Antique gold mesh and filigree – earrings with delicate colored enameled flowers and lively chrysoprase gems, made in France around 1825. London’s VA Museum bequeathed by Dame Joan Evans.

A History of Jewellery 1100-1870

The history of jewelry has closely paralleled the history of mankind. Used as amulets to protect against harm and worn for ceremonial occasions, jewels also signaled wealth, power, and position. This engrossing scholarly study by a noted English antiquarian offers a splendid account of jewelry styles over a 700-year period — from the early Middle Ages and Gothic period, through the Renaissance as well as the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on a number of vital sources — museums and private collections, evidence given by portrait painters, surviving designs for jewels and others — the author gives us not only a comprehensive chronicle of the jewels themselves but also their relation to costume and fashion and their reflection of changing social values.
Enhancing the meticulously detailed narrative are 400 photographs and illustrations depicting, among scores of other pieces, a gold heart-shaped brooch inscribed with “You are my earthly joy,” dating from the fifteenth century; a gold brooch set with sapphires, emeralds, and pearls; a diamond and topaz necklace (c. 1760); a gold padlock, set with cornelian and pearls (c. 1800); a gilt bronze clasp (c. 1200); the silver Loch Buy Brooch, set with rock crystals and pearls (sixteenth century), and a thirteenth-century reliquary pendant of the Holy Thorn.
For anyone interested in the long and fascinating history of handcrafted jewelry, here is a superb sourcebook of extremely rare ornamentation, a rich and detailed study that will also appeal to fashion and costume historians, collectors, and lovers of antiques.