Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gold Rush Cufflinks

Victorian quartz-in-gold cuff buttons, circa 1860.

One of the earliest distinctly American styles of jewelry was inspired by the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Imaginative San Francisco jewelers, among them Barrett & Sherwood and George Shreve & Company, worked with small pieces of quartz laced with veins of gold to create striking rings, watch cases, brooches and other jewels.

Gold veined quartz set in gold cuff buttons.

In 1853, Barrett & Sherwood displayed these "gold quartz" jewels at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York. The sparkling creations garnered great interest and gold-in-quartz jewelry evolved from a regional novelty to a national enthusiasm.

The Victorian cuff buttons pictured above are a wonderful example. Each cuff button features small rectangles of rose and white gold-bearing quartz set at an angle like the covers of an open book. Bold golden domes engraved with radiating lines and repeated chevrons form the ends. The cufflinks were crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1860.

Beautifully crafted reverse of gold-in-quartz cufflinks.

Prior to 1900 cufflinks were often described as cuff or sleeve buttons. The cufflinks attached to the cuff with fixed posts and round button-like backs. Inventive jewelers often set the button backs on hinges so they could be more easily inserted through the cuff. This style of cufflink was largely superseded by various "bean back" designs and British double-sided links that became increasingly popular around the turn of the century.

The reverse of these gold-in-quartz cufflinks illustrates the care with which they were crafted. The backs are closed with a gold plate that protects the gold-in-quartz specimens and adds strength to the design. The surfaces are beautifully polished and finished. Often with antique cufflinks the backs are as interesting as the fronts!

To view these and other cufflinks from the past,
please visit our Antique Cufflinks Gallery.

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