A brilliant Early 19th Century sterling silver chain featuring purple “amethyst” foiled paste. Foiled jewelry involves the backing of a gemstone with a metallic or non-metallic sheet to improve its optical performance.
Paste jewelry became most popular in the 18th century as an alternative to the expensive gems so loved by the upper class. Georges Frederic Strasse, a French jeweler, developed the rhinestone called "strass." He used bismouth and thallium to make the glass "paste" more refractive, and added metal salt to change colors. Foil was then added to increase the shine. These creations came in a variety of styles and colors throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries.
The "Age of Paste" (1700-1865) made a more affordable jewelry option for those who could not pay for the luster of diamond. In fact, many people desired paste jewelry in its own right. It was valued as its own art form, rather than simply imitation. The trend continued into the late 19th century, and even today we can find paste jewels at the store!
In stark contrast to the Georgian idea of paste jewelry, it seems that the Victorians found it to be "cheap" and the object of a "swindler,” yet rich ladies sold their real jewels for paste. It was hidden, rather than displayed. The 19th century pieces tend to have a more open setting in the back and also tend to include pearls or other paste settings, which we can perhaps notice in the way we have paired this chain with a stunning amethyst and pearl brooch. The stone becomes less of a focal point, and more of a part of an overall amazing piece.
Materials and Features: Sterling silver, purple foiled paste
Age/Origin: Early 19th Century
Condition: Excellent condition. Minor associated age wear.
Please view and inspect any photos closely. We endeavor to fully disclose all condition information clearly and concisely, however, please note that what qualifies as excellent condition for historical jewelry differs from modern and contemporary pieces; please take the age of the piece into account when examining the piece. Minor age wear is typical and to be expected for antique and vintage jewelry. Unless otherwise stated, gemstones have not been officially graded for color, clarity, or treatment by GIA; any information provided is our own educated, professional assessment.