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Times of Renaissance brought new type of jewelry which was strongly influenced by classical architecture. This new type of jewelry design first appeared in Italy during the second half of the XVth century. The Renaissance was a time of extraordinary splendor, and with new sources of gemstones, more jewelry was worn than ever before. Jewelry exhibited high levels of craftsmanship and jewelers’ skills. The biggest change in the jewelry style was an abandonment of medieval headdresses. Instead the hair was carefully arranged and decorated with strings of pearls and jewels.
The new styles were introduced to the rest of Europe mostly by royal gifts. English king Henry VIII and French king Francis I were known for their lavish jewelry style and they were very often portrayed wearing beautiful Renaissance jewelry. During the second half of XVIIIth century Philip II of Spain promoted more restrained style with very little jewelry for men, while in English queen Elizabeth I ensured that pieces worn by women increased in extravagance. The strong Gothic tradition of Medieval times was slowly substituted in whole Europe by new Renaissance trends.
For most of XVIth century the main European center for diamonds was Antwerp and Paris. Jewelers established there the diamond cutting center. In early XVIIth century a rose cut was introduced which enabled the gems to sparkle more brightly. Pearls, emeralds and rubies were highly prized during the Renaissance, particularly form Burma. The production of imitation gems and pearls flourished with increased sophistication. The increase of fake gemstones was such a threat to the reputation of many jewelry centers that making them was punishable by loss of the right hand and ten year exile.
Also the concept of “Crown jewels” distinct form personal jewelry of royal family was born during Renaissance period. The history of Renaissance times is full of names of famous jewelers. The list includes Benvenuto Cellini (worked in Rome for French king Francis I), Cristoforo Foppa, Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein and many more.
During the first half of the century having sets of matching jewelry was very important both for men and women. Women wore matching pendants and earrings or brooches. Necklaces became longer, and women’s dress jewels were arranged all over the bodice and sleeves rather than as borders around their edges.
The most popular piece of jewelry during Renaissance were pendants. They were usually worn on long gold chains, but could also be attached to a lady’s bodice or sleeve. Many pendants were made to match a necklace or chain. Devotional jewels remained popular throughout Europe, ranging from simple crucifixes to complex symbolic pieces. The jewelry very often was personalized featuring initials of the owner.
Court dress was richly jeweled in the XVIth century and dress ornaments were made in large quantities to decorate the gowns, doublets and hats for men and women. Velvet caps were worn by men and throughout the Renaissance were generally decorated with badges featuring simple gold buttons or complex jewels. However, the most typical hat jewel is a gold medallion decorated with scene from Bible of classical mythology.
During Renaissance rings were heavily decorated with cameos and gemstones. Some of rings also featured compasses or sundials contained in their bezels. With the development of watch-making rings containing miniature watches were also made. This kind of rings were usually very heavy and expensive. Some rings featured hidden compartment intended to contain a relic, perfume or even poison.
Renaissance period was a big come back of bracelets and earrings. They featured various styles including simple drops and quite complex designs. Earrings of the XVIIth century have geometric rather than figurative designs and tend to be longer. Bracelets were usually worn in pair and were made with pearls of beads.
Queen Elizabeth I was famous for her love of jewelry and she is very often portrayed wearing necklaces, pendants, brooches, rings and hair jewelry. The queen also gave jewelry as a reward or gifts.
Early XVIIth century was a beginning of difficult technique of enamelling on glass. It was mostly used to make cases for miniatures. The colored glass was first engraved with the design and the areas of pattern hollowed out. Then the lines were filled with powdered enamel and the piece was fired.
In 1620s and new jewelry trend was born in Paris. A new trend was based on stylized foliage and swirling pea-pods. It was mostly used to decorate flat surfaces of decorative objects.