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THE jewels of the seventeenth century, as has been observed, are comparatively rare in public collections. Unlike those before this time, which find a more appropriate place in the museum or collector’s cabinet, they are admirably adapted for personal use at the present day; but until the change of taste of the last few years in favor of old work, these attractive objects, owing to their being set with precious stones of intrinsic value, suffered cruelly at the hands of modern jewelers in the destructive process of resetting.
Partly for this reason it is less easy than it was with the jewelry of the century previous to notify extant examples of all species of ornaments. Their main features, already described, lie in a preference for precious stones, and for a style of ornament which, at first formal, evolves into naturalistic flower designs in painted enamel.
Widespread luxury accompanied the large importation of precious stones. Ladies made each new fete a pretext for greater extravagance and greater efforts to outshine their neighbors ; and the ornament in which they seem above all to have delighted for the best display of their wealth of jewelry was the aigrette. This ornament generally took the form of a bouquet of flowers on movable stalks, composed of clusters of precious stones in enameled gold, accompanied sometimes by a jeweled knot, and was fixed in the hair on all occasions of ceremony.
A large number of these bouquets are mentioned in the inventory of the French crown jewels of 1618. In default of actual examples we must rely on the designs which the jewelers of the day published for them, and also on contemporary portraits, which further illustrate a passing mode for plaiting strings of pearls through the hair. Of earrings, on the other hand, a considerable number of examples have survived.
French and English portraits show at first only a large pear-shaped pearl in each ear. In the second half of the century more elaborate earrings came into use. Spain, where these ornaments have always been popular, produced at the time a number of portraits exhibiting earrings of open-work set with colored stones. They are in the form of a rosette or bow-shaped ornament hung with movable pendants.
The engravings include designs for earrings ; those of the last-named being such voluminous jewels, hung with pearls, that they might easily be mistaken for neck pendants. The majority of earrings of this period, now existing, are of Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian origin. The general type of earring then in use is well shown in Rembrandt’s portrait in the Louvre, where it takes the form of an elaborate pendant terminating with a big pearl drop. . Necklaces of light open-work design are set with diamonds or colored stones. These seldom have a special pendant; they were, in fact, fast disappearing to make room for rows of pearls.
Jeweled pendants, often consisting of two or more mobile parts, were frequently attached to a velvet band that closely encircled the throat. More important pendants of this period are those which take the forms of mounted engraved gems or enameled portraits, or else of miniature cases or lockets beautifully enameled. Some of the mounts are executed in the “pea-pod” style in open-work; others are ornamented with enamel in the silhouette manner; others again are of natural flower designs in painted enamel. There is a noteworthy example at Paris of the pea-pod style—a cameo of Louis XIII as an infant.
It is in an open-work frame of opaque enamel—black, dark green, and white—of about 1605, which bears a very close resemblance to one of the published designs of Pierre Marchant.
In the Gem Room of the British Museum is a still finer example, and one of the most splendid jewels from the famous Marlborough Collection. It is of open-work, enameled white and green : the husks or pods, set each with a small diamond, are in green, and the little pea ornaments issuing therefrom are in white enamel. The work dates from the first years of the seventeenth century. The gem it serves to enrich, a fine onyx cameo of Lucius Verus, is slightly earlier. The choicest example of painted enamel of flower design in open relief is certainly the mounting or frame of a magnificent pendant set with a cameo. This frame, quite unmatched for its taste and skill, is formed of a garland of flowers, open-worked, and enameled in the utmost delicacy with white, pale yellow, and light green enamel, heightened with reddish touches. Among other jewels of the same style, of which there are quite a number, one may mention the setting of an antique Roman cameo and the reverse of the onyx “George” of Charles II.
Besides the two beautiful examples of his work already noticed it is usual to associate with the frame of birds and flowers, enameled black and white, that surrounds the portrait of Louis XIV in the Jones Collection at South Kensington. The designs of Vauquer, also, seem to have been followed in many similar kinds of enameled jewels. The pendent miniature-cases or lockets of the seventeenth century are of great interest. The best example of those enriched with enamel.
The “pea-pod” style is well shown on the back of a miniature-case containing a female portrait by Peter Oliver (1601-1647) in the Dyce Collection at South Kensington. It is enameled with translucent green on a ground of matted gold, with the pea-pod pattern in white. This same style of ornament is seen on a miniature-case. Enamel-work after the silhouette engravings of the same period is seen often in their period of time.
Small plaques of “Louis Treize” enamel painted in natural colors on a monochrome ground were frequently employed for miniature-cases. A considerable number of these, of both French and German (Augsburg) work, exist. English work is. rarer : an example, upon the cover of a miniature of Oliver Cromwell, painted with roses and leaves in natural colors on a white ground, is preserved in the University Galleries, Oxford.
Like the aigrette, an important jewel worn at this time was a breast ornament. This ornament took the form of a bow or rosette of open-work design, generally of silver, set with small diamond splinters. As the century advanced the work set with small stones and diamond sparks in substantial mounts was replaced by open-work jewels set with large flat stones, and ornaments formed of several pieces—an upper part of tied bow or knot shape and hung with pendants—all set with rose-cut stones.
Much of this work, intended for the display of diamonds and various colored stones in imitation of flowers, hails from Spain. It is here worthy of note that still in the seventeenth century we find elaborate ornamentation applied to the back of jewels— a notable feature in almost all jewelry of the finest craftsmanship.
A plain surface on this part of the jewel was generally avoided by a charming use of the graver, or by means of small panels of painted enamel. Bracelets set with precious stones are generally of open-work of the same style as the necklaces. One beautiful example is formed of six medallions, each containing a crowns alternating with true-lover’s knots.
The finger rings of the early seventeenth century, as far as one can judge from pictures, did not differ essentially from the late sixteenth-century types ; in fact many of the ornamental rings usually ascribed to the sixteenth century really date from the first half of the seventeenth. The majority of small designs engraved at this period were patterns for the shoulders of rings, intended to be executed in enamel. Henri, son of Jean Toutin, furnishes a couple of engravings for rings, of the year 1628, of which the whole outer surface of the hoop is covered with designs reserved in white on a black ground.
The love for ” bouquets —flower designs in colored stones—finds expression, towards the end of the century, in some of the rings, the bezel of which is formed like a nosegay, a basket of flowers, or a bunch of flowers springing from a vase. These floral designs are of charming execution, and their colored stones produce an extremely pleasing effect.
Many of these rings are Italian, but there are several English examples. Painted enamels in flower patterns are found not only on the shoulders of rings, but covering the entire outer surface. Occasionally flowers enameled occur, the hoop of the ring being hollow. Lord Falkland possesses a good example of one of these rings encircled with colored flowers. The hollow space is filled with hair. Within the hoop is the posy. Mottoes or posies of this kind were occasionally engraved on medieval rings and on those of the sixteenth century, but the majority of the large number of rings on which such mottoes occur belong to the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
Unlike the example just mentioned, these rings, with the motto engraved inside them, usually have plain hoops, and were used as engagement, and sometimes as wedding rings. The mottoes generally rhyme, but are not remarkable for poetic skill, and they are found constantly repeated. Numbers of the verses employed for the purpose are given in Jones’s Finger-Ring Lore. A few examples will suffice : As God decreed so we agreed; God above increase our love; This take for my sake; The love is true I owe you; In thee my choice I do rejoice. Posy rings, like mourning rings, to be referred to later, are almost exclusively English.
As regards the ordinary ornamental ring of the period, it is to be observed that the diamond, which came so much to the front at this time, found a prominent place on it. Towards the close of the century, though enamel-work is still visible, the purpose of the ring, as at the present day, seems to have been nothing more than for displaying the diamond on the finger.
The girdle in the seventeenth century was still an important ornament for ladies. The great
portrait painters of the Low Countries present ladies wearing massive linked chains terminating in elaborate pomanders. Not infrequently the lady is shown holding the pomander in her hand. A fine pomander is seen in a portrait of a Flemish lady in the Wallace Collection, and one of extraordinary beauty is worn by a Dutch lady in a splendid picture.
Among the various seventeenth-century girdles to be found in public collections, without doubt the most remarkable are two examples, one in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the other in the Wallace Collection. They represent the species of enamel-work which was employed during the latter part of the sixteenth and the early seventeenth century for miniature and mirror cases—of which specimens in the Morgan Collection and the Louvre have already been noticed—and for the dials of watches.
The girdle at South Kensington, of French work of the early seventeenth century, is formed of twenty-one oblong and slightly convex plates linked together by rosettes. These plates, of silver, are filled with glass paste, which is backed with colored foils and inlaid with minute designs in translucent enamel on gold, representing hunting and other country scenes. The chain in the Wallace Collection, which might possibly have been worn as a neck-chain, is almost identical in subject and design, save that the oblong links number eighteen, while the rosettes uniting them are enameled and set with garnets.
The jewel which best represents the various kinds of decoration in the way of engraving and
enamel-work applied to seventeenth-century ornaments is the watch. From the early part of the century the round form, more or less flat, which has been preserved from that time to the present day, began to be generally adopted for watches. All the different species of work employed on miniature-cases are found on watch dial-plates and cases.
An interesting ornament is represented in the British Museum on the dial-plate of a watch by D. Bouquet of London, of about 1630-1640. It is executed by the rare process just described—the pattern being inlaid on gold upon a ground of green glass or enamel. Another watch has the center of the dial enriched with translucent enamel in gold cloisonne on opaque white. Among watches with richly decorated cases there is in the same collection another by Bouquet, beautifully enameled with flowers in relief, of various colors and kinds, on a black ground encrusted with small diamonds.
During the greater part of the seventeenth century the watch was simply hung by a chain to the girdle. The elaborate chatelaines which attached the watch to women’s girdles, and the chains which hung from the fob-pocket of men, belong rather to the eighteenth century; but they were already in use, and from them were suspended that most attractive article of jewelry, the seal, which was then beginning to take the place of the signet ring. Designs contain several charming pendent seals having their shanks or handles finely worked with monograms and other patterns.
There remain various pieces of jewelry, such as buckles, clasps, or brooches, which were sprinkled on different parts of the dress. Like the breast ornament, they often take the form of a tied bow, and find a place on the arms and shoulders, and in rows down the front of the bodice and the skirt.
In the latter part of the century jeweled buckles replaced the rosette of ribbons on the shoe. Thus again Evelyn speaks of:— Diamond buckles too, For garters, and girdle, ruby buckle, And brilliant diamond rings for knuckle. A sapphire bodkin for the hair, Or sparkling facet diamonds there : Then turquoise, ruby, emerald rings For fingers, and such petty things ; As diamond pendants for the ears. Must needs be had, or two pearl pears. Pearl neck-lace, large and oriental, And diamond, and of amber pale.
In England in the time of James I, the love of personal ornament, among men as well as women, was even more widespread than before. King James, and also his Queen, who herself possessed a highly extravagant taste for jewelry, set a public example by their patronage of the jewelers ; while the nobility outbid one another in lavish expenditure. John Chamberlain, an entertaining correspondent of the day, writes thus in 1608 to a friend unable to attend a masque: “Whatsoever the devise may be, and what success they may have in their dancing, yet you should be sure to have seen great riches in jewels, when one lady, and that under a baroness, is said to be furnished for better than a hundred thousand pounds ; and the lady Arabella goes beyond her, and the Queen must not come behind.” Contemporary chroniclers have left no descriptions that show precisely how the King’s own person reflected the fashions in jewelry of his day, yet we know that he possessed an almost childish admiration for ” bravery,” as it then was termed, particularly such as was intended for the decoration of those about his person.
A very curious instance of the King’s interest in these matters is to be found in the elaborate instructions he issued concerning the dispatch of a large consignment of jewels for the use of the Prince of Whales, and his favorite, Buckingham, on their memorable journey to Spain in 1623.
In the spring of that year orders were given to several officers of State, and with them the jeweler Heriot, to repair to the Tower and make a selection of the finest jewels there—some fit for a woman, and others for the Prince to wear. Among them a “jewel called the Three Brothers, five or six fair jewels to be worn in men’s hats, the five pendent diamonds that were the Queen’s, whether they remain upon a string or be made up upon a feather.
As the result of extensive transactions both with the Crown and the nobility the jewelers of the day seem to have reaped a rich harvest; and they attained to positions of eminence by adding banking to their more ancient art of working in the precious metals.
The poet Robert Herrick, Sir William Herrick’s nephew, was a jeweler-apprentice to his uncle for several years, and his early training seems to have left a strong impression on him, for his poems throughout betray a love and appreciation for jewels.
Among other jewelers whose names occur in the State Papers, the following may be mentioned: Philip Jacob-son, Arnold Lulls, John Acton, and John Williams— a maker of gold neck-chains and pendent medals.
As far as the actual productions of the Jacobean jewelers are concerned we meet with comparatively few examples; this want, however, is supplied, to a certain extent, by means of a beautiful set of contemporary drawings for jewelry preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum—the work of Arnold Lulls, a jeweler whose name occurs several times in the royal accounts.
In conjunction with Sir William Herrick, Lulls supplied the King in 1605, as New Year’s gifts for the Royal Family, with jewels to the amount of $3,000. For a certain jewel of diamonds, with
pearls pendent, and two dozen buttons supplied by him and Jacobson, and bestowed by His Majesty on the Queen at the Princess Mary’s christening the same year, Lulls was paid $1,550.2 Lulls’ designs, drawn in water-colors in a parchment book, number altogether forty-one. The majority, set with large table-cut stones and hung with huge pear-shaped drops, are for pendent ornaments, for wearing either on the neck-chain, or as earrings, or else upon the hat. Among the drawings are two designs for a “rope of round pearls, great and orient”—forty-seven in number—given to the Queen, and several designs for the above-mentioned diamond and pearl ornament given her in 1605; two drawings for Georges of the Order of the Garter given to Prince Henry ; and designs for a large ruby with pearl pendant mentioned in an inventory of the Prince’s jewels.
The remaining drawings include four of jeweled aigrettes set with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. These remarkable contemporary illustrations of English jewelry reveal the change then beginning to take place in the character of personal ornaments. Yet, though precious stones are much in evidence, in almost every case their settings are colored, while the design of each jewel is completed with charming scroll work enriched with poly chrome enamels. The finest Jacobean jewel in existence is the famous miniature-case.
Miniature-cases of gold elaborately enameled, with hinged fronts often set with jewels, were as much in vogue as in Elizabeth’s time ; and records show that many precious “picture cases” of the kind were made for James I as presents to personal friends or to ambassadors. The cover of the Jewel is of open-work, filled with the letter R, with diamonds on the outside and brilliant enamel within. The back is a white enameled plate with a design in fine gold lines and ruby enamel, the edge being enameled alternately ruby color and sapphire-blue. Within is a portrait of James I ascribed to Isaac Oliver.
The design on the back, which corresponds in style with engravings of other earlier designers in the”silhouette” manner, exemplifies the influence exercised by the ornaments on all the jewelry of the period. Throughout the reign of Charles I ornaments in the same style as those portrayed in Lulls’ drawings appear to have remained in use. All jewelry was largely influenced by the pattern-books issued from the goldsmith-engravers’ shops of Germany, France, and Flanders. Several jewelers themselves came over. The period, on the whole, though it terminated disastrously for all the sumptuous arts, seems to have been a prolific one in the’ production of jewelry. The chief business was shared by the court jewelers.
Many pieces were sold at home, and many more pawned and sent over to the dealers at Amsterdam, who broke them up for the intrinsic value of their gold and precious stones ; while the remainder were put under the hammer by a commission appointed after the King’s death to dispose of the works of art in the royal collection. The fact that all classes during the struggle parted with their valuables to assist their respective champions has rendered jewelry extremely rare. Women, and even little children, voluntarily sent their necklaces and brooches “for the King” ; while Cromwell was assisted in the same manner.
Great luxury in jewelry appears to have been associated with the Court of Charles II. The King himself bestowed magnificent presents on his mistresses. Later on King Charles had as court jeweler the celebrated French traveler and gem merchant Sir John Chardin, who settled in London with an immense collection of precious stones acquired in the East.
Another eminent jeweler of the time was the banker Alderman Edward Backwell, whose old books, still preserved, are full of interesting accounts for jewels supplied during the Commonwealth and the reign of Charles II. The religious troubles which had led Chardin.to quit France induced a number of other French jewelers, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, to establish themselves in England. These foreign jewelers, like the army of craftsmen in every field that at all times swarmed into England, soon accustomed themselves to their environment and became as English as the English themselves.
English work has ever had its own distinctive mark, for whatever the native craftsmen themselves borrowed they speedily made their own. The chief jeweler of the latter part of the century was Sir Francis Child—one of the founders of the great banking house that still bears his name. He was appointed court jeweler to William III in 1689, and supplied the King with a great quantity of jewelry. Much of this was intended as presents to ambassadors ; for jewelry, it appears, played a very prominent part in the diplomatic affairs of the day. Even the most trifling negotiation cost the Exchequer an enormous amount in presents of this kind, while foreign envoys were likewise obliged to disburse large sums for the same purpose.
Lists of these gifts and of other jewels are preserved in the ledgers of this ancient firm of goldsmith-bankers, and have been published by Mr. F. G. Hilton Price in The Mary gold by Temple Bar. A set of drawings for jewels of about the year 1674 from Sir Francis Child’s ledger, with particulars concerning them in the great goldsmith’s own handwriting is here as well.
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