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Humankind has always used ornaments, just after they got sense of wearing cloths. The oldest pieces of jewellery identified are pierced seashells, found in South Africa, which are believed to exist from around 75,000 years ago. These shells had perforations and facets of wear, which suggests that they were worn. At that time, ornaments were most often made from bones, shells, animal teeth, antlers (especially deer), ivory and later pearls.
Antiquity was a period of real developments in the field of jewelry. It is during the period when humans discovered gold. Thus, many Goldsmith techniques were proposed, such as watermark, granulation and stamping. These techniques made it possible for the development of a new and high-quality necklaces and rings. However, while you read his article, don’t assume it a stone age, stay familiar with the latest unique engagement rings designs of 2020 at segaljewellery.com.
The Egyptians wore all kinds of jewelleries from ancient time till date; very colourful and enrich designs. Both men and women wore Jewellery and was common. They were mainly in gold, symbolizing “the flesh of the gods” and in silver, finely worked by techniques, such as granulation, filigree, cloisonné and glyptic. The stones commonly used by the Egyptians in making jewellery were lapis lazuli, turquoise, banded agate and carnelian. They also used the glass paste for imitation of stones. They used different iconographies, including the eye of Horus, the cross of Ankh, the scarab, the papyrus, the lotus, hieroglyphics, etc.
Archaeologists had found jewellery of all kinds in the tombs; amulets, necklaces, bracelets, seal rings, earrings, tiaras and pecs. The Egyptians particularly liked to wear several pieces of jewellery. Wearing several rings in fingers and bracelets on the wrist at the same time was a trendy fashion.
The characteristics of Roman jewellery were the use of gold, emerald, pearl, carnelian and agate (especially for cameos). The techniques used by the Romans in the realization of their jewellery were glyptic (hard stone engraving), opus interrasile (openwork decoration like lace), engraving, cast iron, stamping, etc. Besides the cameo, used among other things in the dissemination of the image of the emperor, monetary jewellery and the “bulla aurea”, golden bubble are jewellery worn by the Romans.
Greek jewellery from the Hellenistic period (4th-5th centuries BC) was mainly made of gold, bronze, garnets, emeralds and enamel. These are jewels with a high decorative overload, representing several iconographies specific to the Greeks, such as the palmette, the rosette, the knot of Heracles, the serpent, the winged figures and the griffins. The jewels convey a notion of victory, strength and power transcribed by the symbols of the knot of Heracles and the serpent. The Greeks refined the work of filigree in decorative motifs.
The Middle Age
The Middle Ages are characterized by religious art and the art of colour. The barbarian invasions in the 5th century allowed the contribution of techniques such as cloisonné. The very popular stone is garnet but also glass paste. Later, with the advance of Christianity, the iconography of jewellery changes, it was religious art. The aviform figures, the quatrefoil and interlacing motifs gave way to religious scenes and reliquaries. The fibula, the clevis bit, the so-called aedicule ring and the pomander were characteristic jewels of this period. The art of enamel had impose itself and develop: champlevé enamel, translucent of low size, plique and enamel on the round hump.
The Renaissance was marked by an evolution in the field of science and the arts throughout Europe. It is a period during which took place great expeditions and discoveries allowing many exchanges.
This artistic period born in Italy, then introduced in France in the 16th century by François Ier. At his request, Italian artists, including the famous Leonardo da Vinci, came to develop their ideas. François 1er designed the crown jewels in 1530.
The influx of wealth, with the conquest of the new world, gives creations more loaded with decorative patterns and precious stones. The jewel must be associated with the garment. During the first half of the 16th century, many men wore them, such as signs (hat jewellery) and order jewellery. At that time, there were many hair jewellery such as tiaras, pearl ribbons and chains (called “ironwork”). The pent-a-col and the “commesso” were jewels presented at that time.
The techniques evolved with the beginning of faceted stones and the use of enamel. The baroque pearl was also very popular.
The 17th century
The great century, that of the Sun King Louis XIV, inspired French gardens and the birth of jewellery.
In the 17th century, head jewellery such as aigrette and pins were very popular. The bodice ornaments in knot patterns, “Sévigné knot”, worn as pendants, suspended or sewn to the garment.
The “tulipomania” and the naturalistic decor capture Europe and leave an imprint on the decorative arts and jewellery with the pea pod patterns, carnations, sunflowers and acanthus leaves. During the first half of the 17th century, the flora was treated in a barely stylized fashion, on bodice ornaments or on hair pins in silver or enamelled gold. These jewels are most often adorned with diamonds or rock crystals, the reverse of which bears a polychrome enamel decoration, most often pastel blue, white and black. The theme of death (“memento mori”) is commonly found on watches, rings or other jewellery.
The 18th century
The 18th century is an important century for jewellery. This period is marked by the prosperity of Europe through the Age of Enlightenment. Jewellery was evolving with the massive arrival of diamonds from India and coloured stones, particularly from Brazil. Jewellery was no longer reserved for the wealthy, especially thanks to the invention of rhinestones (very shiny lead glass). The diamond still reigned! At the end of the century, jewellery was made up of rubies, sapphires, topazes and garnets. In the middle of the century, diamonds were often replaced by white topazes and by the end of the century, yellow chrysoberyls invaded all jewellery. The knot motif and the girandole motif are characteristic of this period.
All types of jewellery were in fashion in the 19th century. Women like to wear harmonious sets dominated by the same stones and the same ornaments. Thus, appear the sets with necklace and the half-sets comprising only a brooch and a pair of earrings.
At the beginning of the century, under the 1st Empire, fashion was in the antique style. Women wore belts on their tummy, ears of wheat or laurels.
It was the return of forgotten techniques. Cameos and intaglios were making a comeback in adornments, accompanied by pearls and Greek motifs, such as palmettes.
Women started to show off their cleavage and dress in bow and leg sleeve. It is a great period for the work of gold, meticulous and of great technicality: knitted gold, cannetilles and grainetis.
At the end of the 19th century, through the rediscovery of works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, artisans reworked the enamel whether it was painted, champlevé, cloisonné, in the round or in small size. Berliner cast and hair mourning jewellery was very popular at that time.
The new era of the art
Art Nouveau is an artistic movement representative of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It was born in opposition to the prevalent styles of the time, such as historicism and eclecticism, as well as in reaction against industrialization. Thus, the main goal of the artists was to break these styles and create a new art, modern and free.
Decorative art which takes place after Art Nouveau takes its name from the Universal Exhibition of Decorative Arts of 1925. The shapes were simplified, giving way to geometric figures from the cubist movement (semi-circles, straight lines, lines horizontal / vertical). Jewellers used materials like platinum (for thinner, more flexible frames) and silver combined with materials like onyx, lapis lazuli, enamel, gold, and aquamarine. In addition, they liked to combine matt and gloss, transparent and opaque.
Along with the rigor of Cubism, the creators were largely inspired by the Far East, more particularly China, borrowing materials, such as jade, and themes, such as masks.
In the 1960s the creators of the world sought to go beyond the idea that jewellery could be only a sign of wealth by changing the use of materials of traditional jewellery. France had distinguished itself since 1970 in the renewal of materials without putting aside the work of precious materials.