Stray Jewels with Susan Rumfitt: Valentine gifts
Last updated Jan 29, 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. 


Gifts for Lovers in Lockdown

If the thought of being spontaneously romantic fills you with dread at the best of times, then Valentine’s Day in lockdown could be even more of a challenge. I can give you a big helpful hint though – jewellery should feature high on the shopping list for dedicated romantics. Contact our many fabulous local jewellers and auction houses to find that perfect gift. Not in a relationship? Then shop to your heart’s content and buy what you really want – there is a world of jewels out there just waiting for you.

Here are a few themes to help you on your way. Diamonds, secret messages, hearts and flowers. Of course for those traditional romantics it is Cupid who decides love’s fate and he too has been depicted in jewellery for centuries.

Cameo brooch featuring winged Putti or Cupids, circa 1870

Are Diamonds your Best Friend?

What should one look for in a diamond?

Diamond is the stone of enduring love. The ‘Four Cs’ are seen as the most important attributes of a diamond and they relate to Carat, Cut, Colour and Clarity. Each is as important as the other to bring the best out of a diamond.

The cut of the diamond can seriously enhance the sparkle of the stone. The modern brilliant-cut diamond has long been the most popular cut for an engagement ring. Many say the bigger the carat (weight) of the diamond the better it must be! Grace Kelly and Jennifer Lopez both acquired emerald-cut diamond engagement rings that were over 10 carats. Another very fashionable cut is the Asscher-cut. Perhaps the most famous belonging to Elizabeth Taylor which weighed 33.19 carats and is known as the Krupp Diamond. It made $8.8million when it sold at auction in 2011.

A diamond ring

The carat, cut, colour and clarity of diamonds are all important

But size isn’t the only consideration. Any specialist will tell you that a large diamond with poor colour, clarity and cut will not sparkle as much as a smaller diamond with better characteristics. The colour of the diamond and the clarity (the amount of flaws that are in the stone) are as important as the size. ‘Colour’ in a white diamond refers to the whiteness or lack of yellow tone in the stone. A better white diamond refers to one that shows no colour (or yellowness).

Secret Messages

Should you prefer historical jewellery then look at the Georgian and Victorian periods for inspiration. The heart pounding Netflix drama Bridgerton sets the scene for not only diamonds but the importance of coloured stones in jewellery during the Georgian period. Flowers and jewels were an essential way of expressing intensions for a loved one, sometimes secretly. This is known as ACROISTIC jewellery, where the first letter of each gemstone makes up a word. Eg LOVE would be represented by the stones Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Vermeil (now known as garnet) and Emerald and DEAREST with Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Tsvorite. Combined within a heart design this jewellery was exceptionally romantic. You could perhaps ask a jeweller to set various gemstones in a piece of jewellery to spell out your beloved’s name or set a gemstone in a piece of jewellery to represent their birth stone.

A Victorian gold heart pendant set with Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond spelling REGARD

A Victorian blue enamel, pearl and diamond brooch depicting a forget-me-not flower

Jewelled flowers are also a great way to represent feelings. A rose represents true love, a pansy represents thoughtfulness and a forget-me-not flower – well that surely needs no explanation! Happy hunting.

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