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JEWELLERY of the nineteenth century presents a very variegated picture both as regards material and technique, as well as in the display of every conceivable style. It is not so much a particular character of its own that has marked the jewelry of each epoch of the century, as a peculiar form of reproduction or rather reconstruction of older styles of art, based for the most part on false traditions. The whole period was an eclectic one, and the majority of its productions—the result of nothing less than aimless hesitation and fruitless endeavor to revive the forms of the past—display at least doubtful taste. Throughout the greater part of the time France led the fashion, and every one of the political changes she underwent left its mark on her artistic productions. After the desolate epoch of the Revolution, under which the whole standard of jewelry was measurably lowered, a revival of something approaching luxury was experienced under the Directory.
This was succeeded about the year 1800, owing to the stimulating dominance of the First Consul, by circumstances of real luxury. The period dating from Napoleon’s accession to the Imperial Dignity four years later, till about 1814, was one of considerable importance in the history of jewelry.
The severe and academic influence of the leading-and most popular artist of the day, the painter David, and of his pupils, with their extravagant taste for the antique, was universally felt. Yet while the antique celebrated its triumph in all directions, the Empire failed to shake itself entirely free from eighteenth-century styles. As far indeed as jewelry was concerned, the classical revival cannot be said to have been altogether unhappy; for its ornaments are not without a certain charm.
Like all else, they breathed the spirit of the past, and are not less formal and rigid than the other art productions of the period. It was under the short-lived reign of the associated kings, termed the Directory, that the taste for the antique first became thoroughly dominant.
Jewelry of all kinds assumed classical forms. The few individuals who were fortunate enough to procure them wore ancient Greek and Roman jewels; the rest had to be content with facsimiles of objects discovered at Pompeii, or simple copies adapted from representations on early vase paintings, sculptures, or engraved gems.
So exaggerated became the enthusiasm for the antique that, following the lead of Madame Tallien and Madame Recamier, the fashionable s of the period adopted in its entirety, without regard for
differences of climate, what they deemed to be classical costume, and appeared on public promenades in Paris with un-stockinged feet in sandals that allowed them to exhibit jewels upon their toes. The affected classicism of the Republic and First Empire stimulated the use of engraved gems. Far from cameos and the less decorative intaglios being considered out of place with fine precious stones, they often occupied positions of honor, surrounded and mounted occasionally with important diamonds. In the majority of cases, however, they were used alone and were made up into special ornaments by themselves.
Antiques were worn when procurable, but the greater number of gems were of modern manufacture, carefully studied both as regards technique and style from ancient examples.Somewhat later, small mosaics, on which were figured classical subjects or buildings of ancient Rome, were also employed. These, together with cameos, generally on shell, were produced in quantities, particularly in Italy, where cameo cutters and mosaic workers still carry on a somewhat languishing trade in ornaments of this nature, Venice, Florence, and Rome sharing in the industry of mosaic jewelry ; Rome, Naples, and the whole of Southern Italy in that of cameos. The production of both kinds of objects is now in a sterilized condition. They have entirely lost their earlier qualities, for the reason that they find but little favor and have ceased to be worn by the upper classes. Except during the height of the First Empire the fashion for engraved gems never took a very thorough hold. Ladies have seldom a taste for archaeology.
If a few, in accordance with the current idea, affected a sober and refined style of ornament, the majority soon wearied of the burden of cameos in the necklace and bracelet, and preferred sparkling stones to the delicate cutting of the gem. The general and instinctive preference for brilliant jewels did more than anything to kill the attempted employment of antique forms and designs.
As regards to technique, the metal-work of the early nineteenth century generally displayed considerable poverty of material. The gold, if not pinch beck imitation, was usually thin, light, and of low quality, with simple designs in the form of clusters of grapes. Borders of leaves and flowers in the antique style were stamped and chased sometimes in open-work, with small rose-shaped ornaments applied. Granulated, beaded, and purled work was much employed, and the surface of the
metal was often matted.
Artistic effect in chased work was produced by the use of ornamental inlays, or rather overlays, of colored gold. Actual jewel-work and settings, as a rule, displayed good quality of workmanship. The general tendency lay in the direction of the colored stones popular in ancient times—the topaz, peridot, aquamarine, and amethyst; together with precious stones, such as emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds, and with pearls. The latter were generally reserved only for the most sumptuous ornaments, but were occasionally used in conjunction with jewels of less value. The stones most commonly used were carnelians, moss-agates, turquoises, garnets, pink and yellow topazes, as well as coral, mingled together.
Wedgwood ware and its imitations, popular in the latter years of the eighteenth century, continued for some time to meet with favor, while paste jewelry was also worn to some extent. On every species of jewelry the taste for the antique was clearly visible. Ornaments for the head took the form of frontlets and diadems, hair-combs, hair-pins, triple chains, and strings of pearls. Earrings were in general use, together with necklaces, brooches, bracelets, rings, and girdles. The chief head-ornaments were wide metal combs, fixed in the hair in such a manner as to be visible from the front. The general form of the Empire comb, with its upright rows of pearls or coral, is well known, since a number of examples exist. At the same time frontlets were worn on the upper part of the forehead and over the hair. These, enriched with pearls, cameos, or precious stones, took the form of broad bands or coronets.
Another ornament, which did not, however, come into fashion till about 1820, was a band round the head, with a jewel in the middle of the forehead. It was generally a fine gold chain, but might be made of velvet ribbon or silken cord, or strings of beads. The origin of its title has been given in connection with Italian jewelry of the fifteenth century.
Cameos and moss-agates entered largely into the composition of necklaces as well as the various colored stones mentioned above. Cameos often assumed considerable proportions. They were occasionally set with precious stones, and were linked together with fine chains. Bracelets were much worn, three on each arm: one on the upper part of the arm, a second just above the elbow, and a third upon the wrist. They were usually composed of a number of small chains, or even a band of velvet; while the clasp was formed by a cameo, or else an amethyst, peridot, or topaz set in stamped and pierced gold.
Girdles for the most part were fashioned in the same manner as bracelets, with a large cameo on the clasp. The pictures in the gallery at Versailles afford perhaps the best idea of ornaments in the Empire style ; since jewelry is more clearly represented on French portraits than on any others of the time. Among the most striking of such portraits are those of Marie Pauline, Princess Borghese, by Lefevre, of Caroline Buonaparte, Queen of Naples, by Madame Vigce-Lebrun, and of Madame Mere, by Gerard. The first has a high comb and bandeau, earrings, and girdle, all decorated with cameos, the second of pearls and cameos, and the third a head-ornament mounted with a single large cameo. The coronation of Napoleon in 1804 furnished the painter David with the subject of a picture unrivaled in its time which is exhibited in the Louvre. This grandiose production, besides being a truly epic rendering of a great historical event, serves as a valuable document in the history of jewelry, in that it represents jewelry of the most magnificent kind carried by Josephine, the princesses, and the ladies of honor.
The Empress is shown wearing comb and diadem of precious stones, brilliant earrings, and a bracelet on the wrist formed of two rows of jewels united with a cameo. Her suite have, besides, necklaces and girdles mounted in several cases with cameos. Josephine herself possessed a perfect passion for engraved gems, and she actually induced Napoleon to have a number of antique cameos and intaglios removed from the gem collection in the Royal Library and made up into a complete collection of jewelry for her own use.
A German specialty of the expiring Empire was the cast-iron jewelry, brought into favor largely on account of the prevailing scarcity of gold and silver. A foundry for its production was first set up in 1804 at Berlin, where articles of great fineness were cast in sand molds. In the year 1813, the time of the rising against the Napoleonic usurpation, more than eleven thousand pieces of iron jewelry were turned out, and among them five thousand crosses of the new order of the Iron Cross. In that year appeared the well-known iron rings. During the War of Liberation, when every man joined the Prussian regiments to fight against the French, the patriotic ladies who remained behind laid at the Altar of the Fatherland their valuable jewels, which were melted down for the benefit of the national war-chest.
For the articles thus surrendered they received in exchange from the Government iron finger rings. In addition to crosses and rings, other jewels, such as diadems, necklaces, brooches, and bracelets, were executed in cast iron, open-worked and in relief. Complete collections comprising a comb, necklace, earrings, and bracelets are not infrequently met with, and the name of the manufacturer is sometimes found stamped on them. Most of the work is in the antique taste, and is occasionally adorned with classical heads in the manner of Wedgwood and Tassie. Considering the material and method of production, the fineness and lace-like delicacy of this iron jewelry is little less than marvelous.
Another kind of nineteenth-century ornament, particularly popular in the first half of the century, was hair jewelry. It was favored possibly in some cases less by inclination than by that necessity which had originally led the way for the use of iron and other less valuable materials. Finger rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watch-chains were plaited of the hair of the departed, brooches and medallions mounted with it, and even ornamental landscapes constructed of strands of human hair. Hair was worn as a gift of affection from the living, but it was chiefly employed for mourning or memorial jewelry.
It will be referred to again when mourning jewelry is dealt with. We enter about the year 1830 into the Romantic period—the days of the heroines of Balzac, the days when Byron and Ossian were a la mode, the days of a fancy chivalry and medieval sentimentality SirWalter Scott, and above all of the Gothic revival. Gothic motives, rampant in architecture, make their appearance also on book bindings, furniture, and other things, and influence jewelry to a certain degree.
Among the leaders of the movement so far as it affected jewelry were the goldsmiths Froment Meurice, and Robin, whose productions, executed in accordance with the Romantic taste, assumed the form of armored knights, on foot, or fully equipped on horseback, lords and ladies in medieval costume, and jewels which took the shape of compositions of a similar “elegant” nature. At this period cameos were still worn, but seldom of strictly classical character. Sentimental hair jewelry likewise continued, as did the iron jewelry.
The latter, however, no longer displayed classical forms, but debased Gothic designs. Chains of various kinds were in considerable favor. They were usually looped up at intervals with circular or oblong plaques of thin and colored gold set amid small turquoises and garnets. With the development of machinery appeared thin gold-work, ornamented with stamped and pressed designs. Work of this kind, characteristic of its first decades, extended far into the nineteenth century.
As far as men’s jewelry is concerned there is little or nothing to chronicle. Strangely enough, the masculine delight in splendid jewels that had existed up to the end of the eighteenth century, came all at once to an end, along with that older world on the ruins of which Napoleon rose. Almost all that remained to them was the bunch of seals, often of considerable size, that hung by a silken cord from the fob.
It is true that occasionally beaus and macaronis actually wore earrings. But these were not employed solely as ornaments, but largely as the result of a fanciful idea, still prevalent in certain quarters, of the value of such objects against diseases of the eye. Fashion next, about the middle of the century, harked back to rococo, and imitated the style of Louis XV. It was rococo of a kind, but lay as far from the eighteenth century as did Romantic Gothic from the Gothic of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Design for the most part was deplorably bad, defects in this direction being passed off under a glitter of stones. Instead of the close setting which had so long satisfied the Jewell, open setting for precious stones became universal. Countless old and valuable ornaments perished. The diamonds and other precious stones were picked out of them and transferred to newer settings, and the beautiful old metal-work was ruthlessly melted down.
Many fine jewels during the course of the nineteenth century have likewise been spoiled and reduced in value by their owners attempting to adapt them to a prevailing fashion. Vast is the number of family treasures that have undergone the fate of mounting. It is to be hoped that the new-born
interest in the beautiful work of earlier craftsmen may help to save what is left from the same sort of destruction that the ancient churches of our land have undergone as the result of ill-judged ” restoration.”
THE MODERN REVIVAL:
Long prior to the developments that have taken place in recent years, attention had been attracted to the artistic qualities of gold and an impetus given to the manipulation of the simple material. It was early in the “sixties” that notice was first drawn to the gold jewelry then being executed in Rome, and the discoveries that had been effected in the working of the wrought metal by the firm of Castellani. The head of this famous family was the goldsmith Fortunate Pio Castellani, one of the best-known jewelers and dealers of his day.
In 1814, at an early age, he started a business in Rome, which he developed about 1826 on the lines of the antique work. The process of production of the old granulated gold jewelry of the ancient Etruscans—that in which the surface is covered with minute grains of gold set with absolute regularity—had long been a puzzle and problem to jewelers.
Castellani was deeply interested in the lost art, and searched Italy through to find some survival of it. At last in St. Angelo in Vado, a village of the Apennines, in the corner of the Umbrian Marches, he found a caste of local goldsmiths who had preserved it in what seemed to be an unbroken tradition. He transported some of them to Rome, and together with his sons Alessandro and Augusto succeeded in imitating the tiny golden grains of the Etruscans and soldering them on to the surface of jewels. The work he accomplished in this direction has become famous all the world over.
In 1851 Fortunate retired, and on his death in 1865 his property was divided—Augusto retaining the business, Alessandro setting himself up as a collector and dealer. Augusto, born 1829, carried on the traditions of his father’s atelier, and was afterwards promoted to the Directorship of the Capitoline Museum. Alessandro, the elder brother, was perhaps one of the most striking personalities of his age. Born in 1824, he first assisted his father; but his political opinions, which led him to take an active part in the revolutionary movement in Rome in 1848,and implicated him in the conspiracy of 1852, resulted in his imprisonment in the Castle of St. Angelo, but successfully feigning madness, he was liberated and sent out of the Pontifical States.
He then proceeded to travel about exploiting the productions of the Casa Castellani. Gradually he devoted himself to archaeological pursuits. His knowledge of these matters was profound, and he became the finest expert of his day. He was continually collecting, and dealt largely, his chief customers being the museums of Europe and America. The finest of the antique jewelry in the British Museum was purchased from him in 1872-1873. A few years before, in 1867, his unrivaled series of peasant ornaments, gathered together from all parts of Italy, was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, which also made large purchases at the sale that took place after his death in 1883. The art of filigree and granulation practiced by Castellani was carried to still greater perfection by another Italian, Carlo Giuliano, who was largely indebted to the discoveries of his compatriot.
Examples of his work, with that of Castellani, are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Since his death, his business house in London has been continued by his sons. Another Italian who has surpassed both Castellani and Giuliano in the reproduction of the antique is Melillo of Naples. His jewelry, though “copied closely from ancient models, has a certain modern cachet” and is in fact “a translation of the most refined ancient art into modern language.” An eminent English jeweler, whose name is worthy of record, was Robert Phillips of London, who died in 1881. He also came under the influence of Castellani.
At the same time he was responsible for the production of some of the most original work executed in England during the Victorian era. A forerunner in France of the modern movement in artistic jewelry, and one entitled to a high place in the history of the art, was the goldsmith Lucien Falize (b. 1838), who was a partner with M. Bapst, crown jeweler of the Second Empire. He succeeded Bapst as official goldsmith to the French Government, and died in 1897. Another great French jeweler was Eugene Fontenay, author of the important history of jewelry, who died in 1885.
Side by side with the improvement in taste which during the last few years has prompted people to preserve old jewelry, and a genuine love for its peculiar and indefinable attractions which has induced them to collect it, the present age has witnessed a truly remarkable revival in the artistic production of articles of personal ornament.
The general awakening that has taken place in the industrial arts has nowhere made its influence more strongly felt than in respect to jewelry. Owing to the example set by the highest artistic spirits, which has affected even the ordinary productions of commerce, there has arisen a new school of jewelry, the residue of which, when the chaff of eccentricity on the one hand and coarse workmanship on the other is winnowed from it, consists in works which combine the charm and sense of appropriateness requisite to objects of personal adornment with qualities that mark them as individual works of art.
The ornaments of the past reveal an elemental truth of art which it may be to the ultimate advantage of the decorative artificer of modern times to study and to imitate. They show, particularly in their most refined periods, that the simplest materials and the simplest modes of decoration can be associated with beauty of form and purity of design, and that the value of a personal ornament does not consist solely in the commercial cost of the materials, but rather in the artistic quality of its treatment. In the revival of the arts in the latter part of the nineteenth century the artistic styles of the past began to be carefully studied, and for the first time were brought together and exhibited as models. They have undoubtedly exercised a profound influence both on design and technique.
It is well at the same time to remember, that personal ornaments, as indeed all productions of former times, which are thus shown in museums, must not be reckoned with from one standpoint only. The intention of their public display is to afford material for instruction, investigation, and inspiration, for the craftsman, the student, and the ” man in the street.” Their function in this respect is not only to produce artists and craftsmen, or even connoisseurs, but to inspire the lay public with a love of beauty, and to induce a divine discontent with the ugliness with which it is surrounded. Though it is very well to use and reproduce the forms and motives of the past, an indefinite persistence in that attitude is liable to be construed as a confession of aesthetic sterility. But while empty revivals and false adaptations are to be rejected, the reckless race after originality, resulting in the eccentricity which is so rife in modern art, should especially be avoided. It is the desire for originality instead of a modest devotion to fine workmanship, “a love for the outrageous and the bizarre, and a lack of proportion, both in form and in choice of material,” that has ruined much of the jewelry produced under the this period of time Art movement.
If color and form produced by a study of harmony and a limited appeal to nature could be united to elaboration and minuteness of finish, with symmetrical arrangements freed from purely mechanical detail of ornament; if more insight could be obtained into the spirit which produced those splendid fragments that have survived from the past, there would be a gradual return to a style of work wherein the inherent preciousness of material might be accompanied by a fuller appreciation of its artistic possibilities, and a way opened to the restoration of the art of the goldsmith to the honorable place it once held.
Apart from matters of design the new movement has resulted in great changes in the artistic aspect of jewelry. In distinction to the tendency hitherto prevalent which bids the metal mounting of jewelry to be rendered almost invisible, the working of gold and silver has once again become a matter of some moment. A second change, due to the study of old models, has been the revival of enameling—an art which offers many an opportunity for the exercise of the craftsman’s taste and skill, and has once again resumed its proper position as handmaid to the goldsmith. A third change has been the wider choice and employment of stones. Till recent years only those stones that are reckoned as fine—the diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire—have been allowed a place in jewelry.
Though their commercial value can never be set aside, precious stones are now valued, as they were in Renaissance times, for the sake of their decorative properties. The taste for color effects in jewelry has resulted in the adoption of certain gems not very precious, yet sufficiently rare, while the artistic value of broken color in gems is beginning to be appreciated in purely commercial productions. There is now a welcome tendency to use such stones as the aquamarine, peridot, zircon, topaz, tourmaline and others of beautiful color and high decorative value. For a precious stone, as has been truly said, ” is not beautiful because it is large, or costly, or extraordinary, but because of its color, or its position in some decorative scheme.”
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