How faceted gemstones depend on the quality of candles? What kind of statement is this? Well, a very important one regarding the popularity of faceted gemstones comes up after the quality of the candles gets better. Let me explain this to you and read this remarkable and interesting story.
Made of fat
At first, people used olive oil and a wick to light the room at night. They had little ceramic oil lamps that gave a small and just sufficient light.
After the Fall of the Roman Empire, the trade in olive oil stopped. And olive oil is in those days the most important material to enlighten the houses at night. Candlemakers see a chance and around 500 BC started to make candles with all kinds of natural fats, like fats saved from the kitchen. And somewhat later they use ‘tallow’, the fat of the cows and sheep to make them. They had to use fat, although that does not smell very well, because the costs of beeswax were high.
The tallow candles have a bad quality
The ‘tallow’ candles have very bad quality. Because they smell very bad and they smoke badly. Some European cities even ban them.
There is another problem. Royals and their friends love to party. You expect that they organize lovely dinners and parties in the evening. And the rooms are lit with romantic candles. Well… no.
The tallow candles smell awful, but also smoke a lot. The clothing and the jewelry of the nobles become black and dusty from the smoke. Wearing kilos of jewelry and expensive clothing and having to throw everything away after the party is an expensive hobby. So because of these candles or lighting problems the parties are organized in the daytime.
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The candles are finished after one hour
Another problem is that these candles only last for about one hour. Imagine… you have a party, the room is lit with hundreds of candles in beautiful chandeliers. And after one hour you have to stop the band because there is no light anymore. And it takes the servants a long time to get the chandeliers down, exchange the candles, light them again and get them up on the ceiling.
Candles from beeswax, a large improvement
The candle makers want to keep their business and start to make candles from beeswax. The smell is not too bad, but the beeswax variety is more expensive. Therefore only rich people and churches can use them to light the premises. You only have to take care that the wax doesn’t drip on your clothing. And the danger of fires is high. Also in this period a lot of dinners and parties are still organized in the daytime.
A whale saves the candle-burning business
In the 18th century, the whaling industry grows bigger and bigger. And a wise guy discovers that in the head of the whale is ‘spermaceti’. Spermaceti is a substance that is excellent for making candles.
You have to cook the spermaceti and let it cool down when it is about 6 degrees Celcius/ 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The substance crystallizes then and you can make expensive high-quality candles. They don’t smell, last several hours and the light is brighter. They are harder than the tallow ones and don’t bend when it’s hot.
Parties can be organized at night
Now the parties start in the evening. The evening gowns with all the glitter and decoration of pearls and gemstones look magnificent in the candlelight. People show off with their jewelry. And especially faceted gemstones pick up the light and you look more than beautiful with a faceted gemstone necklace and earrings.
From that time on royals and high society want faceted gemstones in their necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets. The higher quality of the candles made this type of jewelry look stunning. And not only did the candlemakers benefit from this development, but also the jewelers in Paris.
Cabochon or faceted?
The candles make faceted jewelry much more beautiful as explained above. But what is faceted jewelry actually and are there more ways of polishing or cutting gemstones?
Well, more or less you might say that there are two ways of processing precious stones or gemstones: cabochon and faceted. What is the difference?
Cabochon gemstones are gemstones that are cut with a domed top and a flat bottom. Usually, they have natural inclusions and markings, and normally they are opaque. The jeweler uses cabochon in a bezel setting or it is set with glue, for instance in rings or a pendant with a flat back.
The hardness of the gemstones that are used to cut as a cabochon is rather soft, and so they are scratched easily and need to be more protected. Therefore these types of gemstones are cut in a cabochon form and set in a bezel or other way of protection.
Another reason for cutting these rather soft gemstones in a cabochon form is that they have markings and natural inclusions. If you would cut them into a faceted form the inclusions and markings would disrupt the light, that fall on the facets. And that light on the facets makes the gemstones look beautiful.
Back to the faceted gemstones!
Faceted gemstones are flat on top, have polished faces called facets, and have a pointed bottom. This way of cutting refracts the light inside and reflects the light that comes from outside (natural light like the sun, artificial light like lamps or candles).
They are usually transparent and quartz, and are set in a claw setting to let the light shine on the facets from as many points as possible. You can cut faceted gemstones in all kinds of shapes, like hearts, squares, ovals, stars, etc.
Parisian jewelers get very busy
The Parisian jewelers make new jewelry with faceted gemstones. They can ask for any price because the royals and their friends can afford it. And want their new jewelry desperately. And remember that for instance in the Russian court women ánd men wear kilos of jewelry every day and certainly to a party. Everyone has to see how rich they are and the jewelers can hardly handle the demand.
Do you like this story and other stories about jewelry and gemstones? FlorenceJewelshop published a great PDF with all the stories and fun facts about birthstones and a lot of well-known gemstones. It is free of charge. Just let me know to whom I can send it.
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