History of Jewelry Part 4: Renaissance|
Women wore hairpins – often called bodkins – that were richly decorated with stones. Queen Elizabeth received several such ornaments as New Year’s gifts: “A bodkyn of golde, garnished at the ende with four smale diamondes and a smale rubye, with a crown of ophales, and a very smale perle pendant peare fashone… a bodkin of golde, with a flower thearat, garnished with smale rubyes and ophals on one side,… a bodkinne of silver, with a little ostridg of gold, pendant, enammuled, and two waspes of golde lose enamuled.”
Women also began to wear earrings in the Renaissance. In the Middle Ages, women wore their hair over their ears, which meant that they did not wear earrings, but by the sixteenth century, Italian paintings show that some women did sport this form of adornment. One example is a set of elaborate earrings rendered in an openwork scroll pattern with three pendant pearls, measuring more than two and a half inches in length. A painting from sixteenth century Italy shows an ear pierced twice, each of which piercing is strung with a separate ring that is bound to the same pendant of two pearls mounted in gold, from which pendant three pearls hang below. This is an example of the sort of wonderful ostentation that the Renaissance begat in terms of personal adornment, but was by no means a common style. Men wore earrings in the Renaissance as well: King Charles I hung a large pearl from his left ear, which he wore all the way to the scaffold from which he was hung, at which point he took the pearl from his ear and gifted it to a faithful follower. The King’s pearl was five-eighths of an inch long, mounted to a gold top, fitted with a hook to pass through the lobe.
Bracelets were one of the least popular decorations during the Renaissance, and that is because garments worn at the time were still in general long-sleeved. Those bracelets that have been found from the period consist of beads of amber or black stone separated by balls of gold. Sometimes strings of carved cameo portraits were made into bracelets. Poetry from the period suggests that bracelets were sometimes given as tokens of affection, made from everything from a lover’s hair to the more conventional band of gemstones.
The Renaissance was a time during which all the countries of Europe engaged in much geographical exploration, and the countries traded styles of fashion and jewelry as much as other products. Germans, for example, studied in the great Italian ateliers, and artists such as Albert Durer were greatly influenced by such teachings. Traveling north from Italy in the early Renaissance, classicism became less and less important, and styles became more and more mixed, including straps, ribbons, cartouches, and elaborate details not popular in Italy until the Baroque period.