The majority of extravagant jewelry pieces historians, informed collectors and even novices recognize today were commissions by English and French royalty during the Renaissance. This is the period beginning around the 14th century and continuing into the 17th. Renaissance is a French word that means “to be reborn.” This period is marked by a cultural movement that had a widespread influence on education, politics, philosophy and the arts.
In art, the Renaissance inspires the emergence of a new linear perspective and innovative techniques focused on rendering a more natural reality in painting and sculpture, particularly. The famous David, by Michelangelo, is a remarkable example of high Renaissance art. Other forms of art, including jewelry, were greatly influenced as well.
Prior to the Renaissance, as we have seen in previous articles, jewelry served primarily as an expression of wealth as well as cultural and religious beliefs. It is during the Renaissance that jewelry’s purpose as adornment becomes increasingly significant. Jewelry, at this time in history, truly became an expression of personal appearance and beauty. This new focus also changed the perception toward gemstones, which became prized for their unique attributes, such as shine, cut and color and these attributes’ ability to enhance ones’ beauty. Diamonds became popular during the Renaissance, as did new methods of cutting and new shapes.
At the same time, jewelry continued to be associated with wealth as an object to collect and protect. This, it turns out, is another shift in purpose. During the Renaissance, accumulating jewelry allows those who have the privilege to do so to secure their wealth. Jewelry became a widely used form of currency at this time.
To be continued…