Jewelry History

Jewelry Styles: Renaissance

Period: 15th-17th century

Characteristic features:

  • arabesques, plant motifs; biblical and mythological subjects
  • nautical themes: ships, mermaids, sea monsters – as a result of geographical discoveries
  • portraits, painted enamel, cameos
  • engraved pictures of artists
  • Stones: sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls
  • manufacturing of imitations of precious stones with the help of foil, doublets; imitations of diamonds from glass, rock crystal
  • techniques: incrustation, casting, gilding, filigree, nielloing, cutting and enameling;

The Renaissance style was gradually spreading from Italy to the North, supplanting the Gothic style of the Middle Ages.

An important detail in the popularization of the style were the drawings of jewelry. The drawings (as well as the products themselves) freely passed from one country to another.

During the Renaissance culture put the human being and humanism in general in the first place. Since antiquity, the beauty of the human body was rediscovered. Because of this, jewelry in the modern sense began to be used: to adorn the body itself regardless of clothing.

These changes made it possible to adorn oneself regardless of status. And though really luxurious things could be afforded mainly by the nobility, jewelry made of gold, silver, ornamental and semi-precious stones became more accessible.

It is still difficult to determine where, by whom and when the jewelry was made. Jewelers were masters in a particular technique or task. The design might have been developed by an artist, the piece was cast by another, painted with enamel by a third, and inlaid with stones by a fourth.

The enamel technique of émail en résille was invented – etching a pattern on glass, which is then covered with gold foil, and the cavity is filled with powdered enamel. A type of cloisonné enamel that requires careful temperature control.

Thanks to the development of trade routes and the beginning of colonization, new materials became available. Many diamonds came from India, emeralds and rubies from Colombia and Sri Lanka, and pearls from the Persian Gulf. This influx of precious stones has spurred the development of the art of cutting.

From the 16th century Belgium became the center of diamond-cutting in Europe. Later it favored the rose cut, followed by the table cut.

Characteristic jewelry for the Renaissance:

Pendants become the main decoration of the Renaissance. They were worn on a necklace, a gold chain on a dress, or on a belt.

Some pendants served a function. For example, there are jeweled toothpicks, copouches, or incense pomanders – to cover up bad odors due to poor hygiene.

Pomanders are pendants (most often ball-shaped) with containers for aromatic substances, fragrant herbs, incense. Some models have separate containers with different fillings.

Fragrant fillings themselves could be expensive, so a pomander was a sign of prosperity. It was attached to a precious chain on a belt or on the neck, on a rosary or even on a ring.

Pomanders were decorated with engraving, enamel, precious stones, nielloing.

Rings with stones and seals are worn on five fingers and even on several joints. These pieces of jewelry are also functional: with compass, sundial, and perfume materials.

Intricate hairstyles were adorned with intricate headdresses, pendants, strings of pearls or beads and delicate pendants. Egrets, ornaments for hairstyles or headdresses, appear.

Earrings with a simple design come back in fashion. These are pear-shaped pearls or jewels which are either stuck in the pierced ear or tied to it.

Single earrings were worn in the form of beeches, moors, and sea creatures. From the beginning of the 17th century the design became more geometric and the length of the earrings increased.

Separate decorative belts and belts were worn to show off the jewelry. For example, in the form of pearl beads or gold chains.