Stray Jewels: Christmas Stocking Fillers
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Last updated Dec 17, 2021

Stray Jewels is a monthly column written by BBC Antiques Roadshow jewellery specialist, Susan Rumfitt. Susan started her career working for Christie’s auctioneers in Glasgow before establishing her own jewellery department, The Gallery in Harrogate. In 2006, she joined the Antiques Roadshow and has since built up an extensive knowledge of and passion for fine jewellery.

I was talking about the jewellery of Elizabeth Taylor recently. Her whole collection made over $100 million when it came up for auction ten years ago. From pearls to diamonds, sapphires to emeralds, she knew how to collect jewellery. Married eight times to seven different men, Taylor was never going to be short of jewellery, be it engagement rings or for Christmas presents.

Rubies featured heavily in her collection and in her 1968 Christmas stocking was a gorgeous ruby and diamond ring. Richard Burton had always said to her, One day I’m going to find you the most perfect ruby in the world”. The ring in question featured an 8.24 carat ruby and was known as the ‘Puertas ruby, diamond and gold ring. It sold for over $4 million at the sale. Ruby is the stone of passion and perfect as a Christmas gift.

If you have a passion for rubies you certainly don’t need to pay over $4 million for one. Whether your budget is a couple of hundred or a few thousand, always look for a bright and lively stone that doesn’t have surface scratches. As with the late Victorian ring illustrated, a few coloured stones give a real impact to the design.

A Late Victorian Ruby and Diamond Ring

On one occasion Taylor received a pair of Georgian earrings as a Christmas stocking gift. She had spotted them on a shopping trip months before with Mike Todd, but had decided against them because they were set with paste and not diamonds. Todd secretly bought the earrings and had all the paste stones replaced with diamonds – now that is a thoughtful gesture.

Diamond earrings are a perfect gift at Christmas and even more gorgeous when paired with pearls. At Elstob & Elstob auctioneers early this year, there were a pair of beautiful pearl and diamond ear pendants in the form of acorns, pictured top. The acorn is a symbol of life, fertility, and immortality. As the seed of the great Oak tree, the acorn symbolizes potential and strength. What a perfect gift to receive at Christmas as we head into the New Year.

Mistletoe Costume Jewellery Brooch

For those true romantics, jewellery themed around mistletoe is a must. Mistletoe has a great history. It is associated with ancient Rome which had many different festivals to celebrate the gods. One of them was the Saturnalia held from 17-23 December. This festival was in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture, seedtime and harvest. The mistletoe was hung up during the Saturnalia festival and it was traditional to kiss under the mistletoe as it was seen as a symbol of fertility. Each fruit on the mistletoe branch has a cross symbol and this has become associated with a kiss. Gifts would be given on 23 December, unlike our traditional 25th.

Jewellery doesn’t always have to be made of precious gems and metals. The image above is of a pretty costume piece of mistletoe jewellery set with faux pearls. Lovely condition and many costume pieces can be a little as £10-20.

If Christmas jumpers aren’t your thing then maybe a Christmas jewel is!

Merry Christmas.


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