Jewellery Art: History & Techniques
The Goldsmith's Art
Considered to be decorative art, or a crafts-based applied art, jewellery (jewelry) is one of the oldest categories of precious object. There are many different types of jewellery, including: crowns, tiaras, necklaces, earrings, amulets, bracelets, rings, studs, brooches, torcs, chains, tie-pins, hat-pins, hairpins, belt and shoe buckles, ankle bracelets and toe rings. Made by goldsmiths, as well as other master-craftsmen like silversmiths, gemologists, diamond cutters/setters and lapidaries, jewellery is prized for both its aesthetics and the value of its components, which typically include gold or silver, and a variety of precious and semi-precious stones. Such decorative adornments were first made in prehistoric times - as confirmed by cave paintings showing figures wearing necklaces and bracelets - and have since become a regular feature of most cultures throughout the ages. An important type of Egyptian art as well as the more nomadic Celtic culture, jewellery was a feature of Byzantine art in Medieval Kiev, African art throughout the Dark Continent, Oceanic art across the Pacific and both Aztec and Inca culture in the Americas. Indeed, jewellery - like body painting and face painting - has been a fundamental element of tribal art for millennia. Jewels have also been used to adorn weapons, as well as ceremonial and religious objects. During the era of modern art, movements like Art Nouveau and the later Art Deco, inspired new ranges of decorative jewels, while a number of famous artists dabbled in jewellery design including: Picasso, the sculptor Alexander Calder, the surrealists Meret Oppenheim and Salvador Dali, and the assemblage artist Louise Nevelson. Among the most famous jewellery-makers are Fabergé of Russia, Tiffany & Co of New York and René Lalique and Cartier of Paris.
One of the most expensive types of art, the basic components of jewellery include metal sheet, metal cast in a mold, and wire. The most widely used metal is gold, because of its malleability, ductility, colour and value. Gold sheets may be embossed into shape, or pressed or pierced into decorative forms, while gold wire is often employed to join jewels together or to make chains. Less expensive precious metals used in jewellery-making include silver and platinum, as well as alloys like bronze, and non-precious metals like copper and steel.
As well as metals, other materials used in the art of jewellery manufacture include precious and semi-precious gemstones. Diamonds are traditionally the most highly prized gems, and vary in colour from yellow to bluish white. Other precious stones are rubies (red), emeralds (green) and sapphires (blue), plus less costly chrysoberyl (yellow/green) topaz (yello/blue) and zircon (brown/translucent). Pearls, though of animal origin rather than mineral, are also regarded as gemstones. Popular semi-precious stones used by jewellery designers include: amethyst (violet/purple), garnet (deep-red), opal (milky white), aquamarine (bluish/green), jade (green), lapis lazuli (blue), malachite (bright green). Another important material used to create coatings, is fused-glass or enamel.
All these components are fashioned into the desired form and shape through the use of techniques, carried out with help of tools.
The most common metalwork techniques used by goldsmiths, silversmiths and lapidaries to create jewellery, include casting, cutting, welding or soldering, and cold-joining (the use of staples and rivets to assemble parts). More advanced decorative techniques include embossing, repoussé work, engraving, enamel-work (types include champlevé, cloisonné, basse taille, plique-à-jour) granulation and filigree decoration. When it comes to stone-cutting, gems may be cut to create incised/engraved designs on the stones themselves, or they may be cut (from variegated stones like onyx or agate) to make cameos.
This is a process used to create raised or sunken designs in a sheet of metal. One popular type of embossing is Repoussé - a technique in which a malleable metal sheet is shaped by hammering from the reverse side in order to create a design in low relief. Another related embossing technique is known as Chasing. This is the opposite technique to repousse, in that while repousse works on the reverse of the metallic sheet to create a raised pattern on the front, chasing is used to create designs on the front of the sheet by sinking the surface of the metal.
This traditional goldsmith's technique, dating back to late Roman and early Byzantine art, involves the coating of metal with vitreous enamel (porcelain enamel), a material made from molten glass which hardens to a smooth, durable coating. Enamel can be transparent, opaque or translucent, while a wide range of different colours and hues may be added to the smelted glass by mixing it with various minerals, like the metal oxides cobalt, iron, neodymium, praseodymium and others.
Named after the French word for "raised field", champlevé is an ancient technique of enamel work designed to add colour and lustre to metal jewellery - in which troughs are sunk into the surface of a metal object, filled with vitreous enamel and fired. When cooled, the surface of the object is polished to create extra shine. The method was first fully exploited by Romanesque goldsmiths, in the ornamentation of plaques, caskets and vessels, as exemplified by the Stavelot Triptych.
More difficult than champlevé, Cloisonné is another type of enamelling process. While champlevé creates sunken compartments of decorative enamel work, cloisonné enamellers solder flat metal strips (or silver/gold wires) onto the surface of the metal object, creating mini-walled compartments (cloisons, in French) which are then filled with enamel and fired.
Yet another method of enamel work, it is similar to cloisonné, except that the floors of the 'compartments' are engraved with a low-relief design. The compartments are then filled with translucent enamel allowing the design to be seen through it. An excellent example of the technique is the French Royal Gold Cup (14th century), made during the age of International Gothic art.
This technique of goldsmithery is also similar to cloisonné, but the compartments created have no backing. (A temporary backing is eliminated once the enamel has cooled after being fired.) This allows light to shine through the transparent enamels used, in the manner of stained glass. Plique-à-jour is a notoriously difficult and time-consuming technique with a high failure rate.
Invented by the Egyptians and used by the Romans, Niello is decorative technique used by goldsmiths and silversmiths in which a black mixture of sulphur, copper, silver, or lead, acts as an inlay for designs engraved on the surface of a metal object (typically silver). Objects decorated in this manner are known as nielli. The technique reached its zenith in Early Renaissance art, at the hands of the Florentine goldsmith Maso Finiguerra (1426-64).
History of Jewellery
Although jewellery originated during Paleolithic culture, the oldest surviving examples are those excavated from the royal tomb of Queen Pu-abi at Ur, in Sumeria, dating from the Third Millennium BCE. (See also: Mesopotamian Art and Mesopotamian Sculpture.)
Other early pieces include those taken from King Tutankhamun's tomb (c.1320 BCE). Jewels were an important element in Minoan culture and later Greek art, whose influence and styles permeated throughout the eastern Mediterranean, inspiring jewellery design in Etruscan art (Italian mainland) as well as the Black Sea region. Hellenistic artists, who achieved a complete mastery of miniature designs - were influenced in turn by Ancient Persian art, following the defeat of Emperor Darius by Alexander the Great.
As Greek political power waned (300-200 BCE), La Tene Celtic culture - notably items of personal jewellery - began to penetrate from central Europe into France, Italy and the Ukraine. During the Pax Romana, the use of jewels became more widespread, as Rome became a centre for goldsmith workshops. In the Roman provinces of Western Europe, a renaissance of Celtic handicrafts took place, exemplified by the Petrie Crown - created using the repoussé method during the period 200-100 BCE - and the exquisite Broighter gold collar (torc), created during the 1st century BCE.
Celtic art generally refers to works of the ancient Celts, created during the Hallstatt Culture (c.800-450 BCE) or the La Tene Culture (c.450-50 BCE): later Celtic metalwork art, including the beautiful Tara Brooch (silver gilt with a knitted silver wire, decorated all over with intricate Celtic interlace), is categorized as "Insular art" from Early Medieval Britain and Ireland. Other bejewelled artworks from this Hiberno-Saxon era include the ecclesiastical illuminated manuscripts, and treasures like the Sutton Hoo Belt Buckle, made in the 7th century, which is noted for its affinities with Celtic-style jewellery and patternwork. (See also: Celtic Jewellery Art.) For other examples of Medieval manuscript illumination requiring jewelled ornamentation, see: Romanesque illuminated manuscripts (1000-1150) and Gothic illuminated manuscripts (1150-1350).
Very little jewellery was made during the Dark Ages in Europe, except for those items created during the era of Byzantine art (c.500-1450), centred in Constantinople. In contrast to the Romans, and tribes like the Celts and the Franks, Byzantine designers employed gold leaf rather than solid gold, and placed greater emphasis on stones and gems. In Kiev, during the period c.950-1237, jewellery-making in general and the art of both cloisonné and niello in particular were taken to new heights by Byzantine goldsmiths. A large collection of jewellery and other precious objects can be seen at the Ukrainian Museum of Historic Treasures, in Kiev.
By the time of the Italian Renaissance, jewellery-making in Europe had attained the status of a fine art.
The wealth of inspiration which Renaissance art brought to Europe at the close of the quattrocento (15th century) and beginning of the cinquecento (16th century) had a profound influence upon the jeweller's art. The new aesthetics came from Italy, the true home of the love of the antique. This is faithfully reflected in the jewels of the period; and when one remembers that the workshops, the botteghe, of the goldsmiths were the schools where some of the greatest practitioners of Renaissance art received their training, it is easy to explain the beauty and quality of the jewels produced.
Lorenzo Ghiberti (1380-1455) had begun his career as a goldsmith, before the end of the 14th century; after him came Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Antonio Pollaiuolo (1432-98), Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482) and Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488), all trained as goldsmiths. In Germany, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was the son of a goldsmith. Thus it is that in the portrait art of the time, jewels are portrayed with very great care, and with affection and understanding.
Fashions spread from Italy through Europe with much rapidity, and within a few years the stock subjects of decoration had completely changed; nymphs, satyrs and Olympian goddesses invaded courts and great princely mansions with their pagan seductiveness.
Engraved plaques occupy a position of marked importance in the midst of this exuberant activity. A painter such as Hans Holbein (1497-1543) and an architect of the calibre of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, did not disdain, to create designs for jewels; and other artists in ornament, some of them also goldsmiths, followed suit. The drawings of Virgil Solis (c.1540) of Nuremburg, of Hans Mielich (c.1570) of Munich, of Etienne Delaune (c.1560) in France, of Erasmus Hornick (1562) of Nuremberg bear witness to the existence of what might be called an international style, and indeed there are such strong similarities between jewels of this period that it is sometimes almost impossible to state their origin precisely. The problem becomes even more difficult when it is a question of identifying the goldsmith who made them. Contemporary documents do mention many goldsmiths, but for the most part these are nothing more than names to us. In this context it is of note that no single jewel can be definitely identified as the work of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71), considered now the most famous artist of his day in this particular sphere. We possess only the descriptions which the master has left in his writings and autobiography. Those show that Cellini attached much more importance to his lavori di minuteria, for altars or princely tables in gold, than he did to jewels in the strict sense of the word.
One point which stands out clearly in the pieces which have come down to us, is that precious stones played an accessory role in relation to the use of enamelled gold. Besides this the stones show but little variety in the cutting; coloured stones are frequently cut en table, flat, en cabochon, rounded, without facets and polished. Diamonds were usually cut as pyramids en pointe, flat cut, or rounded dos d'ane (donkey's back). Cut in this manner they could hardly show the fire for which they are famous.
Among the pieces of jewellery preserved from this time the most numerous are the enseignes, a type of medallion worn by men on the hat, and the pendants which were worn on the breast or as the central ornament of chains and necklaces. The Portrait of an Unknown Woman, by the great Venetian painter Tintoretto (1518-94) gives us some idea as to how they were worn.
The enseigne traditionally chased by Ghiberti for Cosimo de' Medici, would seem to be of later date (note: "chasing" is a type of enamelling); the interest in the piece primarily consists in the very sculptural nature of the medallion's centre representing St John in the Desert. This tendency is again evident in the enseigne which shows St John the Evangelist, in which the composition is on a grand scale considering the small dimensions of the piece. Another enseigne is nothing less than a minute gold bas-relief; the battle scene is handled with mettle and virtuosity. In some other works enamel takes a larger place, partly covering motifs and figures, bringing with it an attractive element of colour, but minimizing the fine quality of the chasing. This is the case with the enseigne which is said to have belonged to Don John of Austria which portrays the Conversion of St Paul; the profusion of figures, and the effects of perspective bear witness to a certain clumsiness of design.
Simply by virtue of their shape the enseignes tend to monotony, but the pendants bear witness to a charming richness of invention. On the reverse of one Apollo and Daphne are to be seen amidst an abundance of intertwined foliage, among which sirens, boys and warriors prance and turn. The richly polychromatic combination of different enamels gives the piece gaiety and striking effect. Ornamental designers and goldsmiths alike were provided by antiquity with a source of inspiration from which both profited greatly, but jewels dating from the Greek or Roman eras were, in the 16th century, practically unknown, and could not serve as models, with the exception of some antique cameos, treasured through the Middle Ages, which were not only zealously collected but also imitated.
The fashion for cameo portraits spread rapidly. Moreover, the goldsmiths offered to princes and crowned heads likenesses which were not engraved, as the cameos had been; an enseigne showing Charles V, dated 1520, wrought in enamel on gold, is a piece of virtuoso technique. More frequently the profile, like that found on medals, is in gold resting on a ground of hard stone; that of Charles V copied from a medal by Leoni, stands out against a plaque of bloodstone in a casing of lapis lazuli.
To our modern eyes these pieces seem collectors' objects - which, indeed, they have become - rather than jewels made to be worn; nevertheless they blended perfectly with the sumptuous dress in fashion at Italian courts during the 16th century.
The portrait of Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Cosimo de' Medici, by Agnolo Bronzino (1503-72), reveals a taste which, while austere in its day, now seems elegant. On the sumptuous brocade of the dress the parure [note: a parure is a set of jewels intended to be worn together] is composed almost exclusively of pearls, edging the transparent veil over the shoulders while two strings of very large pearls encircle the neck and fall down over the bodice. This refined but costly simplicity does not appear to have been widely cultivated.
The most varied and most highly imaginative forms are to be found among the pendants. One often sees pendants which represent ships, and towards the close of the 15th century a taste developed for pendants in the shape of letters of the alphabet, generally the initials of their owner. The vogue reached its culmination in the 16th century. The list of the French crown jewels, drawn up during the time of Francis I, refers to one in the shape of a 'Latin A', doubtless belonging to Anne of Brittany. Henry VIII also possessed some pendants of this nature, on which his initials were joined to those of the particular wife of the moment. These pieces, probably because of their intensely personal character, have mostly disappeared, but two made for Anne of Saxony survive.
In France, Francis I formally created the Crown Jewels by letters patent in 1530, in order to form an inalienable treasure that each king had the duty of handing down to his successors either intact or augmented; up to the time of the Revolution the law was upheld with only a few rare exceptions. The list drawn up under the order of Francis I shows a collection which is still in the embryonic stage, of which the most beautiful pieces came from the king's first wife, Claude de France, who had received them from her mother, Anne of Brittany. Several important stones are particularized, among them a large ruby called the Cote de Bretagne, the only piece that might possibly be traced today in the Louvre, although it was recut in the 18th century in the form of a dragon.
In the institution of the crown jewels as a legal entity Francis I may have been motivated by a desire to conserve a fabulous heritage, but the economic factor cannot be lightly dismissed. During the reign of his successors, and specifically with reference to the expenses of the religious wars, a number of the stones served as a guarantee for foreign loans, particularly from Italy. The correspondence of Catherine de Medicis enables us to follow the travels of some of the most beautiful treasures which were left as security, sometimes for long periods, with Florentine or Venetian bankers. These financial difficulties were hardly alleviated by the paroxysm of luxury indulged in by the last of the Valois. Upon the occasion of their marriage Charles IX's bride, Elizabeth of Austria, received no less than five complete parures composed of diamonds, emeralds, pearls and rubies. Clouet's portrait of the queen gives a very exact idea of their composition and the manner in which they were worn. She wears a bordure around her dressed hair, a carcanet (jewelled collar) encircles her neck, and there is a collar reposing on the shoulders; in front the collar is hooked up to the centre of the bust by a pendant. Often the belt was enriched with jewels and ended in a long chain hanging down in front of the skirt. The chain would usually finish in a jewel, referred to in the old inventories either as the patenotre or as bague, a word which we think of as meaning finger-ring but that in the 16th century meant any jewel.
One of the few jewels which has been preserved in its original mounting, of which one may say with certainty that it belonged to Francis I, is a medallion showing Leda and the Swan. On the reverse it carries the royal cipher FF and the sign of a salamander.
Francis I had also brought from Italy Matteo del Nassarro, a carver of fine stone, who made several cameos showing the king's profile. A large oval sardonyx of Diane de Poitiers shows the degree of perfection which French craftsmen had attained in this field even although the author of the work remains unknown.
In England the court of Henry VIII was no less luxurious than that of Francis I, for the confiscation of the monasteries furnished him with enormous assets, lands and a large quantity of gold and precious stones. From the sanctuary of St Thomas Becket alone came two chestfuls of treasure, which some six or eight men could barely manage to carry.
In the majority of his portraits, for example that by Hans Holbein, the king is wearing a sumptuous collar of wrought gold, decorated with pearls and rubies - alternately oval and squared - which in their day were famous. His hat, his sleeves, and the front of his slashed doublet are ornamented with enormous rubies similarly set. The finest stones of the royal collections seem to have been kept for him, in spite of the fact that his successive wives received magnificent parures. These splendours have disappeared; but some simpler jewels of his time, still preserved, reveal considerable variety in design. Pomanders which were worn at the waist and designed to hold aromatics are an example of this; according to the inventory of crown jewels drawn up in 1500 these musk-balls were equally fashionable in France; no less than forty-five are listed.
Moreover some parures consisted almost entirely of hollowed balls containing either perfume in paste form or ambergris; these perfumed ornaments were much in vogue in France but seem to have originated in the Middle Ages. They reveal much of an epoch in which the most elementary rules of hygiene were generally neglected.
Book covers had been made in gold or silver ever since Byzantine times - see Making of Illuminated Manuscripts - but from the Renaissance onwards one sees them hung at the waist; one of them, its workmanship slightly worn away, shows on one side the Brazen Serpent, and on the reverse the Judgement of Solomon. Biblical subjects were greatly appreciated in England, although they were not restricted to that country.
A portrait of Lady Frances Sidney, painted in the latter half of the century, demonstrates how far one may pursue research into costume; the figure holds a sable whose head is worked with jewellery. Erasmus Hornick of Nuremberg published in 1562 some patterns for jewels of this type and some for fan handles, all richly decorated.
Towards the beginning of the 16th century the first portable watches were made; according to the portraits of the time they were then generally worn suspended from the waist. At first they did not assume the very logical round shape which came later, but tended to take on the shape of the cross, miniature medallions, or the shape of reliquaries; others, acting as it were as a Memento Mori, affected the shape of a death's head. These death's-heads, crossbones, love knots, tears and other refinements, as Brantome called them, were equally prized for mourning-jewels. There are some pieces, mostly of English origin, which were made in the shape of a coffin that opens to show a skeleton worked in enamelled gold. These generally date from the beginning of the 17th century.
Elizabeth I of England appears in her numerous portraits rather like a distant and costly idol, bound about with the double aura of celibacy and power. These likenesses provide us with a fairly exact idea of her dresses and her jewellery, even if they are unable to restitute that exquisite charm of which her contemporaries spoke more convincingly than when they referred to her vaunted beauty. Here are to be found the cotiere, necklace, pendant and, at first, the carcanet which gave way to the enormous flange-like collars in the final years of the 16th and the opening years of the subsequent century. From her father she had inherited splendid rubies and a large sapphire which she had preserved, as the portrait in the National Gallery shows, in the setting of the Tudor Rose. The fabric of the dress is strewn with pearls, but since an old invoice of 1569 mentions a delivery of five hundred and twenty pearls to the queen for one penny we know that not all the royal pearls were genuine. It seems to have become an established custom to present to the queen on each New Year's Day presents of jewellery, and the courtiers did not fail to comply with this costly obligation, which was probably a useful investment.
Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), the great master of miniature portrait painting, had been attached by Elizabeth to her court. He was an accomplished goldsmith, and grandson of goldsmiths, and it was part of his duty to help in executing the parures destined for the sovereign or given by her. The Heneage jewel is an example. This was bestowed upon Sir Thomas Heneage, Treasurer at War, as a thank-offering for his efforts to levy armies to resist the Armada. On a ground of translucent blue enamel the front of the jewel displays the royal profile. The reverse shows a storm-tossed ark accompanied by apt inscriptions; when opened the jewel reveals a miniature of the queen by Hilliard, dated 1580. The natural inclination is to assume that the whole jewel is the workmanship of Hilliard, and to assume the same of the medallion bestowed upon Sir Francis Drake, a cameo of a Negro's head with a miniature of the queen by Hilliard on the reverse side.
Among the most sumptuous acquisitions of Elizabeth I were the pearls of Mary, Queen of Scots, acquired cheaply after the latter's death, which can be seen on the portrait of Elizabeth by Isaac Oliver, another of England's finest miniaturist painters.
Emperor Charles V
The sun never set upon the domains of Charles V, Emperor of Germany, Archduke of Austria, King of Spain and all its colonies; these lands benefited from the wealth of the New World, from the deliveries of gold and silver coming from the Indies which Europe greedily swallowed up. The great German towns such as Augsburg, and, towards the end of the century, Prague, basked in a pleasing reputation for goldsmith's work, as we may see from the list of jewels belonging to Claude, wife of Francis I, where there is mention of a golden patenotre 'of German workmanship'. Nevertheless the style of these pieces belongs to the workshops of Florence and Venice.
The imperial crown made in Prague by a Dutch goldsmith Jan Vermeyen, is perhaps the acme of central European goldsmith's work. It was made for Rudolph II in 1602, and belongs in style to the late Renaissance. The splendour of the piece is accentuated by the importance of the stones with which it is ornamented, which give an idea of the parures which have now disappeared, but were once ordered by the ostentatious sovereigns of the time. The crown is surmounted by a sapphire, and in the centre of the headband there is a large red stone which would seem rather to be a garnet than a ruby.
Clearly distinguishable characteristics can be attributed to a whole group of jewels dating from the second half of the 16th century; the sea monsters, dragons and sirens, executed with large baroque pearls mounted in enamelled gold, echo the drawing of Erasmus Hornick which appeared in 1562. The theme enjoyed marked success; they are not all of German workmanship but the most famous of them, the Canning jewel, is. The carved ruby on the body and the ruby on the pendant must have been added while the jewel was in India whence Lord Canning brought it back.
Pendants in the shape of birds also fall into this category; some were made in Germany, one of which has a reverse enamelled in the style of Corvinianus Sauer, a Bavarian goldsmith attached to the court of Christian IV of Denmark, and some in Spain dating from the first quarter of the 17th century.
Spain was an important centre for goldsmiths in the 16th century, for it was enriched more than other countries by the discovery of the Americas. A medallion that can be attributed to a Spanish workshop, shows St George and the Dragon; it is, traditionally, said to have belonged to Henry VIII, and is one of a group of pieces with the same characteristics. The composition is in a heavy relief, enamelled with lively colour, ringed round with fluted gold. Although the austerity of costume was an extension of the independence of Spanish character, this did not hinder the princesses of the court from following certain French fashions so far as jewels were concerned; a portrait of Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II, which was painted about 1560 by Alonzo Sanchez Coello, shows the queen adorned with a carcanet, a cotiere, head-dress and a belt similar to those worn by her sister-in-law Elizabeth, wife of Charles IX.
Renaissance goldsmiths were primarily chasers and enamellers; even in the most sumptuous jewels the stones are enshrined and isolated by settings of gold which tended to take pride of position. About 1610-1620 there was a change in the approach to the jewel, the stone became increasingly appreciated for its own intrinsic beauty; considerable progress had occurred in the cutting, particularly where diamonds were concerned. From the last years of the 16th century comes the first mention in the inventories of cutting in facets, that is to say en rose; then in about 1640 we hear of cutting with sixteen surfaces. The goldsmith's art was yielding place to that of the jeweller; enamelled settings were reduced to the minimum and in the majority of cases went out of fashion for stones of real value, although enamelling was still used to decorate the reverse sides of jewels.
Berquen in his preface to Les Merveilles des Indes Orientates et Occidentales (1661) commented upon the change. The author was himself a goldsmith from Brussels who had worked in Madrid and subsequently became famous in Paris. He wrote:
The art of enamelling was not entirely superseded by the new, increased importance of stones, and it attained a degree of perfection never equalled before. The enamelling of Jean Toutin of Chateaudun and of Jean Petitot, a Swiss who worked in both England and France, shows a remarkable finesse, especially in the portraits. The champleve technique (enamelling done with vitreous powders in channels cut in a metal base) proved a success also. The extremely difficult technique of email en resille sur verre only appears to have been employed by one or two craftsmen between 1619 and 1624; it consists of taking a medallion of glass (usually dark blue or green) and cutting the design in low intaglio to form the decoration, floral or other; the hollows are then filled with very thin gold foil, then above these enamel is inserted, using various colours, taking care that it vitrifies at a temperature lower than the glass plaque which constitutes the support.
Enamel survived as an ornamentation for the backs of jewels, and furthermore it achieved something of a triumph in two fields which, having first appeared in the 16th century, achieved a vogue in the 17th - watches and miniature cases. A French watch has a large cabochon sapphire forming its reverse side; the cover is composed of another sapphire encircled by smaller stones, and upon being lifted reveals an interior decorated with flowers, intertwined foliage and birds; it has a fragrant delicacy of composition.
Floral decoration became increasingly naturalistic, and began to supersede the stylized arabesques and figures of the Renaissance. The foundation of the botanical gardens in France by Henry IV became the source of new inspiration for the artists of the day. Among the numerous collections of engravings the Livre des Fleurs by Francois Le Febvre and the Livre des fleurs propres pour orfevres et graveurs by Jean Vauquer (c.1680) suggested innumerable designs based upon this theme. The pea-pod form was one of the first motifs to be used, and is seen on the setting and reverse of a cameo showing Louis XIII as a child.
Susterman's portrait of Claudia de' Medici (1625) shows a parure greatly influenced by the fashion for foliage, and is witness to the tendency towards naturalism which was affecting works of pure jewellery. The portrait has another point of interest for us, in that it shows in the costume itself the persistence of the tradition for lofty austerity, initiated by the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs, still affecting the Italian court at this late date.
This same tradition continued in Madrid all through the 17th century; Velazquez painted Queen Maria Anna, the niece and wife of Philip IV, about 1650, enveloped in the vast hooped skirts still fashionable there, although outdated in France and England some twenty years earlier. Her jewels are few but massive and very large; they match her black dress and full, tight hair-style perfectly, so much so that one feels that the dress, coiffure, and jewels were all conceived together to convey an impression of majestic severity and soberly magnificent elegance.
The ring of Henrietta Maria is another souvenir of the Stuarts; it is ornamented with a large diamond carved with her arms and cipher. The queen also owned the Mirror of Great Britain said to have belonged to Charles the Bold, which had been bought by Nicholas de Sancy. Having offered it unsuccessfully to Henry IV, de Sancy finally sold it to James I of England for the huge sum of 600,000 ecus.
Henrietta Maria was soon obliged to pawn her jewels when she left her kingdom, and the Sancy diamond was one of the first to go. In 1647 it was owned by the Duke of Epernon, and ten years later was finally sold to Cardinal Mazarin. A letter addressed to her husband, then still in England, bears witness to the difficulties which the queen experienced: 'It is with the greatest of difficulty that we have raised any money here; the dealers are still nervous. News has come through from London that I have carried off the stones secretly against your will, and that if one loaned me money there would be no proper security. There was nothing for it but to show the authorization you signed.'
Mazarin, the all-powerful cardinal, was an avid collector of fine art painting, small-scale bronze sculpture, larger-scale marble sculpture, objets d'art, and jewels. He had matched together a remarkable set of diamonds, some formerly belonging to Queen Christina of Sweden; he acquired the set by purchasing them in successive deals, using funds raised by means which were often hardly honest. Upon his deathbed the cardinal asked his confessor to advise him how to make his will, and was told that he should render to the king all the things that belonged to him, but to distinguish between what the king had given him and what he had taken for himself; the dying man replied: 'in that case it is necessary to give everything up to the king.' In fact the king refused to accept the whole of Mazarin's wealth, but among the part he did take was the Mazarin set of eighteen diamonds, and this became part of the crown jewels.
For the major part of his reign Louis XIV conducted what can be best described as prestige politics, and the effect of precious stones played a part dear to the heart of the man who liked to be compared to the sun. The crown jewels which he had received in trust from his ancestors now increased; the king acquired, in succession, the Guise diamond and the magnificent, blue diamond called the Hope diamond, which had been brought back form India by Tavernier. Later, having been stolen during the Revolution, it acquired a malevolent reputation as all of its successive owners, including Hope, died tragic deaths. The king also purchased a large sapphire of 132 carats now in the Musee d'Histoire Naturelle, and the Hortensia diamond of over 20 carats now in the Louvre. The king possessed no less than four complete parures, two of which were of diamonds, one of pearls and diamonds, and one, for daytime wear, composed of stones of many colours. The most important of these comprised one hundred and twenty-three buttons, three hundred button holes, nineteen flower ornaments for the justaucorps, forty-eight buttons and ninety-six button holes for the veste, to which must be added, of course, the clasp of his hat, garters, shoe buckles, cross belt, sword, and the cross of the Holy Spirit.
The Queen Marie Therese, although she does not appear to have been greatly interested in jewellery, and the princesses, notably the Crown Princess of Bavaria and the Duchesses of Burgundy and Berry, on grand occasions all wore stones from the crown jewels specially mounted for the occasion. The Duchess of Burgundy was described by Dangeau on the occasion of the marriage of the Duke of Orleans (1698), as wearing: 'a dress of silver tissue with golden flowers mixed with colours of flame and green. The parure of the head and the clothes consisted of diamonds, as did her necklace, comprising the most beautiful of the crown jewels.' The same princess, having played Athalie before the king, was obliged to take to her bed because the clothes she had worn on the previous evening had been too heavily laden with precious stones.
The king continued to make personal purchases of jewels for his family, especially for the weddings of the princesses of the blood. Madame de Montespan received some splendid gifts from her royal lover, among them a magnificent row of twenty-one pearls bought from the Marechale d'Estrees and valued, so Saint-Simon says, at 500,000 livres. When Montespan fell from favour she returned the jewel to the king, who gave it to the Duchess of Burgundy, but in return aided the ex-favourite to acquire land at Oiron.
This display of splendour obviously provoked imitation among the courtiers who were continually changing their parures to suit the fashion. As the Mercure galant affirms: 'people of quality change the settings of their jewels every two or three years'. Portraits show that masculine attire was as sumptuous as feminine. For men the main ornaments consisted of precious stones arranged in long, exaggerated button-holes with Brandebourgs or frogs.
It was not long before the frogs of diamonds spread to feminine attire, and the Brandebourg was seen to grace the bodice magnificently as complement to the brooches on the sleeves and skirt, to the earrings, and the single string of pearls round the neck, so big that it would seem that the painters may have obligingly exaggerated their size.
Among the designs by Legare one finds girandole earrings, sometimes having three or even five drops, and brooches in bow form, later to be known as Sevignes, but then called stomachers; the association of ribbons and bows with jewels was to reappear continually during the 18th and even the 19th centuries. Occasionally these bows are grouped to form necklaces en lacs - a fashion that was to remain popular in England and Spain as well as France until the 18th century.
The effulgence of Versailles spread all over Europe during the second half of the 17th century, except to Madrid and Vienna who stiffly held to their own dominating traditions.
Charles II and James II took to French fashions much more than their father had done. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes made France no longer safe for Protestants, and London benefited by the influx of Huguenot goldsmiths who fled there for refuge.
The parure of the funerary effigy of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond is in fact of rock crystal but it gives some idea of the magnificent jewels that Charles II gave to his favourites. In a markedly similar style we have the English or Dutch pendant mounted in rock crystal, with a miniature of William of Orange on the reverse side, worked in enamel in a setting of flowers and intertwined foliage enamelled on a white base.
The regal circlet of Mary of Modena, the wife of James II, was used for successive coronations by Mary II, Queen Anne, Queen Charlotte the wife of George III, and finally by Queen Adelaide (1831). On each occasion it was remounted with stones especially borrowed for the ceremony, which were finally kept as they were in 1831, but the mounting does not seem to have been significantly altered and shows the elegance of the 17th century in its purity of workmanship.
From the start of the 18th century the history of jewels becomes principally the history of precious stones, their beauty stemming from their selection, their cut, and the arrangement of the stones composing the jewel. They lose their objective character which is so evident in the 16th century, and a little less so in the 17th, and they become adornment in the modern sense, absolutely necessary to dress, closely subject to the changes in fashion; and furthermore there appears a distinction between jewels for day and evening wear. This idea took root in the final years of the 17th century in the gatherings of Louis XIV, the daytime jewels mostly being set with coloured stones while those for the evening were mostly diamonds and pearls which appeared at their best at the chandelier-lit balls.
The exploitation of the mines of Golconda, India, opened in the 17th century, and then later of the Brazilian mines placed on the market more beautiful, bigger, more numerous and less expensive diamonds. The Venetian Peruzzi had invented brilliant cutting about 1700 and this development added to the progress already made with rose-cut stones. Henceforth the jeweller's art consisted in setting precious stones so as to gain the maximum effect from them.
Jean Bourget in his book of designs (1712) gives very few designs for jewels because, he says: 'it is useless in my opinion because the fashions are continually changing, and furthermore the designs depend rather upon the quantity and the size of the stones with which one has to work.' In this field it is Paris which more than ever before led the fashion. With the accession to the throne of the Bourbons even the Spanish court, so long faithful to the details of a costume fixed by etiquette, began to adopt willy-nilly the French toilette.
French jewellers furnished a number of foreign capitals, and sometimes established themselves there, and in the Europe of the Enlightenment French fashions became still more influential.
The course of the century was to show comparatively little variation in fashion and called for very light mountings; the most popular motifs, subject to countless variations, being the bow and flowers. By the middle of the century such designs were influenced by the Rococo style of art, although jewellers evolved a rather sober form of the style and, except in Italy, Spain and Portugal, generally speaking tended to keep to symmetrical patterns.
The crown jewels of France constituted the most marvellous collection in the entire Western World, to which the acquisition of the Regent in 1717 brought a supreme consecration. The stone in question, weighing 136 carats, was then considered as the finest one known, having been discovered in Golconda, near Hyderabad in India, and fraudulently smuggled out. Thomas Pitt had bought it in 1701; it had been cut in London and offered to Louis XIV who deemed it too expensive to buy. In his Memoires Saint-Simon boasts that it was he who persuaded the Regent, Philippe of Orleans, to buy it. At any rate, after some bargaining, the matter was settled for two million livres, payable in several instalments. The diamond came to be known as the Regent diamond, and Louis XV wore it for the first time on the 21st of March 1721, on the occasion of the reception of the Turkish ambassadors. It was set in a bow of pearls and diamonds fixed to the shoulder of his flame coloured coat, and in his hat he wore the Sancy diamond. These same two jewels are found again in the front of, and at the summit of the crown made by Ronde in 1722 for the coronation of the young king. The crown has been preserved and reset with imitation jewels of the time; it was then considered the zenith of the jeweller's art, one of the first with open settings allowing the stones full transparency and so accentuating their luminosity. It bears witness to the shortlived taste for mixing coloured stones together, even to the degree of mixing fine stones with semi-precious stones, a characteristic of the 18th century.
The Golden Fleece made for Louis XV in 1749 is another luxurious example of this audacious mixing together of colours, and was to complete the parure of coloured stones which the king inherited from Louis XIV; today the piece is broken up, and is only known from the engraving. It consisted of the Cote de Bretagne ruby, recut for the occasion by Guay in the form of a dragon, and the large blue diamond which has since been cut smaller and is today known as the Hope diamond; the two very large stones were surrounded by coloured diamonds and topazes. Much in the same spirit was the medallion of the Holy Ghost made by Jacquemin in 1757 for the king. Guay sawed a large ruby, the Egg of Naples, into several small pieces and gave them the shape of a dove surrounded by flames; this was set in diamonds, some of which were coloured by using tinted foil inserted in the setting behind the back of the stone. This method was not uncommon: the inventory of Madame de Pompadour also refers to 'diamonds tinted green' and 'yellow diamonds with assisted colour'.
At the time of Louis XV's marriage the most beautiful diamonds in the crown jewels were remounted for Maria Leczinska; portraits of the young queen provide us with some idea of the sumptuosity of her parures. Generally she wore the Sancy and the Regent either in her hair or mounted and other diamonds in a necklace held tight to the throat by a ribbon of black velvet.
The adornment of the grand habit also comprised earrings, stomachers to cover the front of the body, shaped as reversed triangles, four-part girdles, shoulder knots, coat slits, hooks and eyes on the sleeves, bracelets in pairs, trousse-cotes and the trousse-queue picking out the sides and the train of the skirt held out by its panniers.
The name of Marie Antoinette is forever associated with the affair of the 'Queen's necklace', a necklace which, in fact, she never possessed. It consisted of very large stones set in clusters with festoons drooping on the breast. The jewellers Baszanger and Bohmer received the original order to execute it for Madame du Barry, but it had not been finished when Louis XV died. It was therefore offered to Marie Antoinette, who refused it because Louis XVI considered it to be too expensive.
At this stage in the proceedings an intriguer enters the scene, the Comtesse de La Motte. She pretended to Cardinal de Rohan, who was then out of favour with the Queen (1784), that the Queen wished to be reconciled with him and would give him the responsibility of obtaining the jewel for her, unknown to the king. The Cardinal handed over the necklace to an accomplice of the adventuress, believing the man to be a special envoy of Marie Antoinette. This man disappeared with the stones. Naturally the whole affair came out into the open, and Rohan, who was culpable of nothing more than incredible naivety, was arrested, acquitted by parliament but exiled from the court. The Comtesse de La Motte was flogged, branded with a red-hot iron, and flung into the Salpetriere prison from which, however, she managed to escape. Though quite innocent the Queen came out of the scandal very badly, and Goethe referred to the episode as the opening chapter of the French Revolution.
There are many jewels which are said to have belonged to Marie Antoinette and the one which appears most genuinely to have been her property is the diamond necklace sent by the Queen to Brussels in 1791, and recovered by the Duchess of Angouleme in 1798. It subsequently belonged to the Count of Chambord, and Princess Massimo. It was sold in London in 1937, taken to India, where it was broken up.
Under the first kings of the Hanoverian dynasty the English court shone much less brilliantly than Versailles. Throughout the 18th century it was customary to hire the stones for coronation festivities, and as soon as the ceremony was over they went back to the shop from which they had made but a momentary departure. However they were hired in great number, if one is to believe the description, left by Horace Walpole, of the coronation of George II and Queen Caroline (1727). Her dress was so studded with jewels, so heavy and so stiff that she was quite unable to kneel down, and a whole system of pulleys was required to draw up the lower part of the skirt like the curtain at a theatre.
Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, possessed numerous jewels, some of the most beautiful of which had been presented by the Nabob of Arcot. A portrait of her, painted about 1762, shows her wearing a necklace composed of very large diamonds, and a stomacher composed entirely of diamonds, as well as strings of pearls with bows at the waist and shoulders and pearl bracelets. These were to enjoy considerable popularity, and are to be seen in numerous portraits. Usually they are closed with clasps bearing diamond-encircled miniatures.
Madame de Pompadour owned clasps of this type, engraved upon sardonyx by Guay with the profiles of Henry IV and Louis XV, mounted with emeralds and rose-diamonds. On one occasion the fragility of the thread of these pearls placed her in an embarrassing situation, on the very day of her presentation at the Palace of Versailles. Upon taking off her gloves to kiss the hem of the queen's dress, according to etiquette, she broke her bracelet, and her pearls rolled over the floor; Madame de Pompadour, closely watched by the ladies of the court, knew that she must remain impassive, and retreated from the presence backwards, gracefully making the three customary curtsies as if nothing had happened.
Fascinated by the great lustre of Versailles, the large and small courts of Germany entered into a mutual rivalry in magnificence and refinement. In the deliciously Rococo palaces built by king, landgrave and elector, festivity followed festivity and gave pretext for parures, which were hardly less magnificent than the French crown jewels. The vanity of the princes caused them to attach great significance to possessing some remarkable stone to be the star turn of their collection, and this would be mounted in a setting clearly dictated by the fashion in Paris.
Such splendours are however overwhelmed by the all obliterating luxury of the court of St Petersburg. The Csarina Elisabeth had ordered a clasp for the Imperial cloak about 1750, together with three other fine pieces in the French style. For her coronation (1762) Catherine II ordered an Imperial crown from the goldsmith Posier, of French origin. It was not ready in time but her successors wore it, down to Nicholas II. In 1772 the Empress acquired from Count Orloff, her lover, a magnificent diamond which was mounted in the Imperial sceptre and remained one of the greatest treasures of Russia.
Watches had adopted the familiar round shape in the second half of the 17th century, and in the 18th century they were manufactured in much greater quantity: they usually formed part of a chatelaine, to which were attached the watch-key, signet-ring, and sometimes various little articles for the toilette, flasks etc. The most luxurious are ornamented in diamonds, such as that made for Queen Caroline Mathilda of Denmark (1767) by the French jeweller Fistaine. Some are simply in chased gold or pinchbeck, but most frequently they are the only jewels of the epoch to bear enamelled decoration and this adds to their interest. Many are decorated with mythological, galante or genre scenes, but their decoration changed as the century progressed, being strongly influenced by Rococo about 1740 and closing with a pseudo-antique style in cameo-painting with medallions imitating cameos. In England, especially, Wedgwood medallions were employed in mountings joined by chains that might be worn as a necklace as well as in bracelet form.
With the closing of the Ancien Regime jewels became increasingly reserved for the female royals, even though the king at court continued to wear his diamonds on great occasions. The fashion for austerity spread from England. Coats covered in embroidery and spangles in light colours and shot silk gave way to the frock coat in sober hues of beige, brown, green and puce. Shoe buckles comprised an essential part of masculine attire and there are a great many varieties from the simple, silver buckle dear to country priests, to the more luxurious in gold or even set with jewels. Throughout Europe the young men of fashion submitted to the more severe styles prevailing, and henceforth the only jewels permitted were finger-rings, cravat-pins and the watch chain with the trinkets that belonged to it.
The French Revolution marked the beginning of an unfavourable period for jewellery art. True, the new ideology gave rise in France to jewels suitable for the events, decorated with Phrygian caps, pikes, fasces, and symbols of Liberty, but their quality is so mediocre that they never seem to have been intended to last for long. In so far as the crown jewels were concerned the results were tragic. In 1791 the king had deposited them in their entirety in the royal furniture repository (now the Ministry for the Marine) where they had been placed under lock and key, but whence they were stolen some time between the 11th and 17th of September, 1792. The robbers appear to have entered by the window so that the seals on the doors were unbroken. They therefore had six days clear to get away, and the loss was not discovered until it was too late. Without any real foundation many rumours circulated about the robbery, among them one that the Girondins had, with the aid of the jewels, bought the support of the Duke of Brunswick, leader of the enemy forces, and so gained the battle of Valmy.
Following many denunciations, enquiries and much research the majority of the stones were recovered; the Regent diamond, it is said, had been concealed in a wooden beam. The great blue diamond of Louis XIV (the Hope) was already on its way abroad. The Republic, which never stood upon ceremony when its interests were at stake, sent five of the malefactors to the scaffold for the deed.
The treasury was, however, enriched by stones confiscated from the emigres and also by those of the King of Sardinia seized in Holland as enemy property; they had been sent there as guarantee for a loan.
But the wars gave rise to financial difficulties and the French government was obliged to use the largest pieces as securities for loans: the Regent diamond was placed with the banker Treskow in Berlin, the Sancy diamond at Madrid with the Marquis d'Iranda, while both men furnished the Republic with much needed horses. The Sancy was never recovered, passing via Godoy, Prince de la Paix and lover of Maria Luisa of Spain, to Prince Demidoff and finally via India to the Astor family who still possess it.
By way of compensation the Directoire brought a relief from the recent terror; a feast of pleasure took hold of those who had escaped from the guillotine; at the Paphos and the Tivoli pleasure gardens the eccentric fashions of the merveilleuses du Directoire created a sensation at the dances, wearing thin muslin tunics over their half-naked bodies with a red ribbon a la victime knotted round their necks. There was a taste for very long earrings known as 'fishwives', a name which gives an idea of the feeling current at these festivities. Jewels were, generally, quite simple: few stones but long golden chains joined by medallions in the antique style adorned with enamel or cameos, called sautoirs. It is remarkable that the identical type of sautoir was adopted with equal enthusiasm by the flappers after the first world war during the 1920s.
After his coronation Napoleon established a stiff court etiquette, similar to that in force under the former French monarchs. Stiff satins and luxurious embroideries replaced the indiscreet muslins of the Directoire, and once again diamonds enhanced the court balls. Even when only first consul, Napoleon had had Nitot mount the Regent diamond on the hilt of a ceremonial sword. Part of the crown jewels had been placed at the disposition of la citoyenne Bonaparte.
After the coronation imperial orders multiplied, at first for Josephine, who in 1805 received a complete diamond parure valued at 347,800 francs; and after 1810 even more so for Marie-Louise, who had six complete parures in pearls, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and turquoises. Portraits demonstrate quite clearly how full these parures were: each comprised a tiara set quite low on the forehead, a comb planted on the top of the head, ear pendants and necklace, not to mention belt and paired, bracelets. There were also crowns for the sets with diamonds and pearls. The imperial magnificence was not exercised without a strict awareness of economy. On 8 January 1810 the Emperor wrote to Count Daru: 'I have no need of these parures immediately nor should several hundreds of thousands of francs be sacrificed for them. On the contrary it is my wish that they should be acquired without undue haste at the lowest possible price.' These purchases, intended to rebuild and add to the collection of the crown jewels, were additional to the personal presents which the Emperor gave to the Empress and to members of his family, and to the daughters of his senior officers, etc.
Apart from ceremonial pieces, such jewellery as was used for day wear was clearly simpler. The taste for the Antique brought back with it the fashion of cameos, Marie-Louise had an entire parure of this type, and one for which some of the finest sardonyxes were removed from the Cabinet des Medailles at the Bibliotheque Nationale. The importance attached to cameos is emphasized by the parure worn by Queen Marie-Caroline of Naples for in the portrait by Vigee Le Brun we see that they are encircled by enormous pearls.
Gold jewels, particulary the braided chains called jaserons enjoyed some popularity around 1804. The Journal de La Mesangere announced in 1805 the success of matted gold with rough filigree work (canetille), this was especially recommended for teenagers about fifteen years old who might wear a grande parure and tiara made of canetille gold and silver as being cheaper than one of brilliants, 'the overall effect is divine especially upon dark hair'.
The portraits of Madame Riviere and Madame de Senonnes, by J.A.D. Ingres, provide us with a fairly accurate idea of these rather unassuming jewels which were purely decorative, the equivalent, more or less, of present-day costume-jewellery. Berlin cast-iron jewels with medallions, chased openwork and a taste for neo-classical subjetcts fall within the same category; the medallions were often enclosed by a circlet of gold.
At first the Restoration merely continued the fashions of the Empire. The parures of Marie-Louise were remounted for the Duchesses of Angouleme and Berry. The Bapst ruby tiara is indubitably the oldest surviving mounting of the French crown jewels. Charles X ordered for his coronation a crown which had the Regent diamond at its summit, and a diamond sword which has happily survived the sale of the crown jewels.
Amethysts and topazes, having hitherto played only a subsidiary role, enjoyed a sudden vogue from 1800 when the Morning Post declared them to be preferable to all other stones for necklaces and earrings, and this entire fashion seems to have stemmed from England. The fashion took root in France about 1820 as may be seen from a large amethyst parure of Parisian design; the stones are quite simply set in gold without any accompanying brilliants. The mounting itself is worked according to the 'new' method which indicates the progress already made at the beginning of the industrial age. The reliefs are obtained by mechanical stamping and finished by hand. The result was more opulent than delicate. In like manner a large quantity of small jewels suitable for the prudish and circumspect tastes of the Restoration and July monarchy were manufactured.
More than ever, Parisian jewellery led the world in fashion; jewellery such as the aigrette and tiara of brilliants and white sapphires made at the end of the 18th century and in the first years of the 19th for the Empress Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Czar Paul I. These pieces reflect French taste, and the tiara itself is definitely the work of Duval, a Swiss jeweller from Geneva who had settled in St Petersburg. Similarly there are clear affinities between the ruby parure, mounted in 1830 by Kaspar Rielander, the court jeweller, for the Queen of Bavaria and the tiara of the Duchess of Angouleme, although the Bavarian jewels show more heaviness both in design and execution. The tiara of brilliants made by Rielander in 1832 was also part of the Bavarian treasures, and shows perfect workmanship and elegance; it was sold at Christie's in 1931.
England was isolated from the continent during the greater part of the Napoleonic era but, if a little slowly, eventually followed the Parisian fashion. The entertainments given by the Prince Regent were propitious occasions for beautiful jewellery: the Prince himself liked to see his lady friends sumptuously dressed and contributed to this taste. Greville dining at Devonshire House in 1821 was astonished to recognize in the tiara of Lady Conyngham the Stuart sapphire, only recently returned to the royal treasury. The king continued, however, the tradition of his Hanoverian predecessors, hiring stones for his coronation regalia; the royal crown specially ordered for the occasion, showing the roses of England, the thistles of Scotland and the shamrock of Ireland entwined between its crosses was never mounted permanently in diamonds until the coronation of Victoria.
Eclecticism, the hall-mark of the 19th century, was soon to make itself felt in the field of jewellery, which at this period tended to seek its inspiration in the varying sources of the past. Generally speaking the first years of the century remained faithful to the antique style, but novelties were soon to appear; towards 1820 a strong tendency for imitating Nature, which did no more than prolong a trend of the 18th century long into the succeeding one - bouquets of flowers in jewellery which sought always to imitate the real thing more realistically. To make the illusion more complete some sprigs were mounted on 'tremblers' so that they would shake at the slightest movement of the person wearing them. In this sphere the masterpiece was the spray of lilac shown in the international exhibition of 1867 and bought by the Empress Eugenie. Around 1840 the pampille fashion emerged, with the flowers surrounded by showers of tiny diamonds.
The Duchess of Berry popularized the Renaissance with her 'Quadrille de Maria-Stuart' (1829), for which the costumes were designed by Deveria, and Bapst specially remounted parures worth over three millions francs for the occasion, making use of the crown jewels. In the same spirit was Queen Victoria's Tudor Ball. The Ferroniere came into fashion about 1825; it was a circlet of gold holding a jewel and worn just above the eyebrows.
Frederic Philippi and Froment Meurice in Paris, the house of Schlichtgeroll in Vienna and others in London and Paris imitated, notably between 1835 and 1850, the pendants of the 16th century with some success, and their fantastic animals, centaurs and lizards, combined with enamels and their baroque pearls were famous. Alphonse Fouquet was to keep the style alive until 1860 and beyond.
The conquest of Algeria gave birth to mauresque jewels, often ornamented with Arabic characters, a fashion which began in France and which was soon imitated in other countries, enjoying a vogue especially between 1840 and 1860. The canvases of Delacroix and those of the lesser known Fromentin and Ziem responded with genius to the taste for the oriental, which culminated in the faintly Turkish smoking-rooms which large hotels and even private houses began to regard as indispensable.
Towards 1826 the Italian Fortunato Pio Castellani created the first jewels executed in Rome in the antique style. He retired in 1851, but the firm bearing his name continued to produce similar work until much later. In 1860 Napoleon III bought the Campana collection which was rich in Greek, Etruscan and Roman jewels, and this proved to be an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration for jewellers; in France Fontenay drew most cleverly upon it. Photographs of Rachel as Phedre show her wearing a diadem of metal which is ornamented with one single, large stone, like that shown in Winterhalter's portrait of the Empress Eugenie (1864).
Queen Victoria's reign began under the happiest of auspices; for her coronation in 1838 she ordered the Crown of State in which the finest stones of the royal collection were brought together - the Stuart sapphire, the sapphire of Edward the Confessor, and the ruby of the Black Prince. The Stuart sapphire had been carried off into exile by James II and belonged to his descendants until the last of them, the Cardinal of York, put it up for sale shortly before his death in 1807 when it was bought back for the Prince Regent. St Edward's sapphire belonged according to tradition to Edward the Confessor, and the Black Prince's ruby had been part of the wealth belonging to the kings of Granada from whom it had been taken by Peter the Cruel and presented to the Black Prince in 1367 after the victory of Naveja; tradition has it that this ruby was worn by Henry V at the battle of Agincourt and by Richard III at Bosworth. (The Crown of State was completely remounted for Elizabeth II reproducing almost exactly that worn by Queen Victoria, except that the second Star of Africa, taken from the Cullinan diamond, has replaced the Stuart sapphire on the centre of the frontlet.)
The colonial expansion of England was to enrich the royal collection during the 19th century. India poured forth its wonders at the feet of its Empress. It is noteworthy, however, that these gifts were not so much the offerings of the maharajahs as gifts from the East India Company which plundered their treasures. The sack of Lahore enabled the company to offer the Queen, in 1849, the Koh-i-Nor diamond and the Timur ruby.
The Koh-i-Nor diamond, which had belonged to the Grand Mogul, was very clumsily recut, and its original weight of 800 carats was reduced to 279 carats. The Timur ruby which bore in Persian the names of its successive owners, Tamerlane, the Shah of Persia, the emperor Jehangir, Nader Shah, and the Maharajah Rangit Singh was mounted in a necklace.
Following the death of the Prince Consort, in 1861, the Queen retired into an austere widowhood and hardly enjoyed her treasures at all. Other crowned heads, notably the Empress Eugenie, took up again the role of leader of fashion. If some vexed spirits did not hesitate to criticize the mixed society of the Tuileries where were gathered together so many alien elements in search of amusement - rather like bankers in search of business - the sheer beauty of the Empress was beyond question as were her dresses designed by Worth and her magnificent parures. In 1853 on the occasion of her marriage she had received very beautiful jewels from Napoleon III: and he himself shocked the legitimitists by wearing the diamond sword of Charles X.
Almost all the parures remounted under the Restoration were reset by Bapst for the Empress Eugenie. Among them were several diadems, and these included a 'Greek' model which was made to hold the Regent diamond at its centre (or on certain occasions a copy of it), and was being worn by the Empress when Orsini and Pieri tried to assassinate Napoleon III at the Opera in the Rue Louvois; also a 'Russian' diadem which it would appear is still preserved today in a private collection; the parures also included rivieres, a corsage worked in currant leaves wrought in jewels, a comb with a shower of stones (en pampille), shoulderknots or bows, various brooches - all of which were worked in diamonds. A further set consisted of several rows of enormous pearls, a diadem of pearls, brooches and bracelets of pearls and brilliants that may be seen in one of the Winterhalter portraits. Parures of coloured stones, of which one in rubies dates from the Restoration, completed this extraordinary collection which was sold almost in its entirety by the Third Republic in 1887, evidently for political reasons. The majority of the jewels were broken up with the exception of the 'Russian' diadem and the 'reliquary' brooch which had been made in 1855 and had simply nothing to justify its title: the two diamonds in the form of a heart which occupy the centre of the piece are the 17th and 18th Mazarin diamonds, and in the 17th century had decorated the justaucorps of Louis XIV.
The International Exhibitions no less than the luxury of the imperial court did much to show off the supremacy of Parisian jewellery. Cheek by jowl with the older established firms such as Mellerio and Bapst (which joined with Lucien Falize in 1879) newcomers such as Cartier and Boucheron arrived with the prospect of a fine future.
The first stones from the newly discovered South African mines were placed on the market in Paris in 1869, furnishing jewellers with bigger and more abundant stones. From then onwards mountings became lighter, so that the ideal became to make the mounting as invisible as possible - the monture illusion took root and was general by the last quarter of the century, by which time the mountings were completely invisible.
In order to achieve this result new metals were employed for the setting of the stones. Since the 17th century silver had become a traditional setting but from the mid 19th century onwards gold became the preferred setting - not without some resistance being put up. Vever, writing as recently as 1906, said: 'Great pieces of jewellery will never cease to be set in silver'. Now we see he was wrong, for platinum, even more solid, has tended to oust gold.
The largest diamond known to date, the Cullinan, was presented by the Government of the Transvaal to Edward VII, and from it came both the first and the second Stars of Africa to ornament the Crown of State and the royal sceptre of England.
This was the epoch when Queen Alexandra created the royal style in England. Before her, queens and princesses had adopted for daytime wear town toilette similar to those of their fashionable contemporaries, reserving their magnificence for court balls. Alexandra, doubtless tired of the perpetual mourning of her mother-in-law, created for official ceremonies a fabulous style, emphasising in the public eye all the majesty of royalty, appearing in light colours and splendid dress, her hair dressed with aigrettes of feathers, her throat wrapped round with enormous pearls, and sparkling with diamonds.
Such important pieces were often mounted in a severely classical style which has never really gone out of fashion, such as the tiara of the Dukes of Westminster which comprises diamonds that belonged to Queen Charlotte, of which the largest central stone had been hired out for the coronation of George IV.
Women of the world were not the only ones to make a display of magnificent jewels, for in the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century courtesans occupied a position of great importance in the demi-monde, and the parures which they wore for their photographs testifies to this. William III of the Netherlands gave Elisa Parker the de la Croix diamond (41 carats) from the crown of Naples. After 1870 Madame de Paiva bought a tiara of the Empress who had once refused her admission to the Tuileries. The white pearls of Leonide Leblanc and the black pearls of Cora Pearl were famous.
The easygoing climate of the Belle Epoque was followed by the decadence of fin-de-siecle art. Tormented souls enjoyed an exquisite morbidity; fantastic ecstasies and anxieties were dreamed up. Jewels, particularly precious stones, exercised an irresistible attraction. Some great ladies, but mostly the women of the theatre and courtesans, attracted by the bizarre and anxious to please the young intellectuals, adopted a seductive and twisted form of jewellery offered by jewellers like Paul Vever (1851-1915) and his brother Henri Vever (1854-1942), Alphonse Fouquet (1828-1911), René Lalique (1860-1945) in Paris, and Tiffany in New York were offering them. Here were to be found the themes of Art Nouveau (a style known in Germany and Austria as Jugendstil.) Botanic motifs were common, lianas writhed in demented convulsions, iris, poppies, mistletoe; faces of women of 'fatal beauty', now dedicated, now radiating troubled sensuality, emerge from disordered tresses; the variegated wing of a dragonfly and Byzantine peacocks' eyes dazzle with iridescence. But above all it was the snake theme that fascinated the fin de siecle, which was attracted by its evil portents. It formed the chief motif of the Fouquet bracelet made after a drawing by the Czech poster artist Alphonse Mucha for Sarah Bernhardt, who wore it in her role of Cleopatra, and who had so much difficulty in paying the jeweller that he was obliged to send a messenger to the theatre every night where she was appearing in order to collect the instalments she owed on it. Meanwhile, in St Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London, the great "artist-jewellers" Gustav and Peter Carl Fabergé supplied the Russian Romanov Court with their famous Fabergé Eggs, and many of Europe's Kings and Queens with priceless items of jewellery.
Collections of jewellery can be seen in many of the best art museums around the globe, notably: the Louvre in Paris, the British Royal Collection at Windsor, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, The Ukrainian Museum of Historic Treasures in Kiev, the Hermitage Gallery in St Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
For more about decorative arts, objets d'art and antiques, see: Art Encyclopedia.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART