The ancients seldom used the sapphire as an ornament on account of the difficulty of cutting so hard a substance. But, in spite of its extreme hardness, the stone has sometimes been engraved, and there are a few specimens still in existence. In the Strozzi cabinet at Rome may be seen a sapphire, a masterpiece of art, that has engraved on it the profile of Hercules. And among some old English family jewels was found a sapphire engraved with the crest and coat of arms of Cardinal Wolsey.
This gem appears in Holy Writ, for sapphires are mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel. Pliny knew sapphires well, and in old days they were dedicated by the Greeks to Apollo. In more recent times a splendid stone, two inches long, owned by Nadir Shah was offered for sale at Moscow in the eighteenth century for £780.
The sapphire is said to have special virdre33
I7l6 tues, and not long ago it was regarded as a charm and a medicine. It is a quaint fact that in old days sapphires were spoken of as male and female. By a " male sapphire " the ancients meant a dark-hued indigo-coloured stone, while a pale blue or nearly white specimen was described by them as a "female sapphire."
Sapphire ornaments look their best when worn with a white gown, but a well-known woman of fashion once wore her sapphires with a tulle dress of the same shade, and made a delightful effect with this clever combination.
Turquoises are the stone for December, and many think this pale blue gem, if not valuable, one of the prettiest in existence.
The true Oriental turquoise occurs in clay slate, and the best are found near Nishapur, in the Persian province of Khorassan. Of late, Mexico has produced good turquoises. The true turquoise owes its colour to phosphate of copper, and its powder becomes dark blue when moistened with strong ammonia. The hardness of the stone is low, and in this respect it ranks only one degree higher than the opal. Hence it is easily scratched and injured, and does not do as well for rings as for pendants and head ornaments.
Turquoises of large size, and sometimes of good colour, are met with that have Persian or Arabic inscriptions engraved upon them in a most artistic fashion. An ornamental design is sometimes used, and in either case the designs are often gilt or inlaid with gold wiring. The dowager Lady Wharncliffe owns a famous turquoise of large size which is engraved with Persian characters.
Turquoises are in high favour with several members of our Royal Family. It will be remembered that the late King gave a turquoise and diamond tiara to Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain at the time of her Majesty's marriage. Princess Henry of Bat-tenberg has good turquoises, and these stones are often given by our Royalties as wedding presents. Several society women also own splendid sets of turquoises. Among them are Princess Pless, who has a high tiara of turquoises and diamonds; Lady Minto, who wears a complete set of these stones; Lady Wicklow, Lady Juliet Duff, Lady Sophie Scott, and Mrs. Cavendish Bentinck. Lady Wicklow, Lady Juliet Duff, and Lady Sophie Scott received countless turquoises among their wedding presents.
Turquoises used to be known as the "Turkish stone," and have been spelt "Turkis," as by Tennyson. They are fragile gems, not only from their lack of hardness, but also on account of their rapid changes of colour. Turquoises sometimes turn green, and there is a pretty fancy that this gem will only keep its true colour when worn by those with whom it is in sympathy. In this case, if the owner droops or dies, the turquoise fades away and becomes colourless. On the other hand, it is often said to be a lucky stone, and especially to those who are born in December, and therefore has been used as a mascot. Lady Wicklow and Lady Margaret Sackville, both born in December, are never seen without some turquoise ornaments; and that charming actress, Miss Violet Vanbrugh, always wears when on the stage a long chain of uncut turquoises.
Turquoises can be set and arranged in various ways and manners. The pale blue gem looks well with diamonds, but as it is an opaque stone it can be set in an artistic style, and is perhaps at its best when cut en cabochon, a style suited to stones in which, as in the case of the turquoise, colour is a most important quality. The tint of a gem is best shown with curved or rounded surfaces. The varieties of cabochon cutting are single, double, and double-convex and hollow cabochon, the latter being much used for large garnets, which, so cut, are called carbuncles. Turquoises treated thus can be used with great effect in the art nouveau style of ornament. For instance, they combine well with dull gold or silver, with horn, rare woods, ivory, or delicate enamels. They look their best when set in clasps or buckles, in combs for the hair, in shoulder-straps, or in a shape or form that may be styled semi-barbaric.
The turquoise matrix is much used by modern jewellers for this last-mentioned style of ornament. The rough, uncut pieces of stone make admirable heads for hat-pins, or can be used for inlaid work of all descriptions. A clever and artistic handicraftsman will even find a use for stones which have lost their pristine blue or become of a greenish tinge. Such can be utilised with charming effect, although their intrinsic value may be slight, in the arts of enamelling, bookbinding, or metalwork, as a visit to an Arts and Crafts Exhibition will prove.
As regards the evening frock that makes the most suitable background for turquoises opinions vary. To my mind, they 'are perfect with pale green, and with a soft material, chiffon for choice, or else Liberty silk, crepe-de-chine, or mousseline. I once saw a fawn-coloured chiffon frock worn with a fine set of turquoise ornaments, which were seen to immense advantage. In the day turquoises look well with a black costume-not black and white, which ever demands green as its accompaniment. And turquoises suit well a blue-eyed, fair-haired wearer, although they are often kind to a brunette who has a white skin and delicate colouring.
In these days it is a mistake to rely too much upon gems; good stones worn with an inadequate frock are an incongruity that should be carefully avoided by all women who have any pretensions to good taste.