Napoleon & Jewellery

Napoleone Bonaparte and his rise to power dramatically changed the political and social scene of Europe and the world of costume, including jewellery. At his coronation as Emperor of France in 1804 he wore a gold laurel wreath in the Greek taste. Each leaf represented a military victory. So great was the weight of this ornament it had to be pruned so he could wear it. The attraction of gold at this time stemmed from both its intrinsic brilliance and associations with wealth and power. A fashion for cameos and intaglios began after his Italian campaign of 1796. Many cameos were brought back to France from Italy. Some were ancient Greek or Roman in origin and their beauty and perfection fascinated Napoleon. He promoted the foundation of a school of gem engraving at Paris, where precious stones like emerald were used, as well as semi precious stones such as agate, cornelian and jasper.

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