed in the name of fashion, Hemenway, an impassioned amateur naturalist, and her cousin Hall, persuaded their socialite friends to boycott the trade and protect the wildlife behind it. Ultimately, they recruited 900 women to join the fight, and gave rise to an establishment that, a century later, has grown to 1 million members and supporters strong.

FlorenceMerriamBaileyAmerican nature writer and ornithologist Florence Merriam Bailey was a jane of all trades. Not only did she work with the National Audubon Society during its early years, she is also credited for writing the first known bird guide, Birds Through an Opera Glass, published in 1889. A true pioneer in the field, Merriam protested the mistreatment, killing, and trade of feathered animals. Her legacy still remains in the form of a subspecies of the California Mountain Chickadee, Parus gambeli baileyae, that was named in her honor.

The Chicago Daily Tribune of Oct. 24, 1897, asked women to save wild birds from extinction by pledging that “they would not wear birds or bird plumage of any kind except ostrich plumes on their hats.” Ostrich plumes, the editor explained, can be gathered without torturing or killing the bird. Such solidarity, the report noted, had forced one large Chicago mercantile company to stop using “the plumage of song birds in trimming hats.” Sara A. Hubbard, director of the Illinois Audubon Society, told the paper: “I expect to live to see the time when the wearing of bird plumage will be a brand of ignorance.”

Feathers were also popular with the sporting crowd.  The popularity of salmon fishing grew through the mid-nineteenth century. This was around the same time that Britain was a powerful colonial nation. Because of this, fly dealers were able to obtain exotic feathers and tie more colourful patterns. Feathers from birds such as the Giant Ostrich from South Africa and the Common Peacock from India were commonly used. Using exotic jungle cock from Africa fly dealers were able to enhance the appearance of their flies. The dull grey patterns of the past were now a distant memory.

Flyfeather.png
A forward thinking entrepreneur by the name of William Blacker moved to England from Ireland to set up a fly tying and tackle business. His intention was to capitalise on the brisk rise in popularity of Salmon fishing. Blacker was a very talented fly tyer and suddenly started producing flies that resembled works of art. With the boundaries of fly tying now stretched anything seemed possible. Unfortunately, William Blacker died at the age of 42 from TB and his creations were to be no more.

Although the variety of patterns were now on the increase, it was believed that the pattern of a salmon fly was likely to be more successful if it was designed for a specific river. Fly tyers made creations that were only exclusively to be used on a specific river. So the idea that a Tweed fish could be caught on a fly designed for the River Spey was unheard off. This popular theory gave rise to the notion that each river required its own combination of fly tying materials. It was from this era the term Spey; Tay or Tweed flies came from.

We were recently introduced to a fascinating book about a feather heist in England from one of our customers.  Kirk Wallace Johnson’s new book The Feather Thief is a veritable Mental ward of anoraks—explorers, naturalists, gumshoes, dentists, musicians and salmon fly-tyers. Indeed, about two-thirds of the way through The Feather Thief, Johnson turns anorak himself, chasing down stolen 19th-century plumes as relentlessly as Herbert Mental stalked the eggs of birders. Johnson’s chronicle of an unlikely crime by an unlikely crook is a literary police sketch—part natural history yarn, part detective story, part the stuff of tragedy of a specifically English kind.  It’s a good read and delves into the history of feathers and salmon fly ties.

Eve’s new Feathers series is an exploration into this beautiful natural shape and an homage to our feathered friends.  It is sure to be a fashion craze as well!  Thank goodness her feathers are in gold and silver with gem accoutrements instead of the real thing!

 

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Peridots and Spinels for August

by Ann Covode

The birthstones chosen for August are peridots and spinels. Both have an interesting history and are beautiful!

GemperidotPeridot is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color: an olive-green. The intensity and tint of the green, however, depends on the percentage of iron in the crystal structure, so the color of individual peridot gems can vary from yellow, to olive, to brownish-green. In rare cases, peridot may have a medium-dark toned, pure green with no secondary yellow hue or brown mask. Olivine, of which peridot is a type, is a common mineral in mafic and ultramafic rocks, often found in lava and in peridotite xenoliths of the mantle, which lava carries to the surface; however, gem-quality peridot occurs in only a fraction of these settings.

Peridots can also be found in meteorites. Peridots can be differentiated by size and composition. A peridot formed as a result of volcanic activity tends to contain higher concentrations of lithium, nickel and zinc than those found in meteorites. Olivine is an abundant mineral, but gem-quality peridot is rather rare due to its chemical instability on Earth’s surface. Olivine is usually found as small grains and tends to exist in a heavily weathered state, unsuitable for decorative use. Large crystals of forsterite, the variety most often used to cut peridot gems, are rare; as a result olivine is considered to be precious. In the ancient world, mining of peridot, called topazios then, on St. John’s Island in the Red Sea began about 300 B.C. Peridot is sometimes mistaken for emeralds and other green gems.

Notable gemologist George Frederick Kunz discussed the confusion between emeralds and peridots in many church treasures, notably the “Three Magi” treasure in the Dom of Cologne, Germany. The August birthstone, peridot, symbolizes strength and is sometimes called the “evening emerald” for its light green color.

IMG_9373Eve had fun with both spinels and sapphires in these drop earrings in 18 karat white gold from Eve’s “Just Desserts” series. These lovely “Lime Jello” earrings feature four sapphires, two peridots and four diamonds. $2870

 

 

 

 

IMG_9381Eve’s “Paradiso” necklace features peridot in multiple bead sizes to create this interesting combination. $390. 

 

Spinel is a gemstone mineral that has been confused with ruby and sapphire for over 1000 years. Several of the most spectacular spinels ever discovered have been mounted in “crown jewels” and other “jewelry of significance” under the assumption that they were rubies or sapphires. Spinel occurs in the same bright red and blue colors as rubies and sapphires. Spinel forms in the same rock units, under the same geological conditions and is found in the same gravels. It is not surprising that ancient gem traders thought that these colorful spinels were rubies and sapphires. Two thousand years ago, gemstone traders did not know that spinel and corundum (the mineral of ruby and sapphire) have different chemical compositions and different crystal structures. Instead, gem traders thought that every bright red gemstone was a “ruby” and every deep blue gemstone was a “sapphire.” As a result, lots of spinels are now in very important jewelry collections based on their incorrect identification as a ruby.

CrownThe most famous example of a spinel being identified as a ruby is a 170-carat bright red spinel named “The Black Prince’s Ruby.” The first known owner of this beautiful stone was Abu Sa’id, the Moorish Prince of Granada, in the 14th century. The stone passed through several owners and eventually made its way into the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, where it is mounted immediately above the famous Cullinan II diamond. 

In July 2016, spinel was named a new birthstone for the month of August by the American Gem Trade Association and the Jewelers of America. Before then, peridot served as the August birthstone. Now both spinel and peridot will share the designation. This event and continued promotion of monthly birthstones will bring significant attention to spinel, which occurs in a variety of colors. Consumers will now have a choice beyond the yellow-green color of peridot.

bachanalEve’s Bachanal Ring is a glorious example of spinel. This ring in 18 karat white gold from Eve’s “In Great Spirits” series features on Plum Spinel, two raspberry spinels and four pomegranate spinels along with 30 diamonds. This celebratory ring is a one of a kind masterpiece! $14,800

 

 

 

IMG_9393One of our favorites at the Gallery are our Wine Angel necklaces in black Spinel. This elegant necklace measures 60 inches long and can be worn in various lengths as a necklace or bracelet. $210.  Also featured here a delicate look with peridot and Freshwater pearls, Eve created this baby bracelet. $48

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Red Hot Rubies!

By Katie McMath

laserAs the days get warmer and we enter July, ruby lovers rejoice! This month’s birthstone is not only vivid in color but fluorescent, making it glow from within like the sun. Ancient Greeks believed rubies could melt wax, while Hindu myth said they could boil water. This might sound farfetched until you learn that the first laser in 1960 was made with ruby. Theodore Maiman discovered that chromium, the element which grants rubies their color and fluorescence, becomes energized when hit with a flash of white light. This sends forth a highly concentrated red light beam, known as a laser. This is why we typically think of lasers as red! Rubies are still used today in lasers, watch-making and medical instruments. They are a 9 on Mohs’ hardness scale, making them one of the hardest stones. (Diamonds are a 10.) In short, this gem has far more to offer than beauty.

In fact rubies have been considered one of the most valuable stones for over a dozen centuries. In Hindu tradition they are valued above all other gems, called Ratna Raj or ‘Queen of Precious Stones’ in Sanskrit. Many believed offering rubies to the god Krishna could help them be reborn as emperors in the next life. It’s likely that the most famous gem in Hindu myth, the magical Syamantaka, worn by Krishna, was a ruby.

The history of rubies often blurs myth and fact. Red stones have been historically referred to as rubies regardless of their makeup. For example the Black Prince Ruby which completes the British Imperial State Crown is a red spinel. The same can be said of the Timur Ruby. Even the Latin word for red, ruber, reveals the link between color and stone. 

pic1In reality rubies are a variety of corundum, the same mineral as sapphire. The only difference is the presence of chromium which makes rubies range from deep burgundy or wine-colored, to hot pink, to vivid scarlet. 

Another myth revolves around location. Mogok, or the Ruby Valley, in Northern Burma was once claimed to be the sole source of rubies. Writers described the valley as rich with rubies since the dawn of time. Every ancient example was thought to have come from this one valley. In fact about 80% of ancient and contemporary rubies hail from Mogok, not a percentage to be scoffed at.  

It is said that one Burmese king ordered workers in the Mogok mine to give him the largest rubies they found, and paid them with the smallest. This gave miners incentive to crush up beautiful gems so they wouldn’t have to part with them. If this story holds any weight it offers another explanation as to why large rubies are so rare. In 2015 The Sunrise Ruby, weighing 25.5 carats, made history when it sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $30.3 million. More recently, a Harry Winston ring with a 22.86 carat Burmese ruby and two half moon diamonds sold for 7.1 million at Christie’s Auction House. 

Burmese rubies are famous for their almost indescribable red hue, which is simultaneously bright, dark, and vivid. This is called “pigeon’s blood.” The dramatic 1955 novel The Valley of the Rubies used this term again and again, calling it “some mystic incantation; some magic password…”

A stone so strongly linked to magic, royalty, and technology must be good luck. Its lively color can be likened to fire, blood, or life force itself, making rubies a passionate and vital stone. They are thought in Burma to increase courage and even bestow invincibility. Their use in lasers and medicine proves that they are highly energetic and durable. 

rubyHowever the Queen of Stones is not only reserved for royalty or high-end technology. Small rubies abound all over the world. They are even mined in Wyoming, Montana, and North Carolina, as well as Western and Eastern Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Many have made their way to Eve’s gallery and been incorporated into stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces. 

nkl21897px600dkThe “Hard Candy” necklace from Eve’s Just Desserts series looks good enough to eat! Plentiful deep red cabochon rubies are accented with 14 karat gold details, including an intricately carved clasp with a single diamond. This beautiful piece is $2,950.00.

rng21817px600dkAlso from the Just Desserts series is Eve’s whimsical “Who Plucked the Cherries Out?” ring, featuring five rubies tucked into the crust of a sterling silver pie. The metal crisscrosses in an openwork pattern, implying missing cherries. This sweet ring, released during the celebratory mood of Eve Alfillé Gallery’s 30th year of business, is $580. It could make the perfect gift for your July-born loved one, especially if she has a sweet tooth. 

rng17246px600dkEve’s “Fiery Acanthus” ring features gently curved acanthus leaf forms, representative in the Mediterranean of enduring life and immortality. Their presence reminds one of Burmese lore that rubies grant courage and even eternal life. The central ruby is faceted to bring out its depth, weighing 1.08 carats. It shines, sanguine and bold. Four pale green irradiated diamonds balance their ruby neighbor, offering moments of calm around the fire. This gorgeous piece from Eve’s Acanthus series is $5,630.00

Enjoy the heat of the summer, as life is in full bloom around you, and take inspiration from this month’s high-spirited birthstone. Be courageous and beautiful like the dazzling ruby.

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Get to know June’s three mysterious birthstones

By Katie McMath

Is your birthday coming up this month? Maybe one of June’s three fascinating birthstones will capture your imagination. Chances are you’re familiar with pearls, and maybe even own a strand of them or a pair of pearl earrings. These soft stones form inside saltwater or freshwater mollusks, usually when a piece of unwelcome material irritates the animal. The mollusk then builds up layers of pearlescent nacre around the intruding object, as humans may rub a wounded elbow or massage an aching back. The nacre itself is known as “mother of pearl.”

All pearls were once natural. They were unearthed from rivers and oceans by divers in brass suits.  In the late 1800s Japanese scientist Kakichi Mitsukuri discovered a way to successfully “culture” pearls by imbedding both hard and soft material under the skin of mollusks, mimicking a small animal intruder. He won a U.S. lawsuit granting him the rights to call these pearls “cultured,” rather than a cheapening name like “synthetic” or “man-made.” Pearls today are mostly made this way.

They come in as many colors as mollusks do. Tahitian oysters tend to be darker with rainbow iridescence like an oil slick, while South Seas oysters are more often golden white.

pearl brcEve’s delicate “Water Nymphs” bracelet is made of cultured freshwater pearls with a simple sterling silver clasp and translucent blue aquamarines. This beautiful piece, or another of our pretty strung pearl bracelets, can get you into the June spirit without breaking the bank. $95.

 

 

alexanderAlexandrite’s story is lesser known. This gem is as rare as it is beautiful. Named after Russian Czar Alexander II, it was believed to be discovered on his birthday in 1830. Whether or not this is literally true, it was likely discovered around the time of his rule, and came to represent this era. Czar Alexander is also known as Alexander the Liberator, as he ordered the emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861. Some fought for him to introduce a more modern Parliament structure to Russia, but he did not opt for this second dramatic change. In 1881 his enemies attempted to assassinate him, shattering his lower body in an explosion.

alexandriteLike Czar Alexander, his namesake stone has two sides: liberation and conflict, progress and violence. Depending on the light Alexandrite changes from green to purplish red. Author Leskov Nicolai Semyonovich wrote about the tragic assassination attempt, saying “Look, here it is, the prophetic Russian stone! O crafty Siberian. It was always green as hope and only toward evening was it suffused with blood.”

This unique effect comes from the presence of chromium, which reflects a lot of green light. In candle light, green light is not as visible, leaving the remaining red reflection to appear more prominently. Not only is Alexandrite beautiful and unusual, it is a type of chrysoberyl, nearly as hard as diamonds.

callalillyEve’s exquisite “Calla Lily” pendant from her “Music of the Stream” series showcases a rare abalone pearl which formed in a floral shape. Abalone are sea snails who, unlike clams, have no enclosed cavity to grow pearls. Therefore their pearls are far more rare. This pearl is also large (1 ½ inches by ⅞ inch at its widest points) and beautifully lustrous with vivid shades of teal and pink. Its three round edges are capped platinum and studded with emeralds, and diamonds. Tucked in the back is a single alexandrite, making this one of a kind pendant perfect for someone born in June. Not only does its pearl offer multicolored shine, but its hidden alexandrite can change color.

If neither pearls nor Alexandrites are your cup of tea, perhaps the lyrical beauty of moonstones will lure you in. These shimmering jewels come from the feldspar group of minerals, along with sunstones and labradorites. Moonstones specifically are known as Orthoclase. Their unique opalescence comes from thin internal layers of different feldspar minerals. The resulting shine is called schiller. If the mineral layers are very thin they appear blue, and if they are thicker they appear white. Try gazing into a moonstone of yours, or one in our gallery and guessing what’s inside.

Moonstones are often carved en cabochon, or rounded and polished. This dreamy shape prevents hard lines from fracturing the stone, and instead promotes an organic feeling of harmony, like gazing up at the moon. For millennia, moonstones have been linked to lunar mythology. 11th century Europeans believed moonstone could resolve lovers’ quarrels, and ancient Indians thought they could reveal lovers’ futures, especially during a full moon. Perhaps your love was born in June, and could appreciate the magical romance of a moonstone gift.

moonearsEve’s whimsical “Faces of the Moon” earrings, shown with detachable pink pearl drops, are made from carved moonstones, bezel set in 14 karat gold. One moon is accented by a small white diamond. These charming lunar earrings are $960.

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Colorful Engagement Rings

by Ann Covode

Julia RobertsJulia Roberts is trendsetting once again! She wore some pretty memorable jewels — or, rather, her on-screen character, Vivian Ward, did — in Pretty Woman. It’s quite hard to forget about that ruby-and-diamond necklace Ward receives from Edward Lewis (portrayed by Richard Gere) before the two head off to a fancy soirée. And while it might seem like nothing will ever compare to the dazzling pieces from the ’90s classic, Roberts’ engagement ring from husband Daniel Moder certainly does. Although it’s fairly simple, the actor’s sparkler does stand out for one particular reason. It’s no secret that colored gemstones have been a clear favorite among brides in 2018 and 2019, which means Roberts’ ring — which she’s had perched on her finger since 2002 — is right in line with one of today’s most popular jewelry crazes. Though on trend, one facet sets hers apart from the masses.

JuliaRobertsringJulia’s vibrant green center gemstone makes her ring stand out from the rest. Katy Perry and Princess Eugenie opted for pink center stones and Kate Middleton chose sapphire, but few notable names have sported a verdant jewel on their ring finger, making Roberts’ exceptionally unique.  Julia’s engagement ring appears to feature a 1.5 to 2 carat oval-shaped green tourmaline in a diamond-accented platinum or white gold band.

Eve has designed many unique rings with beautiful colored gemstones. In this “Interchange IV” engagement ring she utilizes a colorful indicolite tourmaline as the centerpiece. Finding warmth in this northern landscape, Eve created the spectacular “Interchange IV” engagement ring. Several years ago she fell in love with the famous Paraiba tourmalines from Brazil and set them in this ring. These tourmalines are now highly sought after and found in the house of Cartier as well as many other famous jewelry houses.

InterchangeIVThe teal indicolite tourmaline warms the 113 diamonds swirling around it as though it is melting the ice. From Eve Alfillé’s “Alone Together” series. The ring is an absolute beauty, featuring a 4.33 carat fine cushion-cut teal indicolite tourmaline encircled by a series of 113 diamonds totaling 0.87 carats that weave a swirling perimeter about the richly hued center. A pair of Paraiba tourmalines in an electric-teal hue sparkle on both sides of the center stone and weigh 0.29 carats together. $12,400

ChateaudeChambord2Eve also delighted in using this pink sapphire to design the “Chateau de Chambord en rosé” engagement and wedding ring pair. She wanted to imitate the Renaissance architecture of that magnificent chateau but chose to give it an art deco vibe to simplify it. It is a fortress of a ring featuring an emerald cut 1.18 carat shimmering pink sapphire. This bright, rosy stone is joined by two diamond baguettes totaling 0.12 carats and two diamond secret stones which adorn the sholders of the ring totalling 0.06 carats. All this beauty is set in 18 karat white gold with detailed antiquities carvings along the gallery. $4270 Shown here with its beautifully carved 18 karat white gold and diamond companion band sold separately. $1780Garden of Eden
Inspired by vegetation and branches intertwining in the sunlight, Eve designed the lovely “Garden of Eden” ring featuring a pretty blue sapphire in an 18 karat white gold setting with 3 diamonds. She wanted this ring to be “Strong but delicate” to mimic nature. One of the diamonds resides at the bottom of the ring for the wearer to surreptitiously enjoy! $1280 The wedding band is also 18 karat white gold with 8 diamonds of 0.04 total weight. $1320

IMG_8781Princess Diana was a forerunner in the colored stone trend almost 40 year’s ago. Her sapphire engagement ring awed the world when it was unveiled at her and Charles’ wedding. Eve designed this “Married at Midnight” sapphire ring encircled by 30 diamonds with that in mind. A sapphire is a classic choice! $4660