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Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels: A Spectacular Collection of Victorian Jewelry
09 / 08

 

MRS. STANFORD’S JEWELS – NOW ON EXHIBIT AT STANFORD’S CANTOR MUSEUM

 

A little background…During the 19th century, Jane Lathrop Stanford, philanthropist and wife of Leland Stanford (attorney, Governor of California, Robber Baron, and founder of Stanford University), amassed an amazing collection of jewels.

 

Oil Painting Mrs. Stanford's Jewels

 

Photograph by Sugar et Cie of work by Astley D.M. Cooper “Mrs. Stanford Jewels,” Cantor Museum at Stanford University

 

After arranging her jewelry on red velvet in order to photograph and catalog her collection, Mrs. Stanford decided that she really liked the look of the photograph. She decided to commission, local artist, D.M. Cooper to create an oil painting of the collection (c. 1898).

 

It’s currently part of a small exhibition of Astley D.M. Cooper’s work on display at Stanford University’s Cantor Museum through November 16, 2015. Always looking for examples of 18th and 19th century jewels, I went down to take a look. The painting is visually stunning, but to me it is most interesting as a piece of design history.

 

My only wish is that Cooper had painted the jewels in greater detail. One reason for this might be that he painted the final touches from memory. Cooper, a drinker and lover of life, became irritated with Stanford’s demands for formal dress and temperance. “Irked by her pretensions, Cooper stormed out of the Stanford mansion before completing his work.” (A Painter Comes Home, Geoffry Dunn, Metro, March 7-16) The painting was finished later, in the peace, in his studio.

 

Close up view of a portion of the oil painting Mrs. Stanford's Jewels showing a six strand pearl necklace and other pieces of jewelry

 

Photograph by Sugar et Cie of work by Astley D.M. Cooper “Mrs. Stanford Jewels,” Cantor Museum at Stanford University

 

 

A CLASSIC COLLECTION OF VICTORIAN JEWELRY

 

I happened to find the following information regarding Mrs. Stanford’s collection in “Bejewelled by Tiffany,” (Clare Phillips). It might give you some insight into the quality of her collection. The Stanford name can be found multiple times in Tiffany & Co.’s surviving ledgers from the 1870’s and 1880’s. Her collection is also purported to include pieces from the Queen of Spain (Isabella II)’s collection.

 

Stanford’s collection includes many classic 19th century pieces, the kind you might see in the Victoria & Albert museum in London or at the Met in New York: bangle bracelets, a diamond arrow brooch, a diamond studded pocket watch, cameos, parures, jeweled hair combs, portrait brooches….

 

A close-up of Astley, D.M. Cooper's Jane Stanford's Jewels

 

Photograph by Sugar et Cie of work by Astley D.M. Cooper “Mrs. Stanford Jewels,” Cantor Museum at Stanford University

 

JEWELLERY IN 19TH CENTURY OIL PAINTINGS

 

Within the Cantor Museum, there were surprisingly few portraits of Mrs. Stanford wearing her jewels (especially ones including the details that I love). This was perhaps the best: Jane Lathrop Stanford, 1881, by Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat (France) oil on canvas, Stanford Family Collection. The detail of the jewelry is not completely clear, but no one can mistake the lovely (and large) sapphire ring that she’s wearing on her index finger.

 

Close up of a portrait of Jane Stanford showing her jewelry

 

Photograph by Sugar et Cie of work by Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat “Jane Lathrop Stanford,” Cantor Museum at Stanford University

 

Although it is well-documented, I’m not sure that today it is commonly known that Stanford University struggled financially after Leland Stanford’s death. Mrs. Stanford worked tirelessly to ensure its financial stability.

 

SELLING THE COLLECTION

 

Jane Stanford traveled to London during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in order to find a buyer for her jewelry collection, but was not successful. In her will, Mrs. Stanford provided for her collection to be sold and for the proceeds to fund museum acquisitions. According to the Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 1, 1906, “The world famous collection of precious stones and jewelry, the property of the late Mrs. Jane Stanford, will be sold by the Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. University Association as soon as possible… Many offers from leading Eastern jewelers are already on file…”

 

 

08 / 16

 

THE ANTIQUE PERFUME FLASK OR SCENT FLACON

 

Perfume flasks were made in many different sizes (travel, table-top) and in a variety of materials (glass, silver, enamel, gold), but of course we love those that are meant to be worn as jewelry.

 

The scent flask or perfume flacon, is a small container with a tight secure cap. Sometimes the flacon itself is the container. Others are containers inside containers, hidden away and accessible only through its decorative outside. These ornamental objects could be hung around the neck, suspended by chain or ribbon (perfume pendant), attached to a finger ring, or dangled from a chatelaine (see our glossary for more information).

 

The earliest version of the perfume flacon (16th century) was made of precious metal and although decorative, it served a purpose. It allowed the scented liquid to become mobile, transported from the source and carried by the user. By the end of the 19th century, the reverse was true. The decorative aspect became the focus and the fact that it also held perfume was the novelty. Cartier, Boucheron, and Tiffany among others crafted elaborate and awe-inspiring scent laden jewels.

 

WHAT GOES IN IT?

 

It was once the practice to buy your perfume in plain bottles at the apothecary and transfer them into your own flasks, flacons or other decorated containers. If you’re thinking about investing in a beautiful antique vessel, maybe you should consider having something just as unique for the inside. We’ve found a few custom parfumeurs you might want to explore.

 

If you don’t have the time to invest in creating your own custom scent, but still want to find your own modern day version of the local apothecary, visit Herbal Alchemy’s online boutique. Located in Brooklyn, New York, they make artisnal perfumes in small batches from high-quality natural ingredients.

 

Midnight Garden, contains top notes of petitgrain, wild sweet orange, coriander CO2, lime; heart notes of jasmine, neroli, honey; and base notes of vanilla, oakmoss, peru balsam.

 

Herbal Alchemy's Midnight Garden Perfume

 

Moonrise, inspired by the Greek goddess Artemis who represents the new moon, contains top notes of wormwood; base notes of bergamot and petitgrain; heart notes of luminous jasmine, honey and rose; and base notes of sandalwood and frankincense.

Herbal Alchemy's Moonrise

 

CUSTOM BLENDED PERFUMES

 

Do you want to create your own signature perfume, custom blended, based on the scent combinations that you love? Mandy Aftel, the bespoke perfumer and owner of Aftelier Perfumes, guides you through the process in her Berkeley studio. She has a collection of over 100 essences and will create a blend that is uniquely perfect for you. I love the fact that you get to try it out for a week, make any desired adjustments, and walk away with a spray, liquid, travel and solid version of your custom perfume.

 

Even if you aren’t able to make it to her studio, according to Mandy, “..you can still get the full experience of having a custom perfume made for you, using my comprehensive method for designing custom perfumes at a distance.” She sends you “… small vials of different perfume chords or combinations: top-note chords that form the opening smell of the perfume; middle-note chords that form the heart; base-note chords that form the final or “drydown” note.”

 

WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

 

We’ve been on the hunt for an antique sterling silver, hallmarked, heart-shaped, perfume flask pendant. Success! We found one in England and it’s on its way. We will include it in next week’s post and it will be part of Sugar et Cie’s Victoriana Collection.

07 / 30

 

FROM HIGH STREET TO HIGH FASHION

 

I firmly believe in high performance investments. Especially when it comes to fashion. If you’re going to make an investment in a piece, you should make sure that you get the most out of it. It doesn’t matter if your investment is in high street or high fashion, the same rules still apply. The three most important things to consider when making those investments are: Versatility, Quality and Look.

 

VERSATILITY – FROM SUMMER TO WINTER

Versatile Pieces: From Summer to Winter

A mid-weight, tweed jacket and a good pair of white or cream jeans are wardrobe staples worthy of investment. Choose color combinations like black & white that move easily from Spring/Summer to Fall/Winter. With a few swaps (white tee or tank to cashmere sweater and open toe heels to boots) you can wear your investments a good portion of the year.

 

DOES THE AMOUNT OF INVESTMENT MATTER – A VINTAGE CHANEL BOUCLE JACKET

 

Not really… Whether you spend $200 or $2,000, make sure it’s of quality material and construction (see the timeless Vintage Chanel Boucle jacket below), and that it looks good on you. If it falls apart after 6 months or doesn’t really fit you, then it’s not worth the investment. I have an Alexander McQueen, black and white fitted tweed jacket that I bought six years ago. I can throw it over a tee or a cami and it instantly elevates whatever I have on. To me, it was definitely worth the investment.

 

The Little Bird on 1st Dibs

 

 

 

INVESTMENT PIECES FROM DAY-TO-NIGHT

 

Choosing pieces that can be worn during the day and that can make the transition easily to night, is another way to maximize the value you get out of your investment pieces.

 

 

 

Versatile Investment Pieces

 

 

1 – Nothing beats a pair of well-made, black cigarette pants that can be worn with a white button down during the day and a silk cami at night. What makes this transition possible? The fit and style of the pants (narrow leg, ankle length). What makes it a good investment piece? Its versatility and the quality of the material (100% lightweight wool) and the construction.

 

2 – Get more from a pair of black heels by choosing ones that can make the day to night transition. This pair from Lanvin has a closed toe and a hidden platform that work well for day. The pointed toe, ankle strap, and python texture provide enough edge to allow the transition to evening.

 

3 – I love this deep red alligator bag from Vintage Skins, an online boutique that has a large selection of beautiful vintage handbags in exotic skins (alligator, lizard, python, etc.). The silver chain detail on this particular bag makes it a great option for night without screaming “evening bag” during the day.

 

MAKE THE SWAP – DAY-TO-NIGHT

 

 

Day to Evening Basics

 

 

WHAT ABOUT JEWELRY?

 

The same rules of Versatility, Quality and Look also apply to your investment in jewelry. Get the most out of your investment by buying pieces that can be worn with either jeans or a cocktail dress.

 

 

Antique Paste Earrings

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

Of course, not every piece you buy needs to be versatile to be worth the investment. It is nice though to have a handful of pieces that can be worn in multiple ways. A pair of antique paste or diamond drop earrings are a good example. They are simple, add a lot of sparkle, and always elevate your look.

 

 

Antique Gold Watch Chain

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

An interesting antique gold or silver chain is another piece of jewelry that can be worn with almost anything. Mix and layer it with other chains, wear it by itself, or dangle your favorite pendant.

 

 

Antique

 

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

If you invest in quality pieces that you love, you won’t regret the investment.

07 / 19

 

Victorian Silver Jewelry with Hand Engraved Ciphers

 

I have been looking at a lot of antique silver lately and have come across a number of interesting and unique monograms. Actually, to be accurate I should really use the term cipher.

 

According to Monograms and Ciphers by A.A. Turbayne, the difference between the two is: “A Monogram is a combination of two or more letters, in which one letter forms part of another and cannot be separated from the whole. A Cipher is merely an interlacing or placing together of two or more letters, being in no way dependent for their parts on other of the letters.” If you are looking for a monogram or cipher for your wedding or to incorporate into your interior design, it’s a really great source.

 

The one below is a cipher on the top of a silver Victorian scent flask and is one of my favorites. The two initials in the center, with the nail heads and the cross-hatches, have an equestrian feel.

 

 

Hand Engraved Victorian Monogram

 

 

The challenge of course is to find an antique piece you love with your initials. Sometimes a piece is so beautifully engraved that you just don’t care whose initials are on it. We have a number of Victorian pieces that are beautiful as is, but that would be also perfect for engraving. We are looking for an engraver to partner with that does top quality work by hand. We’ll keep you posted! Currently, we have a number of items, silver or gold, that would be perfect for personalization. Here’s just a few, visit the Victoriana Collections in bracelets and necklaces to see more.

 

Victorian Silver Locket with Buckle Motif

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

The Back of an Antique Silver Locket

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

A Victorian Silver Bangle with Buckle Motif

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

 

The Back of an Antique Silver Bangle

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

07 / 11

 

Our latest obsession is the swallow. It’s also our item of the week. This is an antique swallow brooch from the Victorian period that we have converted to a pendant. We carefully removed the silver brooch fittings and added a rose gold bale to the top of the wing. We’re big fans of pairing whites (white gold, platinum, silver, diamonds or pastes) with rose gold.

 

Antique: Victorian Paste Swallow Silver Pendant

 

 

Antique Paste Swallow Pendant Victorian Antique Gold Pendant with a Buckle Motif

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

This antique swallow pendant, from the Victorian period, is comprised of white paste stones set in silver with small red cabochon paste eyes. We love the swallow’s long graceful wings and the symbolism associated with these charming creatures.

 

Because the swallow chooses one mate for life, to the Victorians, it was a symbol of enduring love and loyalty. The swallow also represents a safe return home. Sea voyages during this period were long, arduous, and dangerous. When a sailor spotted this land bird, he knew that land and home would not be far off.

 

Do as the Victorians did. Send a swallow as your message of love (wedding day present, anniversary, Valentine’s Day) or give it to a loved one who’s setting off on a trip or a new adventure (e.g. graduation, new job).

 

Antique and Modern Style

 

Here’s our twist on Romantic with an edge.

 

Give Romantic A Modern Edge

Romantic:

 

Black blazer, from Zara – puffed shoulders, narrow waist

Antique swallow pendant, from Sugar et Cie – antique patina, curved and graceful lines

 

Modern:

 

Skinny black jeans, from Rag and Bone – part motorcycle (horizontal seam below the knee) and part rocker (laced-up ankle detail)

Black, pointed-toe stilettos, from Alejandro Ingelmo – sharp angles

Basic white tank, from the Row – clean simple lines