Birds in jewelry: the symbolism behind the stones
Delicate and luminous creatures, links between heaven and earth, birds have always provoked wonder. It is therefore not surprising that they are magnified in jewelry.
Populating our universe as well as our imagination, these sublime creatures are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. They enchant us, whether in mythology, through poetry or by pure and grandiose symbols such as the dove, allegory of peace. No doubt they attract jewellery artists in their creative research. But also, the birds, by their exquisite panel of colors, allow the latter a great possibility of expression. Between the lines, the forms, the tones or the gestures, the diversity of the species offers an infinite field of interpretation.
A little history
Revealing an exotic aesthetic, birds begin to arouse a strong interest between the XIX and XX century. They arouse curiosity and imbue minds with the image of travel and adventure. Their beauty led jewelers to represent foreign species like the Peacock Feather brooch by Mellerio. Unveiled at the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris, the subject of this exceptional piece was unprecedented for the time. In the same way, their power of seduction invited artists to conceive new imaginary creatures.
Moreover, Art Nouveau was a very fertile period for this theme. Between the irregular and sinuous lines or the flamboyance of the colors, a new aesthetic develops, visible for example in the swans of Rene Lalique with remarkable elegance. This new aesthetic is directed with the wire of the period towards more geometrical lines, simplifying the forms of the jewels of time. Inspired by other countries such as Japan, new birds appear in French jewelry such as the crane, symbol of longevity in the land of the rising sun.
The decline of the Art Deco period from the 1930s onwards brought about a change in the emphasis on jewelry birds. The creations become more sculptural and are treated in 3 dimensions. The dynamism is very sought after, contrasting with the previous synthetic stylization. Finally, in the post-war period, jewelers are also moving towards more modern forms with refined, even abstract lines.
Focus on different emblems
Beyond aesthetics, birds carry many cultural, symbolic and political references. For example, during the Second World War Jeanne Toussaint and Peter Lemarchand designed birds in cages for Cartier. This creation was a protest against the German occupation. At the Liberation, Boivin created a rooster that became the symbol of French independence. The “Lovebirds” by Van Cleef & Arpels celebrate the harmony and peace restored to the home after the war. From this image, many jewelers designed creations that embody the freedom regained. The eagle, meanwhile, since antiquity until today remains linked to power.
Generally carrying positive messages, birds often represent joy, peace (symbol of the dove with an Oliver branch), fidelity and even love (such as the dove and the dove).
The symbolism of the peacock is most flattering in Asia. It is a sign of beauty and nobility in the East, a cosmic bird in India. Its plumage also recalls the magnificence of seduction thanks to all the splendor of its nuptial parade. Its colors, fabulous mixture of blue, green and gold, led it to symbolize the sun. Complex, it also evokes in the West vanity, pride and luxury. Assimilated to the image of the femme fatale in the arts of the XIX century, sensuality, mystery, danger and exoticism are then in the honor.
The hummingbird is the bird par excellence of jewelry. Its size, which allows the miniature evokes lightness and preciousness. Naturally, it fits in with the jewelry codes thanks to the plume of its tail, which allows a wide choice of stones and color schemes.
The Birds of Paradise reveal extravagance. Populating faraway lands, they fascinate Westerners and invite jewelers to compete with each other to create magical and flamboyant plumage that calls for exoticism and wonder.
To take up the thermals of the School of Jewelry Arts, the historian Jules Michelet publishing The Bird recalls the role of the latter in nature. “In the center of this harmony, it is at the same time architect, singer, educator and fighter. He wants to be the guardian of freedom. Also, the jewelers, creators of dreams, beauty and history, could only pay tribute to its splendor and grace. A successful bet.
Read also > The symbolism of love sublimated by jewellery
Featured photo : © Célia Mastorchio-Fabbri
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