JEWELRY HISTORY

17th Century It was absolutely a kind of luxury for women to refine themselves with jewelry during the 17thcentury. Jewelries of this period are usually described as 'Baroque'. They tend to be linear in design and mono tone in color. Though gemstones were often arranged in a rigid and geometric way, they were faceted in large formal clusters, which displaced the gold-and-enamel craftsmanship prevailed in the 16th century. Jewelry of such kind was mostly imported from Hungary. The main city for such kind of goods and its skilled craftsmen in Britain is London, and then Soho, Covent Garden and Spatial fields.

Earrings, jeweled pins, brooches, bracelets and rings are the favourite accessories women wore, which were usually designed with plain pearls and gold. Profusion with gemstones or suites of diamonds set in gold can usually be found in formal occasions. With the growing sophistication in the fashioning of diamonds, they became apparent from basic point-and-table cut to the brilliant. Pearls were “lavishly used to embellish jewelry or were worn in ropes (with up to 2,000 large pears or over 4,000 seed pearls on a single rope) made into necklaces or into wide bracelets (worn in pairs) or used in hair ornaments.

Jewelry was fussily worn in the form of baskets, bows and birds by British women over their buttoned up blouses. Enamel collets of necklace embedded with substantial size of stones were worn around necks, which may be regarded as the forerunners of Riviera, which is 'a river of precious stones and paste of the same size or gradually increasing and then decreasing in size to make a perfectly graded necklace' of the 18th century. It reflects the image of women's shy, innocent and ingenious images calling for gentleman's protection. Besides, god jewelry was extravagantly worn from this period of time, often decorated profusely with gemstones, and ornate pieces were worn at weddings and social occasions.

Pearl necklace was also a kind of fashionable neck ornament. Its popularity is proofed by its images appeared ubiquitously in the contemporary portraits, notably in the works of Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) and written materials. Pearls threaded into chokers, multiple-strands necklaces or long rope, with large gem-set pendants or fringes of pear-shaped pearl-drops sometimes. It was common for wearers to fasten the necklaces with ribbon tie. By the end of the century, they appeared with fastenings of gem-set clasps.

Ensuing set in gold with gemstones and enameling became fashionable. It is a kind of ornament evolved from badge worn on the hat or cap of a man of prominence since 16th century. Some were worn pinned on the underside of the rim of a turned-up hat, but most had loops at the edge or pierced holes. They were made of gold, bronze or copper, embellished with an encircling band of gemstones. Medal medallion marked the special favour from persons of royalty or nobility whose portrait was on the medal of cast gold mounted with enamel and jewels were also the prevailing fashion.

18th Century In this 'Late Baroque' period of time, wearing jewelry was a representation of identity for the middle-class and rich people. Men and women at courts wearing sparkling gemstones set in gold, as well as buttons, buckles, brooches, hair ornaments, sword hilts, watches, corsages, earrings and necklaces, was a prototype of “court fashion” for the expanding middle classes to follow slavishly to display their status and wealth.

Women's favour in large set jewels had been inherited in France from the previous century. The trend of wearing the deep 'decollete' (low-cut or strapless garment), making necklace become the important ornament of adornment. Diamonds was prised for boosting sense of beauty and elegancy, as well as drawing attention to handsome busts and neck, was usually faceted to enhance the effect of reflection from candlelight in grand formal occasions. In addition, necklaces often embellished with multiple central festoons and enriched by a central pendant in the shape of ribbon bow, cross or pearl-shaped drop. Dangling earrings in 'pendelogue and girandole designs' (chandelier-like designs with pear shaped diamond) were also hot matching items at that time.

A very interesting appearance of ornament influenced by the court fashion in France is that, feathers, ,flowers and jewels of all kinds were pinned on towered real and false hair (could be nearly a metre in height). Many women were forced to travel with their head outside the carriage, as their hairpieces were too tall to fit inside. To balance the hairstyles, most earrings were 2 inches (5 cm) long enough to reach almost to shoulders with simple and single-drop designs, or sophisticated chandelier shape with a large central stone surrounded by smaller ones. In the late 18th century France, queen Marie Antoinette, who is Louis XVI's wife, earned a notorious name by acted as an aspirer of jewelry, helped popularize large hair ornament of velvet, feathers, ribbons and imitation gems, the pompon was designed specifically to decorate these elaborate hair arrangements. Women's foreheads were decorated with forehead ornament, which was often being a gold pendant set with gemstones. They were often worn by women of tribes in Uzbekistan and Pre-Columbian Indians in America and India.

Bows was a very popular motif. It combined with drops in earrings, with miniatures in lockets, which was worn around neck to draw people's attention to the bosom. Double bows with trembling feathers and flowers in hair ornaments were also favoured. Shoes were decorated with paste buckles too. Since man's social standing could be told by the elegance and extravagance of his buckles. People like dressing themselves sparkled from head to toe, and buckets often festooned with jewels for decoration.

In France, women's accessories industry became prosperous and jewelry-goods were more widely publicized. The traditional jewelry of pearls was augmented by sets of precious stones. Colored stones like emeralds, sapphires and rubies were used more frequently in jewelry. Lemon-yellow chrysoberyls and orange-pink topazes from Brazil also became fashionable in necklaces worn in the evening. Jewels as this kind were often worn with extravagant rows of stomacher clasps in formal occasions.

Good-quality colorless glass pastes, white topaz and rock crystal were extensively employed as diamond stimulants. They were finely produced in the extent that they could fool people who assumed what they saw were family heirlooms. Beautifully and skillfully crafted jewelry set in silver with foiled colored glass pastes became socially acceptable even among the aristocracy. Chatelaines, stomachers were all worn for the sake of beauty rather than practicality. People's love of display created an insatiable demand for jewelry and a host of experimental designs borrowed from the past.

Corresponding to the use of paste, the trend for wearing imitation jewelry began. Colored gems set in gold were often 'foiled' behind to enhance the depth of color. Industrial Revolution brought the manufacturing forth to produce a great number of inexpensive designer’s jewels in the market, which was a milestone of the acceleration of true costume jewelry in the mid-19th and then the 20th century.

While current of Rococo prevailed in France, the urban living English showed the desire for the much simpler pleasures of country living. The essence of classicism was brought to England by the educated men and women who studied or toured the cultural centers in Germany and Italy. Jewelry expressing sentimental values and virtues were encouraged as an antidote to the excessive fashionable life. Long brooches, bracelets, rings, clasps and pendants with locks of hair, or inscribed with loving messages were worn everywhere. Simpler and more naturalistic floral designs were often found in accessories, though stones were in excellent quality. The Riviera (mentioned in the previous section), was often considered among the most prestigious jewels women possessed, which was often characterized with stone-set pendent in cruciform shape or pear-shaped drop.

19th Century The growing population throughout the 19th century and the publication from media enhanced a rapid growth of demand of luxury goods. People became very much aware how they dress and behave, in order to differentiate their identity from the others in the widening social basis. Portraits from 1840's onward show that many women preferred fussiness, adding accessories such as jewelry, mitten and shawls which seemed to be discordantly being pooled together.

Art Nouveau objects carved with a female face surrounded by long and flowing hair, particularly in jewelry, were popular. 'Art Nouveau' is French which means 'new art'. It is the most popular international philosophy and style of art during 1890-1905, representing the spirit of sexual freedom mostly adopted by the most avant-garde group. The innovative style gave a kick start to America's burgeoning costume jewelry industry, which was characterized by organic images, such as floral and plant motifs, as well as very stylized flowing curves and twisting shapes. The free-flowing naturalistic curves gave women an impression of sleek and sophisticated softness that chimed with their aspirations for emancipation. Later on, due to the mass production techniques invented, inexpensive trinkets and ornaments, jewels, stamped from beautifully designed sheets of silver or gilt metal, became more affordable to even lowest-paid group. The finest pieces incorporated this kind of artistic motifs of natural forms and androgynous face or head into gilt metal.

Precursory idea of using horn, which was specially carved with coating technique in jewelry, by Lucien Gail land, was widely copied by two French designers, Elisabeth Bonte and Georges Pierre, on mid-priced plastic-made horn pendants and brooches. The goods could be plain or in the shape of butterfly or insect, which are still collectible today.

People preferred the ornate parures, matching sets of jewelry, and aigrettes for the hair which started to be popular in the Victorian era, in formal occasions. Chaumet and Boucher on which is still familiar to us today, was one of the founding fathers of jewelry dynasties, who gained their reputation in producing parures. A tiara with ostrich plumes and jeweled comb were used to keep tall coiffures in place. Bracelets were designed boldly, often with portrait miniatures at centers. The proliferated evening gowns provided the perfect backdrop for elaborate necklaces.

A particular group of jewelry designer produced one-off pieces with superb workmanship in this period of time. Julias Meier Grace, Paul Follot and Maurice Dufrene, are the pioneers of Art Nouveau & jewelry made by them is now out of reach of all. They were too expensive to be thought of as costume jewelry, but the very wealthy collectors mostly have the valuable pieces in their private collections or on display in public museums.

Meanwhile, due to the growing reputation of the actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), her image for setting free of sexuality rather than hiding off under tight corsets successfully attracted leading jewelers produced theatrical accessories made of metal and paste with enamel.

Louis Comfort Tiffany (the founder's son of Tiffany & Co.) has great impact on jewel history. Young designers imitate Tiffany's idea, by combining precious and non-precious materials in Art Nouveau designs. Firms later produced and sold cheaper imitations of the top handcrafted jewels. Another American firm, Gorham Corporation, was producing large quantities of hollow-backed jewels stamped with imitation 'repousse' work, most of it based on French Art Nouveau designs.

With the Celtic revival launched by Liberty in Britain, great numbers of silver jewels like pendants, brooches and hat pins were made on simplified Liberty designs, and mostly given a touch of peacock blue enamel, which is a characteristic Art Nouveau shade. Most shimmered with swirling Art Nouveau forms, although a number sported the winged scarab.

Austrian artists, such as Hoffmann and Moser, who were also influenced by French Art Nouveau, percolated 'geometric forms, symmetry and contrasts of black and white, or shadow and light' into metal-work and dramatic jewelry. This foreshadowed the machine-age linearity of the Art Deco style.

Rene Lalique (1860-1945), a leading French designer and maker of jewelry and glassware created bracelets, necklaces, pendants, combs and pectorals combined with the use of gold with gemstones and enamel depicted with nude or draped human female figure, and fantasized with butterfly or dragonfly wings, which emphasized the theme of nature by means of peacocks, snakes, insects, blossoming branches and orchids.

Large hats, fashionable at the end of the 19th century, were secured by long Sheffield steel pins with decorative gold, silver, or gilded metal, often set with quartz or paste. One of the famous mechanized factory, specialized in production of thimbles and hat pins marked 'CH' (1890- 1910).

20th Century Jewelry made in the pre-war period and backward are usually found to be small, discreet and real-looking. It reflects that designers and jewelers were craftsmanship and authenticity oriented at that time. Most of the jewelry produced in the period between WWI and WWII is described as 'Art Deco' famed with bold and geometric style, which is unlike those at Art Nouveau, and was usually produced as single items. Costume jewelry was one of its clearest and most attractive expressions. It was unfussy, unfeminine and unsentimental, but cool and detached, and opted for clean, crisp and symmetry look. Shapes like gazelles and greyhounds, along with automobiles, ships and anchors reflected the period's preoccupation with speed and movement.

By 1920s, the current of dressing in layered and with over decorative effect was flowing in Europe. Women started beautifying themselves with additional accessories to garments which had already been riotous in colour and pattern. Simplicity was no longer that appreciated than before.

During mid-1930s, couture jewelry was popularized in Cartier-style, using rhinestones, glass faux emerald and sapphire as the main materials. Alfred Philippe was one of the famous designers. Necklaces with pendants embellished women in bare-back dress was once a theme of Van Cleef & Arpels' advertisement in 1930s.

Long dangling earrings became hot items due to the becoming popular short-hairstyles. The typical Art Deco costume brooch in the early 1920s looked very like its precious prototype. It was small, discreet and exquisitely made. And it was often in the form of circle or rectangular 'plaque'. Glass or enamel were used to imitate real gems such as onyx, jet, coral and jade. Costume brooches with diamond or marcasite and rows of tiny diamonds were set in silver instead of platinum. Strong colour contrasts like red and black or green and black were preferred.

Figural subjects echoed the 'garland' style of the 1900s, like flower baskets, cornucopias and fountains, were no longer presented in a realistic way as that in the pre-war time, but rearranged in a decorative way, which were usually found to be flattened and stylised and broken down to component shapes.

By the late 1940's, new electroplating techniques produced ultra-shiny, non-tarnishing gold and silver-coloured settings. For those who preferred more tailored look, classic short pearl stands were available either singly or in twos or threes, fastened with a decorative clasp.

After two World Wars (WW I and WW II), it polished off the innocence and the pre-war belief, as well as the fantasy of the well-ordered life. Women needed to be tough and independent. The style of jewelry was very much affected and therefore changed dramatically to be functional for decoration and enhancing identity. So, design of jewelry was more important than the intrinsic value of the materials.

Postwar industrialization in United States acts as a bridge for a leap forward for the mass manufacturing of high-quality fashion jewelry, which was propelling with the flourishing of fashion jewelry industry in Paris. Jewelry could be more easily brought within everyone's reach benefited form the mass production of the purely imitative designs. Jewelry produced at that time follows the trend of the Art Deco, which is characterized by abstraction, bold geometric form and simple composition. It was no longer looking for tiny and discreet, but it became very large, very bulky and very grand in the design.

Jewelers also began experimented with combing precious and non-precious stones in both bold and original designs. White metal was often used in costume jewelry, after it was used by the famous French jewelry houses. Firms like Van Cleef & Arpels & Carter set fashion trends in precious jewel making and achieved technical advances in precious materials which were then imitated in costume jewelry.

One of the leading firms producing fake jewelry, 'Eisenberg & Son', is a forerunner in Chicago producing sheer size of large and chunky jewelry in 1940s, which is still highly collectible today.

Faux and imitation pearl necklaces were worn by women in multiples at the front of a day dress, or singly down the back for evening. Long pearl strands were even worn as bracelets, wound thickly around wrist and occasionally at the ankle by the wildest flappers.

While the trend set by fine jewelers was imitated by swarm of contemporary Art Deco costume jewelers. Gabrielle 'CoCo' Chanel (1883-1971) differed herself from it by the reminiscence of the 'most magnificent Renaissance jewels'. Filigree crosses, decorated with large unfaceted faux emeralds, rubies, and huge dangling baroque pearls. Or heavy gilt chains and medallions possibly derived from the brocaded British liverly and mayoral chains of office which caught eyes during much publicized liaison with the Duke of Westminster. Chanel is the exponent among them. Chanel had an insight to the increasing eagerness for new roles and personal styles. She deliberately feminized women's elegance further by high-quality costume jewelry. Thought it might not have been made of gold or diamonds, but it was never 'cheap', but timelessly elegant.

Apart from Chanel, other famous jewelers, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), presented her pieces in a zany and playful way, with a penchant for the unexpected, surprising, and even shocking. Earrings could be shaped like telephones, necklaces hung with pea pods, and brooches depicting everything from bugs to bagpipes, roller skates, ostriches, human eyes and Roman chariots. There was even a brooch that reflected the formation of the moles on Schiaparelli's cheek.

In New York, body jewelry like breastplates, bras and halter tops in stone-studded metal and leather were also publicized in the market. Jules van Rouge and Giorgio di Sant' Angelo' are the renowned pioneering makers. A famous magazine 'New York Times' regarded this kind of jewelry meant 'for young, modest-sized bosoms', though such pieces are usually made on a non-commercial basis. Women also wore forehead ornament in a broad band form on the upper part of their forehead and over the hair. Such bands were decorated with pearls, gemstones or cameos, or pinchbeck with paste. French term was 'tour de tete'.

Another costume jewelry designer, Ken Lane, whose work had caught the eye of Diana Vreeland (American Vogue's legendary editor), was famed with his ingenious change of materials and craftsmanship on white leopards with polka dots inspired by the Cartier 'big cat' jewelry. Animal is the theme carried on in Lane's work and proved to be extremely popular. Tigers, rams, snake's heads decorated plain gilt, enamel or diamante-studded bangles and cuffs, while 'Lane's 60s interpretations of Van Cleef & Arpels' lion's-head door-knockers earrings remain popular to this day.

He had an observation of real jewelry, in which it is very aging for a young woman, and people wonder where she got it; but an older woman who has an enormous amount of valuable jewelry feels younger wearing costume jewelry'.

By 1950's, with a better living standard, people living in rural areas had more spaces and modern appliances to entertain at home. This inspired designers of jewels worn by people having meeting and conversation at the home gathering. 'Women wore gimmickly figural brooches for their 'conversation pieces', which could be battery-powered Christmas trees that lit up, fantasy clowns that stuck out the tongue when a small mesh chain was pulled.'

During 1950's and 1960's, coins, antique seals and sea life were particularly popular themes. Time at 1960s was a rebellion of youth; it was at a time once shortly stunned by the space-age style: Lucite and Perspex bangles and dome rings, necklaces made of huge aluminum disks, geometric earrings that swung and revolved like mobiles.

Plastic became widely used in the manufacture as well. Its malleability allows the jewelry designer a tremendous versatility. Plastic can be moulded into any shapes and can be any colored, carved, painted, drilled or attached to materials like wood or metal.

The blooming of new forms of media enhanced the spread of information, as well as the need for women to work; tightly monitored social roles imposed on women for long began eroded. The notion of 'accessorizing' women by putting shoes, groves, bags and jewelry together was promoted through many films and magazines. By 1960s, world was obsessed with images in photography, costume jewelry grew bigger, more photogenic and conscious of its immediate visual impact. Massive silver Indian Bib collars became popular, Lucite earrings dangled like oversized ice-cubes, and wrists disappeared under gigantic gladiator cuff bracelets could be seen everywhere.