The Shop at 49 Grove Street

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Sad Story With a Happy Ending...

Last Thanksgiving, Lori traveled to London with friends for a holiday and a bit of vintage jewelry shopping. When she returned from her trip, we Shopkids were awed by the amazing pieces that she brought back: Victorian, Edwardian and Deco lockets, charms and rings! We oooed and ahhed at the intricate detail of the lockets, wondering about the stories behind the photographs in them. We swooned over the diamonds and gabbed about the images depicted in the signet rings.

At LMc, we find jewelry hallmarks and stamps fascinating because they give us clues about the history of a piece. They can tell us the year and place that a piece of jewelry was made, the family that the piece was made for and, sometimes, the jeweler’s name.

For example, one of the rings acquired is a Prince of Wales signet ring. It bears a seal that only the Prince of Wales or members of his court were given. A sterling copy is pictured below.

Two of the signet rings were more mysterious. After a bit of online sleuthing, Lori found one of the rings seemed to be connected to the MacDougall family crest. 

Over the holidays, we added the ring to our online store with the following description: “Inscribed with the motto: "Vincere vel Mori" (To conquer or die) this signet ring seems to be from the Macdougall clan, although I am sure more than one unruly bunch of Scots might be safely linked to this crest. The date is unknown, it is a nicely worn ring.”  

This weekend we received an email from a gentleman inquiring about the piece. He is a MacDougall who lives in Oxford and was victim to a home burglary last September. One of the items stolen was a family ring with the MacDougall crest, worn by his grandfather during the war. He wondered if we had acquired the ring in the UK and sent along an image of a wax imprint of the stamp. 

He theorized that his robbers might have sold the ring to an unsuspecting antique jewelry dealer at a weekly local market. It could have traveled to London, trading hands along the way. The ring has scuffs and wear similar to what the gentleman described to us, and viewing his wax stamp, it is undeniably a MacDougall seal. After conferring with his aunt, who wore the ring for years before he came of age, about the ring's quality stamp (it is marked "9CT" inside) he felt sure that our ring was his ring. He admitted it would be a long shot if this was his ring. However, it seemed like the stars had aligned for this MacDougall.  

He will be reunited with it at the end of the month, so we will soon know if this is truly his grandfather's ring. We will be sure to keep you posted!


Monday, December 13, 2010


Platinum Crystals

Platinum is a rare element that came to Earth in meteorites and can be found in the Earth's crust and in larger amounts on the moon. It has been on this earth for billions of years, but was mostly likely discovered sometime around the 16th century. 

Antonio de Ulloa

One of the first writings about platinum came from Antonio de Ulloa, a Spanish general and explorer, who in 1748 reported finding a Colombian black sand, platina del Pinto or "little silver of the Pinto river" in his account of his journey on the French Geodesic Mission, an expedition with the goal of measuring the roundness of the Earth. In his account, he described Platinum as neither separable nor calcinable.

Platinum Ore

Unsure of what Platinum might be good for, scientists tried hammering it, heating it, and dissolving it into gold but nothing seemed to benefit them. For some time, it was discarded and banned by the Spanish trade authorities.

It wasn't until Charles III of Spain provided a laboratory to the scientist Pierre-François Chabaneau, that progress was made in realizing Platinum's true value.  The trouble was, Platinum contained six elements that would make the ore react in various ways when heated, hammered, or alloyed.  These six elements are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. Once he realized this, Chabaneau was able to produce pure platinum that he could form by heating and hammering. Because platinum was not fusible, but was malleable and strong, it became incredibly valuable. They put it to use creating commercial goods like utensils, which began the Spanish platinum age.

A 1919 Jeweler's Circular 
 reports excitement over platinum ban lift.

Platinum quickly became a precious metal, with a variety of uses. Its compatibility with the human body means it can be used to make pace makers and medicine. Many chemical processes cannot be performed without platinum as a catalyst. It is also used in computers, other electronics, and automobiles. During war time it was even banned from non-military uses.

The images below are just a few of the platinum pieces we carry in the shop: 

Edwardian Platinum, 18K Yellow Gold, and Diamond Ring

Platinum Stackable Bands by Lori McLean

by Max Bartashnik

Because of it's practical uses, platinum wasn't largely used to make jewelry until the late 19th century/early 20th century.  It is now 35 times rarer than gold and mined mostly in South Africa, Russia, and North America. Platinum's strength and weight make it ideal for heirloom jewelry. We encourage you to stop by the shop any time and take a peek!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Mourning Jewelry

Angela and Lulu here, the newest additions to the Lori McLean jewelry store! 
In honor of Halloween, we decided to (belatedly) post about one of our favorite types of antique jewelry: Mourning Jewelry.

Mourning Jewelry became popular in the Victorian Era, when Queen Victoria entered an intense period of grief following Prince Albert's death in 1861. Renouncing ostentatious jewelry and choosing to wear drab, dark-colored clothing, the Queen set the tone for her stark reputation as an austere monarch who shunned opulence and subscribed to a strict code of morality.

Queen Victoria in mourning dress, 1873
Today, the concept of mourning attire strikes many as morbid, but Victorians found the practice deeply consoling, and used jewelry and somber dress as a vivid expression of remembrance and sentiment. The year immediately following the death of a loved one was known as "First Mourning," and dictated black clothes and minimal jewelry. Jet, a lustrous black mineral made from fossilized wood, was used extensively in early mourning jewelry.

Whitby Jet Mourning Ring

The marquis-shaped jet ring (above, c. 1880) is a great example of mourning jewelry  and a recently acquired favorite! 
After the first year began the "Half Mourning" stage, which allowed for the introduction of clothing in muted colors such as gray and lavender, and slightly more ornate jewelry with pearls, garnets and gold. Most jewelry we associate with mourning belongs to this later period, where the expectations for an outward expression of grief were relaxed. 

A great selection of mid- to late-19th century mourning jewelry on display in our vintage case; including a French Jet Ladies Watch Chain and a beautiful Vulcanite Locket (bottom right) and hand and garland brooch.

Also pictured above, and below in detail, is one of our favorite pieces, a late 19th century Piqué Tortoiseshell locket from Italy. Piqué is a technique where gold or silver is inlaid into the surface of horn or tortoiseshell. In this case, silver and mother of pearl spell out the word "Ricordo," which means memory.  

Late 19th Century Piqué Tortoiseshell Locket

Photographs, locks of hair (often taken from the recently deceased),  and velvet, which referenced funeral shrouds, were prized as relics of love and commonly incorporated. The bracelet below is a museum piece dating back from 1866. They were often woven by children whose tiny fingers were better suited for such intricate work! 

Hair Bracelet, c. 1866

We have several pieces in our vintage case which incorporate hair , like the pendant/pin shown below. It contains a tiny blonde lock, and according to the inscription on the back, dates back to 1828 in commemoration of "L.L." who died at only 3 years of age. The pearls symbolize tears, and the black jet border is typical of the style used in Half Mourning jewelry. 

Gold and Pearl Victorian Memorial Hair Locket (c. 1828) - $328 


Despite the ambivalence many people have regarding mourning jewelry, we find these pieces beautiful and compelling! We love how much history they carry with them as well as their sentimentality. Stop by the shop sometime if you are pieces are constantly arriving courtesy of Lori's incredible eye and we are more than happy to spend the day showing off her finds!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Introducing: The Vintage Watch Department!

We're so pleased to announce the Vintage Watch Department!
We're of the mind that they just don't make watches like they used to.  These beauties are more like jewelry with function.

All the watches have been thoroughly cleaned and some have brand new quartz movement that's guaranteed for one year.  Others maintain their wind-up charm. What's a more perfect time for a new watch than the start of the school year!
 Two shop favorites below...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lori's Pretty Sapphire Rings

Pretty sapphire rings by Lori McLean for the shop's own LMc Private Label collection!

I love sapphires because  even though the word sapphire comes from the Greek word sappheiros that means "blue stone" they actually come in almost any color you can imagine. The stones in the rings above are rectangle cabochons, meaning their top surface is shaped and polished rather than faceted.

The rings above to the left are emerald and ruby teardrops.  Rubies are really red sapphires, they get their red color from the higher amount of chromium they have in them which absorbs yellow-green light. The rings above to the right are all rubies or shades of red and pink sapphires.
I love the shades of blues in these rings. Some have rose gold bands, the contrast of the warm gold and cool stone is just enough contrast to be intriguing. Lori roughs up the bands so they have this really beautiful and interesting texture.

We love a few stacked together in different shades of the same color and with a different shape or two.  Stop by the shop and find your perfect combination!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lisa Ziff

A few luxurious pieces from Lisa Ziff.  Working in solid 18 karat gold, Lisa's pieces are weighty with great textures.  We love the over sized rings that make a bold, yet elegant statement.  Her daisy earrings, necklace, and bracelet are not too sweet and perfectly organic.  Her larger zinnia earring and akebia ring are sprinkled with diamonds! Scroll down for more photos and read more about her and the collection here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vintage Additions!

Lori's found some special pieces to add to our vintage collection. Take a look below.

Above is a gold filled pocket watch locket with two vintage watch chains linked together to make a necklace. Grandfatherly, yet feminine.

We're so in love with vintage compasses right now. They carry a great meaning and have that old world feel.

These Victorian enamel lockets are so special. Enamel saw a revival in the 19th century and lends whimsy to your otherwise classic gold engraved lockets. They also still have their original glass which is nice, thick and beveled.

The double glass locket above contains edelweiss, the white flower found in the alps. In German, edelweiss means noble white and was used as a political statement against the Nazis.

There's more to be seen in the shop and more on it's way to us. Stop in to see these beauties in person!