Jewelry from the seventeenth to the twentieth century

Seventeenth century jewelry

The seventeenth century is the principle reason for many renaissance jewels not surviving to the present day. The thirty years war of the first half of the century raised havoc throughout Europe. All resources of every nation involved, including the jewelry capitals of France, the Netherlands, Italy and England, were used to further their respective causes. When the fashion world could resume normalcy, jewelry became a more floral decoration. This entailed replacing the stylized arabesques and figures of the renaissance. Their replacement was quite often literal, for the beautiful enameled gold was melted down and jewels removed from their settings to fit into the newer styles.

These new designs most often were born in France. It was here that settings took on a more open air.

Stones became more important than their settings, providing a startling difference from previous designs. Because of the increasing appreciation of the stone, considerable progress was made, especially with diamonds, in the cutting of stones. The rose cut was still the most popular, but by 1640 stones with sixteen surfaces were not uncommon. The art of cutting jewels found a capital in Amsterdam, for this is where the expelled Jewish gem merchants from Portugal settled to continue with their profession.

The settings of these stones often formed glittering lines or masses. Arrangements of leaves, flowers and knots of ribbons were the favorite designs. Pearls of all sizes were in immense demand, although the baroque pearls of the previous century fell into disuse. Necklaces of enamel and gold lost ground, as their place was taken by strings of pearls. To add to their sparkle and give them a larger appearance, diamonds were set in silver, and gold was used for colored stones.

Although enameling was not as prevailing as it was in past fashions, it was not entirely superseded. The Swiss jeweller, Jan petitot, attained a high degree of perfection with this art. Petitot developed the very difficult "email en resille sur verre" method, of which only one or two craftsmen between 1619 and 1624 could master. The method consisted of taking a medallion of dark blue or green glass and cutting an intaglio design. The hollows were then filled with very thin gold foil and enamel powder was inserted. A simpler method of enameling was used to decorate the back of jewels.

Another major change in jewelry took place by the end of the seventeenth century. This change was not in design, but in who wore the jewelry. Gold and silver ornaments began to form a part of the regional peasant costumes of France, Italy and Holland. By this time, country people could afford to ornament themselves with pieces that had been confined to the upper classes. The ruling class recognized their inability to restrain this provincial jewelry and it continued to grow in importance.

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