And it was during the high Middle Ages period from the 10th century when Europe was more politically stable following the unification of Charlemagne, that the largest cities in Europe, especially London and Paris, had a growing number of goldsmiths, many of whom learned their craft from monks who had preserved the craft.
These newly minted jewelers set up shop in busy areas (in London, around Cheapside, east of St. Paul’s cathedral), often on bridges (the Grand-Pont in Paris and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), so as to be in the main line of traffic.
Jean de Garlande describes such a workshop in his Dictionary, written in the 1220s:
The goldsmiths sit before their furnaces and tables on the Grand-Pont and make hanaps of gold and silver and brooches and pins and buttons, and chose garnets and jasper, sapphires and emeralds for rings. The skill of the goldsmiths hammers out gold and silver sheets with slender hammers on iron anvils. It sets precious gems in the bezels of rings that barons and noblemen wear. The craftsmen who are called hanapiers sheath vessels [of wood] in sheets of gold and silver and put feet under bowls, which they crown with circles [rims of precious stones] so that they may be lovelier, stronger, more durable and more saleable.
While gold and silversmiths were masters of their craft, gem cutting still had longer evolution. The sparkling diamonds and gemstones we know today with their multi-faceted shapes had to wait for finer mechanical drills and cutting wheels, but that not to say that there wasn't sophisticated techniques employed.
For the polishing of "onyx, beryl, smaragdus (emerald), jasper, chalcedony, and the other precious stones" you would make a very fine powder from "fragments of crystal" or "emery" and then work the stone on a "smooth flat limewood board, wet with saliva."
The stones could be shaped to set in jewellery or, for larger stones, impressively carved relief figures were fashioned.
I love describing jewellery in Warrior's Surrender and the garnet and gold necklace in the excerpt below was inspired by this image.
Fascinating! Thanks for stopping by E.E. - I just adore that ring. I'm off to write my Christmas list after I've read the excerpt!
Frey gave a light purr of satisfaction as Sebastian responded by sinking back into the mattress.
“Then keep me warm, wife.”
He wrapped his arms around her, rubbing her back until she fell into another semidoze.
When she awoke, it was to a strange sensation—a light tickle on her arm. She dealt with it by rolling away onto her back, but then it returned across her shoulder. Whatever it was stopped as she swept her hand across.
Then it returned across her chest and now, alarmingly, in the valley between her breasts.
Frey’s eyes opened wide to see Sebastian watching her with a sensuous half-sleepy grin that warmed her from the inside whenever it was thrown in her direction.
She looked down to where the sensation continued and, from beneath the neck of her nightshift, Sebastian’s hand emerged trailing a finely made gold chain, from the links of which hung beautifully wrought garnet beads encased in strips of gold. She sat up and Sebastian raised the necklace to let it dangle in front of her eyes. Frey could see the red wink of the stone as slivers of morning sunlight leaked between the wooden window shutters.
She reached out to touch the object. It was a singularly beautiful piece, something a fine lady at court might wear.
“Happy New Year, Frey.”