Hot or Not – Volume Seven

Joden Girl

Baubles, Bling and Chunky Things

Nearly 175 years ago on January 24, 1848, James Marshall was hard at work in the small town of Coloma, California.  He was building a water-powered sawmill in partnership with John Sutter.  While working, Marshall found small shiny flakes floating in the American River – and soon after ascertained that they were gold.  Word of his discovery traveled fast; over the next few months thousands of perspective gold miners flocked to California. 

These would-be fortune hunters abandoned their jobs and businesses.  They sold and mortgaged their homes and property…  most spending their entire life savings on the dream of striking it rich in the California gold rush.  Nicknamed for the current year, these zealous adventurers became known as “forty-niners”.  Over the next four years, over $2 billion dollars worth of precious metal was extracted from the ground.  

The largest gold nugget on record was discovered in 1869 near Victoria, Australia.  This bohemoth weighed over 2520 ounces and was named the Welcome Stranger.  And although the original nugget was melted down into ingots, there is a replica statue in the Dunolly Museum.  Giant nuggets were often melted down, however many of the small ones were kept in their natural form and fashioned into necklaces, bracelets and watch chains.  These antique pieces are highly collectible and command big prices.  

One century later, there was a resurgence in the popularity of nugget style jewelry. By the 1980’s, it had exploded into a full-blown nugget mania.  Everything from rings to watches was made in this chunky and almost ostentatious motif.  Diamonds and gemstones were nestled into the nooks and crannies, amping up the bling factor of this already bold style.  Most nugget jewelry was made by casting, a process that involved wax molds and molten metal.  These modern manufacturers rarely utilized gold in its organic form.  Cast pieces were churned out by the thousands with little room for individuality or creativity.  

This find is both the same and yet so very different from the common nugget rings of the late 20th century.  At a glance, the nugget-motif is clear…  but upon closer inspection, the true craftsmanship shines.  Two bands of gold create the framework of this unusual ring.  Artfully stacked, arranged and layered on top of that structure are a series of high karat yellow gold flakes, nuggets and chunks.  Because no two are the same, uneven scalloped edges and small crevices form in the space between each tiny piece.  

Sprinkled within these clefts are eight round brilliant diamonds with a combined weight of .25 carat and seven bright green emeralds that have a total weight of .35 carat.  These gems are added randomly with no pattern or particular arrangement.  The look is eclectic and engaging.  Priced at just $1,100.00 – this ring is comfortable and easy to wear.  Growing up in the 1980’s, I’m no stranger to nugget jewelry nor am I a fan.  And yet, there is something intriguing about this ring.  Is it worth saving from the scrap pile…  or like so many other nuggets before, should it be melted down into something new?  What do you think?  Is this ring hot?  Or not?  Cast your vote on our Instagram story!

“You can go to a museum and look, or come to us and touch.”

Written by Carrie Martin

Photos by Dana Jerpe

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