Love Jewellery – Romantics to Retro Pt 4


Cupid and Pschye – Sculptor Antonio Canova in Le Louvre at Paris

The story about the classical pairing of Psyche and Cupid is about the soul being pursued by desire. What more inspirational work of art could we have for artisans making love jewellery than this superb sculpture in the Louvre Museum at Paris.

Commissioned by Colonel John Campbell in 1787, purchased by Joachim Murat in 1801 and carved at Rome by sculptor Antonio Canova in 1793 when he was 36 years of age, this amazing work captures our imagination provoking an emotional response.

Surely his skill at injecting stone with human emotion is rivaled only by that of old master sculptor Michaelangelo.

Such is the inconsistency of real love, that it is always awake to suspicion, however unreasonable: always requiring new assurances from the object of its interest*

Realism is the antithesis of Romanticism. Romance is not about being ‘rational’. It is all about being ‘emotional’, which was at the heart of most aesthetic creative experiences during this time.

The arts, architecture and timeless traditions from many other cultures were also held up to scrutiny for their noble and uplifting characteristics, as well as for exploiting their picturesque qualities.

The Romantic era originated in the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe, peaked around the middle of the nineteenth century and then petered out, albeit slowly until the advent and establishment of the movement known as Modernism.

This gained momentum in the latter part of the nineteenth century, had its first creative climax in the Edwardian period and again in the 20’s and early 30’s following World War I, especially in America.

There it evolved into becoming an important aspect of pop art and the advertising world set around Madison Avenue, New York where in the late 40’s and early 50’s there was a great need for graphics that were easy to produce, eye catching and simply stylised.

Style movements in the evolution of creative art, design and culture do not neatly end one day so that the next one can start a day later.

The late eighteenth and nineteenth century in England, across Europe and America was a period overlaid with many complex movements in art, literature and music.

Intellectual ideas and social change also impacted on their development and ensured that the whole period was a melting pot of creativity.

The revival of the ‘classical’ ideal with the acceleration of considered archaeology during the latter half of the nineteenth century, elevated notions of goodness, unrequited love and the pursuit of perfection.

Brooch with a female figure, c1903 René Lalique, French, 1860–1945 Gold, enamel, and diamond, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

An admiration for the ancient Medieval past in England espoused Gothic notions of horror and awe of vampires and the undead.

Embracing the exotic had a boost, especially following the opening of Japan to the west by American Commodore Perry (confirmed with the Treaty of Kaagawa in 1854).

Designer Rene Lalique researched mediums of glass and enamel, producing a design dialogue exclusively his own. He worked in a new stylistic language, which was based on sinuous interpretations of forms in nature we now know as Art Nouveau.

He also championed non precious materials, producing dramatic pieces that influenced and inspired others

Rene Lalique’s early production was retailed by famous jewellery houses, including Boucheron and Cartier and he dedicated himself to developing a personal and completely original style.

Art nouveau was short lived in jewellery design lasting from about c1895 to c1910 and his pieces clearly prove that he had a complete grasp of the style in which nature and its association with femininity was the leitmotif-  the aim was to evoke, rather than realistically portray or copy nature.

Love Jewellery in the V & A Museum

Love Jewellery in the V & A Museum at London

The human form, minutely sculpted in gold, was an important theme and personifications of the idealised female beauty were particularly popular meant to portray carefree elegance.

Romanticism was all about escaping the mundane aspects of real life and burgeoning industrial ugliness, especially in England.

There the sleek tenets of Modernism were trying to take hold amongst the confusion.

Led by luminaries such as arts and crafts genius William Morris and his Pre-Raphealite associates, jewellery design used materials that provided an alternative to what many believed were flashy diamonds.

Curators tell us the French word ‘pensées’ means both pansies, as painted on the bezel of this ring, and ‘thoughts’, although in this case the pansies stand for ‘pensez’, meaning ‘think’.

Cupid & Pschye Cameo British Museum

Cupid & Pschye Cameo British Museum

The flowers and words taken together read ‘Pensez à votre ami’, ‘think of your friend’.

This final in our series about Love Jewellery has us now entering a world well on the way to becoming global …

…one in which cameos had yet another revival.

Carved from various materials  lava, conch shells, coral, various man made materials as well as sardonyx and chalcedony – comprising of semi precious gemstones such as moss agate, carnelian, heliotrope and onyx they were surrounded in a gold frame to be worn as a brooch or pendant on a gold chain.

They were an indispensable aspect of any lady of quality’s costume.

Stunning collection 19th century archaeological Jewellery V & A Museum London

During the last fifty years of the nineteenth century any lady of fashion visiting Italy would consider her tour of Rome incomplete if she did not call into Castellani’s shop near the Spanish Steps to acquire a piece of archaeological revival jewellery.

Early in the eighteenth century a retail premises for fine archaeological jewellery had been founded by Roman antique dealer, goldsmith and designer extraordinaire Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794-1865).

He fuelled the classical revival in his Roman workshop and he and his sons would inspire others to produce stunning examples throughout the century.

Castellani approached antiquity with an open mind and together with his sons, Alessandro (1822-1883) and Augusto (1829 – 1914) became world famous.

Their jewellery was enormously popular in England, extensively imitated there as well as in Italy, France and the United States.

Detail of Brooch by Castellani, Glorious Antique Jewelry NY

Detail of Brooch by Castellani, Glorious Antique Jewelry NY

Concerned at declining standards of craftsmanship Fortunato Castellani had become interested during the late 1820’s in Etruscan jewellery, seeking to learn the method of producing its granulated gold.

This was gold used as decoration on the surface of jewellery by fixing minute round grains to the metal base. The grains were made by pouring into water molten gold, which formed drop like granules.

An alternative method was placing gold cuttings in a crucible with charcoal and heating and rotating it so the gold formed small spheres.

They were then soldered onto the object by a technique that meant the soldering was invisible.

In the finest Etruscan examples minute gold granules sometimes only 0.25 mm were sprinkled on the surface.

The technique had been long forgotten and people were fascinated with its rediscovery.

Pendant by Carlo Giuliano V & A Museum London

Pendant by Carlo Giuliano V & A Museum London

In his workshops Castellani trained many new goldsmiths and they produced outstanding works. It is disputed by some scholars that Carlo Giuliano was perhaps one of them.

Curators at the V&A Museum at London, which has a collection of Giuliano jewellery, have published that he accompanied Castellani to London after probably training in his workshop at Rome.

Whatever the story is about these two jewellers they are now well-renowned for the superb quality of the objects they produced and collectors clamour to find them.

Carlo Giuliano and his sons Carlo Joseph and Arthur Alphonse arrived in London c1860 and at first opened a manufactory in Soho before opening a retail premises in 1874 in Piccadilly, producing exquisite jewels in the neo-Renaissance and archaeological revival taste.

One of his most colourful English patrons was the wife of the Prime Minister.  Margot Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith was a socialite, wit and author whose works were not always critically accepted.

The most famous review of Asquith’s work came from New York wit Dorothy Parker, who wrote, “The affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in all literature”as well as wife of the Prime Minister.


She certainly horrified Giuliano’s London staff by sitting on the table swinging her legs when considering new additions to her own jewel collection. An interest in Egyptology was greatly enhanced in England at this time by the work of the indefatigable Miss Amelia Edwards, who founded the Egyptian Exploration Society.

Carlo Giuliano and his sons over the years brought vast numbers of impressive antiquities to London, including Egyptian scarabs and faience, which were collected by Carlo Giuliano and mounted in jewellery.

Arthur Alphonse Guiliano not only inherited his father’s business but also left his wife to live with the woman he loved and whose children he had fathered. When Carlo Giuliano died (1895), the business was handed down from father to sons, remaining open until 1914.

For many of the jewellers of this time the return to nature resulted in a rejection of the antique and metaphors for love rejected in favour of an often morbid eroticism, in which women were associated with the insect world, sleep and death, metamorphosis and sapphism.

These were considered at the time extremely risque and quite without precedent in the history of jewellery design.

Bow Brooch in the Garland Style

Bow Brooch in the Garland Style by Cartier

Louis Francois Cartier (1819-1904) opened his shops in London and New York in 1902 and 1909 respectively.

His jewels were delicate, had finesse and complemented the clothing designed by the Worth Brothers, the most fashionable of all the Parisian couturiers. They dressed all the most fashionable women of their day in delicate softly coloured silks; lilac, pink, yellow, mauve, straw and hydrangea blue.

Cartier encouraged his designers to consult original eighteenth century pattern books and also wander through the streets of Paris taking sketches of eighteenth century architectural detail.

This type of inspiration resulted in the garland style, one he made his own and others copied, with swags, bows and trails of diamond set flowers characterize it.

Platinum was also coming into wider use. It didn’t tarnish, was useful in that it contributed to the development of jewellery that used a minimum of metal as it was quite a bit heavier and stronger than gold.

It maximised the use of diamonds as in Cartier’s Bow Brooch, which was inset with panels of carved quartz crystal

Garland Necklace

Edwardian Garland Paste Necklace

Garlands, laurel wreaths, bow knots, tassels and lace motifs were among Cartier’s most favourite decorative devices and his royal, aristocratic articulate, light and insubstantial creations were received with great enthusiasm by his clientele on both sides of the Atlantic and copied by others in semi precious stone and paste.

World War 1 began in 1914 and profoundly changed society. A new mode for living emerged – lets live and forget the past, The fashions and values of pre war society changed with freedom of expression a new rule. When the war ended women, proud of their emancipation also stayed on in their jobs favouring a masculine look, characterised by a thin, flat silhouette and short hair cut.

Cutting a woman’s hair at this time was a dramatic social change, as they were encouraged to keep it long until they were married. Accompanied by the emergence and flourishing of a revolutionary style of fashion, design and illustration the reality of this change was a great deal for many people to deal with.

Actress Gertrude Lawrence

Actress Gertrude Lawrence

Gone was the overpowering opulence of the late Victorian period and the quiet gentle elegance of Edwardian times.

In its place were clear, clean lines of angular geometric shapes, refined detailing and super draftsmanship and craftsmanship. It was the beginnings of the jazz age with racy music, retro design and the emancipation of women now looming large.

The ideal jewel of the 1920’s  had to complement a particular dress, or a particular woman and was chosen to suit her tastes, lifestyle and features. Actress Gertrude Lawrence was photographed by Cecil Beaton revealing the sense of drama and confidence women of the age exuded.

The popularity of pearls encouraged a group of Japanese scientists, led by Mikimoto, to develop the technique of pearl cultivation.

The first cultivated pearls appeared on the market in 1921 and notwithstanding the strong  opposition from natural pearl merchants, quickly became a typical feature of the 1920’s.

Worn both day and night either alone or combined with precious or hard stones important technical advances facilitated superb combinations of surfaces, metals, gems and colours.


Brooch by Cartier Rock Crystal, platinum and diamonds

The Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns in Paris in 1925  lent its name to the terminology Art Deco. The aim of the exhibition was to promote a ‘social art’ or better still, establish a closer working relationship between art and industry.

The war effort advanced technology quickly so designers found many new avenues for surmounting the challenges of production, paving the way for imagination and innovation.

While Cartier always embraced new fashion the aim was at maintaining moderation, style and balance to meet the tastes and requirements of a privileged elite, their target market

Coco Chanel Fashion Leader

Coco Chanel Fashion Leader

An avant-garde woman during the 1920’s and 1930’s wanted a style of jewellery inspired by designs such as those of the exciting Ballets Russes, exotic forms of Oriental, African and South American art and other contemporary movements in art that reduced each object to utilitarian lines. The new standard for excellence in jewellery design was led triumphantly by the trusted and established firm of Cartier. Coco Chanel was the rage designer in France at this period. Her classical two piece suits were accompanied by yards of strings of pearls, natural or imitation.

Gold and gilt chains also became the indispensable accessory for all fashionable women. In some ways the modern movement that began c1880 was endeavouring to correct the retrospective phase of the nineteenth century but in the end ended up inspired by finds from antiquity began returning to it.

Fueling the change was the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922, which set the western world on fire. Carter’s excavations would reveal stunning jewellery especially his famous gold mask, gold pectoral, armlets, diadem and rings among all the other wonderful objects.

Cartier, Boucheron and Van Cleef and Arpels were all firms strongly influenced by a fascination with Egypt and they inspired gem cutters to experiment with new shapes.

Silver and Lapis Lazuli Sautior

Silver and Lapis Lazuli Sautior

The favourite necklace of the 20’s was the sautoir, a long rope decorated with a tassel of a pendant.

Produced in many materials; diamonds, pearls, coral and so forth and it was the ideal accessory for the low waisted dresses of the time.

This stunning example is silver, with lapis lazuli beads, silver scarabs moonstones, sapphires & diamonds.  The pendant opens to reveal a watch

Lapis Lazuli is a gemstone with a grand past. Archaeologists have established that this deep blue stone was popular thousands of years ago with the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.

Silver and Lapis Lazuli Sautoir Open to reveal Watch c1920

Silver and Lapis Lazuli Sautoir Open to reveal Watch c1920

In the Middle East Lapis Lazuli was thought to have miraculous powers.

It was among the first gemstones worn as jewellery.

The Egyptians loved it and even crushed it to a powder that when mixed with water could be painted on the ceiling of their tombs with the addition of gold stars.

The Far East, India and Persia continued as very strong influences on Jewellery throughout the 20’s and 30’s and Chinese mother of pearl inlaid plaques were often used in creations of oriental inspiration.

American socialite and divorcee Mrs. Wallis Simpson married her King in 1937 and became the Duchess of Windsor. An enthusiast of jewellery, fashion and the prevailing modern style she led fashion the world over.

He had stunning jewellery fashioned for her by Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Belperron and Harry Winston and gave it to her in love.

Duchess of Windsor

Duchess of Windsor

First as a Prince, then as King, and finally as a Duke the inscription ‘My Wallis from her David’ says it all.

What more could any woman want than a man who would give up being a King for love.

The Wall Street crash of 1929 in New York and the consequent economic crisis changed life dramatically all around the world.

The creations of the mid 1930’s before World War II exhibit an opulence of gemstones and designs unknown in the previous decade as jewels became larger and bolder as consumer confidence returned.

After the War designer, wholesaler, retailer and diamond cutter Harry Winston became the world’s largest individual dealer and leading connoisseur of diamonds.


Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Taylor/Burton Diamond set by Cartier

Over the centuries the diamond had acquired its unique status as the ultimate gift of love.

Cupid’s arrows were reputedly tipped with diamonds, which have a magic nothing else can ever quite equal.

The word ‘diamond’ comes from the Greek ‘adamas’ meaning unconquerable, suggesting the eternity of love.

The Greeks believed the fire in a diamond reflected the constant flame of love.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor set the world on fire when they met on the set of the movie Cleopatra.  They became a world famous celebrity couple when they met, and married, divorced and married again.

British born American actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) renowned for her role as Cleopatra (1963)

British born American actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) renowned for her role as Cleopatra (1963)

Richard showered Elizabeth with jewellery, including a wonderful array of diamonds, some purchased from Harry Winston.

The most stunning single 69 carat stone was originally owned by Cartier Inc. who paid the record price of $1,050,000 for the gem at auction.

Elizabeth-TaylorRichard Burton bought the stone the next day for Elizabeth Taylor as he wanted to give to her with love for her 40th birthday present.

Renamed the Taylor-Burton diamond she first wore it publicly at a party for Princess Grace’s 40th birthday in Monaco. It just had to be diamonds…as they are forever and,  after all, everyone knows they are a girl’s best friend. In 1978 Elizabeth Taylor sold the Taylor/Burton diamond to build a hospital in Botswana.

…and if I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing…Love is patient and kind; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love…1 Corinthians 13

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2009 – 2014

NB: This is the final part of a four part series.

Love Jewellery – Rome to Renaissance Pt 1

Love Jewellery – Restoration to Revolution Pt 2

Love Jewellery – Regency to Revival Pt 3

*Ann Radcliffe


The Bible
Memoirs of the Private Life of Marie Antoinette by Madame Campan 1823 Henry Colburn & Co & M Bossange & Co
The Last Medici Harold Acton Macmillan 1980
The Triumph of Love Geoffrey Munn Thames & Hudson 1993
Louis and Antoinette Vincent Cronin Harper Collins 1974
Works of Jane Austen Jane Austen Folio Society 1975
Mme de Pompadour Nancy Mitford Hamish Hamilton 1968
Six Wives of Henry VIII Antonia Fraser Weidenfeld & Nicolson1996
Folio Golden Treasury Various Poet Folio Society 1988
Madame du Barry Joan Haslip Grove Weidenfeld 1991
Understanding Jewellery David Bennett David Mascetti Antique Collectors Club
All the Queen’s Men Neville Williams Cardinal 1974
Elizabeth 1 From Contemporary Documents Maria Perry Folio Society 1990
Treasures of the Medici Anna Maria Massinelli Thames & Hudson 2000
Gem Kingdom Paul Deautels Grossett & Dunlap 1971
Henry VIII and his Court Neville Williams Chancellor Press
Splendors of the Roman World Anna Maria Liberati Thames & Hudson
Civilization Timothy Potts Australian National Gallery 1990
Meditations on Love Sister Wendy Beckett K Publishing 1995
V & A Museum Website


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