The second half of the 17th century was subject to religious conflicts which divided Europe and caused many protestant craftsmen to flee their Catholic countries of birth and seek asylum in the protestant states like those of the Republic of the Netherlands. The French court became the new leading fashion trendsetter. During the Renaissance this role had been fulfilled by the Habsburg courts of Spain and Austria, bringing uniformity in court dress by diplomatic marriages and political influences. International trade flourished which allowed a middle class of merchants and craftsmen to rise and increase their wealth considerably. This allowed the bourgeoisie to start buying the kind of jewelry which, up until then, had been reserved for nobles. It is in the 17th century that retail jewelers emerge, distinct from the craftsman jeweler of the past.
champleve enamel. The fashion for moresque art came from Spain, where until 1492 an Islamic caliphate had been situated. The motifs were excellent ways to decorate large flat surfaces such as miniature cases as well as watch cases, which were a new appearance in the repetoire of jewelry items. Gemstone setting was now focused on highlighting and enhancing the gem, a result of the increased quality attained by improved cutting and foiling techniques. More advanced cutting designs also allowed for a much greater diversity of available shapes and jewelers began putting emphasis on displaying the stones themselves instead of just on the sculpted goldwork. On the right we can see a pendant design by Daniel Mignot, early 17th century. Note the the use of arabesque motifs, the architectural look created with the aligned diamonds and the perfect symmetry.
Flora, fashionable in embroidery since the end of the 16th century, was now adopted by jewelry designers as well. Painted enamel, champleve enamel and email on ronde bosse flowers were everywhere. From the 1650's on engraving in metal was another, and later preferred, way of depicting flowers.
The second half of the 17th century saw the importance of faceted gemstones in designs increase even further. Gem mountings became more delicate and the designs moved away from cluster settings to naturalism and ribbon bows.
The bow is one of the most prevalent features of Baroque jewelery. Its origin is in the ribbon that was used to secure a jewel to a robe and turned into a popular motif itself. Made of precious metal and decorated with gemstones, pearls and enamel, the bow brooch or pendant is seen on many portraits and designs.
By the end of the 17th century asymmetrical bouquets or individual flowers prevailed and the use of enamel diminished to the point that it was only to be found in the most conservative circles. A differentiation between jewelry meant to be worn during the day and jewelry that was fit to be worn in the light of a flame emerged. This tendency developed further over the Georgian period.embossed or engraved on metal. Enamel had completely been abandoned as a decorative technique in jewelry. We find the Rococo style mainly in functional jewelry like chatelaines and snuff boxes.
Diamonds were extremely popular as well during the Baroque period. Their availability had greatly increased as a result of intensified trading with India by the Portuguese, British and Dutch trading companies who reached the country by sea. An important diamond deposit was found in the early 17th century: that of Hyderabad in the Golconda region. Tavernier visited several diamond mining areas in India and his accounts tell us about the vast magnitude of the operations.
|“||The first time I was at this mine there was nearly 60,000 persons working there, including men, women, and children, who were employed in various ways, the men digging, the women and children in carrying earth...||”|
Of the colored stones ruby, emerald and topaz were among the highest prized species. High quality imitation jewelry with strass (paste) was being produced on a large scale in order to meet the increased demand of the growing bourgeoisie.
Enamel had retained its popularity for a very long time. From the Middle Ages all through the Renaissance and deep into the Baroque period, a continuous line in enameling can be observed. Jean Toutin from Blois, France managed to give a whole new impulse to painted enamel, creating wonderful miniature paintings of extreme high quality, a skill he passed onto his sons.
Men's jewelry was most extravagant in France. This is most certainly reflected in the period during the reign of Louis XIV who, by the end of his life, had an enormous collection of jewelry and precious stones. Mainly due to the efforts of Cardinal Mazarin quite a few famous diamonds were present in this collection. In England men's jewelry was more restrained. It appears that continental fashion did not affect England much in the mid 17th century while it was under the puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell. Royalist jewelry with miniature depictions of the executed king Charles I became popular among those who opposed puritanism. Spanish men wore the least jewelry of all, apart from some devotional or chivalric items, the wearing of jewelry was restricted by law.
A new development was the watch. In the 17th century it became an ornament by itself. During the Renaissance clocks had been integrated into all kinds of existing ornaments but now the watch came into its own right. Just about every possible technique including gems on enameled fields, engraving, and embossing was unleashed to turn watch cases into the most astonishing jewelry items of their day.