lthough indifference to discomfort and tedium were still essential requirements in the intending traveller right up until the late nineteenth century, the improvement in communications resulting from the widespread development of the railway system had made travel abroad, hitherto undertaken for pleasure only by the rich, a possibility for the more modestly endowed middle classes. For his travels referred to in the letters quoted below, John Ruskin still used a specially built travelling coach, but this was hardly necessary even in the forties. The greater part of the large quantity of continental and Oriental jewellery, Swiss enamel, Italian cameo and peasant jewellery, French and Italian filigree, Spanish and Portuguese paste, and Hungarian enamelled 'Renais- sance' jewels owned by Victorian Englishwomen must have reached this country in the baggage of returning travellers.
In spite of the fashion in the forties and fifties for jewellery in the Gothic style, the neo-classic tradition survived in the copies of the ancient jewellery uncovered by the extensive archeological excavations, many of which had been put in hand by Napoleon I, which were undertaken during the first half of the nineteenth century. Enterprising continental jewellers who foresaw the demand that would be created by travellers who visited the newly excavated sites immediately set to work and gold jewellery was produced decorated with lotus flowers or scarabs in the Egyptian style, mosaics after the frescoes at Pompeii, or filigree in imitation of Greek and Roman funerary jewellery recovered from tombs near Rome and Naples. Nicely calculated to appeal to the Victorian desire for instruction as well as aesthetic pleasure, this type. of jewellery remained in fashion until the eighties and was still being made by one of the most skillful copyists of antique jewellery, Rouchomowsky of Odessa, after the turn of the century.
The Roman firm of Castellani began making versions in filigree [228/229] and gold of the classical Roman jewellery recovered from the recently opened excavations, in the 1820s, but his characteristic gold jewellery did not become generally known until it was shown in the International Exhibition in 1862, after which it was extensively copied in this country. Gold jewellery of archaeological inspiration was brought back to England by travellers in Italy and there is no doubt that a certain amount of it was thought to be genuinely old. Augusto Castellani said lack of fashionable success had led some of the Neapolitan workmen to turn to faking.
One of the most popular of the forms borrowed from classical jewellery, and one which was most drastically altered in the process, was the serpent, which derives rather remotely, from ancient Roman pattern. So much was the simple concept of the original design altered during its long period of popularity that the form of the Roman original is completely lost sight of in a number of, frequently unhappy, elaborations such as the type of bracelet fashionable in the forties and fifties in the form of a serpent attacking a bird's nest, or the snake bracelet which is an American version (1857) of an earlier French design.
Left: Granulated snake bracelet. Right: Classical Revival Snake Brooch. Both designed by Michaengelo Caetani and manufacured by Castellani and Sons, Rome. Collection: Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome. Reproduced courtesy of Susan Weber Soros, Director of the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, which holds copyright on this image, and the owners of the original object. Not in print edition.
The snake form is frequently found in English jewellery but the more elaborate designs were generally made in France, and the most finely enamelled in Switzerland. Queen Victoria's engagement ring was in the form of a coiled serpent in gold set with diamonds and emeralds, and the bracelet which she wore for her first council, of which David Wilkie made a detailed study (Plate. 3c; immediately below) in preparation for his picture of that event, was also in the form of a snake.
The bracelet Queen Victoria wore for her first council by David Wilkie. Courtesy of the Royal Library, Windsor Castle.
The shape of the snake lends itself particularly well to making a bracelet or a necklace, the body is made of flexible gold tubular links, graduated in size from the largest at the head end to the finest cone of gold at the end of the tail. The head and tail join together to form the clasp, and the head is usually finely worked, either being engraved gold or enamelled or set with precious stones. The whole head is sometimes made of a single stone, like a carbuncle, with diamond chips encircled by gold wire inset into the stone itself as eyes. These snake necklaces were not at all uncommon and can still be found in the stock of a dealer specialising in this period; they represent designs typical of the period and display the fine technique and workmanship for which [229/230] Victorian jewellery at its best is renowned.
Left: Plate 116. Set of jewellery in glass mosaic and gold, Rome or Naples, 1840-50. Courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Right: Plate 118. Bracelet decorated with pink, blue and white enamel on gold, with enamel miniature signed 'Underwald'. Swiss, mid-nineteenth century. Courtesy Howard Vaughan.
In spite of his frequently expressed distaste for modern jewellery, John Ruskin was able to appreciate such workmanship, as can be seen from this letter written by Mrs Ruskin to her brother George, on October 14th 1849, from Chamouni, in Switzerland:
On account of the rain we did not see much of Geneva but we went to one of those shops where you buy the wood carving and little houses like what Mama has. We bought a pretty little work table of carved wood for our drawing room, and John bought a beautiful little box like what Mr Ruskin gave me but only one stone, a very fine one, on the top. We paid a visit to Mr Bautte's where John changed the blue enamel bracelet for another much more beautiful one and not much dearer, the design [here is a little drawing] you cannot understand from this, but a serpent on the left of green enamel with an opal head crawling to a flower made of a single opal with green enamel leaves. It is most beautiful, the gold work about it very handsome. He also gave me a brooch Mr Bautte said the most beautiful in his collection which matched exactly with the bracelet. The brooch is composed of a cross of diamonds in the centre surrounded with opals, and all the rest green enamel and gold with a pearl cut at each end [here is another larger drawing] but about three times the size of this that I have drawn. John is very much pleased with them.
Sadly enough, for all Effie's talent at drawing, the little illustra- tions in the letter are all but indecipherable. What a marvellous document this would have been had her husband provided the drawings.1
Before the Great Exhibition in 1851 an increasingly large number of people ventured to travel abroad, the more discriminating of whom appreciated the finer points of Swiss enamel-work, Genoese gold-work, Berlin iron-work, Venetian chain and Roman mosaic or Florentine intarsia. These trips abroad were no Grand Tour, and in place of the large paintings and sculptures that found their way back to the English country houses in the eighteenth century, there came, on occasion, the much more portable pieces of jewellery. Ruskin had written to his wife for her birthday on May 1st 1849 describing a previous visit to Mr Bautte's: “I went this morning to Mr Bautte's to buy you a bracelet, which shall be sent as soon as may be: when you want a set of Geneva ornaments you must come with me to buy them — I cannot trust my own taste.”2
These visits inspired Ruskin to write at length of Bautte's in Praeterita (Part II, chapter V).
Virtually there was no other jeweller in Geneva, in the great times. There were some respectable, uncompetitive shops, not dazzling, in the main street; and smaller ones, with an average supply of miniature watches, that would go well for ten years; and uncostly, but honest, trinketry. But one went to Mr Bautte's with awe, and of necessity, as one did to one's bankers. There was scarcely any external sign of Bautte whatever — a small brass plate at the side of a narrow arched [231/232] door . . . You told what you wanted: it was necessary to know your mind, and to be sure you did want it; there was no showing of things for temptation at Bautte's. You wanted a bracelet, a brooch, a watch — plain or enamelled. Choice of what was wanted was quietly given. Entirely sound workman- ship in the purest gold that could be worked; fine enamel for the most part, for colour, rather than jewels; and a certain Bauttesque sublety of linked and wreathed design, which the experienced eye recognised when worn in Paris or London.'
Left: Plate 117. Brooch in glass mosaic and gold , Italian c. 1850. Courtesy of the London Museum. Right: Plate 7c. Earrings, mosaic and gold. Italian, c. 1860. The mosaic design is taken from the frescoes at Pompeii. These earrings were bought in Rome in 1860. Courtesy of the City Museum and Art Galley, Birmingham. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
A less experienced eye could recognise the origin of other more popular types of Swiss enamel, representing girls in the costumes of the different cantons, views of mountains and the Chateau de Chilian (Plate 118, see above; & tailpiece p. 242); or the Italian mosaics, the subject matter of which reveals that they were designed with souvenir hunters in mind, being mainly Roman ruins (Plate 116, see above) or scenes taken from Pompeian wall-paintings (Plate 7c, above). The jeweller specialising in souvenirs was not above profiting from the convention of bringing back presents after travelling abroad, in such a fluctuating business it would be necessary to charge whatever price the trade would stand, but it appears that this limit was sometimes exceeded. When the Ruskins were in Venice later. in 1849 Mrs Ruskin wrote to her brother this description of a shopping expedition in search of presents for her family:
Charlotte and I had a great deal of amusement yester- day. We went out to shop alone and as in most of the shops they can neither understand German, English or French and only Italian which nt present I only know about a dozen words of, you may fancy the signs on both sides to get what we want, and the difficulty is not a little increased by all the payments being made in Austrian zwanzigs, something less than a Franc ... I was anxious to buy some of the pretty gold & coral necklaces with charms hanging at the end which I thought would suit Sophia, Alice & Eliza very nicely but I found them so dreadfully dear that I was obliged to give up the idea entirely.'
She goes on to reveal that the necklaces would have cost the equivalent of three pounds each, which since her whole dress allowance was £25 a quarter, which she considered perfectly generous, this made the purchase of three such necklaces quite out of the question.3 [232/233]
Plate 7a. Tiara of branch coral and coral beads c. 1850. Courtesy of the London Museum. Coral was fashionable in the first half of the Victorian period.
Naples produced some fine jewels worked from coral, a local product and one upon which the economy of the Kingdom of Naples chiefly depended. Coral is quite easy to work and at its best can be a very fine colour, although there was a fashion for ornaments made of branch coral in its natural state (Plate 7a; immediately above) it was more usually carved and polished, into elaborate groups of putti with leaves and flowers or beads and cameos (Plate 7b; immediately below).
Left: Plate 7b. Comb decorated with coral beads. c. 1830-40. Courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. This type of comb is sometimes called a 'Josephine' or chignon comb. Right: Plate 38. Necklace made up of onyx portrait cameos probably Neapolitan. c. 1834 mounted in gold (English c. 1850) with gold vine-leaf and grape links (?French). These seven cameos are portraits of Ferdinand II (King Bomba) of Naples, and his first wife, Maria Christina of Savoy (d.1836) and five members of his family. These cameos were clearly not designed to be made into a necklace, and since all the family are not represented there may at one time have been five more. The piece reputedly belonged at one time to the Spanish Royal Family. Courtesy of Fisher.
Before the Ruskins left Venice in 1850 their friend, Rawdon Brown, gave Mrs Ruskin a Neapolitan coral brooch.
Plate 39. Tiara in gold with onyx cameo, of the 'Toilet of Nausicaa.' Italian, mid-nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Ethel Weil Worgelt.
Cameo-cutting was extensively practised all over Italy and much French and English cameo jewellery incorporated cameos cut in Italy, the finest ones it was claimed being indistinguishable from Renaissance work. The variety of material used for making cameos was extensive, ranging from hardstones like agate and onyx (Plates 38 & 39; above) to such regional souvenirs as lava cameos, with their rather attractive colour range of brown, pale green and cream tones.
Dieppe, at this period, was the centre of a considerable ivory carving industry, which had been revived from a near moribund state at the beginning of the century, by the Duchesse de Berry; one of the most common designs used for this work being a stag with fine antlers in a landscape, all most minutely carved (Plate 119).
Plate 119. Ivory brooches. Dieppe, 1830-40. Courtesy of the London Museum.
Ivory carving was also a Swiss speciality and the trade was continued there long after the Dieppe workshops had disappeared. Ivory jewellery was very popular in the nineteenth century, the forms of the carvings are frequently similar to those used for carved jet and for tortoise-shell work, such as branches twined with ivy, hands holding flowers, crosses entwined with ivy or flowers, baskets and classical heads, etc.
In the early nineteenth century the French, Italians and Swiss were also celebrated for their fine filigree and engraved gold work, a great contrast to the rather coarse English work of the period. The finest goldsmith's work was done in Genoa, where cameos from other parts of Italy were sent to be set, and in Venice which specialised in the production of fine gold chain as well as the famous glass beads. Seed pearl work of great delicacy was done in France, using designs similar to those found in English work of the same period, a skill which was almost lost largely through disuse by the middle of the century, but seed pearl work combined with gold and emeralds using eighteenth century designs was made in [233/236] Salamanca in Spain until nearly the end of the century. Germany was renowned for the delicate black Berlin ironwork jewellery which was first made at the time of Napoleon's invasion of Prussia when it was given to the patriotic Prussian women as a substitute for the gold jewellery which they had donated to the cause of victory. The delicacy of this iron jewellery, which had been made possible by an English invention, the development of the Dome furnace, ensured its popularity long after the reason for its being made had become obsolete, and some so called Berlin iron-work was being made in France in the mid-century, as well as in Germany.
The influence of French designers on British manufacturers was continuous, with only the smallest exceptions. Apart from the few English fashions which became the rage in Paris, like the cabochon-cut stones which were used in English Gothic jewellery, sporting jewellery, the bijoux hippiques, which were more popular in France than in England, and the tartan enamel inspired by the decorations at Balmoral, Parisian taste reigned supreme. It was only necessary for a piece of jewellery to have been bought in Paris for it to have a cachet which no other capital city conferred on the products of its craftsmen, a state of things upon which the economy of the city largely depended. Henry Labouchere, writing from Paris in 1871, points out the danger faced by an economy based on the sale of objets de luxe in a time of financial crisis:
Paris, under the fostering care of the Emperor, had become, next to St Petersburg, the dearest capital in Europe. Its property was artificial, and it was dependant upon a long chain of connecting links remaining unbroken. In the industrial quarters money was made by the manufacture of Articles de Paris, and for these, as soon as communications are reopened, there will be the same market as heretofore. As a city of pleasure, however, its prosperity must depend, like a huge watering-place, upon its being able to attract strangers. If they do not return, a reduction in prices will take place, which will ruin most of the shop-keepers, proprietors of houses, and hotel-keepers; but this, although unpleasant to individuals, would be to the advantage of the world at large. Extravagance in Paris makes extravagance the fashion every where; under the Empire, to spend money was the readiest road to social distinction. The old bougeoisie still retained [235/236] the careful habits of the days of Louis Philippe, and made fortunes by cheese-paring. Imperial Paris was far above this . . . Cocodettes of the court, cocottes of the Bois, wives of speculators, shoddy squaws from New York, Calmucs recently imported from their native steppes, doubtful Italian Princesses, gushing Polish Countesses, and foolish English- women, merrily raced along the road to ruin. Good taste was lost in tinsel and glitter: what a thing cost was the only standard of its beauty.3?
It is surely no coincidence that it is from the early seventies that English jewellery design developed a more distinct personality free From the enervating admiration for everything French that was a characteristic of the preceeding thirty years. It is possible that the .essening of French influence was partly due to the growing nterest in the decorative art of the East, which had ceased to be iimply a bizarre preoccupation of a few artistic eccentrics by the seventies, and designs based on Eastern motifs were to enjoy a considerable fashionable success until the turn of the century.
If travel in Europe had become relatively easy and inexpensive by the middle of the century, travel farther afield, to the Near or Far East was still a lengthy and hazardous business requiring an indifference to comfort and convenience which would certainly discourage the present day tourist. On the other hand the rewards of undertaking the risks of such a journey were correspondingly greater, the difficulty of access greatly enhancing the fascination of these remote parts of the world. The exotic Oriental jewellery, was described in some detail in the letters and reminicences of travellers in India. The almost unbelievable splendour of the jewels worn by the Rajahs and their households, where even the small children could barely stand up under the weight of the jewel- sncrusted clothes worn for state occassions, never failed to amaze European women.
Left: Necklace (Kantha) and Forehead ornament from Jeypore enamels (1886). Courtesy of the New York Public Library; Right: Diamond Necklace for a Prince (kanthi). The necklace was shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection, October 28, 2014–January 25, 2015. Image: © Servette Overseas Limited 2013. All rights reserved. Neither in print version.
Turban Ornament (Sarpesh). South India, Hyderabad, 1800–50. Gold; set with diamonds and suspended spinel beads of earlier date. Enamel on reverse. 18.5 x 27.2 cm. The Al-Thani Collection. This katar was shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection, October 28, 2014–January 25, 2015. Image: © Servette Overseas Limited 2013. All rights reserved.
Our Viceregal Life in India by the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (John Murray, 1893) and Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque, by Fanny Parkes (London, 1850) which is illustrated and contains explanations of the significance of the shapes and materials used in Indian jewellery, Both dwell at some length on the appearance of the Rajahs and their sons and wives. But on the whole, Indian jewellery in its original form was tor many years regarded as a curiosity, and the (120) '', by W [238/240] chief aim of the large British contingent in India seems to have been to teach the Indian craftsmen to make exact replicas of currently fashionable European jewels, in which aim they succeeded only too well.
Left: Plate 120. Tipoo Sahib's hawking ring, and an Indian Armlet. William Burges. 1870. Courtesy of R.I.B.A. Burges gave the bracelet to Mrs Amory while he was working on 'Knightshayes' the house he designed for the Amory's in 1870. Indian jewellery was much admired by the Aesthetes at this date. Right: Plate 121. Miniature portrait of Tipoo Sahib Sultan of Mysore. Indian, late nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Some historic pieces of Indian jewellery which fell into European hands were promptly re-set to conform to Western taste, some of the jewels which came from Tipu Sultan seized after the battle of Scrigapatam in 1799, were set in a small brooch made of gold, diamonds and turquoises which were said to have been taken from the turban belonging to Tipu Sultan, in the form of a circular plaque with rose, thistle and shamrock in relief, surrounded by the gems set as rosettes on an openwork background of thistles and shamrock leaves; it was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum with a letter written in 1878 detailing its history, part of which is quoted below:
The accompanying brooch I herewith give you as a keepsake not only of its intrinsic value, but of its history; coming to me as a Legacy through the Honble Mrs Cochrane whose daughter was my charge for some years & whose father the Honble Capthth Cochranc an officer in the memorable battle of Seringa Patam shared the jewels all of the first clafs taken in the Turban of Tipu Said. Capth Cochrane had 3 valuble necklaces & 3 brooches made of the same, in India, for his three daughters! — The brooch accompanying this, represents the Rose, The Shamrock & the Thistle. The Brilliants being of the very first water. — I should advise care in wearing the Same. The pin not being I consider safe.
The work of re-setting these jewels from Tipu Sultan's turban was done in India, and even in the early years of the century the native craftsmen were quite equal to producing work entirely in the European manner, which skill they were to perfect during the following years.
The Indian princes themselves have traditionally had a great taste for one particular type of European jewellery, the complicated clockwork and automatic jewels and watches which were the speciality of the Swiss. The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava describes a visit made to a jewellers in Calcutta, in 1885:
'I took the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to a great jewellers shop by way of entertainment, and I was much interested myself in all we saw there. The jewels set in Europe for the Eastern market are a curious mixture of [236/238] splendour and childishness: watches encrusted with diamonds, and with such complicated interiors that, besides telling you all you can possibly want to know about the time of the day or of the year, they play you a tune, and give you a representation of a conductor waving his baton as he sits somewhere on the face, mixed up with the seconds and the hours. Then there are ornaments for turbans, on which the diamond flowers, being wound up, whirl round and round till you can no longer see their shape. It would be difficult to keep up an argument with a man whose jewels were behaving in such an eccentric manner!
We also saw a fine collection of native jewels which are to be sold by auction in a few weeks. To our ideas they are positively ugly, and one can only wonder at the way in which the precious stones are treated — enormous rubies, emeralds, and pearls bored through and strung together like ordinary beads; diamonds cut perfectly flat, and looking like common glass. There were some buttercups, the petals of which were diamonds cut quite thin and utterly destroyed. There are ornaments set double — that is with rubies on one side and emeralds on the other; and there are precious stones in all sorts of useless things, such as small boxes, mouth pieces, &c.
The Marchioness came to appreciate the richness and originality of Indian jewellery design and was only too pleased to accept a jewelled and enamelled set of ornaments as a gift, but the result of these pressures from both camps was to Europeanise Indian jewellery design to a considerable extent. With understandable caution Anglo-Indian taste tended to incline towards the jewellery that was least like the ancient native designs which must have seemed too barbaric for contemporary European taste.
Left: Plate 122. One of a pair of bracelets, gold, decorated with gems and enamel. Indian, nineteenth century. Right: Plate 123. Head ornament in gold set with gems and pearls, counter-enamelled with traditional decoration. Indian, nineteenth century. Courtesy of a private collection.
The most popular Indian jewellery included, as well as the enamelled miniatures that are so like the Swiss work of the same period but for the Indian subject matter, the jewelled and enamelled work produced mainly in Jaipur and Delhi, the green enamel and gold Pertubghar work, and pavé-set turquoise and pearl bracelets and earrings and the Mughal jade inlaid with gold and precious stones. Most of this jewellery seems to be nineteenth century, though the designs do not alter much over the years and it is difficult to date very accurately. The design of the enamelling on the Jaipur work [241/242] is in the style of the decoration of Shah Jehan's great monument, the Taj Mahal, and resembles dated enamelled pieces of that period.
The rich appearance of Indian jewellery, which was achieved by setting precious stones which were sometimes cut almost as thin as paper, pearls and turquoises in dense clusters on to the gold background embellished with coloured enamels, created a sensation at the Great Exhibition and fascinated artists like William Burges and Rossetti. Arthur Liberty, who had numbered Rossetti and Burges among his customers since his time with Farmer and Rogers, imported Indian jewellery to sell in his Oriental Warehouse in Regent Street, some of which was mounted in England and bears the same hallmarks as the jewellery which was designed and made for Liberty at the turn of the century, presumeably to go with clothes made from the beautiful Oriental materials with which Liberty had first made his reputation. The following passage appeared in an article in The Citizen on December 10th 1898:
In his newly opened shop in Regent Street, Liberty boldly backed the 'handicraft' tenets of William Morris by introducing to London the handiwork of Oriental smiths, potters and carvers, and, later the delicate hand-woven silks, cashmeres, shantungs, and satins of India, China and Japan. So successful was the poineering of this "East Indian Merchant" as he called himself that a wave of orientalism in dress and interior decoration swept fashionable society.
By the eighties Indian jewellery had become fashionable in England and France and had begun to influence the design of European jewellery to a considerable extent. The unusual use of materials which is found in all Eastern jewellery, particularly the haphasard mixture of valuable and worthless materials as well as the strange shapes and brilliant colours were to provide the inspiration for much of the jewellery produced by the Art Nouveau designers at the turn of the century. [242/243]
9 March 2015