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  1. Woodbridge Antiques Centre has a wonderful selection of antique and vintage jewellery containing many different types of gemstone. You may expect this article to look at the techniques of some of the most famous jewellers over recent centuries – but no, we are going millions of years further back to look at how nature herself has made the gems.

    how gemstones are made

    With just a few exceptions, gems are crystallised minerals which form under the earth’s surface. To understand how they are made we first need to understand something about the makeup of the earth itself. The top layer of the earth is the crust, made of solid rock with a depth that varies between 3 and 25 miles. Under this lies the mantle, which is mainly made up of magma or molten rock. The earth’s crust is divided into tectonic plates which are in constant movement: over millions of years these plates move enough to form and break up continents, oceans and mountain ranges. This is a mechanism that creates huge stresses in the earth’s crust, causing earthquakes and volcanoes, faults and folds. Areas that were once low are uplifted to form mountain ranges, rocks that were deep in the earth are uplifted and erosion brings them to the surface. Other rocks that were once at the surface are “subducted” and taken deep down below the surface where temperature and pressure are huge.

    Geologists divide the rocks that make up the earth into three types: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. Sedimentary rocks, as the name implies, are those that are formed from deposits of silt, sand, mud or the calcareous remains of marine creatures that build up over millions of years. Sandstone and limestone are examples of sedimentary rocks. Igneous rocks (such as granite) are formed when magma or molten rock is brought near enough to the surface to cool and form solid rock. Metamorphic rocks are formed when existing rocks are subjected to such pressures or temperatures by geological processes that their structure changes. Gneiss, slate and marble are examples of metamorphic rocks.

    Gemstones form within these rocks when the correct combinations of mineral content, temperature, pressure and time are present. Many gemstones are formed within rocks that are cooling from a liquid to a solid state, which must happen slowly enough for crystallisation to occur. Most gemstones form within the earth’s crust: only diamonds and peridots are formed in the mantle. Different gemstones form in different rocks:

    Gemstones that form in igneous rocks include:
    diamond, emerald, amethyst, citrine, beryl, morganite, aquamarine, garnet, moonstone,  tanzanite, tourmaline, topaz, spinel and zircon.

    Gemstones that form in metamorphic rocks include:
    Ruby, sapphire, beryl, jade, lapis lazuli, turquoise, spinel and zircon.

    Gemstones that form in sedimentary rocks include:
    jasper, malachite, opal and zircon.

    Once a gemstone is formed it has, of course, got to be found before it can make its way onto your ring. And it won’t get found 10 miles below the earth’s surface! So, the gems found in jewellery are not only the result of the rare coincidence of conditions that formed them, but are also the result of erosion and other geological processes that bring them to the surface as well as the fortuitous event of someone looking in the right place at the right time. And that is why gems can be so rare and so valuable!



  2. Tea, when it first arrived in any quantities in Georgian England, was a luxury commodity, commanding very high prices.  In households that could afford it, tea was kept in a locked caddy, and the lady of the house kept the key.


    Tea drinking became something of a ritual with the aristocracy and the growing middle class – evidence of refined taste and discernment.  The tea was brewed at the tea table, poured from silver tea pots, and drunk from delicate bowls or cups also made from fine porcelain or the new ‘bone china’. The beautifully crafted tea caddies were often made from expensive and rare woods or valuable hand painted porcelain.  These costly items added to the mystique of tea.  Known in collecting circles as ‘Tea Paraphernalia’, in which the caddy spoon is an important element, they are now regarded as highly collectable antiques and command high prices. 

    Initially, before a ‘fit for purpose’ caddy spoon was devised, the lids of ceramic tea canisters were used to spoon tea into the pot, as were mote spoons, introduced in the 1720’s.  The latter were long-handled spoons with a small, perforated bowl and a spiked handle, employed for skimming debris from the surface of tea bowls and clearing the spouts of teapots.  When the first caddy spoons appeared in the 1770’s the immediate demise of mote spoons was notable. 

    At first they were variously described as caddy ‘spoons’, ‘shells’, ‘ladles’ and ‘shovels’ according to their shape and design - ladles for instance had longer handles, an early design soon superseded by the more practical, shorter spoon designed to fit in the caddy.  The popular shell bowl is a strong corrugated construction that had strength even when produced in relatively thin silver.  Its shape is thought to have been based on the large natural scallop shells often found in chests of tea from China, and it was still the design of choice up until the early 20th century.


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    Generally, until ‘novelty’ shapes appeared, the flatware designs of the period were followed, often made by the leading silversmiths of the day.  The quality of these pieces is superb, and for this reason they are still popular with collectors. The most highly valued novelty shapes include the Eagle’s Wing, the Jockey Cap and the Hand – all beautifully detailed examples of the silversmith’s art.  These were frequently given as gifts – for example as thanks to a kind hostess – as they did not need to be matched to the family silverware.

    From the mid-19th century, boxed presentation sets of tea utensils were also produced, with caddy spoon, sugar spoon, sugar tongs and sometimes a sugar sifter.  Some included teaspoons and a small fork for lemon slices to give a full tea equipage.  An ideal wedding gift for an aspiring couple of the new professional class?

    Modern caddy spoons exemplify the dynamism of British art and craftsmanship.  The vast and varied range produced by the latest generation of craftsmen and women suggests that the future is bright for the innovative designer silversmith of today.  There is support and encouragement from many sources for new graduates in this profession and by its commissioning policy the Society of Caddy Spoon Collectors hopes to ensure this continues.

    Copyright  © The Society of Caddy Spoon Collectors 2015.  All rights reserved.

    We would like to thank the Society of Caddy Spoon Collectors for kindly providing us with this article.




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