Have you ever seen a piece of jewelry with two or more different animals on it, and wondered what the significance was? Maybe you've seen a snake and a lion fighting, or a fox and a bird facing each other, and wondered why they've been paired together in that way. Well, there's a good possibility that the jewelry you've seen is depicting a scene from one of Aesop's fables.


A tortoise-shell box with a silver relief scene of 'The Fox and the Crow' from Aesop's Fables. Classical ruins are shown in the background, and there is a border of fruit and shell motifs entwined with snakes. © The Trustees of the British Museum




What are Aesop's Fables?

Aesop's Fables are a collection of moral stories credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller - or 'fabulist' - living in Ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Aesop's Fables were stories supposedly told by Aesop and passed on by storytellers after his death. They weren't collected in written form until roughly 300 years later.


If you've ever heard the story of 'The Hare and the Tortoise' then you know at least one of Aesop's Fables already. Maybe you've also heard of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf', or 'The Lion and the Mouse'? Aesop's Fables have been told, read, and taught for thousands of years. They have been in print in England since the first English publisher produced an English translation in 1484.

Aesop by Diego Velázquez, c.1638. Via Museo Del Prado

New fables, translations, and illustrations are being added all the time to Aesop's collection. It's estimated that there are up to 725 of them, and there could be more still, though it's hard to know if Aesop is the origin of all of these. In fact, it was fairly common practice to attribute any old fables with no known literary source to Aesop.


In the mid-late 1600s, Jean de la Fontaine collected fables from the global West and East, including many of Aesop's, translating them into French free verse. Rhyming, poetic translations of Aesop's fables like this were not uncommon, but La Fontaine's were considered so great that he became the most famous French 'fabulist' of the 17th century.




POPULARITY

Aesop's Fables became particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. At this time, Aesop's Fables were not only moral tales for adults but also illustrated children's stories read in nurseries and schools. The fables became popular amongst all age groups, and the Victorians in particular cultivated a love for their wisdom and proverbs, making many buttons, plates, and jewelry featuring subjects from the fables. At a time where the symbolism of animals was a particularly enticing concept in artwork and jewelry, having added layers of moral meanings and maxims had the power to take such symbolism to the next level.


Antique 18kt gold and hardstone cameo necklace depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables. The central cameo shows 'The Fox and the Stork', the suspended drop on the left shows 'The Fox and the Crow', and the one on the right shows 'The Wolf and the Lamb'. Via SkinnerInc.com




Identifying Aesop's Fables Jewelry


It can be very hard to identify pieces showing scenes from Aesop's Fables, particularly where animals are featured alone. Often the difference between a piece of antique fox jewelry and an antique piece depicting the fox from one of Aesop's fables lies in the borderwork or in the suggestions of accompanying scenery, such as a bird or a bunch of grapes. This means the true meaning of many Aesop jewelry pieces may not be known, carrying their symbolism silently through the ages.

The easiest pieces to identify are pieces that depict two or three different animals together in one piece, likely interacting with each other, or one or more animals interacting with some other significant object in some way. In this blog, we want to provide a list of some of the most popular fables, to help you identify pieces of Aesop inspired jewelry.




Most Popular Animal Fables


THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE


This is by far the most well-known of Aesop's many fables and is still taught in schools today. In this fable, a hare boasts about his swiftness and agrees to a race with a tortoise. In some versions of the tale, a fox acts as their judge. The hare is so confident he will win, that he decides to run ahead of the tortoise and take a nap until the tortoise catches up. While the hare is napping, the tortoise keeps going, slowly but surely. When the hare eventually wakes up, he realizes he has overslept and the tortoise is now ahead of him, near the finish line. He runs as fast as he can to catch up, but it's not fast enough.


© The Trustees of the British Museum


The story has several moral lessons; one of these is often condensed into the maxim, 'slow and steady wins the race'. Other associated sentiments include, 'never give up' and 'perseverance always prevails'. The story and the symbol of the hare serve as a reminder to avoid hubris - i.e arrogance and overconfidence - relating to the biblical proverb 'pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall'.


A Late Victorian gold brooch depicting the tortoise and the hare from Aesop's fables with natural pearl accents. Converted into a pair of earrings on fine 18carat chain that thread through the ear. Antique Animal Jewelry



Victorian 15ct pair of brooches depicting 'The Hare and the Tortoise', both set with precious stones and held together with a chain dotted with seed pearls. Via potteriesauctions.com



Victorian paste-set silver 'the tortoise and the hare' pendant brooch. The running hare and tortoise are set with round paste stones, and the tortoise has cabochon ruby eyes.

Via The Saleroom



Silver and paste Tortoise and Hare brooch, c.1900 Via Cobra and Bellamy Jewellery



Antique silver and paste brooch, England, c.1910. Both creatures are set with white, faceted paste with red paste for eyes. There is a pin on the back of the hare, and the hare and tortoise are linked by a short chain.

Via Ruby Lane



Two rings made from 19th-century wax seals. Diamonds are set at crucial points: the center of the heart-shaped padlock, and at the tortoise and the hare's finish line. Made by @jeanjeanvintage. Via @ericaweiner on Instagram




THE FOX AND THE GRAPES


© The Trustees of the British Museum


The story of this fable goes: One day a fox saw a beautiful bunch of grapes hanging just out of reach. The fox tried and tried to reach for them, but couldn't. He went away in disgust, scornfully saying that they were probably sour anyway and not worth having. This tale bears the reminder: 'It is easy to pretend to despise what you cannot obtain'.


Victorian-era gold and enamel pendant earrings depicting Aesop's 'The Fox and the Grapes', France, c.1860. Via 1stdibs.com



Late Victorian 9ct gold fox brooch with 9ct gold vine leaves and seed pearls depicting grapes

Via Selling Antiques



Antique sterling silver 'Fox and Grapes' scissors

Via @bee_vintage_41 on Instagram



Antique pictorial figural depicting Aesop's fable of 'The Fox and the Grapes'

From Pinterest via Ebay



Antique clothing button depicting Aesop's 'The Fox and the Grapes' with an embossed, brass, open-work front and a tin backing, c.1800s. Via Ebay



Heart charm of Aesop's 'The Fox and the Grapes' in crisp relief, accentuated by a rich patina, c.1940s. Via Ruby Lane



Gold brooch set with a glass micro mosaic of the 'Fox and Grapes', inlaid into a black glass background, c.1830-1850. Unlike in Aesop's fable, the fox here has secured the grapes. © The Trustees of the British Museum




THE FOX AND THE STORK


This fable tells of a fox who, seeking to play a trick on the stork (a.k.a the crane), invites the stork to dinner. For dinner, the fox serves soup in a very shallow dish, which the stork cannot drink, his beak being too long. The fox has no trouble, however, and makes a great show of enjoying the soup. The stork stays calm, and not long afterward returns the invitation, asking the fox to dinner. He serves the fox a delicious fish meal in a vase with a long, narrow neck, so that the fox can do nothing but smell it and lick the outside of the vase while the stork enjoys his meal. The fox flies into the rage and the stork says, 'do not play tricks on your neighbors unless you can stand the same treatment yourself'. This illustrates the biblical teaching, 'do to others what you would have them do to you'.


© The Trustees of the British Museum



Antique silver 19th-century watch key featuring Aesop’s Fable, 'The Fox and the Stork'. The watch key has the message of the fable in German on the reverse.

Antique Animal Jewelry



Jasperware medallion, possibly of French origin, depicting the Aesop fable of 'The Fox and the Stork' set in dark patinated brass or bronze with a bright rhinestone border, mid-19th century.

Via Ruby Lane



Aesop's Fable of 'The Fox and the Stork' Perfume Bottle

From The Three Graces via Pinterest



Victorian-era French 18k yellow gold and silver depiction of Aesop's stork. Silver body, gold outlined wings, crest, claws, and tail, and an amphora crafted from a natural saltwater pearl with a gold rim and a seed pearl in the gold bottom. The eyes are cabochon onyx and turquoise, c.1850-1870. Via ADIN



Antique button depicting a scene from Aesop's 'The Fox and the Stork' From Ruby Lane via Pinterest



Antique button depicting the fox watching in dismay as the stork eats a delicious fish dinner from a narrow-necked goblet, from Aesop's 'The Fox and the Stork'. Embossed, open-work, painted/plated brass front, a brass outer rim, and a tin backing. Via Ebay



Three color gold brooch with a stylized central motif of a stork standing in water in bulrushes, possibly inspired by Aesop's fables, c. 1910. Via Selling Antiques




THE LION AND THE SNAKE


This fable is about a lordly lion who is hunting for prey and finds nothing but a snake. Disappointed, he brushes aside the snake with his paw, but the enraged snake turns on him, delivering a deadly bite. The snake shouts, 'Die, imperious tyrant! Let thy example show that no strength or power is sufficient at all times to screen a despot from destruction, but that even reptiles, when provoked, may be the cause of his annihilation.' In essence, it is unwise to insult any person, no matter how beneath you you might believe them to be, as there will be consequences.


Images via fablesofaesop.com


This story is harder to identify in pieces of jewelry. The serpent and the lion are both considered amongst the most powerful and deadly creatures of the world, so they were popularly depicted fighting together - especially in Art Nouveau jewelry - so it's uncertain how much influence can be traced to the Aesop fable.



19th-century Italian bracelet made from 18-carat gold, enamel, diamonds, topaz, rubies, emeralds, and a sapphire crown. Lion vs. snake, possibly inspired by the Aesop fable.

Antique Animal Jewelry



Art Nouveau locket depicting a lion fighting a snake, rendered in remarkably fine detail with intricate engraving, a ruby for the eye of the snake, and a diamond for the lion's eye, c.1890-1900s

Via Erie Basin



THE LION AND THE MOUSE


In this fable, a mouse is running up and down and annoying a nearby lion who, getting fed-up, decides to eat the mouse. The mouse begs the lion not to, saying that if the lion saves his life now, the mouse may be able to do the lion a favor in the future. Later, the lion finds himself caught in a trap. The mouse, happening to be passing by at the time, gnaws at the ropes and frees the lion. This fable gives us the message that patience, gratitude, and generosity are all good values that may be repaid in kind.


Wax seal necklace with Aesop's 'The Lion and The Mouse' and caption 'Patience'. The wax seal used in this charm dates back to the 1840s, an authentic antique wax seal from the Napoleon III of France era.

Via rqpstudio.com



Sterling Silver 'Lion and Mouse' wax seal ring, made using an 1820’s French wax seal

Via Etsy



Sterling silver 'Lion and Mouse' cuff bracelet made using an 1820's French wax seal Via Plum and Posey




THE DOG AND HIS REFLECTION


In this tale, a dog is carrying some food across a bridge. Looking down into the river below, the dog spies his reflection. Thinking it is another dog and wanting that dog's food as well as his own, he snaps at the other food, dropping his own into the water. The message - covet more and you may lose everything.


Onyx cameo depicting Aesop's Fable, The Dog and the Shadow

Via thehistoryblog.com




THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT


There are several fables connected with the hardworking ant, but the most popular of these is 'The Ant and the Grasshopper'. The story goes: a grasshopper spends his time frolicking around while an ant works hard to store food for the winter. When the winter comes, the ant is comfortable and has plenty to eat, while the grasshopper does not. The message - prepare for the future.


An antique, Roman intaglio ring in carnelian depicting the ant from Aesop's 'The Grasshopper and the Ant' fable, carrying an ear of wheat. The carnelian was originally part of a bracelet, c.1800

Via hofer-antikschmuck



Other very popular Aesop Fables include: 'The Crow and the Pitcher', 'The Bell and the Cat', 'The Gnat, the Ant, and the Bull', 'The Hart and the Hunter', 'The Lion, the Ass, and the Fox', 'The Wolf and the Sheep', 'The Lion and the Hare', 'The Lioness and the Vixen', and 'The Serpent and the Eagle'



Other Fables Found in Jewelry


THE EAGLE AND THE FOX


In this story, an eagle and fox befriend each other. However, not long after the eagle, hungry and needing to feed her young, steals a fox cub to feed on. The fox mourns the loss of the cub. Later, the eagle tries to seize a piece of goat from a sacrificial burning in the village. Not realizing she has also picked up a cinder along with the piece of goat, the eagle takes it back to her nest, and her young die in the ensuing flames. The moral - God is the ultimate judge.


Georgian 'Fox and Eagle' Aesop cameo ring modeled in 18 and 22-carat gold Antique Animal Jewelry




THE FOX AND THE CROW


In this fable, a crow is sitting in a tree with a piece of cheese. A fox comes by and, wanting the cheese, begins to flatter the crow. The fox calls the crow beautiful and asks if it has a lovely voice to match. Opening her beak wide, the crow dropped her cheese straight into the waiting fox's open mouth. The message of this fable is never to succumb to the charms of flattery.


However, Christian circles who read La Fontaine's translation of the tale were offended by the fox's lack of punishment for theft, so a sequel was written in the form of a song. In it, the fox's funeral is described, and the crow says, 'I’m not at all sorry, now that he’s dead, he took my cheese and ate it in my stead, he’s punished by fate - God, you’ve avenged me'.


Antique French jewelry chest with a finely cast decoration of the 'Fables de la Fontaine', c.1870-1880. Decorated with three scenes, each from a fable: On the top the 'The fox and the crow' (Le corbeau et le renard), on the front 'The Lion and the Mouse' (Le lion et le rat), on the back 'The lion and the gnat' (Le lion et le moucheron). Via lot-art.com





Hopefully, this blog will help you to identify pieces of antique animal jewelry in the future that may otherwise have eluded your understanding. Happy fable hunting!


For a more exhaustive list of Aesop's fables, see the Perry Index on fablesofaesop.com


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

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If only stones could speak - they might reveal all sorts of interesting ideas and secrets of sentiment to those listening... Well, from the Georgian era through to their peak of popularity in the Victorian era, Acrostic Jewelry was a way to do exactly that - make stones speak. It was called the 'Language of Stones'. By combining gemstones in a particular order, acrostic jewelry could spell out messages or words using the first letter of each gemstone. Imagine that - coded words, messages, and declarations of love, that were embedded in gemstones and carried close by the wearer; a precious secret.


This ring spells 'DEAREST' with the central Diamond surrounded by Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Topaz. Via iletaitunefoislebijou.fr



The History of Acrostic Jewelry


Acrostic jewelry is said to have been the invention of Jean-Baptiste Mellerio (1765-1850), a favorite jewelry designer of Marie Antoinette and the French court of the 18th century. Acrostic jewelry was created as a way of relaying sentiments of love or affection, as well as commemorating important dates. It is said that Mellerio started the idea with a ring, across which was spelled 'J ’ADORE', meaning 'I love' in French. J'ADORE was spelled using Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, and Emerald, with one of each gem set in that order on one ring. The idea of acrostic jewelry was a beloved one, and it soon captured the interest of Empress Josephine and Napoleon Boneparte.


In an age where romanticism and jewelry were very popular, these sparkling love letters caught on very quickly, spreading across France and soon crossing the English Channel. Despite the ongoing Napoleonic wars between Britain and France, many pieces of acrostic jewelry in England spelled French words or used the French names of the stones (which were luckily mostly the same as the English names). For the educated and wealthy in England, French was still used as a primary language, and of course, was associated with romance as the 'language of love'.


Acrostic jewelry gained increasing popularity in Georgian England and reached its height during the Victorian era (1837-1901). You might notice that many Georgian pieces were more obviously love tokens, in the shape of love knots, padlocks with keys, or hearts, as an open declaration. while Victorian pieces are tended to be subtler and more secretively coded.


Heart locket; the first letter of each stone spells out a secret acrostic message: REGARD. The goldwork to the front is exceptional, with applied oak leaf details to the center, and intricate scrolls and granulation around the border. To the reverse is a heart-shaped glass locket compartment. Modeled in 15k gold throughout, c.1815. Via Butter Lane Antiques



Left: Forget-me-not gold cannetille padlock with gems spelling out REGARD, c.1820. Right: Acrostic gold double-sided cannetille locket spelling out REGARD on one side and DEAREST on the other, c.1820.

Both from Georgian Jewellery by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings



Pendant locket, two-colour gold set with precious stones spelling out the word 'REGARD' around a forget-me-not of five turquoises, England, about 1830. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A locket spelling out REGARD in gemstones, set with turquoise and gold on the front. The message of love intended by this jewel is expressed in its heart shape and through the padlock and key, suggesting the sentiment, ‘you have the key to my heart’. This is reinforced by the message of the stones. The pendant opens to reveal a panel of woven hair under glass, c.1840.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Georgian acrostic REGARD pendant with tricolor gold grapevine embellishments, symbolic of Christianity. The reverse features four turquoise cabochons with cannetille decorations.

Via @parkavenueantiques on Instagram



The Victorians embraced sentimentality, and were renowned for their love of symbols and hidden meanings in jewelry; from the language of flowers and stones to scenes and elements from antiquity and the symbology of animals. Given the strict system of rules surrounding courting in Victorian times - such as having to visit a woman for the first time in the presence of the whole family with the permission of the parents, and the dance-like game that followed of leaving calling cards, attending dinners and balls, and being chaperoned for private conversations - it is no wonder then that the Victorians loved the idea of secret messages or notes that could be passed to those they were courting through the gift of jewelry.


Acrostic jewelry was therefore hugely fashionable as a new and exciting linguistic puzzle amongst those who could afford it, what with all the precious gems it required. The most popular pieces of acrostic jewelry were rings, but other pieces such as bracelets, brooches, and lockets were also given.





The Language of Stones


In the age of acrostic jewelry, there was a gemstone that could be used for almost every letter of the alphabet, so that the jewelry could spell out anything from a handful of commonly used terms of endearments to names, nicknames, mottos, events, or even dates.

This is an A-Z we have constructed from several other A-Zs existing online, documenting the stones that were or might have been used at the time, many of which are translated from French lists


As you can see, stones did not really exist for the letters 'F', 'K', 'Q', 'Y', and 'Z'. Letters like 'Z' were not commonly used in acrostic jewelry, so this was fine, and letters like 'K' did not really exist or were very rarely used in the French alphabet at the time. In France, it was not considered acceptable to use the color of a stone as part of its acrostic association, but English jewelers were not so strict. In England, 'F' was often created by using 'fire opal' while 'W' could be achieved with a white stone and 'Y' with a yellow zircon or yellow garnet. In England, quartz was also commonly used for 'Q', when needed. Modern makers of acrostic jewelry use zircon in the rare instances that a “Z” is needed.

There are, however, many pieces of acrostic jewelry that no-one has yet managed to decipher. This can be because the pieces are written in another language, because some stones were known by other names (as with Garnet also being known as Vermeil at that time), or because missing gems have been replaced or some gems have become discolored. These pieces hold their secrets still, centuries after their making.




Common Acrostic words


In Georgian jewelry in particular, the following words are considered to be the most commonly found:

Photo from Georgian Jewellery by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings




REGARD


The most common word in English acrostic jewelry, by far, is the word 'Regard'. This is so much the case that acrostic jewelry is also often known as 'Regard Jewelry'. At the time it was being used, the word 'regard' was a much more romantic sentiment than it might sound. 'Regard' was used to imply, 'I hold you in the highest regard', which might be equated to something like 'I revere you', 'I cherish you', or 'I greatly admire you' today. REGARD was most frequently spelled out using one of each of the following: Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond.


Georgian Love Knot brooch decorated with florette appliques and delicate hand-chased details. Six hand-cut paste stones set in open back colette spell out REGARD. Via The Hidden Chamber Georgian & Victorian Jewelry



18th-century acrostic REGARD basket brooch which can also be worn as a pendant

From Spare Room Antiques



Witches Heart pendant modeled in 9k gold with a border of pearls and a locket compartment in the middle. Acrostic gemstones are set above, spelling out REGARD, c.1815.

Via @_butterlaneantiques on Instagram



Georgian REGARD ring made from pastes to mimic the appropriate gemstones Antique Animal Jewelry



Late Georgian cannetille REGARD acrostic ring of finely-worked 15k gold, featuring cramp settings flanked by coiled filigree and granulation, the shank of inter-woven braided filigree, c.1820s.

Via @heartofhearts.jewels on Instagram



Late Georgian REGARD acrostic ring c.1820 from Le Grand Frisson: Bijoux de Sentiment de la Renaissance a Nos Jours by Diana Scarisbrick, p.300-301



An early Victorian REGARD ring in the shape of a floral cluster with the gemstones set to a gold shank with floral shoulders, c.1840. Not all acrostic jewelry was spelled linearly. In this case, REGARD is spelled starting with the Ruby on the top left, moving anti-clockwise through Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, and then moving to the Diamond in the center.

Via Bentley and Skinner



Antique acrostic ring spelling REGARD in gemstones Antique Animal Jewelry



Victorian-era acrostic ring spelling REGARD in gemstones, Antique 10ct Gold. Via Ruby Lane



A Victorian-era ring set with six colorful gemstones of varying shapes and sizes, spelling the word REGARD. 15ct yellow gold hallmarked and dated Birmingham, 1868. Via laurelleantiquejewellery.com



A late Victorian 15ct gold REGARD locket brooch. The locket conceals a panel for notes, a lock of hair, or something else personal. Via inspiredantiquity.com



Victorian-era 15k two-color gold purse-form locket spelling out the word, REGARD.

Via @alavieillerussie on Instagram




DEAREST


Another word often found in British acrostic jewelry is 'dearest', which was usually spelled with one of each of the following: Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and either a Turquoise or a Topaz. Because the word was longer and used more precious gems, 'dearest' jewelry was likely a more expensive gift to a loved one than other acrostic jewelry might have been.


Two-color gold comb-mount in the form of a leafy oak twig entwined with a wreath of forget-me-nots and surmounted by a bird, with a ruby eye and ring in its beak (all strong love symbols). The branch is set with gemstones whose initials spell DEAREST in Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Turquoise. There is a hair compartment in the reverse of the bird, c.1830.

© The Trustees of the British Museum



This antique Georgian ring spells out the word DEAREST in Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Topaz. From 1stdibs.com via The Jewellery Editor.



Late Georgian DEAREST acrostic ring c.1820 from Le Grand Frisson: Bijoux de Sentiment de la Renaissance a Nos Jours by Diana Scarisbrick, p.300-301



DEAREST acrostic ring spelled left to right, ending in Turquoise Via iletaitunefoislebijou.fr



DEAREST acrostic ring Antique Animal Jewelry



Mid-Victorian acrostic ring is set with stones that spell out the romantic sentiment DEAREST, starting with the Diamond in the middle, then up to the Emerald above it, continuing anti-clockwise through Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Topaz. Modeled in 12k gold, hallmarked 1873. Via 1stdibs.co.uk



Traditional Victorian DEAREST ring with gemstones set in the shape of a flower, delicately crafted in yellow gold, with fine detailing on the shoulders. The stones are Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Turquoise. Via @audreyandwolf_antiques on Instagram



An Edwardian 18ct gold mounted DEAREST ring with rope-twist borders, collet-set with circular-cut gemstones, right to left: Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Topaz. Via Lyon & Turnbull




ADORE


Supposedly, the very first acrostic ring spelled the French 'J ’ADORE', so it is perhaps unsurprising that there are quite a few acrostic rings spelling ADORE dating from the Georgian and Victorian eras. ADORE was a word that could be used in both French and English, and is most commonly spelled using the gemstones: Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, and Emerald.


An ADORE ring spelled in Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, and Emerald, c.1830.

Via @gembreakfast on Instagram


Victorian acrostic ADORE ring. All gemstones are round and prong-set in an elaborate channel that has a border reminiscent of a castle. Bright 18K yellow gold and hallmark inside 18CT, likely made in England. Via Gray and Davis



Victorian-era acrostic ring with the word 'ADORE' spelled in Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby and Emerald, set in 18ct Yellow Gold. Via @lancastrianjewellers on Instagram




SOUVENIR, AMITIE & AMOUR


It is thought that SOUVENIR (memory or remembrance), AMITIE (friendship), and AMOUR (love) were the most common words found on French pieces of acrostic jewelry and that many such pieces also found their way into British fashion. Though there are not as many examples of these existing today, they were usually spelled as follows:

  1. SOUVENIR: Sapphire/Sardonyx, Opal/Onyx, Uranite, Vermeil, Emerald, Natrolite, Iris, and Ruby

  2. AMITIE: Amethyst, Malachite, Iris, Turquoise/Topaz, Iris, Emerald

  3. AMOUR: Amethyst, Malachite, Opal, Uranite, and Ruby


Georgian acrostic locket modeled as a purse in three-tone gold and decorated with applied flowers. It is set with stones to spell out the word SOUVENIR: Sapphire, Opal, Uranite, Vermeil, Emerald, Natrolite, Iris, Ruby. It opens up to reveal a locket compartment for storage of a memento or keepsake, c.1810.

Via Butter Lane Antiques



Bracelet set with gemstones to spell out the French word SOUVENIR, meaning 'remember' or 'memory', c.1860. Photo from S. J. Phillips Limited via 4cs.gia.edu




LOVE & OTHER WORDS


Instead of the word AMOUR, English pieces would sometimes spell out the word LOVE. This was usually done using Lapis lazuli, Opal, Vermeil, and Emerald.


Gold acrostic LOVE pendant set with: Lapis lazuli, glass in an imitation of Opal, Vermeil (the old name for Garnet), and Emerald, c.1830. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Other words such as FOREVER, BELOVED, DARLING, PET, and DEAR were rarer but were also used.


A Georgian heart locket spelling DEAR in Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby. Via @luckandlockets on Instagram





Personalized Pieces


Acrostic jewelry was also used to spell-out names, to commemorate special dates like birthdays and anniversaries, as well as for sharing personal and private messages. However, longer words meant more money had to be spent on the item, so a gentleman might have found himself hoping to fall in love with someone with a short name, or at the very least, a usable nickname!



NOTABLE PERSONAL ACROSTIC PIECES


Napoleon Bonapart was enchanted by the fashion of acrostic jewelry and is known to have had several pieces commissioned during his reign, many of which were created by famous French jewelry house Chaumet (known as Nitot at that time). Of the pieces he commissioned, the most well known are the bracelets he gifted to Empress Joséphine, encoded with the names of her children, and the bracelets he had made for Empress Marie-Louise, commemorating both her and himself and several dates significant to their relationship.


Sentimental jewels made by Nitot at the request of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for Empress Josephine. These acrostic bracelets combine colored stones to spell 'Hortense' and 'Eugene'. These are the names of Josephine's two children from her first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais. These pieces also feature in our blog post on Empress Josephine: Her Story in Jewels.

Photo via Chaumet.



These three bracelets memorialize Napoleon’s birthday, Marie Louise’s birthday, and their courtship.

  1. Top: 'Napoleon 15 Aôut 1769' spelled from right to left in Natrolite, Amethyst, Peridot, Opal, Lapis, Emerald, Onyx, Natrolite, [15], Agate, Opal, Uranite, and Turquoise.

  2. Middle: 'Marie Louise 12 Decembre 1791' spelled from left to right in Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Iris, Emerald, Lapis, Opal, Uranite, Iolite, Sapphire, Emerald, [12], Diamond, Emerald, Chrysoprase, Emerald, Malachite, Beryl, Ruby, Emerald, [1791].

  3. Bottom: '27 Mars 1810, 2 Avril 1810' (The date of Napoleon and Marie Louise's first meeting in Compiègne, and the date of their wedding in Paris) spelled out from left to right: [27], Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Serpentine, [1810], [2], Amethyst, Vermeil (?), Ruby, Iris, Limestone, [1810].

From Jewellery 1789-1910: The International Era, Vol. 2 by Shirley Bury


These are written-out visually below:

Image via iletaitunefoislebijou.fr



An acrostic bracelet made by Nitot in 1806. The meaning was lost when several missing stones were replaced without regard for the original code. Henri Vever however believes he has decoded it, noting that some stones, like the quartz, had become blackened through irradiation by being placed next to uranite making it harder to identify. The bracelet reads, "Napoleon 3 Juin 1806 à Lucques," a gift from Napoleon commemorating the birth of his niece. Napoleon's sister Elisa was made Princess of Lucques after he conquered Lucca, Italy (called Lucques in French) in 1805. She had been hoping for a boy to give the name of Napoleon but instead gave birth to a daughter on 3 June 1806. She decided to give her the name Napoleon anyway. Hence 'Napoleon' is the name on the bracelet.

From French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century (H. Vever), p. 119



When Edward VII (Albert Edward; 1841-1910) proposed to the Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1862, he gave her a ring set with Beryl, Emerald, Ruby, Turquoise, an Iacinth (actually spelled 'jacinth', but at this time, the letters "I" and "J" were still considered interchangeable), and Emerald. This spelled BERTIE, the nickname by which he was known to close friends and family, and Alexandra's chosen nickname for her husband-to-be. This goes to show that acrostic jewelry was not a style that went out of fashion quickly, and it persisted in England for a long time after its height of popularity in the Victorian era.



A re-imagining of Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Edward VII's engagement ring from 1862, designed by London jewelers Garrard & Co. Via The History Press




ACROSTIC NAME JEWELRY


Names were a popular way to customize sentimental acrostic jewelry and they were worn by both men and women, each wearing the name of another: that of their friend, fiance, spouse, or lover.


Ring spelling 'AGNES' in paste, probably kept by a loved one as a sentimental token, c.1890. The name is spelled in Amethyst, Garnet, Natrolite, Emerald, and Sapphire. Via sentimentaljewelry.blogspot.com



A gold pendant with a delicate foliage decoration set with precious stones forming the first name "Louise" in acrostic. The interior of the medallion reveals a miniature on ivory depicting an eye of the Queen of Belgium after a portrait by Winterhalter. This jewel belonged to Queen Marie-Amélie.

Via noblesseetroyautes.com



Other acrostic name jewelry is known to exist, such as a ring spelling SOPHIA in Sapphire, Opal, Peridot, Hyalite, Iolite, and Amethyst.



SECRET MESSAGES

Most pieces depicting specific personal messages in the language of stones are extremely difficult to decipher, not to mention that they would have been hugely expensive depending on the length of the message. The example below is from the British Museum, and until recently no-one knew what its message meant...


An acrostic piece with a religious sentiment: this piece carries a hidden message from top to bottom and left to right in: Jacinth, Emerald, Pearl, Ruby, Iris, Amethyst, Topaz, Almandite (a.k.a Garnet), Sapphire, Topaz, Almandite. It reads, 'JE PRIÂT À ST A', meaning 'I prayed to Saint A'. © The Trustees of the British Museum





Getting Political with Acrostic Jewelry


In the mid-nineteenth century in England, a fashion emerged for wearing acrostic 'repeal jewelry'. This jewelry, mostly rings which spelled out the word REPEAL in gemstones, was a popular way to protest against unfavorable legislation. For example, when the English parliament passed several Corn Laws, which made importing corn more expensive and caused food shortages and price fluctuations across England, was particularly unpopular with the people. Those who could afford it took to wearing 'repeal jewelry' to show their discontent. These items of political jewelry were also popular during campaigns against slavery. The world REPEAL was created using Ruby, Emerald, Pearl, Emerald, Amethyst, and Lapis lazuli.





Acrostic Jewelry Today


Acrostic jewelry is still made today, and is still very popular, especially as engagement jewelry, custom gifts, or wedding presents. Be especially careful if you are trying to find true antique 'dearest' and 'regard' jewelry online, as there are many jewelers who still make such pieces and will often label them as 'vintage' or 'antique style'. There are also many antique and modern pieces that use pastes or fake gems to achieve the coloring of precious stones, but which are not actually set with true gems.


Acrostic jewelry is and continues to be a wonderful way to hide and decipher secret truths. What precious gems would you spell your name from in the language of stones? Don't forget, stones were not only chosen for the letter they represented in acrostic jewelry, but also for deeper symbolic meanings. For example, the choice between using a Turquoise or a Topaz for 'T' might be that Turquoise was a symbol of 'true love', while Topaz represented love, fidelity, and friendship. In the same way, Diamonds are for constancy, Sapphires for the soul, Emeralds for faith, and Rubies for passion.


Precious stones were also set in frames that might feature other symbols - from a choice of flower to the suggestion of an animal's shape, Victorian jewelry is rich with symbolism and secret messages if you know where to look.


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

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The French Revolution was a movement that shook France from 1787 till 1799. In this week's blog post we're going to be taking a look at some of the revolutionary jewelry that came out of this time of political turmoil and national upheaval.


The two portraits stamped on the hoop of this silver ring commemorate the revolutionaries Jean-Paul Marat (1743–93) and Louis-Michel Lepeletier de St Fargeau (1760–93). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London




The French Revolution - Some Historical Context


For those of you in need of a refresher, the first thing to know is that before the revolution France was divided into three 'estates', also known as Estates-General or États-Généraux. The First Estate was the clergy (the country's ordained religious ministers), the Second Estate was the nobility, and the Third Estate consisted of the great majority of the people, the 'commoners'.


Pre-revolution Rings with the Etats de Bretagne (the sovereign court of the Duchy of Brittany) of 1788. 'TRIPLICI FOEDERE TUTA' translated from the Latin means, 'protected by a triple bond'.

Fabian De Montjoye

There were many tensions in France at the time, all of which surely played their part in the revolution. Firstly, opposition to the feudal system was mounting. Merchants, manufacturers, and professionals who were prospering were becoming a wealthy elite, or 'bourgeoisie', with political aspirations. In addition, the living and education standards of the peasant class were improving, and many of them now owned land, wanting to get rid of feudalism to ensure their full rights as landowners and increase their holdings.


Secondly, with 26 million inhabitants in 1789, France had become the most populated country in Europe. Greater demand for food and resources caused an economic crisis that started many small revolts and put great pressure on social reform.


Thirdly, 'the Philosophes', - literary men, scientists, and thinkers with great influence over the French people via press like pamphlets and newspapers - were calling for reform.


Dieppe Ivory depicting the graves of Voltaire and Rousseau - key thinkers of the Enlightenment, with their works being heavily drawn upon by French revolutionaries. Both writers emphasized the importance of reason, with Rousseau adding the need for emotion and passion as well as reason to effectively fight injustice - an ideology that reigned during the French Revolution

Fabian De Montjoye



The first 'wave' of the revolution took place when the controller general of finances tried to increase taxes on the privileged classes. The privileged classes resisted - strongly. Unrest followed amongst the common people in the cities and towns, forcing the king to yield and promise a meeting of the Estates-General to resolve the matter. The meeting was a disaster. The Third Estate - the common people - outweighed the rest greatly in numbers. Arguments broke out, groups of people were locked out, troops were gathered to disperse the meeting, and rumors spread of an “aristocratic conspiracy” by the king to overthrow the Third Estate of the common people. This led to the Great Fear of July 1789; peasants rose up against their lords, and a Parisian crowd seized the Bastille.


Soon after this, the National Constituent Assembly decreed the abolition of the feudal regime, introducing the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, proclaiming liberty, equality, the inviolability of property, and the right to resist oppression. The Estates-General (and the 'ancien régime' it signified) were dissolved and replaced by a system of French départements, districts, cantons, and communes. This, however, was not enough for the revolutionaries.


Wanting to spread revolutionary principles beyond France, with the king hoping to either strengthen his authority or be rescued by backing them, France declared war against Austria in 1792. Prussia soon joined the war and France faced defeats. With an Austro-Prussian army headed for Paris, many believed the Austrian-born queen, Marie-Antoinette, had betrayed them. The people of Paris revolted, occupying Tuileries Palace, and imprisoning the royal family. Meanwhile, the nationalism that the revolution had awoken led to a bolstering of the French army that stopped the Prussians, showing France the strength of its people. On the same day, the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic was declared. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were executed in 1793.




No more jewels


In a time of such economic crisis and political upheaval, wearing jewelry - particularly anything made with precious gems - associated you with the monarchy and aristocracy, placing you on the 'wrong' side of the revolution. During the 'September massacres' and the 'reign of terror' - in which a group of presiding radicals arrested and executed 17,000 people without trial - wearing expensive jewelry was enough to lose your head. Therefore the jewelry that was worn at the time mostly consisted of revolutionary jewelry, plain and made from metal, with revolutionary symbols or commemorative themes.


French rococo ring in 18K yellow gold with a double portrait in profile of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette engraved in an agate cameo. Edged with 46 rose-cut diamonds and eight rubies. Jewels like these were given to the king and queen's friends, political and diplomatic allies, and courtiers. This would have identified you immediately as a royalist and member of the nobility. Via Antique Jewel



'1793: it is the 'Terror'. The jewelers do not have any more work, the nobility is decimated by the guillotine and nobody dares to wear any more jewels, apart from some revolutionary jewels of the Phrygian bonnet genre, triangles, cockades, and even guillotines in earrings.'

This particularly grizzly pair of guillotine earrings commemorates the execution of Louis XVI during France’s Reign of Terror. From each guillotine hangs a monarch's head, c.1793. Via Cult of Weird - Curiosities



A silver, oval-shaped revolutionary signet/seal ring engraved with a lictor's bundle (a bundle of wooden rods with an axe emerging, symbolizing the power to carry out capital punishment) under a Phrygian cap (symbolizing liberty) and the initials AP, with the motto "French Republican". Via Coutaubegarie



French Rings depicting Louis XVII in prison

Fabian De Montjoye



Rare ring depicting Marie Antoinette in The Conciergerie (where she was imprisoned after August 1793)

Fabian De Montjoye



French Revolutionary Rings. The ring in the bottom left reads: VIVRE LIBRE OU MOURIR and LA NATION, LA LOI, LEROI, meaning 'live free or die' and 'the nation, the law, the king' From La Bague en France by Maximin Deloche



Two Revolutionary Rings c.1789. Left: features a birdcage motif and the inscription 'sacre a la liberte' meaning 'sacred freedom'. The inscription on the underside 'Bastile' is proof of provenance. According to Deloche, the chief demolisher of the Bastile - Palloy - converted the debris of the prison into souvenirs like this ring. They were known as 'rocamboles' or 'a la constitution'. Right: a personification of freedom appears both on this ring and on a medal dated 1792, said to be an official municipal and state seal, meaning they might have the same source. From Koch page 319, item 164 and 1063






The Martyrs


In the revolutionary jewelry that was worn, many pieces depict people known as the 'martyrs' of the revolution - influential revolutionaries who died for the cause. The martyrs most commonly depicted include Marat, Le Pelletier, Chalier, Joseph Barra, and Joseph Viala. The most popular items of revolutionary jewelry were medallions and rings.


Jean-Paul Marat (1743 - 1793) was a journalist and politician during the French Revolution, known for his steadfast revolutionary ideals and his fierce advocacy for the rights of the poorest members of society. He was assassinated by Charlotte Corday, thought to be a Girondin sympathizer (revolutionaries who did not support the radicalism and mass killings - especially that of the monarchs - executed by the Montagnards, the faction who ruled during the reign of terror and who 'purged' the Girondin's after taking power). She held Marat personally responsible for the September Massacres and the fall of the Girondins.


© The Trustees of the British Museum


It's also worth noting that there were many who supported Charlotte Corday's actions, holding her up as a savior who rid the nation of Marat the monster. In the months following her execution images appeared in the moderate press of her, stressing her beauty, virtue, and stoicism. Marat's supporters tried to squash this narrative of Corday as a kind of French heroine, but it was a hard one to suppress given the way that Corday had set about constructing her own legend during her trial and imprisonment.


© University College London



Louis-Michel Le Pelletier (1760-1793) was a politician during the French Revolution. As deputy to the Second Estate - the nobility - his views were initially aligned with his class. This soon changed. As part of the Constituent Assembly, his decision to abolish the death penalty, the galleys, and branding, and replace hanging with beheading, made him president of the Assembly in 1790. In 1793, he supported the trial of Louis XVI, and was one of the deciding votes in his execution. That evening, Le Peletier was assassinated by Philippe Nicolas Marie de Pâris, one of the king's guard. The Convention held a magnificent funeral for Le Pelletier.

© The Trustees of the British Museum




Joseph Chalier (1747 – 1793) was a French revolutionist and the leader of the Jacobins of Lyon (anti-royalist republicans). Chalier led the Jacobins to arrest a great number of Royalists in February 1793, following the king's execution in January. He faced down the National Guard and demanded that the Convention create a revolutionary tribunal and a revolutionary army. The Convention refused, Chalier's party rose up, and Chalier was eventually arrested and sentenced to death. He was guillotined the next day. During the reign of terror, he was held up as a martyr of liberty, who died for his convictions.

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Joseph Barra (1779-1793) was a drummer boy who served in the French Revolutionary Army. At the age of fourteen (too young to officially join the army), he found himself surrounded by counter-revolutionaries. He refused to surrender to the Royalists and was bayoneted. He was seen as having denied the Ancien Régime at the cost of death and became an icon of revolutionary propaganda. Songs and paintings were dedicated to him, and he is frequently depicted as one of the martyrs of the revolution.


© The Trustees of the British Museum




Joseph Viala (1780-1793) was similarly a child hero in the French Revolutionary Army. He was shot as he was trying to cut the ropes of a pontoon to protect some troops from attacking royalists. According to various accounts, the 12-year-old Viala had grabbed a hatchet, launched himself at the ropes, and started cutting before he was shot.



© The Trustees of the British Museum




Left: Popular print of individual woodcut portraits of the 'martyrs of the French Revolution'. Right: Cast oval silver medal with suspension loop featuring the 'heroes' that died for liberty during the French Revolution: Marat, Le Pelletier, Chalier, Barra, and Viala. © The Trustees of the British Museum



Medallion with the effigy of Le Peletier, Marat, Chalier, and Barra. Enamel, wood, and copper.

Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris



Bronze medal with the portraits of three martyrs of Liberty: M. Pelletier, J.P. Marat, J. Chalier, arranged on a background of laurel branches. On the reverse is inscribed: "In memory / of the glorious fight / of the French people / against Tyranny / Aux Tuileries / The town / of Paris".

©Department of Isère - Museum of the French Revolution



A mourning ring made to commemorate the deaths of Jean-Paul Marat and Louis-Michel Le Peletier. 10k gold profile portraits affixed to a wide silver band that proclaims their martyrdom to the cause of liberty. Via @ericaweiner on Instagram



Revolutionary finger ring in silver with gold applied low-relief portraits and an inscription: MARAT ET LEPELTIER MARTIRS DE LA LIBERTE EN 1793. © The Trustees of the British Museum



Rare THREE Revolutionaries ring, depicting the deaths of Marat (left), Chalier (center), and Le Pelletier (right) above the name Chalier or CHALIRE. The ring is inscribed: LE PELLETIR MARTIR DE LA LIBERTE and MARAT MARTIR DE LA LIBERTE

Antique Animal Jewelry




Another important figure from the revolution is Maximilien Robespierre (1754-1794), a French lawyer, statesman, and radical Jacobin revolutionary. He was known for campaigning fervently for universal manhood suffrage, the abolition of celibacy for the clergy, and the abolition of slavery. He made himself an outspoken advocate for citizens without a political voice and later became instrumental in the downfall of the French monarchy. Robespierre is perhaps best known for personally signing 542 arrests as part of the Committee of Public Safety, and for supposedly being involved in passing the law that allowed the number of executions to rise dramatically, alienating many. His obsession with having an ideal republic at any human cost eventually turned both members of the Convention and the French public against him. He became a very divisive figure, some choosing to remember him as the Revolution's principal ideologist, while to others, he was the incarnation of the 'Terror' that gripped France.


Charlotte Robespierre's oval mourning medallion containing a lock of Maximilien Robespierre's hair, made after 1794. Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris



French Rings Of Robespierre and Saint-Just

Fabian De Montjoye






Symbols in Revolutionary Jewelry



Liberté & Égalité - Liberty and Equality


The national motto of France - Liberté, égalité, fraternité - was first expressed during the French Revolution by Maximilien Robespierre who, in a speech on the organization of the National Guard, expressed that he would like the uniform of the National Guard to be inscribed with the phrase. During the revolution, it was only one slogan among many others, but the symbols of liberty and equality appeared on many depictions of events both during and after the revolution.


This blue jasper medallion allegorically depicts the French Revolution in white relief. France is shown with a staff surmounted by the Phrygian cap of revolution and is greeted by Athene the goddess of wisdom. On the alter between them stands Public Faith, holding a sheaf of corn in one hand and a cornucopia in the other. The medallion is decorated with a white floral border. Via The Wedgwood Museum



A jasperware medallion with a white relief depicting Liberty holding a pole, on which is a cap of liberty. She shakes hands with France, who wears a helmet and holds an oval shield decorated with fleurs-de-lis. Between them is an altar on which stands a figure of Public Faith holding a sheaf of corn in one hand and a cornucopia in the other. © The Trustees of the British Museum



A tortoiseshell box decorated on the lid with a miniature: under a winged depiction of victory, Truth/Liberty with a Phrygian cap on her staff gives the hand of France to the allegory of an unidentified City seated on the throne. Beside the latter is a sleeping lion. Tyrannical powers flee in the background or lie inert, c.1794-5. © Le Département de l’Isère - Musée de la Révolution Française




The Phrygian Cap


Red Phrygian caps or ‘liberty’ caps, as they were sometimes known, were soft conical hats with the top curled forward. They have a long history of association with liberty, and during the French revolution, they eventually came to symbolize allegiance to the republican cause. In ancient Rome, freed slaves wore a hat of a similar style called the pileus, to indicate their liberty, which many in Europe believed to be the same thing as a Phrygian cap. They were also worn when the people of Brittany rose against the taxation policies of Louis XIV in 1675, to declare rebel support, and were used as a visual symbol of freedom during the American revolution.


Two French revolutionary posters. Left: translated, the poster reads 'unity - indivisibility - of the French Republic - live free or die. Right: translated, the poster reads 'unity / indivisi / bility of / the Repub / Lic - Liberty / Equality / Brother / hood or death'. Both posters feature the Phrygian cap of liberty, a wreath, the tricolor flag, and on one of the posters, a pair of scales for equality.



A watch hook in the shape of a cannon barrel, surrounded by laurel branches and surmounted by Phrygian caps; the hooks themselves are snakes. Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris



Monogram “RF” (French Republic) surmounted by a Phrygian cap, symbol of the French revolution. Via Keos



Gold and hardstone intaglio ring depicting a bust facing left wearing a Phrygian cap, the inner band inscribed Jean-Paul Marat, Assasine 13 Juillet 1793. Via Bonhams



A revolutionary silver signet/seal ring with a depiction of a Phrygian cap and on which is engraved the words: COMMUNE DE PARIS and LIBERTE 14 JET 1789 EGALITE 10 AOUST 1792, commemorating the taking of the Bastille and the liberation of the prisoners in 1789, as well as the massacre of the Swiss guard on 10th August 1792. - from La Bague en France by Maximin Deloche




Tricolore Flags & Cockades


The French tricolor cockade was a symbol that was created at the beginning of the French Revolution. Initial plans for a green symbol of revolution to rally the Parisian crowd behind were quickly superseded by the two-color cockade that was worn by the newly established citizen militia. The colors were blue and red, in the ancient colors of Paris.


In 1789 when King Louis XVI went to Paris to meet the new French National Guard, its members wore the blue and red cockade of the militia, to which it would appear that Lafayette (the commander of the Guard) had added a white band representing loyalty to the Sovereign. This was the day that Louis XVI appointed the revolutionary Jean Sylvain Bailly as mayor of Paris and many members of the nobility supportive of absolute monarchy fled the country.


They were often made by circularly pleating a blue, white, and red ribbon together.


Button, France, end of the 18th century (Révolution Française). Metal, enamel, paint. With the words 'Liberte' and 'Egalite' - Liberty and Equality - and a Phrygian Cap painted above a tricolor flag

Via Pinterest



Tricolore cocarde or tricolor cockade via Pinterest



A ring featuring the symbols of the French Revolution: Tricolour Flags and a Phrygian cap, and the Triangle for equality, after 1879 - Koch page 319 item 1065





Brutus


On the eve of the French Revolution, Jacques-Louis David - a revolutionary French artist known for joining an extremist Jacobin group led by Maximilien Robespierre - painted The Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons. The painting was exhibited shortly after the fall of the Bastille in 1789, and depicted the patriotic Roman consul, Brutus, receiving the dead bodies of his sons, who he had condemned to death as traitors. Brutus -Lucius Junius Brutus in full - was the man who put an end to the brutal regime of Tarquin, Rome's last king, and established the first Roman Republic. True to his political convictions, he sacrificed even his sons, who he found had been embroiled in a royalist conspiracy, to the cause of founding the Republic. Brutus was therefore an important figure of political conviction during the French revolution in the people's quest to found the French Republic.

French revolutionary agate intaglio ring dating to c.1790. Via Ruby Lane



Intaglio swivel ring made of onyx depicting the head of Lucius Junius Brutus with a dagger beneath; set in gold, 18th century. Paris presented this to the National Convention in 1792. © The Trustees of the British Museum




The jewelry that was made during the French Revolution is a far cry from the Roccoco splendor of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's jewelry. They are simple and plain; commemorative and symbolic rather than attention-grabbing and highly decorative, holding a vast amount of meaning in each piece. As jewelry, they were more than just an accessory, they were a form of political allegiance and motivation, a way of declaring one's ideals and hopes for France, and are the perfect example of how even the simplest pieces of antique jewelry can tell a story so much bigger than itself.



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

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