The history and evolution of jewels

gioielli-capriWho knows how many people, watching a jewel, have wondered what connection might exist between the desire to possess it, and also to take him, the goldsmith’s art and tradition that is deeply rooted and jealously guarded for thousands of years of history. Man has always sought, since the earliest times, to adorn themselves with objects that are hard to find rare or gave personality, importance and prestige within a community that demanded the establishment of hierarchical or the award of prominent positions. It sounds strange, but the man initially thought to adorn themselves and then get dressed. In prehistoric times, the attention was directed to the ornaments are hard to find items made of shells, fish and cats teeth or tusks of mammoths, whose origins date back to about twenty thousand years BC. In some communities, already under development, cut, shaped, pierced and affected materials such as tusks, horns and shells, using chisels of flint or obsidian. The jeweler at that time was purely a lapidary (stone-cutters or polishers). We have to wait until the Bronze Age to see the application of metalworking techniques that enrich the continuing use of the old ornaments. These, in later periods, had taken a different function. For example, the shells were widely used in the Early Dynastic Period Egyptian women as protection against infertility. The embellishing some parts of the body with these subjects responded to the wish to protect themselves from disease and evil forces, namely a apotropaic function. It was in the presence of ornaments that contained superstition, beauty, magic and power. With the advent of the writing, or rather, from that time when man tries to translate with signs, images, and then with letters, the message phonetic phase ends and begins prehistoric man’s interest to the mineral of secondary origin, ie flood, the gold. The golden age began five thousand years BC in Egypt, during the fourth dynasty (2500 BC) begins to melt the metal stoves fueled by the influx of air. For the Egyptians for gold was the flesh of Ra, the sun god. For Eastern religions, like some others, there is more gold votive. An Indian legend tells us that our world has originated from a golden egg. Not least were the Mayas and the Incas, who though belonging to the American continent have forged a deep bond between them and the gold. The man soon finds the desire to adorn herself for religious or artistic. The sacred, the beautiful and blend into the fetish jewelry. Then it seems to take over the aesthetic function of ornament. For this purpose involved the processing techniques applied to 2000 years BC by the Egyptians, as the system of merger with the proceedings of the “lost wax”. One of the oldest techniques is that the granulation process, which started 3000 years BC by the Sumerians, and later developed by the Etruscans (VII-VI centuries BC). These ornaments made ​​of tiny spheres settled silently on the surface of the object. In ancient times there was only the object but also shaped gold enriched with stones, enamel and ceramics.

Even in those days fashions changed and the sobriety of the wealth or ornaments alternated following the evolution of civilization. For example, during the Greek classical period (461-336 BC) gold were produced from simple lines that is a little bare, but during the Hellenistic period (327-274 BC) were used in the refinement and splendor of the achievement of the objects. The Roman civilization was the first to use the ring as a sign of engagement in addition to the functions of sealing and talisman. Important was the art practiced by the Greeks and Romans glyptics which exploits mineral processing technique which has several layers of different colors and offer the possibility to obtain reliefs of great value. Marco Polo, from Venice to his journey from the reign of Kublai Khan, was able to gather impressions and documents on the Far East and in particular on India, the land of origin of diamonds. These, in the west, were once valued for their extreme hardness characteristics may give an aura of invincibility to the wearer. The superstitions and beliefs have led to gems that would assure almost supernatural powers. Other objects were used as a talisman. The most famous is the pendant of Charlemagne consists of two transparent sapphire cabochon, among which was placed a piece of the cross of Christ (814). Until the Middle Ages the wealth represented by the joys of royal houses were used for political representation (wealth and power) and to enshrine the principle that the gem-jewel was a divine right of monarchs. Not infrequently they served as collateral to obtain loans to help fellow soldiers. Their use has been limited to special ceremonies imposed by tradition. Examples are the crown jewels of Inghilterrra which are worn only during the opening of Parliament. An ordinance of St. Louis (1214-70) stated that women could not wear a diamond, even if princesses or queens, as the only woman worthy was the Holy Virgin. Charles VII of France, captivated by the charms of Agnes Sorel, belonging to the nobility of the province, broke the tradition of giving every variety of jewelry including diamond (mid-fifteenth century). And ‘so that the profession of jeweler was able to emerge from the bond that bound to the production of sacred objects and ornaments real. He started a new fashion. Cosimo I de ‘Medici (1519-74), patron generous, reserved the shops of the Ponte Vecchio to the goldsmiths, jewelers and silversmiths, and boosting prosperity in these arts. Distinct formations began professional artists: beater, shooters, spinners, gilders, sculptors, goldsmiths. Everywhere, the goldsmith was enjoying privileges and protection. Come well-regulated corporations. There were, for example, the goldsmiths of the Grand Pont in Paris and those of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence that were part of those corporations. As a result of the specialization will be realized by giving the jewelry items with the execution of any enrichment of stones whose function remains ornamental accessory to jewelers and the task of creating objects for which the gem will be the main reason. The Renaissance changed and gave an impetus to the use of different jewels. There was an atmosphere in Europe inspired by the desire to live and adorn themselves with precious jewels. The greater availability of “precious stones” used to meet the increased demands on the part of the nobles.

Start searching for matches between jewelry and clothing by giving over to a parallelism of styles, tastes and trends. The only negative factor of the Renaissance was that of the ever-changing fashion the dynamics of which involved the renovation of the jewel leaving few traces of that era. The jewelry became firmly established in the art world. Famous painters and sculptors came from young apprentice goldsmith in the workshop. Some examples we find them also in Italy, such as Donatello, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Brunelleschi. The ability of the jewelers had the opportunity to express themselves in various forms and themes. Nothing worth saying of the poet Pierre de Ronsard: what is wearing so many diamonds and rubies when the only beauty is your only ornament? Let’s see an example in the portrait of Elizabeth I of England who is burdened with pearls, diamonds and gemstones. The most popular subject at that time was pending, an accessory chain already much used in medieval times. Another object of ornament tied to the folklore and customs of local traditions is the earring, also linked to many legends, myths and eccentricities. The woman needed to harmonize their features, their hair and the color of their eyes. The fashionable hairstyles was directed to leave the ears uncovered to give the possibility to show and appreciate the beautiful pendants, jewelry to show how this can impact on fashion. The pendants were increasingly enriched with jewels so as to create cascading clusters of different plans, called girandoles with reference to the chandeliers of Versailles. Very popular were the rings that were well worn, as is happening now, on every finger. In the sixteenth century, the use of wristbands was a little rarefied due to the trailing edge of the sleeve (usually lace), which made it difficult for its use, while in the next century gave a new impetus to the jewel with fashion sleeves with slit that allowed to highlight the wrists. The Venetian Peruzzi, in the seventeenth century, realizes for the first brilliant cut (58 facets), giving the diamond more brilliance than that in use said Mazarin (32 facets). The increased demand for gems and over again. The topaz, amethyst, sapphire and olivine alternated in the use dictated by the fashion at that time was unstable. The jewel had more or less important, and still has, the function of representing its estimate in the act of giving, consideration or its gratitude. Needed to gain the sympathy of the rulers with the appropriate choice of a single subject, rare or of great value, in every way for this purpose. At the court of Louis XIV there was such a movement that demanded an accounting of gifts especially for the amount of costs, Colbert, Minister of Finance, on his deathbed said: “I am damned because of that man.” The decorative forms underwent a distinct change in creating compositions with a diverse ornamental rockery, overcoming the strict symmetry of the Baroque and Rococo preparing, with fickle lines, then moving to the neo-classical. A particular influence on the jewelry gave the five official favorite of Louis XV. They managed to feed a wild competition with other ambitious aristocratic, bringing a sharp increase in the work of jewelry shops in Paris. Even among the upper classes are increasingly popular demand for jewelry. In 1767, in Paris there were 314 jewelers who worked well to meet the overwhelming demand, even with fake stones. With the advent of the revolution, and throughout the period of the Directory, the importance of jewelry she adapted to the times, shifting production towards objects in gold with enamel and pearls and diamonds and neglect because they are considered very “democratic.”

The beauty of the jewels returned with the empire, when the new politicians wanted to emphasize the importance of their positions. Characteristic of the nineteenth century was the eclecticism in a carrousel revive old styles alternate between Gothic and Renaissance jewelry and fashion of the ancient Egyptians. In 1837 he began the Victorian period which saw the introduction of new materials and techniques. Among them deserves to be mentioned plating, designed by the Italian Brugnatelli, which allowed him to cover each subject of a thin film of gold. Were improved production of imitation gems introducing new compounds found by Joseph Strasser. Queen Victoria had a great passion for jewelry-type “sentimental,” which, after the death of Prince Consort Albert, turned into mourning ones. To this end, the jet was used (black, compact variety of lignite) and black enamel. He returned with greater force, the tradition of putting the lock of hair of loved ones in the case pendant or brooch. In 1870, the discovery of the South African diamond fields created a new atmosphere almost believed that diamonds were available to everyone. Created where the metal frames were made less visible to the benefit of the gems. At the end of the century saw the Art Nouveau, a style considered decadent and again with nothing to do with the characteristics of those of previous centuries. This artistic expression originating from animals and floral motifs made with new enamel colors. Born in the twenties, Art Deco creates a new way to express their artistic sense. The harmonic forms and art nouveau are replaced with soft geometric shapes linked to Cubism. In later years no longer exists a succession of styles but a succession of fashions that offer the jewel called “white” because made of platinum or white gold with diamonds. We are in the thirties. The modern world is different in taste and feel free to follow their own tastes perhaps guided by an efficient fashion sets. The frame that the jeweler wants to create can sometimes be influenced by the beauty of the gem. To avoid this you can avail the creator of the collaboration of designers, engravers, the enamellers, receipts, etc.. You must determine if the gem must have a dominant role or share with others the beauty of the gem stones. In other words, it goes in search of the various factors that may contribute to the creation, while taking into account the economic factor that may determine the construction. And ‘This is a problem that has touched every time. Today we also have the fashion that goes in search of new research and the originality of the signature. In the world of jewelry jewels are the creators of copyright, the designers, who work on their own or at major laboratories, large manufacturers and craftsman who personally oversees all phases of production. In producing a jewel follow two directions: either you have the drawing and will be of stone suitable for construction, or you have the stones and look for a solution suitable for the type of material at their disposal. The capital of the jewel we find them in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Rome, Milan and Valencia. Italy is the largest producer and exporter of jewelry.

Text taken from “The history of jewelry from the Egyptians to the present day” by Sergio Cavagna