Parisian goldsmith Marie-Etienne Nitot, founder of Chaumet, caused quite a stir in French high society when his creations for the wedding of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josefina de Beauharnais were created and displayed many years ago. Napoleon’s taste for jewellery was political. He wanted to make France the centre for luxury and fashion design, as it was before the French Revolution. Nitot became his official jeweller. A creative and innovative man, Nitot passed on that same attention to quality and originality to his successors. Following his epic debut in the jewelry world his title as the most famous jeweler of eighteenth-century Europe was solidified when he made a gorgeous piece of jewelry for Queen Marie Antoinette’s niece. Since then, the jewelers of Paris have been continuously celebrated over the years for the magnificence and elegance of their works.
Jewelry in the history of mankind
In the history of mankind, jewels have always been present in one way or another. A surprising discovery of a fragment of a bracelet dates back to almost 50 thousand years ago in central Asia, and is considered to be the oldest known jewel to date.
Later, the Egyptian civilization began to use gold, copper and silver along with precious stones such as lapis lazuli, jade and ruby in their remarkable pieces created by goldsmiths.
In Ancient Greece, the combination of gold with precious stones was developed in fine spirals, leaves and pins with carved heads, along with diadems and laurel crowns carved in gold, which, according to ancient grecians, provided intellect and light to its owners.
As for jewelry created in Rome, they used gold, silver, precious stones, ceramics and pearls. With one of the country’s most outstanding pieces being a ring, carved in iron as a symbol of eternity.
In the Near East they developed gold in filigree, rings, necklaces, amulets, mirrors and objects of worship.Pre-Hispanic cultures also worked with gold, silver and precious stones such as emerald. The delicate pre-Columbian goldwork bequeathed amazing ornamental pieces such as masks, helmets, breastplates, headbands, necklaces and other pieces of jewelry, from the regions of Mexico, Colombia and Peru.
Times and styles
In the Middle Ages, jewels were for the exclusive use of kings, rich merchants and nobles. France and England passed laws prohibiting ordinary people from using ornaments in metals and precious stones. These restrictions helped turn jewels into symbols of power, authority and wealth. They were also attributed magical powers that we see today represented in the medieval sagas of cinema.
The advent of the Renaissance meant the incorporation of more artistic details into jewelry, resulting in famous painters and sculptors delving into jewelry design. Technological advances and industrial production from the seventeenth century allowed the emergence of fashion trends and the concept of sets (several pieces of similar design). Already in the twentieth century, Art Nouveau gave jewelry the splendor of design, valuing forms and originality. ■
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