Jewelry of the eighteenth century

In the eighteenth century the history of jewels became primarily the history of precious stones, their beauty stemming from their selection, their cut and their arrangement composing the jewel. Jewelry adornment became necessary to dress, and therefore subject to changes in fashion. This caused a noticeable change, for there developed a distinction between jewels for day and evening wear. Daytime jewels were set with colored stones. Evening wear was comprised of diamonds and pearls, for they appeared best in candlelight.

A great affect was made in the world of diamonds, when in 1700, Venetian peruzzi invented the brilliant cut. It was soon employed in the cutting of other gems, which helped the eighteenth century to become "the age of gems." Not all of these gems were precious, for to fulfill the great demand throughout Europe paste was used. This was not imitation stone, but a brilliant glass that could be used where stones could not.

Throughout the century of gems, the French again set the fashion. Jewelry became such a demanding profession that two types of jewellers evolved. One was the "bijouterie" who worked with gold and enamel; the other being the "joaillerie", who mounted diamonds and precious stones.

The most popular designs were embodied of chiseled and wrought gold or pseudo-classical shapes of urns and cameos. Jewelry also closely followed furniture design. Enameled woods were the rage. Famous paintings were copied and set in miniature and set in gold. It was also a century of little variation, with the light mountings of bows and flowers  being carried on from the previous century.

The only period where French design was not viewed as a mandate by the rest of Europe was during the time of the French revolution. Jewelry took on the look of simplicity. Parures, or matching sets of necklaces, earrings and bracelets, were out of favor. Instead sautoirs, long gold chains joined by a medallion, were in vogue. Also popular were very long earrings know as fishwives. All this changed after the coronation of napoleon, for he and Josephine brought back the popularity of fantastic jewels that had remained fashionable in the rest of Europe.

The most widespread fad in jewelry of the eighteenth century was the chatelaine. This was a stout hook with a miscellaneous assortment of small objects in elaborately wrought metal cases, often decorated with enamels. The accessories took on quite a variation, including thimbles, scissors, needle-cases, scent-cases, seals, patch-boxes, toothpick cases, keys and watches. By 1785, there was no more popular wedding gift than a chatelaine with the essential "equipage" for the bride. From 1790 to 1810, nutmeg graters were very prevalent, for punch was served with every meal. Chatelaines began to wane for the housewife no longer thought it necessary to carry the oddments which symbolized her position as head of the household.

The English court set a custom, but not in design like the French. When a member of society attended one of the many festivities of court, the stones needed to fit into fashion and make the sought after impression, were often beyond the reach of many. For this reason the stones were hired from a local jeweller. When the ceremony was over, the jewels went back to the shop from which they had made a momentary departure.

During the first half of the eighteenth century, many whimsical fashions occurred. Enamels were strongly revived and their use ranged from decorating watches, snuff-boxes and patch boxes. The color most often used was dark blue, which is found on lockets containing miniatures and locks of hair.

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A Jewelry History
Table of contents|
 Introduction |Glossary| Ancients and Classical Jewelry| Jewelry of the Middle Ages|
  Jewelry of the Renaissance| Jewelry from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century| Rings| Necklaces|
Bracelets and Earrings| Brooches| Bibliography| Ancient Jewelry Photo Gallery




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