Naturalism bloomed in the nineteenth century. Fashionable ladies adorned themselves with elaborate floral jewels like these rose and peony brooches and cornflower hair ornament. The period’s fascination with flora developed into the Victorian language of flowers, which was used to express a range of sentiments. Each of the following jewels has a different meaning and depicts a different stage of blooming, demonstrating the romantic interest in lifecycles:
The rose about to blossom,
Diamond brooch in the form of a rose, set in gold and silver. English, ca. 1860.
Roses have many meanings depending on their color, but primarily express love. For example, tea rose symbolizes love remembered, pink rose represents secret love, and a white rose signifies innocence.
The peony in full bloom,
Tremblant old-mine diamond peony spray brooch mounted in silver and gold. The brooch was possibly made by an English jeweler for the Russian court, circa 1860.
In the language of flowers, peonies symbolize bashfulness, compassion, and happy marriages.
The cornflower, with its cascading, en pempille, petals, on the verge of decay:
Diamond cornflower hair ornament, set en tremblant, and mounted in silver and gold. French, attributed to Oscar Massin, circa 1850.
The en pempille technique, referring to the cascading stones, combined with the springs of the en tremblant setting, enhances the sense of delicacy and refinement the Victorians expressed through cornflowers in their floral language.
Each of these is a unique example of how master craftsman imitated nature in jewelry. Often set en tremblant, floral-themed jewelry sprang to life, with diamonds sparkling like dew drops, creating a playful rendering of nature out of nature’s materials.
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