History of Jewelry Part 5: Baroque|
By the end of the Renaissance, jewelry trends had moved from simple, classical design peppered with enameled figures and architectural relief towards mountains of glittering faceted stones. Germany had become a leading source of gemstones and jewelry design in the sixteenth century, and the last decades of that century saw new species of ornament issuing forth from German soil: pieces with rich and varied surface decoration composed of scroll ornamentation set with flowers, fruit and figures. Precious stones that had been a fairly insignificant part of jewelry took on a prominent position in design. Used singly at first, in table-cut form, precious stones came next to be arranged next to one another and in long rows.
After the Thirty Years’ War handicapped Germany’s industries, jewelers sought employment elsewhere and it was from France that many new ideas came in the seventeenth century. French clothing fashions were evolving and influenced the jewelry that was produced in the region, and therefore the styles that were popular all around Europe. Instead of the velvet and brocade that were in vogue during the Renaissance, damask clothing was all the rage, along with an extravagant amount of lace and ribbons. Ornamentation became more open and lace-like in character to match the charming garments of the Baroque period, and the light nature of this meta-work was very suitable for the display of precious stones.
At first it was primarily colored precious stones that graced the jewelry of the Baroque period, but soon, the diamond took absolute precedence over all other elements of the setting – metalwork and color were quite subordinate to the new glistening cuts available in the 1600s. From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, there were two cuts practiced with diamonds. These were the point cut – a process by which the native octahedral shape of the rough diamond was polished and evened out – or table cuts – neither of which cut did much at all to enhance the brilliance of the stone. While Venice had been one of the two principal ports through which diamonds passed from India to Europe, French travelers succeeded in establishing new commercial relationships in India and introduced more precious stones, more diamonds, and more exact narratives of their experiences, which led to knowledge of new cuts. The rose cut came into wild popularity at the time; with its flat bottom and convex crown covered with a number of small facets, this new cut revealed the inherent qualities of the stone in a wonderful way. The brilliant cut came later, in eighteenth century Italy, but the rose was still popular until the early 1900s.