Man has carved the colorless, transparent variety of quartz since ancient times: A pair of Greek rock crystal bracelets from the fourth century B.C. are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was only in the 20th century, however, that, freed from the constraints of using precious materials, and with bold and rigorous design then in fashion, fine jewelers were able to exploit the mineral’s full sculptural potential.
Photographed for Vogue in 1971, Lauren Hutton looked fresh and feminine in David Webb’s fluted rock crystal and coral cuffs and rock crystal and diamond ear clips. The sculptural qualities of rock crystal suited Mr. Webb’s bold aesthetic and complemented the clean lines of the James Galanos gown.
The Flocon Impérial necklace from Boucheron’s Hiver Impérial collection conjures up Russia’s icy expanses by setting diamonds into a snowflake of rock crystal. The necklace converts into earrings, a ring, a brooch and hair pins.
A Boucheron artisan carving a piece of rock crystal. The house’s creative director, Claire Choisne, returns to it again and again. “It brings light and gives a very modern aspect to my creations,” she said.
Rather than diamonds
Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube, a Swedish silversmith and Georg Jensen collaborator, said jewelry should draw attention to the wearer, not her status. In this 1950s portrait, she wore a minimalist neck ring with a rock crystal orb hanging like a drop of water.
Vhernier creates unusual plays of light and color, as well as volume, by layering rock crystal over opaque gems. Here, the Italian jeweler’s scorpion has a base layer of red coral and a diamond-tipped sting in its tail.
Résonances de Cartier
The Imugi ring captures a chimera in midroar. Using a color combination that recalls the Art Deco era, when Jacques Cartier first imagined the mythical creature, the carved opaque-finish rock crystal head contrasts with the intense hues and smooth cabochon cuts of its coral eyes and emerald crest.
Suzanne Belperron was daring in her sculpting of hard stones like rock crystal. In this Art Deco cuff owned by Diana Vreeland, angular, light-reflective panels of the transparent mineral are studded with diamonds. “Especially at night the stones appear to…