Why Jewelry Is Important: (The History of Jewel Use)



Watching the adventure of the jewelry, which is as old as the history of mankind, means following the social history and thus the change and trends of the society. When we look at this adventure of about 600 years, we see that the jewelry has many meanings for centuries. Jewelry is, above all, a means of demonstrating the social state of its bearer; but also symbolizes love and commitment. Another important characteristic for art historians is that the jewels reflect their artistic style in the most sophisticated way.

History of Jewelry


In the 1449 painting of Petrus Christus, a northern painter, we see Saint Eligius, who is the patron of the goldsmiths. An engaged couple comes to the workshop and chooses rings. What can be seen at that time is the presence of jewelry. Therefore, works of art, paintings and miniatures can be used not only as a work of art but also as a documentary.



In another example by Alessandro Fei, we see the workshop that produces the jewels of the famous Medici family. In the foreground, the crown of the Medici’s duchy was prepared, while the ones completed were exhibited and on the other hand, Medici the Duke visited the workshop. This 16th century painting shows how things works in Florence at the time.

Renaissance Period and the Importance of Jewelry


During the Renaissance period, the ancient world comes up again, the forms of the ancient world are reinterpreted and applied to many branches of art. Whether the subject matter of the paintings, whether it belongs to the day or a mythological subject, literally informs the audience about the jewel of that day.

The famous Renaissance painter, Albrecht Dürer, designs the crown of the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire. Ordering jewelry to artists is an extremely important event; means they support jewelry use. Hans Holbein designed many pieces of jewelry and these designs of the painter are implemented later.



When we talk about Renaissance jewelry, we often see pendentives at the ends of the chains, which we can define as jewelry in sculpture taste. At that time, a very colorful enamel work is seen. The designs of the pendants are in parallel with the curiosity of that period. This interest is related to mythological subjects, and therefore, the elements of the ancient world belong to jewelry. This is an expressionist style in which the forms of sculpture taste are found in accordance with the natural form of pearls.

As we know, the thought stream of Renaissance is Humanism, and it is essential to value one’s individual, to value this world. This way of thinking has been reflected in the jewelry as well. On the other hand, religious issues are not completely ignored. From this period, for example, there is a pendant with Jesus portrait, and we can also find some jewelry from the Bible, but we can still say that such issues are not much.



During the Renaissance, we also come across the cloak, a type of jewelry that represents the ancient world. This jewelry, which is engraved or embossed on small oval stones, become fashionable again during the Renaissance period. Another characteristic of the period is that some of the objects belonging to daily life are converted into jewelry.

Important Jewelry Used by Emperors


When we observe the accessories of the monarchs, we come across jewelry that has been valid for centuries as a sign of sovereignty. For example, VIII. Henry and III. Richard’s common jewelry is a wide chain of stones that they carry on their shoulders.

In this period, the jewelry begins to be sewn on clothes. Jewelry buttons, badges, and fibulae placed on the edge of the hats are the Renaissance’s most popular jewelry. The jewelry used with the hats is generally used as a men’s jewel, but sometimes women used those as well. In one example of the hat badges, the story of Saint Paul, a subject from the Bible, was transferred with a great engraving.



A cameo, which Charlemagne presented to the pope, revives the question of whether this is a gift to a pope. In fact, it is not appropriate, because at that time there is a conflict; the rise of the ancient world, in a sense, leads to the pushing of Christianity aside. However, it allows us to see the existence of such a culture. Again through this example, we see that there is such a gift exchange within Europe among the nobles. This means that in some way, the spread of a particular style to Europe which also means a unity of style can be achieved.

Jewelry is also, of course, a symbol of femininity. In the paintings of the period, the painters who put women’s femininity into the foreground definitely include jewelry. In one detail from Tintoretto’s painting, the femininity of the beautiful Suzanna is further emphasized with the jewelry she put on her arm and on her side.

Jewelry Used at Weddings


In the Renaissance, jewelry is also very important for women in the details of everyday life. Very special jewelry must be worn when getting married. However, this jewelry cannot be kept until the end; After three years, the right to save on the jewelry belongs to the husband and he can use this jewelry according to his needs. This may be an explanation of why we do not have enough examples today.

In the 16th century, the philosopher Alessandra Strozzi, one of the nobles of Florence, wrote to Filippo, saying: “Prepare the jewels and make them beautiful, because we found you a wife. As a beautiful woman of Filippo Strozzi, she will need beautiful jewels, because you are honorable, and your honor in this matter should not be incomplete.”

When we head north, we see some of the noble women in Germany who are loaded with very heavy jewelry in some portraits. The gold chains which was even harder to carry are very fashionable among these women. Head jewelry with many varieties, pearls or stones was of particular importance. Sewing jewelry buttons on the dress were also in fashion.



Queen Elizabeth I, a long-time female ruler is also a fancy woman; she is even a fashion pioneer. In various paintings, we see Elizabeth with drop pearls and jewelry hanging on her waist, drop-shaped hairpins on a high fluffy hair decorated with a high crown and pearls which are fashioned for the period. Elizabeth’s 1587 New Year’s Eve presents a list of gifts from a woman who loves to have a gift: Jewelry bags and brooches, a gold necklace with gold pearls, a gold necklace with a pendant, a pendant with a pearl chain, a gold pendant with tiny pearls, and a snake tongue embellished with rubies.

The list of festive gifts given to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in the same century by the palace jewelers will allow us to make a small comparison, which are a bejeweled mirror, a set of buttons, a golden horse armlet, a small jade plate, and a pearl-covered bejeweled golden knife.

Jewelry for Kids in History


Looking at the children, it is seen that the noble children use the same jewels that their parents wear. A portrait of Tiziano depicts a child wearing a perfume ball on her waist. At the end of the 16th century and in the 17th century, watchmakers began to collaborate with jewelers. Clocks become fashion and almost everyone has one. Especially in the 17th century, the oval-shaped medallions which we see in the portraits are very fashionable.



In this period, the emotions gradually begin to come to the fore more; for example, the shape of the heart manifests itself. There are different cuts on the medallions. In 1660, the diamond cuts made the stones brighter. Jewelry is increasingly colored and diversified; so much so that increasingly colorful and larger stones are used. More glamorous jewelry is begun to be made. The sculpture-like jewelry of the Renaissance goes towards bright-looking jewelry.

Jewelry Became More Important Since the 17th Century


One of the interesting ornaments of the 17th century is the memento mori, the jewelry with the meaning of commemorating death, the skull or coffin shaped accessories, and people wear them after their loved ones pass away.

When we look at Europe in the 18th century, it is seen that there are other ways to use such colorful and abundant stones, to make more use of stones, etc. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Palace of Versailles, which took over the position of the center of Europe from Italy, led the fashion and received great invitations at the palace. In these invitations given by candlelight, multi-cut and multi-colored jewels are needed to shine in this light.

Napoleon, which appeared on the stage at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, opens up a new style as he has changed many things: the neoclassical style. Ingres describes Napoléon as an ancient ruler, like an ancient god of antiquity. Napoléon had a golden crown of laurel with a detail that emulates the Roman rulers.



In the 18th and 19th centuries, which were the period of savings laws in Switzerland, the diamond-like jewelry was obtained by shining the metals. In Prussia, which tries to oppose the Napoleonic invasion, in 1813, a type of jewelry made entirely of iron appears. Due to the need for money in the resistance, women took away their jewelry and in return received iron bracelets on which “Gold gab ich für Eisen”, or, “I gave gold for iron” written.

The owners of the jewelry, as well as the jewelry concept in the 19th century, also change a bit. Emperor III. Napoléon orders a crown to the famous French jeweler Lemmonnier, as a gift for Empress Eugenie. However, after the change of power, the crown was sold to one of the important families of Germany in the period, von Thurn und Taxis Family. These hand-changing processes, in which some of the sovereigns of the rulers are transferred to others, are also a reflection of social history. In the Ottoman Empire, when Sultan II. Abdülhamid falls from power, his jewels are confiscated and a large auction catalog is prepared and sold in Paris in 1911 by auction.



At the beginning of the 20th century, different subjects were put forward. Between 1900 and 1910, Queen Victoria’s son King VII. Edward and her wife, Queen Alexandra put forward belle epoque fashions featuring very elegant and flowing jewels made of leash necklaces and very long pearl strings. The extremely curvy, overly stylized designs of the Art nouveau specimens are also highly refined in the style and taste of the period. Many different materials such as colored glasses and enamel began to be used.

Importance of Jewelry Today


Cartier, who left its mark on the beginning of the century and continued its influence until the middle of the century, was inspired by many cultures; we can even say that there are Indian inspirations in some of his jewelry. The soul of the art deco of the 1920s-30s is geometry and jazz. Cartier’s flamingo and tiger brooches designed for the Duchess of Windsor in the 1940s are still among the most imitated jewels today. Van Cleef & Arpels are also among the leading jewelry designers. In the late 1940s-50s, extremely simple geometric brooches were made; the pioneers of fashion were then the actresses. On the one hand, romantic jewelry making continues and they are also worn by actresses in movies.



By the 1960s, many geometric gold or plain silver pieces of jewelry were seen in accordance with the trends of the period. Elizabeth Taylor, one of the beauty symbols of the 1970s and jewelry icons, creates an event with her jewels and finds a wide echo in the press. In the 1980 ‘s – 90’ s you can come across all kinds of jewelry. While examining this period, designers such as Tiffany and Bulgari, who left their mark on the second half of the 20th century and who have been imitated a lot, should not be ignored. The end of the century is a period of free designs.

All in all, jewelry was important in all ages, and it maintains its importance today, with different modern artistic and aesthetic styles.

Savaş Ateş

I like reading books. I like to read about jewelry too. After reading a lot of books about it, I have started to visit jewelry manufacturers and stores. It is my number 1 hobby.

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