Jewelry of the renaissance
The jeweller and jewellery of the renaissance copied objects of real life, with the mainspring being the beauty of animated things. Exotic animals, like parrots, lizards and pelicans, were an essential part of the diversity of designs which were created.
Color was as vivid and as exotic as the subject matter. One point that is clear in the pieces that still exist, is that precious stones played an accessory role in relation to the use of enameled gold. Usually one large stone would be chosen as a basis on which the jewels were designed.
The preeminent effect of jewels was their color, but there was also an increased utilization of diamonds. Up until this time diamonds were in disfavor simply for the fact of their colorlessness. At first no cutting of the stone was required. The stone would be polished to a cabochon style. The first cutting of facets in "planned regularity" is attributed to a jeweller from Bruges, Louis de Berquem. In 1475 he produced what he considered the "perfect cut." In the sixteenth century faceting developed into the rose cut. This consisted of a flat bottomed faceted cut with a domed point on top. Rose diamonds continued in popularity for the next three centuries, being particularly in demand by the eighteenth century Victorians.
It is possible that one historical event had more to do with the the change in the design of jewellery than any other. This was the discovery of the new world. It was from these lands that the great variety of animals were brought back to stir the jewellers and buyers imaginations. Another discovery helped to originate the title of "the jewel age" for the renaissance. This was the conquering of Peru and Mexico, for it was there that gold and silver were found in greater quantities then had ever been known. With the findings of the Incas and the Aztecs, the rulers of Europe were able to have the most spectacular jewels made regardless of the amount of rare metal needed.
One invention of the renaissance jeweller took its inception from a fashion of clothing popular at the time. This was the girdle, which had its beginning as a wrap of leather worn around the waist and hips. Its purpose has been replaced by the modern use of pockets. Essentials that had to be carried with one at all times were placed in the folds of the leather. Jewelers imitated this prevailing practice by making girdles made of flat chain of silver-gild or of bronze silvered or gilded. On more formal occasions it encircled the body firmly, and was decorated with enamels, gems and ornamented clasps. The most popular and still necessary object hung from these girdles was the pomander.
Another ornament was worn from these jeweled girdles, but its history was not as time-honored as the pomander for it was not invented until the sixteenth century. It was then that the first portable watches were made. The portraits of the time show that they were worn from the waist. They also demonstrate that the typical watch took on a great variety of shapes, not including round. Watches are shown in the shape of the cross, miniature medallions and the shape of reliquaries.
Mentioned in the previous chapter were the pilgrim signs and their progression into the enseignes of the renaissance. The baser of these hat ornaments were made of copper or bronze. This type was either cast or stamped with a die. The rich could take advantage of the more sculptural nature of the medallion. Their enseignes were made with the highest level of workmanship, using enamels and stones to give the piece gaiety and a striking effect. The designs were of two influences, one being a continuation of Christian sentiments and the other being the mythological expression of the pagan ideals of the renaissance.
The renaissanceís contribution to the history of jewelry was its vivid colors. Jewelry became spectacularly eccentric with the use of baroque pearls, enamels, faceted diamonds and colorful stones. It was this bestowal that has made the greatest influence on future jewelry craftsmen and collectors.
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