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THE jewelry that came into fashion towards the close of the seventeenth century and flourished during the greater part of the eighteenth follows the style known as “rococo.” Rococo ornament with its assemblage of rich fantastic scrolls and crimped conventional shell work wrought into irregular and indescribable forms, though overcharged and inorganic, yet possesses certain beauty and artistic master pieces. Like most objects in this style, rococo jewelry has a real decorative charm. But the title of baroque or rococo is really less adapted to jewelry than to other art productions of the time, for jewelry itself never indulged in the same extravagant use of this form of ornament. Except for slight changes in design, eighteenth-century jewelry, as far as its general form is concerned, does not at first display any marked variation from that of the previous century.
A charming but somewhat superficial sentimentality expressed by means of pastoral subjects results in ornaments on which tokens of friendship are represented in all manner of forms. The naturalistic tendency in ornament is still strong, but is less striking than it was before, since feather, ribbon, and other conventional designs make their appearance, mingled with flowers and leaves. These rococo jewels, on account of the setting and arrangement of the precious stones which entirely govern their composition, are in their way master pieces both technically and artistically.
Unlike the earlier jewels, one cannot help regarding them rather more as accessories to costume than as independent works of art. The general character of the jewelry of the period with which we are now dealing may best be judged by a notable series of original designs in color for such objects executed by the Santini family of Florence, and now preserved in the Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
This remarkable collection comprises upwards of 382 separate designs, which are mostly constructed in a manner best calculated to show off the brilliant character and size of the stones and pearls, on which their effect mainly depends. A large proportion of the drawings take the form of what at this period constituted a set of jewels, composed of three items of similar design—a bow-shaped breast ornament hung with a cross, and a pair of earrings en suite.
In place of the breast ornament is sometimes a V-shaped corsage in imitation of hooks and eyes or braid work, set with various precious stones. The whole work shows that in the eighteenth century the stone cutter and stone setter had practically supplanted the artist in precious metals. In the metal-work of the settings—in most cases a matter of minor consideration—gold is employed for colored stones and silver for diamonds. The general tendency is towards the rococo, but this type of ornament is here by no means strongly marked. In other directions, however, it is more apparent, and already in the seventeenth century we meet with traces of it in engraved designs for jewelry. The best work of this kind is that of Friedrich Jacob Morisson, a jeweler who worked at Vienna from about 1693 to 1697.
He was one of the most popular jewelers of the day, and his plates, which are rich in motives for ornaments in precious stones and fine metal-work, found a wide circulation. They comprise aigrettes, earrings, brooches, pendants, bracelets, rings, and seals. Other Germans who have left designs in the same style are F. H. Bemmel (1700) of Nuremberg, D. Baumann (1695), Johann Heel (1637-1709), and J. F. Leopold (1700)—all of Augsburg.
French designers led European taste in jewelry as in furniture, and published a number of important designs. The most remarkable are those of the master-goldsmith Jean Bourguet of Paris, whose models for earrings, pendants, and clasps, dated 1712 and 1723, are set with large faceted stones, and have their backs chased or enameled with flower designs. His designs for enamel-work published as models for jewelers’ apprentices, contains among other patterns a series of twelve rings set with large faceted stones ; beside each ring is a design for the enamel decoration of its shoulder: ”
Of Italian designs for jewelry set with precious stones in the rococo style we may note those of G. B. Grondoni of Genoa, who worked at Brussels about 1715, Carlo Ciampoli (1710), and D. M. Albini, whose designs were published in 1744. The publication in London of several series of designs proves that England was not far behind the Continent in the production of high-class personal ornaments.
Among the most important pattern-books for jewelry, are those of Simon Gribelin, who was born in Paris in 1662, and worked chiefly in London, where he died in 1733. His work includes A book of Ornaments and A Book of Ornaments useful to Jewelers, etc., 1697. These were republished in 1704.
The patterns are chiefly for seals, and for breast ornaments and clasps set with rose-cut stones in rococo settings. About the same time similar pattern-books were published. One book contains designs for buckles” seals, watch-keys, a chatelaine with a watch and another with pendants and bow-shaped breast ornaments hung with drop pearls.
An isolated phenomenon in the midst of the universal love for precious stones that then dominated the productions of the jewelers, some jewelers carried the traditions of the sixteenth century far into the eighteenth.
All the processes of the craftsmen, of whose technique possessed a fine knowledge worked with wonderful care and exactitude—though the productions naturally betray in design the period of their execution. Some jewelers exercised considerable influence on their contemporaries, more especially with regard to the revival of the art of enameling in the second half of the century, when jewelry made a notable advance in the time of Louis XVI.
A change in style was first experienced on the arrival in power of Madame de Pompadour, who led the way in that coquettish return to simple conditions of life which showed itself in the pastorals of the Louis Quinze epoch. It resulted in a preference for simple gold ; this metal, colored by alloys such as platinum and silver being at most only set off by enamel painting.
This later rococo period, as far as its technique is concerned, is one which has never been equaled either before or since. An event of importance in the history of jewelry, as of art generally, was the discovery in 1755 of the city of Pompeii, succeeding that in 1713 of Hercu-laneum, buried for centuries beneath the ashes of Vesuvius.
The journeys of artists to Italy and to Naples, and the interest aroused thereby in ancient art, a weariness with the mannerism of rococo ornament, and the whim of fashion, gradually transformed jewelry like other decorative arts, and resulted in the classicism of the style of Louis XVI.
Antique forms as they then were known showed themselves in a very charming manner in well-balanced jewels, where different colored gold took the form of classical motives in the midst of ribbons, garlands, and the pastoral subjects dear to the previous epoch.
Enamel returned into fashion, and accomplished its chief triumph with painting in fine transparent tones over gold. In conjunction with the art of gem setting and cutting, and metal chasing, this species of enamel produced effects which were all the more surprising, seeing that it was often confined to the smallest of spaces.
Other French designers of jewelry at this time were: Maria, a jeweler of Paris, who issued about 1765 an important series of plates, thirty-five in number, of pendants, brooches, clasps, chatelaines, aigrettes, seals, rings, and buckles.
A Swiss jeweler by birth was originally a gold chaser—” the first in the kingdom,” so Sir Joshua Reynolds described him; but when that mode of decorating jewelry was put aside in favor of enamels, he turned his attention to enamel compositions of emblematically figures in vogue for the costly watch-cases of the day, for chatelaines, necklaces, bracelets, and other personal ornaments. He succeeded so well in this class of work that the Queen patronized him, and he executed a considerable number of
commissions for the King.
The excess of ornamentation and the desire for jewelry formed of precious stones had, since the
seventeenth century, favored the use of imitations. Rock crystal or quartz had long been employed to imitate diamonds. But at this time even people of great wealth wore imitation jewels, such as certainly would not be worn by persons in a corresponding position nowadays. These made no profession of being real stones.
Competitors were not slow in making their appearance, and one Charon also gave his name for a considerable time to the false diamonds that issued from his workshop. So large and flourishing did the industry in imitations become that in 1767 a corporation was established in Paris. Imitation pearls were likewise very largely worn ; even ladies of high position did not disdain to wear them.
Pearls have been so well imitated, that most of those of fine Orient have found their way back from Europe to Asia, and are so rare in France that nowadays one scarcely sees any good specimens.” Productions such as these were -rendered ‘necessary to satisfy the luxury which from the nobility had extended over the whole middle classes, and also on account of the strained condition of French finance.
As Controllers of Finance, endeavored to cut down expenses, and issued in 1759 an invitation to the wealthy to bring in their jewels to be converted into cash for the benefit of the Treasury. This had become very much the fashion in France.
In Switzerland, too, since it was forbidden to wear diamonds, ladies, he tells us, wore no other ornaments than marcasite, and spent a good deal of care and money in the setting of it. The mineral known as marcasite, a word which was spelled in many ways, is a crystallized form of iron pyrites cut in facets like rose diamonds, and highly polished. It was used for a number of ornaments.
Steel, likewise cut in facets, was similarly employed. Steel jewelry appears to have been invented in England, and from Birmingham, the center of its manufacture, found its way all over Europe, reaching France by way of Holland.
Steel jewelry, which was in high favor in the latter half of the eighteenth, continued to be worn until the second V quarter of the nineteenth century, when it finally went out of fashion. Even after that, cut steel was still made at Birmingham.
One of the most prominent, continued for many years to supply the Court of Spain with buttons and buckles ornamented with steel. Steel was largely employed as mounts for the cameos of Wedgwood, and there was considerable demand for rings, brooches and buttons. Mountings for these were also made in silver or Sheffield plate.
Another characteristic of the changed condition of the times was the use in jewelry, together with false pearls, and marcasite, of various substitutes for gold. The best-known of these substitutes was “pinch- J beck,” so called after its inventor, Christopher Pinchbeck (d. 1732), a clock and watch maker, of Fleet Street. This pinch beck gold was an alloy of copper and zinc. When fused together the metals assumed the color of fine gold, and preserved for a time a bright and UN-oxidised surface, though in some cases objects thus fashioned received a washing of gold. Pinchbeck was much used for cheaper jewelry of all kinds.
The larger articles made of this metal were chatelaines, snuff-boxes, while watch-cases, miniature-frames, buckles, clasps, and so forth, are to be found for the most part ornamented in relief and carefully chased. These several articles to which pinch beck was suited, went in those days by the name of “toys.” The term “Toy man” was employed by Pinchbeck himself, but the title had, of course, no reference to what are now known as toys.
In France and Germany a metal composition like gold, in imitation of pinch beck, called “gold shine,” was produced, first in about 1729, and subsequently improved by Leblanc, of Paris. But the name of the English inventor of the metal was well known in France.
The head-ornament—the aigrette—was still an important jewel in the eighteenth century. Generally a kind of delicately formed bouquet of precious stones in very light setting, it continued long in fashion, together with strings of pearls among the hair. For a while the aigrette was set aside for bows, small birds, etc., made of precious stones mounted upon vibrating spiral wires which were then attached to the hair-pin. These went under the name of “wasps” or “butterflies.” In the days of Marie Antoinette they were supplemented by hair-pins and aigrettes set entirely with diamonds, which about 1770 had almost entirely colored stones.
Many designs for these head-ornaments were published. Some jewelers wanted do away with the mixture of colored stones with diamonds and in spite of the general preference for the diamond, taste had not yet learned to do without color effect in jewelry. Earrings, as has been noticed in reference to the Santini designs, were in particular favor at this period.
The majority were composed of large faceted stones or of pearls, formed grandiose fashion—that is to say, of a large circular stone above, with three pear-shaped pendants below. A pair of earrings of this form, said to have belonged to Madame du Barry, are in possession of Lady Monckton. They are set each with four sapphire pastes of very fine quality ; the three drop-pendants being separated from the upper stone by open spray-work of silver set with white pastes.
Similarly elaborate pendent earrings in seven sections composed of brilliants are seen in an original portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Frye (c. 1760). Drop-shaped pendants, mostly diamonds, were then very highly esteemed. Marie Antoinette had a pair of diamond earrings with stones of this form hanging from a perpendicular line of large brilliants.
For necklaces the engravings of these same designers supply many patterns. Like the designs of the fifteenth century, they are often in the form of a band about an inch in width, composed of precious stones— rubies, emeralds, pearls, and diamonds—in open-work, or attached to velvet. They are generally constructed so as to reach only half-way round the neck, the back part being a band of black velvet. Portraits of the time frequently exhibit ropes of pearls, and finally rows of large diamonds, like the renowned collier of Marie Antoinette composed by the Court jewelers. Numerous circumstances connected with it, too lengthy to relate here, gave to the affair of the diamond necklace a world-wide celebrity, making it one of the chief events of the century. Though historically one of the world’s most famous pieces of jewelry, the necklace itself, described in quaint but vivid language by Carlyle in his Miscellanies, calls for no special comment, being on the whole of comparatively small artistic importance. Its value was a great sum for those days—lay in the size and quality of the brilliants of which it was composed. A favorite point of adornment in female attire was still the breast, where, in the first part of the century, jeweled ornaments in the form of bows and rosettes, hung with pendants and set with table-cut stones or rose diamonds, continued to be worn. Generally they hung with pear-shaped pendants.
About 1770 a large bunch of flowers, or a bouquet-shaped ornament formed of precious stones, was worn in the breast. For the latter the jeweler Lempereur enjoyed a great reputation. Upon the stiff bodice, which came into fashion at the end of the seventeenth century, scope was afforded for a goodly use of ornament, and soon we find the corsage literally covered with jewels, in a manner similar to that in which the ladies of the Renaissance almost completely covered the upper part of their dresses with pendent chain-ornaments. At the time, however, of which we now speak the ornaments are single pieces mounted upon the dress and arranged symmetrically in the form of a jeweled “stomacher” or devant de corsage. The Santini drawings contain many examples of this kind of open framework composed of precious stones.
At this period also, when luxury reached its climax, even the tucked-up upper skirt had the whole of its exaggerated dimensions sprinkled with pieces of jewelry, so that of this time again it may be said that the ladies of the Court displayed the whole of their wealth, and often enough of their credit too, upon a single dress. Fashion endeavored to fill a corresponding part in gentleman’s attire by adorning coat and waistcoat with buttons of artistic workmanship. To match the beautiful embroidered garments of the time, buttons were sewn with bugles, steel beads, or spangles ; and many have survived which may be reckoned as real articles of jewelry. Every material and mode of decoration was applied to them.
Occasionally we find buttons set with diamonds and other precious stones, but more often paste, or with odd natural stones such as agates, carnelians, marcasite, blood-stones, lapis-lazuli, or buttons of tortoise-shell, or of compositions such as Wedgwood ware, in frames of cut steel. Translucent blue glass or enamel, mounted or set with pearls, diamonds or pastes, and chased and colored gold, were all fashionable. On the whole, cut steel was the most popular. A Birmingham craftsman by name of Heeley, who worked for Wedgwood about 1780, is recorded as being especially skillful at this class of work; while in France a certain Dauffe had almost a monopoly in the production of steel objects. Certainly some of the open-work steel buttons of the time— English as well as French—are jewels of a very high order. Bracelets were mostly formed of bands of velvet with oval clasps.
The clasp was decorated in a variety of ways, and was very frequently fitted with a painted or enameled miniature. The practice of wearing miniatures in this way seems to have been a common one, judging by the numerous advertisements inserted in the London Public Advertiser about the middle of the century by ” ingenious artists,” willing on ” reasonable terms to paint elegant portraits in miniature for bracelets, rings, etc. Cameos were sometimes employed as bracelet clasps, but not to the same extent as they were subsequently under the Empire.
An admirable example of French jewel work of the time, is formed of a circlet of emeralds arranged in the manner of a laurel wreath, and tied at intervals by cords of rose diamonds terminating above and below in knots. Among other decorations for bracelets, mention may be made of the celebrated enamels produced at Batter-sea between 1750 and 1775, very many of which, oval in shape, were set in gold frames so as to be easily mounted in bracelets. The finger ring in the eighteenth century was a particularly favorite jewel. That considerable attention was paid at the time to the design and decoration of the ring, may be judged from Bourguet’s designs, which contain patterns for enamel-work intended for its enrichment.
The beauty of the sentiments displayed on the rings of the time is nowhere more charmingly expressed than on an English wedding-ring at South Kensington, which is formed of two hand’s in white enamel, holding between the thumbs and first fingers a rose diamond in the shape of a heart set in silver and surmounted with a jeweled coronet. Other rings of similar style have the bezel formed of two precious stones in the form of hearts united by a knot. Rings which served simply as souvenirs of affection were very popular. In addition to the plain gold ring engraved with a posy or motto, were rings containing a like sentiment read by means of the first letters of the stones with which they are set.
The most typical ring of the period is perhaps the marquise ring, which dates from the second half of the century. The bezel, which is oblong, and either oval or octagonal, is often of such size that it covers the whole joint of the finger. It is formed of a plaque of transparent blue glass on matted gold, surrounded with diamonds, and set either with a single diamond, or with several arranged at regular intervals, sometimes in the form of a bouquet. Often instead of diamonds are pastes and even marcasite. Of other varieties of rings of the time it is necessary only to mention those set with Wedgwood cameos, or .with, stones such as moss-agates, and a form of agate somewhat similar, but of lighter color, called the mocha stone.
Mourning and memorial rings, of which this period was so prolific, will be spoken of subsequently. An ornament that showed a peculiarly wide development throughout the eighteenth century was the shoe-buckle. Various kinds of buckles are recorded in the Caution to the Public. They include the following: buckles for ladies’ breasts, stock-buckles, shoe-buckles, knee-buckles, girdle-buckles. Of these the most important was the buckle worn on the shoes of every one —man, woman, and child—attached to the strap passing over the instep. It assumed all sorts of forms and was made and enriched with every conceivable material.
It is interesting to observe that in spite of the immense number produced, hardly any two pairs of buckles are precisely alike— which contains upwards of four hundred specimens. Towards the last years of the century buckles began to be supplanted by shoe-strings. During this period of transition many attempts were made to foster their use.
On tickets to public entertainments at the time one occasionally finds a notice that ” Gentlemen cannot be admitted with shoe-strings.” The latter, however, won the day, and about the year 1800 shoe-buckles disappeared from use. The chatelaine was perhaps the most characteristic of all eighteenth-century ornaments. It was exceedingly popular, and formed, it may be observed, a very favorite object of the time for a wedding present. It usually consisted of a shield with a stout hook, suspended from which were several chains united by another plate or shield which carried the watch. Besides this were two or more chains for holding the watch-key or seals.
Extraordinary skill was exercised in the elaboration of chatelaines. The plaques, hinged or united by chains, withstood the incursion of the precious stone that dominated all other forms of jewelry, and afforded peculiar opportunities for the display of the art of the goldsmith in chased and repouss6 metal-work enriched with exquisite enamels. The jeweler’s whole artistic skill was thus exhibited, not only upon the shields, but upon the solid links of the chains.
The chief of the latter was of course the watch. Its dial-plate was enriched with enamel, and chased and colored gold : even the hands when made of gold showed a high degree of skilled workmanship within a very small space. The principal ornamental part was, however, the outer case; and it may be maintained that there was not any species of work connected with the goldsmith’s art that was not displayed in its finest form upon watch-cases, more especially in the time of Louis XVI.
Beside the watch was hung the watch-key and seals, and all sorts of ornamental nick-knacks, and such-like bought!
While women carried elaborate chatelaines, men hung from the watch in the fob-pocket bunches of seals which dangled beneath their embroidered waistcoats. Thus in Monsieur a la Mode, published about 1753, we read of— A repeater by Graham, which the hours reveals ; Almost overbalanced with nick-knacks and seals.
It was the seal above all which experienced particular artistic development. Ever since the sixteenth century the seal had been worn in addition to the signet ring. Though hung perhaps like a pomander from a chain at the neck or from the girdle, the seal seems to have been but rarely displayed on the person until the general introduction in the early seventeenth century of the watch, to which for more than a couple of centuries it was a regular accompaniment.
The majority of seventeenth-century seals are of silver with the arms engraved in the metal; others of steel are on swivels and have three faces; others, again, of gold set with stones engraved with heraldic devices, have finely worked shanks, occasionally enriched with delicate enamel-work. The gold seals of the eighteenth century, which are among the best examples extant of rococo jewelry, are of open-work in the form of scroll and shell patterns, of admirable design and workmanship. It is out of the question to attempt a description of the numerous attractive forms these pendent seals assumed, or the peculiar interest they possess from an heraldic point of view. About the year 1772 fashionable men carried a watch in each fob-pocket, from which hung bunches of seals and chains.
From the custom set in England of introducing masculine fashions into dress, ladies likewise wore two watches, one on each side, together with rattling seals, and other appendages. In addition to the real watch with beautifully enameled back which adorned the left side, they wore on the right what was called a false watch. These false watches were, however, often little less costly than the genuine article, being made of gold and silver, with jeweled and enameled backs. The front had either an imitation dial-plate, some fanciful device, or a pin-cushion.
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