The Victorian era was a time of great change: colonization, exploration, inventions, and new scientific discoveries were changing what British people knew about the world, and new findings and interests were often reflected in jewelry trends of the time. The particular focus of this week's blog is...bugs. Yes, that's right, bugs; insects, those many-legged creepy crawly creatures. The Victorians went crazy for them.


A beetle parure: tiara, necklace, and earrings, all formed of dried weevils with iridescent green wing cases, mounted in gold in the Egyptian taste with lotus motifs. Made by the Phillips Brothers for Lady Granville, the beetles were a gift from the Portuguese ambassador. Interestingly this gift caused quite a political stir. Lord Granville was foreign secretary at the time (1880-1885), and in the scramble for Africa an Anglo-Portuguese treaty had been signed that angered many. Such a gift of Brazilian beetles from Portugal’s former colony indicated gratitude for the treaty, but Lord Granville would not accept the gift himself for fear it looked like bribery. Instead, his wife accepted them and he had them mounted for her

© The Trustees of the British Museum




What started the bug obsession?


In the 19th century, a love of nature was a highly respectable and almost ubiquitous sentiment. Natural history captivated the minds of the people, with scientific writings by the likes of Darwin uncovering previously unheard-of creatures from the farthest reaches of the world. In the same way that sugar, ivory, and chocolate were exotic new treats lapped up by the British as spoils from Britain's colonial expansion, so too were the irridescent images of exciting new animals and insects from distant shores.


To add to this, urbanization was increasingly separating Victorians from nature in their daily lives, and it became popular to find ways of bringing nature into the home: people grew ferns under crystal domes, had huge greenhouses built to house 'newly discovered' exotic plants, and accesorised themselves with jewelry and clothing covered in flora and fauna motifs. At first, jewelry designs often reflected more romanticized notions of the natural world, with Rococo revival pieces featuring delicate sprays of flowers and foliage, but designs soon transitioned into more naturalistic and precise depictons of vividly colored insects. By the 1860s, many Victorian women were wearing moths, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, spiders, flies, and beetles on their parasols, hats, shawls, and jewelry.


Hairpin in the form of a butterfly, brilliant-cut diamonds with a few rose-cut specimens set in silver, backed with gold, Western Europe, c.1830-40

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Brooch in the shape of a dragonfly, gold and gold filigree set with rubies and turquoise on the wings and paste stones on the body, Madras, c.1850. Although this brooch was made in India, it is not a traditional Indian ornament and shows strong European influence in its design and taste - jewelry in the shape of butterflies and dragonflies was very popular in Europe at this time. The cannetille technique used fell out fashion in Europe in the 1850s, but was used in India for much longer

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Victorian brooch depicting a garnet cabochon bug with diamond eyes resting on gold foliage with buds set with almandine garnets, England, c.1860

From @fetheray.jewels via Instagram



A Victorian bug brooch, the body with a natural baroque pearl, the legs embellished with emeralds, and the wings with faceted rubies and old-cut diamonds, the head with old-cut diamonds and cabochon-cut ruby eyes, all mounted in yellow gold with gold brooch fitting, c.1870

Via Bentley & Skinner



A pendant with florentine pietre dure mosaic of a butterfly, a fly, and a beetle, set in a silver frame with niello decoration, c.1880. Locket fitting on the reverse.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Beautiful and rare late Victorian Pietra Dura set by 'Pierre Bazzanti Et Fils', a famous workshop in Florence that specialized in Pietro Dura and fine stonework. The set comprises earrings, a bracelet, studs, and a brooch/pendant, all featuring various insects

Antique Animal Jewelry



Gold winged insect brooch set with ruby eyes and a central old round-cut ruby encircled by eleven old Dutch-cut and old round-cut diamonds. Diamonds also encrust the wings and abdomen, and are set in the head and antenna, c.1880s

Via AC Silver



Victorian crescent moon brooch with a winged insect sitting inside it, set with gemstones, c.1880s

From @andreabalkan via Instagram



A late 19th century fly brooch, the bee set with a dementoid garnet, a ruby eye, diamond wings, and a pearl body, set in silver and gold, with a further pearl to the gold bar brooch, c.1890

Via Bentley & Skinner



Butterfly brooch set with antique paste and a pearl top, silver, c.1890

Via Lancastrian Jewellers



Gold bee, set with rose-cut diamonds and a pearl, mounted on a gold bar brooch, England, c. 1890-1900

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Victorian brooch of a winged insect perched on a spray of leaves and flowers. Set with rose-cut diamonds, four natural pearls, and cabochon-cut ruby eyes; all fashioned in silver backed in gold, c.1900

From @theantiquejewellerygroup via Instagram



Victorian bug brooch with citrine and amethyst, hinge pin and C clasp

From @bloomsbury_antiques via Instagram



Late Victorian flying bug brooch in silver and gold with diamond encrusted wings, ruby set eyes, a sapphire head, and a pearl body

Via Wharfedale Antiques



Victorian pinchbeck pendant/brooch with deep red Vauxhall glass fly

Antique Animal Jewelry



Victorian bug brooch in silver and gold, with blue tiger's eye, diamonds, and rubies

From @piccadillyvaults via Instagram



Late Victorian moth brooch set with diamonds, emeralds, a large opal, and and aquamarine in the centre

Via 1stdibs



That Green Sheen


The other thing that may have lent a hand in the rise of the popularity of insect motifs in Victorian Britain is the discovery and popularity of several types of green gemstone. Firstly, there was peridot, which was a very popular gemstone from the mid 1800s through to the reign of Edward VII, who described it as his favorite gemstone. Used by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, and Edwardian jewelers alike, many pieces from this period feature at least one sparkling green peridot. Secondly, in 1853 a green type of garnet called the demantoid garnet was discovered in the Russian Urals, which soon became hugely sought-after across Europe. The green hues of these gemstones were perfect for insect designs, offering just the right kind of irridescent sheen to capture their likeness.


Dragonfly brooch, the body of a step-cut demantoid garnet, the tail of nine round demantoid garnets, the wings set with old brilliant-cut diamonds, with ruby set eyes and antennae, all in silver, c.1890

Via Bentley & Skinner



A late Victorian demantoid garnet and diamond butterfly brooch, the wings and body encrusted with old-cut and rose-cut diamonds, highlighted with demantoid garnets, with ruby eyes, set in silver, c.1890

Via Bentley & Skinner



A Victorian bar style brooch centering a dragonfly with polished gold legs. The body is comprised of bright green demantoid garnets, the wings are bead set throughout by rose cut diamonds, the eyes are round ruby cabochon accents, c.1900

Via 1stdibs



A Victorian gold and peridot spider brooch

Via Antiques Centre York



A Victorian emerald and diamond fly scatter-pin brooch, each pin in the form of a fly, set with an emerald-cut emerald and old-cut diamond cluster body, with emerald-set middle body, old-cut diamond-set wigs and cabochon ruby eyes, connected with a gold trace-chain, suspended by a gold safety pin set with a rectangular-cut emerald, c.1880

Via Bentley & Skinner



An Art Nouveau necklace designed as two enamel insects centering on a peridot and set with diamond accents, suspended from a contemporary peridot bead necklace, possibly made by Eugène Feuillâtre

Via Christie's





Beatles and Bees: A Trade Abuzz with Insects


The Victorian insect jewelry craze included many different insects, but particularly popular was the beetle. Not only had a specific type of bright green jewel beetle been brought back from South America, inspiring wonder in all those who saw it, but there was also a revival of interest in Egyptian styles and fashions underway. In the 1860s, with the opening of the Suez Canal, and with Britain assuming power in Egypt in 1883, there was a renewed mania for all things Egyptian. This made the beetle, particularly the scarab beetle which was used by Ancient Egyptians as a common motif and symbol of good luck, hugely popular in jewelry designs in the late 19th century.


Turquoise scarab with brilliant-cut diamond surround, set on a twisted band of textured gold, c.1850-1900

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Victorian bug (beetle?) brooch and earrings carved by hand from natural sodalite stone⁠

From @oxfordjewel via Instagram



Late 19th century gold necklace and pendant with a woven 'Milanese' chain of hollow elliptical section with three carved jasper and two carved agate scarab pendants in gold bordered with ropework and triangles of beading A representation of a frog, in relief, is on the box-clasp. Made by Giacinto Melillo

© The Trustees of the British Museum



19th century beetle brooch, the body of the beetle is set with an oval cabochon-cut garnet carbuncle, the head is set with rose-cut diamonds, mounted in silver on gold

Via Bonhams



Antique labradorite, ruby, and diamond beetle ring

Antique Animal Jewelry



Antique chunky garnet and pearl bug conversion ring, with a rose cut diamond on the head

Antique Animal Jewelry



Around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, bees were also a particularly popular motif in insect jewelry. This is mainly thought to be because bees were the emblem of Prince Napoléon Victor Bonaparte of France (known by supporters as Napoléon V), and were worn across Europe to show support for his claim, but bees were also generally well-loved and vibrant insects.


Gold brooch with a reversed crystal intaglio of a bee set in gold ropework and beading with a hair compartment in the reverse. Shown alongside a bee pin and fly pin, c.1870

© The Trustees of the British Museum



A Victorian bee brooch, the thorax set with an old-cut diamond, the abdomen set with four sapphires, the wings encrusted with rose and old European-cut diamonds, with cabochon ruby eyes, all set in silver and gold, with gold detachable brooch fitting, c.1880. Insect iconography became very popular in the Victorian times and bees were considered symbolic of hard work and industry

Via Bentley & Skinner



A pair of gold lapel-studs with enamel decoration in the form of a bee with tail and legs in black enamel; the wings applied and enamelled in white and the body of each bee set with an amethyst and small green or yellow gemstones for eyes. Made by Carlo Giuliano, Piccadilly, London, c.1886-1890

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Victorian tortoiseshell brooch with gold and silver pique inlay detailing

Antique Animal Jewelry




Real Bugs


While most wearers of insect jewelry were simply inspired by descriptions of things seen overseas, and enchanted by the skilful elegance of the colorful, gem-studded jewelry produced in the shape of insects, some went a step further in their obsession. It was not just descriptions that came back from expeditions to places like South America, but many of the vivid bugs themselves were shipped back to Europe to be studied, marvelled over, and - in exceptional cases - worn.


Some Victorians were said to embroider insect wings into their clothing, while others had the irridescent shells or wings of beetles strung together into bracelets and necklaces (shimmering under candlelight these must have been a fantastic conversation starter), while others still were rumoured to have live beetles leashed to pins or kept in tiny gold cages on their clothes and live fireflies adorning their hair. There is even a story from 1891 of a Mrs. DeJones who, it is said, strapped a diamond to the back of a live beetle and trained it to fly around her neck, tracing the shape of a necklace. Whether this particular story is true or not, it certainly was true that newfound collaborations between tradesmen, taxidermists, and goldsmith-jewelers were cropping up across England. Even faux insects—made of gold and silver, rather than chitin—were often set en tremblant, with springs under their wing so that they seemed to quiver with life. Bugs were not the only taxidermy animals to be worn either - there was also a brief fashion for wearing hummingbird heads and owl's claws tipped with silver as coat-clasps.


Tortoise beetles (native to Brazil and common in jewelry) on gilded metal leaves, England, c.1850

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Gold brooch in the form of a beetle on a leaf. The beetle is decorated in green, brown, red and colourless translucent enamel on an engraved and chased ground, and in black enamel. The inner and upper edges of the wing cases are set with diamond sparks, of which the largest is rose-cut. The leaf is engraved and matted and the beetle is attached to the leaf by a screw, England, c.1880

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Stag beetle brooch, stamped and patinated copper alloy, c.1880

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A design for a necklace made from Brazilian beetles, c.1900. Palmettes and beads alternate from the chain. The palmettes support festoons with drops, from the beads hang nine beetles of three sizes

Via Wikimedia Commons




That said, although the fashion for wearing live or stuffed insects did exist amongst the wealthy, fashionable, and educated Victorians, it wasn't a popular one. Many were critical, and were quite horrified by the idea of insects crawling over guests at upper-class events.


‘The large and gaudy insects that crawl over them are cheap and nasty to the last degree… at present, the bonnets and the brains they cover are too often not unfit companions’.

- Mrs H R Hawes, author of The Art Of Beauty (1883)



Art Nouveau Insects


Insects continued to be a powerful and favored motif in jewelry and were used freely in Art Nouveau jewelry (c. 1890-1910). Instead of being gem-encrusted miniature creatures, however, they were done in the Art Nouveau style - with free floating forms inspired by Japanese art, and an experimental use of materials combining enamel and pearls, diamonds and stained-glass style intricate detailing. From Vever and Lalique to Fouquet and Gaillard, many famous Art Nouveau jewelrs/artists drew inspiration from insects to create their works.


An Art Nouveau pendant of two dragonflies with blue and green window enamel wings perched on a branch surrounding a blue glass gem, by Vican

Christie's via The Jewellery Editor



Art Nouveau dragonfly brooch with green and blue plique-à-jour enamel wings and rose-cut diamond borders set en tremblant to the diamond body and green enamel eyes, c.1890, by Boucheron

Via Christie's



An art nouveau gold ring centering an oval doublet opal between two stylised butterflies with green and blue enamel wings and diamond-set bodies and eyes, c.1900, by Eugene Feuillâtre

Via Christie's



An art nouveau gold ring modelled as a naturalistic dragonfly, set throughout with multicoloured window enamel, with emerald details, c.1900, by Lucien Gaillard

Via Christie's



Art Nouveau butterfly brooch, the body set with small rose-cut diamonds and emeralds, the wings enamel plique à jour decorated with rose-cut diamonds, emerals, and rubies, c.1900

Via Christie's



Large brooch of gold and enamel in the form of a hornet hovering by a flower, the stem of the flower curves back on itself then swirls into the distance. This brooch combines the 'wavy line' and the inspiration of flowers and insects - all typical features of Art Nouveau jewelry. Made by Georges Fouquet and designed by Charles Desrosiers, France, Paris, c.1901

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Art Nouveau moth brooch by Emil Riester, enamelled with pearls and rubies, c.1905

Via Pinterest




To wrap up, here is a selection of some of Antique Animal Jewelry's insect jewelry from the archives:



For more rare Georgian and Victorian jewelry, follow Antique Animal Jewelry on Instagram.

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Garnet: the birthstone of January, the pomegranate jewel, has been a gem worn and gifted as a symbol of love and protection since as long ago as 3000 B.C. Garnet beads and gems have been found in jewelry from bronze age graves to the tombs of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, as well as in Ancient Rome and Greece. Treasured by Anglo Saxons and Georgian and Victorian era jewelry lovers alike, the garnet's popularity across the world and time has never dulled.


A necklet with a pendant in two stages, garnets set in silver floral openwork, made in England, c.1760-80

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London




What is a Garnet?


Garnets are silicate minerals that form under extremely high temperatures and pressure. Geologists can actually use them to estimate the temperatures and pressures at which the rock around them was formed. Garnets, however, are not just one type of gemstone. 'Garnet' is actually the name for a group of gems with very similar chemical structures. This group contains six main varieties: Almandine, Pyrope, Spessartine, Grossular, Uvarovite, and Andradite. So, when a piece of antique jewelry says it contains a garnet, it is likely to be one or another of these varieties – almandine being the most common.


Gold ring with a pyramidal bezel set with an almandine garnet with talons below, c.1550-1600

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



18th-century love-ring set in gold with a slender hoop with ribbed shoulders pierced to enclose trefoils; bezel composed of two hearts set with moss agates; bordered and crowned by garnets

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Three aigrettes. Left: in the form of flowers and a feather tied with a bow, with a trembler butterfly. Middle: in the form of a flower spray with a trembler bird. Right: in the form of a spray of flowers, tied with a bow, with a trembler bird. All set with flat-cut garnets, and all c.1726-1775

© The Trustees of the British Museum


A gold pendant in the form of a padlock set with foiled almandine garnets and enclosing hair, c.1800

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A Georgian almandine garnet parure comprising of a necklace, earrings, maltese cross, and brooch, c.1800. Maltese cross garnet drop pendants were made popular by Lady (Emma) Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress, who collected food and money for the Maltese when they were being invaded by France at the end of the eighteenth century. It started out as a wearable medal for good deeds/work but soon became a very popular pendant for English women everywhere

Woolley & Wallis via gem-a



Gold hair ornament set with briolette-cut garnet drops and pearls, c.1830

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Detailed and substantial Georgian garnet snake locket clasp with an elegant locking mechanism

Antique Animal Jewelry



Stamped gold pair of earrings, set with carbuncles (almandine garnets), England, c.1835. Although they look expensive, the swirling gold mounts in this set of jewelry are stamped out of thin gold sheets using far less metal than would appear to be the case. Long earrings came into fashion at the end of the 1820s

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Almandine garnet in a gold mount, c.1850

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Gold heart-shaped locket with engraved foliate decoration, the loop in the form of a snake, set with an oval cabochon garnet or 'carbuncle'. There is a compartment under the glass on the reverse containing a gold initial 'W' and white hair. Accompanied by a label written in ink in a nineteenth-century hand which reads: 'Hair of the great Duke of Wellington. Cut off by C. V. Shelly (Mrs. Kent), c.1852

© The Trustees of the British Museum



A ring set with a garnet with a border of brilliant-cut diamonds in a gold mount, c.1860

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Ring set with an almandine garnet with an intaglio of a Bacchante in a gold mount, the mount probably made in England, c.1800-1869 - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Gold floral spray brooch set with garnets, Spain, c.1800-1860

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Gold girandole earring set with garnets and white pastes, Genoa (Italy), c.1800-1867

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Victorian 15 carat gold locket clasp with garnet cab and tassels. Engraved 'registered 1886'

Antique Animal Jewelry



An antique snake jewel with a garnet set in its head

Antique Animal Jewelry



A selection of antique snake jewelry set with garnets

Antique Animal Jewelry



Antique ouroboros snake bracelet with a garnet set in its head

Antique Animal Jewelry



The name 'Garnet' is believed to come from the Latin word 'Garanatus', meaning 'seedlike'. This refers particularly to pomegranate seeds, which shine with a rich red hue much like a garnet. Garnets, however, are not always red. Most garnets found in antique jewelry do have the signature ruby-red fiery glow, but garnets actually come in a whole range of different colors.


Almandine is usually red with an almost purplish-pink tint; pyropes can be dark red to reddish-orange; spessartines can be a range of colors from yellow-orange to intense orange, to red-brown; grossulars include hessonite (brown-orange), tsavorite (an intense green), leuco garnets (colorless), and mali (yellow-green to yellow-brown); while uvarovites are precious emerald green gems from the Urals, and andradites are a group of gems including melanite (opaque black), topazolite (lemon-yellow), and the highly sought-after and rare demantoid (bright green). While these other colors do exist, they are much rarer - a green garnet of over five carats, for example, is rarer than an emerald of the same size.


Left: A full Georgian eternity ring of flat-cut hessonite garnets. For comparison, the rare flat-cut garnet hoop poissarde earrings on the right are more purple-red in color, so are very likely almandine garnets

Antique Animal Jewelry



Pyrope garnet ring stone with an intaglio of a winged foot resting on a butterfly, c.1st-3rd century CE. Gift of John Taylor Johnston, 1881.

Metropolitan Museum of Art



An early 19th-century rose-gold eye miniature set with 'natural' garnets (probably pyrope since they are red rather than the purplish-red that almandines are). Set over reflective foils, possibly tinted, with an inner area set with seed pearls, probably freshwater pearls

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A hessonite garnet, oblong with rounded corners, set in a gold coronet mount, c.1800-1869

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Earrings with rose-cut diamonds set in silver and hessonite garnets set in gold, c.1680- 1700

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Early 17th-century hessonite garnet depicting a draped female bust in three-quarter profile. She has long, wavy hair cascading down her shoulders. The piece has an open gold mount and is enameled on both the obverse and reverse with alternating leaf and pearl-like shapes in white enamel with black dots

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021


Late 18th/early 19th-century Neoclassical hessonite cameo ring of Emperor Tiberius

Bonhams via gem-a



A Victorian demantoid garnet and diamond double heart ring, each heart set with a demantoid garnet to the center of an old brilliant-cut diamond surround, with diamond-set ribbon bow surmount, the demantoid garnets estimated a total of 3.3 carats, the diamonds estimated a total of 1.1 carats, all set in silver to a yellow gold mount ring, c.1880

Bentley & Skinner




Myths, Legends, and Powers


Carbuncle


For a long time, garnets were often confused with other red gems like rubies and spinels. All of these precious gems were lumped in together with any other red cabochon-cut gems as being the same material, called ‘carbuncles’. The name comes from the Latin word ‘carbunculus’, meaning ‘small, hot coal’ as if the gems had their own internal light glowing forth from within. The name carbuncle is no longer used when referring to the red gems in antique jewelry, but many carbuncles have since been identified as garnets, leading garnets to now be closely associated with the word and with several tales and myths of mysteriously ‘glowing’ red carbuncles.


In the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, The Great Carbuncle (1837), a group of adventurers seek a legendary gem in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that shines with a red light so brilliant it could ‘make a noonday out of midnight’. In the story of Noah’s ark, a ‘precious stone’ believed to be a garnet guides Noah through the year of the flood when the sun and moon aren’t shining. The stone shone ‘more brilliant by night than by day, so enabling Noah to distinguish between day and night’. To add to this legend of the glowing garnet that guides its owners through the dark, the ancient Greeks called garnets ‘nuktalopos’, meaning ‘lamp stone’, and believed that wearing a garnet around the neck could give you the ability to see in the dark.


“The Great Carbuncle,” oil on canvas by William Sidney Goodwin (1833-1916)

Southampton City Art Gallery via Wikimedia Commons




Safe Return


Because of its commonly red coloring as well as its Latin name, garnet is strongly associated with the symbol of the pomegranate. In the tale of Hades and Persephone in Greek mythology, Hades gives Persephone a pomegranate before she leaves him, to ensure her speedy return, binding them to each other across whatever distance. Because of this, garnets have historically been given to loved ones when embarking on a journey as a kind of talisman for a safe return. Garnets were also said generally to protect travelers on their voyages.


In a similar way, there are other tales of garnets engraved with the figure of a lion being an effective charm that will protect and preserve health, cure the wearer of all disease, bring him honors, and guard him against all the possible perils in traveling. It was also said to warn the wearer of approaching danger. One writer wrote that if a garnet loses its luster and shine, it is a sure sign of coming disaster.


Gold finger ring with a circular open-work hoop depicting foliate designs, peacocks, and a cross patée; attached to the hoop is a massive projecting bezel containing a garnet engraved in intaglio with a lion and a bull's head. These are characteristically Byzantine motifs, and the intaglio is c.1stC-3rdC, but the ring may have been worn in later times with the belief that that lion on the garnet was a protective symbol

© The Trustees of the British Museum




Protective & Healing Powers


During medieval times, garnets were thought to offer protection against the plague, poisons, and bad dreams. They were also said to stimulate and lift the heart, helping to cure depression or melancholy and prevent evil thoughts. They were also thought, due to their commonly blood-red coloring, to heal blood diseases, hemorrhages, indigestion, sore throats, and diseases of the liver – almandine and pyrope garnets being the gems of choice for healing properties.


A gold amulet pendant, enameled and set with a hessonite garnet, a peridot, and hung with a sapphire, c.1540-60. The settings of the stones are open at the back for direct contact with the wearer's skin. According to medieval and Renaissance beliefs, the magical properties of the stones better benefitted the wearer this way. Renaissance pendants were often made as protective amulets. Here, the power of the amulet is heightened by an inscription to ward off epilepsy and an invocation to God, Jesus, and Mary

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



The belief that garnets could shield wearers from harm and heal their diseases or wounds was very widespread, and Saxon and Celtic kings favored garnet-inlaid jewelry for these supposed properties. According to tradition, King Solomon wore garnets into battle, and garnet was thought to be one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God.


Anglo-Saxon sword hilt fitting, gold with garnet cloisonné inlay, c. 8th century CE

Photo by portableantiques via flikr



The relationship between garnets and the color of blood has also led religious groups to associate garnets with the blood of Christ, and many crosses are often set with garnets for this reason.


Pendant cross, made of pierced gold set with faceted garnets in high conical mounts, hanging from a matching plaque. The mounts are riveted to the base. Red was the most popular color in traditional jewelry throughout Italy. In the south the jewelers usually used coral, but in the northern and central regions, they decorated their crosses with garnets, as here. Parma, Italy, c.1800-1867

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Pendant cross, garnets set in gold, made in England, c.1800

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Because of the associations of garnet with blood, it was also associated with ancient ideas of the life-giving powers of uterine blood. The pomegranate was also sometimes used as a symbol of the womb. For these reasons, there were some periods of history in certain places where it was thought that only women should wear garnets, due to their connections with feminine life-giving power.




The Popularity of Garnets


As mentioned in the introduction, garnets have been used in jewelry since at least the bronze age, with garnet beads from ancient burial sites dating back to 3000 B.C. Archeologists have recovered many garnet necklaces and talismans from Ancient Egyptian tombs, and many impressive garnet signet rings have been traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome, used by important men to seal their documents and convey their wealth and status. Being such a hard and durable stone (surviving as some of the pieces have for around 5000 years), garnets were often favored for creating engraved pieces like seals, intaglios, and cameos depicting classical figures or deities. It is said that Plato had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver.


Pectoral and necklace composed around the throne name of King Senwosret II. It was found among the jewelry of Princess Sithathoryunet in a special niche of her underground tomb. The pectoral is inlaid with 372 carefully cut pieces of carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and garnet set in gold, c.1887–1878 B.C.

Metropolitan Museum of Art



The bodies of two snakes form the shank of an Egyptian gold ring with a cabochon-cut red garnet in the center. Roman period (30 BCE-323 CE) - Photo: liveauctioneers.com and TimeLine Auctions Ltd



A garnet intaglio of Queen Berenike II of Ptolemaic Egypt in a gold ring setting. To ensure the safe return of her husband from battle, Queen Berenike II dedicated her hair to the gods. The constellation Berenice’s Hair, near Leo, commemorates this event. (Earlier in her life, she reputedly rode into a battle after the death of her father and defeated the enemy), c.246-222 BCE

Walters Art Museum via Gem Society



A classical Greek intaglio engraved in garnet (4thC BC) in a Roman ring (2ndC) with an angular hoop and oblong bezel with rounded corners, depicting Herakles, beardless, attacking the hydra with his club

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Victorian garnet eternity ring worn below a fede ring c.1750 - this ring has a pair of clasped hands carved into the central almandine garnet stone, with table-cut diamonds in silver set into the elaborate shoulders Antique Animal Jewelry



Garnets were also extremely popular amongst the Anglo Saxons as protective pieces to wear into battle but also generally as small, simple, domed or faceted pieces used to embellish brooches, pendants, and buckles.


Gold Anglo-Saxon buckle plate with inlaid cloisonné garnets, filigree work, and silver back-plate

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Early Anglo Saxon gold tear-shaped pendant set with garnets and blue glass and with a filigree rim

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Garnets have a lot of royal and noble prestige too – from the Pharos of Ancient Egypt to the nobility of the Middle Ages, Mary Queen of Scots, the Russian Czarinas, The King of Saxony (who is said to have had a garnet of over 465 carats), and Queen Victoria – many royals favored garnets in their jewelry and accessories.


Gold ring with a forked shank and an ouroboros open bezel, set with a garnet intaglio of a bust of George III (1738-1820) when a young man. The intaglio is dated c. 1760 but the ring is from the twentieth century

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



A gold ring set with twelve red stones thought to be garnets and a single glass panel containing the woven hair of George III. This ring belonged to Princess Sophia and later to Queen Victoria

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



A plain gold ring with a faceted garnet inserted into the bezel and backed with foil. The onyx cameo inlaid into the garnet features a very small, very finely cut cameo of King George IV (1762-1830). Throughout the Regency and the 1820s the Royal goldsmiths, Bridge & Rundell, regularly supplied George IV with cameo and intaglio rings carrying his likeness. Many such rings were gifted to the King’s favorites

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



Gold brooch bordered with garnets in a closed back setting and set with a resin 'cameo' of a full-length portrait of William Shakespeare holding a scroll and leaning on a column The 'cameo' is cast resin in white with a pink ground, under glass and inscribed on the reverse, c.1815

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Carl Fabergé (1846–1920), Jeweller to the Czars, Saint Petersburg, Scarab brooch, c.1900. Garnet, gold, diamonds, rubies, enamel, silver

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts via palagems.com



This brooch, c.1849-50, is based on an ancient prototype and shows a revival of interest in Celtic history at the time. It is a variant of the Ogham Brooch, a ninth-century piece from Ballyspellan, which is engraved with Celtic knotwork. The cabochon-cut garnets (or carbuncles) are a nineteenth-century enrichment, the original having silver beads. It was purchased by Prince Albert and presented to Queen Victoria at Christmas 1849, having been acquired during the royal visit to Dublin in August 1849

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021




Garnets had a particular explosion in popularity in Europe around 1500, when the Bohemian garnet deposits were discovered (in modern-day Czechia). This sudden widespread availability meant that garnets started to be used widely in jewelry, from rings and earrings to opulent pendants and parures set with flat-cut almandines of cushion, pear, and circular shapes. Bohemia became a center for garnet jewelry, with Bohemian artisans popularly setting garnets in clusters so that they resembled the pomegranate seeds they were named for.


Antique Bohemian garnet earrings, c. 1900

Photo: liveauctioneers.com and The Cleveland Auction Company.



Bohemian garnet earrings

Lang Antiques



Pair of gilt-metal, upside-down heart-shaped earrings set with garnets and pearls. These earrings are typical of the kind fashionable in Britain from the mid-19th century onwards. They are set with facetted garnets from Bohemia, bought in southern Germany, c.1850-1870

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A 'Bohemian' garnet cross, c.1890

Woolley & Wallis via gem-a



Garnets continued to be highly popular in Europe well into the 18th and 19th centuries, as they were affordable and attractive gems. Chokers were popular in the mid-1700s, while necklets were popular from the 1780s. In Perpignan in France, local garnets were faceted like rose-cut diamonds and set as simple rivières or spikey fringed necklaces.


Beautiful Georgian flat-cut garnet choker c.1750 that fastens by way of a silk velvet or a silk satin ribbon. The garnets are set into gilt metal closed back clusters

Antique Animal Jewelry



A Georgian flat-cut garnet suite. The suite comprises a rivière necklace and pair of earrings, each featuring naturalistic flower and foliate motifs, c.1780

Butterlane Antiques



An 18-carat gold necklace set with 37 round, rose-cut rhodolite garnets on red-gold foil, graduated in size. Suspended from each garnet is a smaller one and below that a small gold ball. The lock has an oval garnet. South of France, end 19th century

Inez Stodel Antique Jewellery



Garnets briefly fell out of favor after 1820, but experienced a revival around the 1870s when ‘Holbeinesque’ jewelry (Renaissance-inspired pendants and earrings) saw pyrope garnets set in colorful, champlevé-enameled frames alongside other gems like diamond or chrysolite. This was the so-called ‘Grand Period’ of jewelry and the rich and bold color of the garnet provided the perfect statement gem for distinctive bracelets, brooches, and necklaces. However, Victorian pieces are identifiable for being lighter and usually set in lower carat gold, with the work not being quite as fine as that of the Georgian era.


Victorian double snake marriage brooch/pendant comprising two cabochon garnets set with diamond initials EW and SS. The garnets are encircled by two gold snakes set with 8 old cut diamonds and joined by a natural pearl and two more diamonds. The back of the garnets are set with hair lockets and one of them is engraved ‘4 Sept 1844’

Antique Animal Jewelry


A Neo-Renaissance gold 'Holbeinesque' pendant mounted with a pyrope garnet cabochon in a champlevé enameled frame set with chrysolites, c.1870

Woolley & Wallis via gem-a



Victorian 18K gold earrings with carbuncles (oval cabochon garnets) and seed pearls, c. 1870.

Photo: liveauctioneers.com and John Moran Auctioneers, Inc.



Victorian heart padlocks set with garnets, all with a hair locket on the reverse

Antique Animal Jewelry



In 1853, Demantoid – the bright green andradite garnet – was discovered in the Russian Urals. By the 1880s, it was being set in jewelry across Europe, including in the works of Peter Carl Fabergé and other jewelers in London who obtained supplies from gem merchants such as E W Streeter. The green hues of the demantoid were a perfect fit for making jewelry of reptilian and insect designs, creating a surge in the popularity of brooches in the shapes of animals like frogs, lizards, and dragonflies.


Demantoid Garnet Snake Brooch, c.1890

Lang Antiques



A Demantoid garnet and diamond dragonfly brooch, c.1880

Woolley & Wallis via gem-a



A Victorian demantoid garnet and diamond lizard brooch, the writhing lizard encrusted with old brilliant-cut diamonds, estimated to weigh a total of 2.65 carats, silver claw-set to a yellow gold mount, set with a central streak of round-shaped faceted garnets, estimated to weigh a total of 1.50 carats, with garnet eyes, claw-set to a yellow gold mount, all to a detachable yellow gold brooch fitting, c.1880

Bentley & Skinner

Today, garnets are still a very popular gem to use in jewelry. Although we may have lost a lot of the meanings attached to sentimental, symbolic, or protective pieces of the past, it is still widely favored for its magnificent variety of reddish hues, which come at a cheaper price (usually) than rubies.


To wrap up, here is a selection of some of Antique Animal Jewelry's garnet jewelry:



For more rare Georgian and Victorian jewelry, follow Antique Animal Jewelry on Instagram.

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On the 18th June 1912, a group of laborers demolishing a building in Cheapside in London discovered something quite incredible beneath their feet. Lying undiscovered under the streets of Cheapstreet for several centuries, in the bricked-up vaults below, was what would become known as one of the most internationally important collections of gemstones and jewelry to ever be uncovered in Britain. On that day in 1912, the great secret was revealed when one of the laborer's pickaxes broke through the remains of an old wooden casket, revealing a stash ablaze with the brilliance of some 500 gems.


A selection of items from the Cheapside hoard © Museum of London




What is the Cheapside Hoard?


The Cheapside Hoard is a vast collection of jewels spanning hundreds of years of history and a great deal of the globe, gathered in London and stashed away in the 17th century in the cellar of 30-32 Cheapside, where the hoard would remain for almost 300 years, untouched. From crucifixes to cameos, scent bottles to hairpins, and chains to timepieces - it is an incredible find.


There are a lot of questions surrounding the Cheapside hoard that are still unanswered. Who did it belong to? Why did they bury it there, in the cellars? Why didn't they ever come back for it? Naturally, where there are unanswered questions there is a lot of speculation.


Some believe the hoard contained stolen goods and was stashed away by a criminal. Most, however, agree that the hoard was the 'stock-in-trade' of a goldsmith-jeweler, containing as it does both finished pieces, unfinished pieces,