Emerson – Hand Made Jewellery


Brief Historical Survey

ALTHOUGH the history of mankind can be studied through the history of jewellery there is not sufficient space to cover the historical side very fully, but so much can be learned by studying the jewellery of the past that no book would be complete without some reference to it.

As the principal object of this book is the solving of technical problems we will consider the historical side mainly from the technical angle; for this the following periods would probably be most profitable: the Classical period, which includes Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek,  Etruscan and Roman; the period before A.D. 1000 which includes Early Christian, Byzantine and Anglo-Saxon; the Middle Ages; the Victorian; and the introduction of diamond jewellery.

Fine examples of these periods can be found in tie British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. One of the most interesting historical technical developments was Greek and Etruscan granulated work, which in addition to the meticulous excellence of the craftsmanship, is also famed for the delicacy and feehng of the design.

In recent times between the two World Wars, craftsmen have conducted intensive research and experiment into what was a lost technique. Foremost among the workers in this field were Wilm in Germany, and Blackband and Littledale in England.

The Early Christians were fond of engraved gems, and although this requires a technique that is not very much in vogue at present, it is by no means lost, and it is still possible to find interesting examples of this craft.  The discovery in 1939 of the Sutton Hoo burial ship shed new light on pagan Anglo-Saxon art.

The jewellery is remarkable both in design and execution. The formalised animal motifs of the purse lid in the British Museum are adapted perfectly to the cloisonne technique, while the sensitive appli-cation of twisted wires around the border is superb. Very little jewellery has come down to us from the early part of the Middle Ages, and the little that does remain employ geometrical design and highly conventionalised animal form.

At the end of the eighth century stones were cut “en cabochon and set high up, claw settings were introduced, and small plaques of enamel were mounted in raised settings. About the period, supplies of pearls and coloured stones in great variety were imported into England from the East.

The latter half of the fourteenth century was notable for lavish expenditure on jewellery, with a strong French influence chiefly from Paris. The dominant motifs were strongly religious, inspired by the feeling of the time, but with the arrival of the Renaissance, religious subjects were largely replaced by mythological and allegorical figures. Translucent enamel was also lavishly employed.

Diamond jewellery as we know it today began to develop in the seventeenth century when rose cutting was invented in Holland about 1640. Brilliant cutting by a Venetian followed at the close of the century, and the gem was thus becoming more important than the mount. The eighteenth century saw many changes, for the English style was almost overwhelmed by the lighter and more fanciful French Rococo, which in turn was followed by a revival of the Classical.

Finally came the Victorian period during which many fine pieces of English jewellery were produced in spite of the face that good taste in  general was gradually being swamped by industrialism.

This extremely brief outline of jewellery through the age will, it is hoped, have aroused the interest of the reader sufficiently to encourage him, by visiting museums, to delve into this fascinating side of the craft, and so bring these experience and knowledge of the past to help and inspire, and eventually to experience himself the thrill of creating jewellery symbolics of today.