Precious Stones from Myanmar.

Raw Precious Stones from Burma.

Precious Stones from Myanmar Burma.

Among the oldest Western history texts on precious stones is the Peri Lithon (On Stones) of the Greek scholar Theophrastus which was written about 315 BC today we write about precious stones from Myanmar.

In this famous text gems were grouped primarily according to color with different subgroupings separated by properties.

Among these it is probable that the true ruby was found under the group carbuncles. Speculations however on the exact meaning of the various subgroups to Theophrastus are quite useless as so much time has passed since the work was written. Only one parameter came through over time the corundum family supplied most gemstone colors over a long period of time.

Today it's much easier just to visit Yangon in Myanmar and have a look around in the Bogyoke Market.

Precious Stones at Ancient times.

Much of Theophrastus' writings on carbuncle are concerned with the sources of the stones. These can often be dismissed as traders then as now often try to hide the true origin of the stones. Such places as Turkey and Ethiopia are mentioned but seem improbable in the light of today's knowledge. What we do know is that both rubies and sapphires first made their appearance in Europe in Greece-Roman times.

The only sure way of knowing the origin is to perform a detailed analysis of both inclusions and trace element content on such pieces as exist in museums and collections. Until this is done all such speculations will remain mere speculative.

Kashmirian sapphire mines were not even discovered until 1881, quite a bit later than Pliny's time. From the above example it should be very clear that much of what has previously been written about sources of gemstones by ancient writers is suspect, with one of the major problems being that the writers themselves were in general unfamiliar with gemstones.

Early Western knowledge of precious stones is based largely on the writings of Theophrastus and Pliny. However, because rubies and sapphires were apparently brought from far away, their knowledge of these stones is somewhat suspect. Corundum has always been and remains today largely an Asian gemstone.

Art & Antiques of Gemstones & Jewelry.

About the Art and Antiques of Jewelry Vienna was one of the European centers of an important regeneration of earlier styles of art and ornament during the nineteenth century. One manifestation of this was that some of the goldsmiths and ornamental painters in the city took up Renaissance and rococo designs, at first making direct copies. Then they closely emulated some of these earlier works and created adaptations of those in which painted enamel decoration was dominant and finally gemstone into pattern where adoptes

The adaptations included ovoid or lobed vases garnitures with high-handled ewers tankards standing on shallow basin-like trays and a variety of other vessels and bowls for the display cabinet or the banqueting table and gemstones were brought into for a rather very valuable decoration. For exhibition precious stones were included and sculptural assemblies representing fabulous beasts or ornate medieval towers were created and decorated with precious stones. For such ostentatious constructions the main body was made of lapis lazuli or of engraved rock crystal or glass mounted in chased gold or silver-gilt inset with pearls or ruby & sapphire cabochon gemstones. This elaborate style included handles shaped like attenuated grotesques cast-silver columns in such forms as caryatids or mythical beasts and applied enameled figurines or masks.

During the 1870s the scope of the Viennese objects in the sixteenth-and seventeenth-century taste was greatly extended: Shaped copper bodies covered with painted enamel decoration replaced polished lapis-lazuli or engraved crystal. This radical modification allowed the desired style to be maintained while extending the variety of shapes offered. The enamels were almost infinitely variable, which meant that no two pieces were exactly alike.

The ornate enameled copper objects included vases shaped like cornucopias or drinking horns salt holders in the form of nautilus shells or sailing ships (known as nefs), and elaborate clock cases. Larger objects were embellished with a cladding of numerous enameled plaques, for example multi-drawered ebony jewelry chests copied after Renaissance cabinets of curiosities, as well as dainty items like snuffboxes, scent flasks, vinaigrettes, and caddy spoons. The height of this fashion was from about 1870 to the late 1890s. By 1900 the chief outlet for Viennese painted enamels was a range of charming novelty items for the drawing room or boudoir made with cast base-metal mounts, usually with simple motifs for the decoration. This twentieth-century range included miniature folding screens, small boxes shaped like chests of drawers and chairs and tables on a dollhouse scale, often inset with tiny timepieces.

The nineteenth-century Vienna style followed the principle of enrichment by accumulation of ornament, and therefore variations of metalworking or enameling techniques were used for each component. Some asymmetry was not considered inappropriate for complex assemblies constructed with bases, columns, central sections, and finials.

This was thought to add to the fragile, antique appearance of these handmade objects. Asymmetry could also emphasize the singularity of every piece, in contrast to the streamlined, uniform ornaments made largely by machine, with which these nineteenth-century workshops were increasingly competing.

Fine Vienna Gemstone Pices.

The fine Vienna pieces inspired by Renaissance and rococo designs, like their forerunners, could be up to forty inches or more in height, and consist of several components requiring the skills of several specialists. The main body of a vessel could itself be composed of more than one section joined with collars and rims. Additions included pillars, decorative handles, sockets for finials, and small feet shaped like figurines or masks. The goldsmiths worked on the precious metal mounts; the casters made silver alloy parts and enamelers added the inlaid or smooth glazes to these sections. For the painted sections and plaques, the copper forms were made by metalsmiths, and passed next to the enamel shop for coating with the necessary smooth white ground. These prepared blanks were then sent to the enamel painters who generally worked in independent ateliers and usually specialized in either figurative pictures and gemstone patterned ornaments.

Not all colors were suitable for cast silver components which had a comparatively low melting point. The enamels best suited for this application were clear and opaque blue a bit like vibrant sapphire colors in several shades and clear greens plus red and pink. Clear red could be used but fused with an amber tint over silver. The enamels for inlaying and coating silver were powdered colored glasses mixed with water into a paste. A second thin layer of enamel could be added for extra depth but further firing was best avoided so that flaws would not develop in the castings. The fused glaze was generally thinned down with abrasives (a process known as stoning), then refired or polished to leave a smooth surface. For coating figurines or small areas of silver or copper (in the email en ronde bosse manner), opaque white enamel was employed, either as a paste or as a slurry applied by dipping. The components that were coated in this way have melded contours and were left with a slightly undulating high gloss fire finish.

It seems likely that he formed the ambition to excel in this difficult genre very early on. Present at every stage of his eventful career, work in hard stones endowed his professional path with an originality unparalleled among his Parisian fellow craftsmen. In that, the example of his father, who initiated him into the gemstone-cutter's art while he was still very young, was decisive. Valentin Morel (1761-1834) was Piedmontese in origin, and had been trained at the royal rock-crystal works founded by Antoine Caire-Morand at Briangon in 1778. Described as a 'very intelligent pupil' he profited fully from the lessons of Charles Ponsoni and Joseph Fenoti, the two Milanese craftsmen who were his masters. Perhaps it was his ambition to have a career commensurate with his talent that led him to settle in Paris, where he distinguished himself over several decades by his cutting of rock crystal, his speciality. However, it was not a propitious time for the lapidary's art. The task of bringing objets d'art made of jasper, agate, lapis lazuli and rock crystal back into favor would fall to Jean-Valentin, helped by the 'special knowledge that was very useful to him subsequently' passed on to him by his father) Although it is not possible to detect in his work the distant heritage of the Milanese tradition that might link Morel to one of the most active and prestigious centers of the production of the renaissance, his background demonstrates a strong and precocious awakening of awareness of the lapidary's art including sophisticated gemstone patterns.

After a sound apprenticeship as a goldsmith and jeweller served with Adrien Vachette (1753-1839), a master who had been renowned since the reign of Louis XVI, and an early career full of challenges met with ingenuity, Jean-Valentin's interest in the carving of precious stones became more pronounced from 1828, when he settled in Chateau-Thierry. As he later related he intended to restore the noble credentials of the lapidary's art by including fine gemstones which also naturally raised prices: 'I resolutely set about restoring to the profession of lapidary the importance it had acquired in the hands of the old masters; the items it then produced collected at great expense by our museums, attested to its excellence, which reached its peak towards the end of the sixteenth century. But since that period the art had gradually degenerated to the point of being only a minor craft, producing items of a naive simplicity'. Outside the town he founded a workshop staffed by young peasants whom he trained himself. (5) Always eager to experiment, he also perfected pietra dura mosaic. At the end of this interlude in the provinces, by 1833 his skills extended to not only 'gold snuffboxes, mounts for antique pieces and valuable paintings', but also the execution of 'inlays, mosaics on cups, vases and objets d'art made of jasper, lapis lazuli, agate, etc., as well as mounts for them made of gold and silver'.

In 1834 Jean-Baptiste Fossin (1786-1848) and his son Jules (1808-69) appointed Morel to run the workshop producing objets d'art for their internationally renowned jewelry business. This enabled him to improve his skill still further, thanks to the many commissions they received. Under the influence of what is conventionally called the Romantic movement, a new interest in history and the arts of the past took shape. A new fascination for old objects was evident in the Fossins' cultivated clientele, who asked designers for modern works inspired by them. Morel was commissioned to repair, transform or embellish several early items testifying to the techniques and styles of the past. Once again he took advantage of his great manual dexterity and inventiveness to master forgotten processes such as repousse work on gold, the rediscovery of which proved indispensable to the creation of works that matched the spirit of the time.

He applied this technique for the first time to the mount for a large jade hard-stone cup that from his description of it can probably be identified with a cup made of jade that may be the first hard-stone vase made by him in the renaissance taste. Its massiveness is surprising in comparison with other known pieces, as is its mount, decorated with broad curling strapwork, commonly used by nineteenth-century designers and typical of the ornamental vocabulary of the renaissance.

Although the tortoises on the foot, perhaps derived from a casket in the Louvre, are so far as is known unique in his work, the winged sirens on the handles will go through noteworthy transformations in his later works. On the other hand, two of Morel's favorite ornamental motifs are already present: the friezes of delicately enameled foliage and the grotesque masks. The putto about to crush a dragon with a stone (which is missing) is a motif he would reuse in goldsmithing and to create pieces of art by using gemstones creatively in an artistic manner.

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