Thursday, September 22, 2011


There was no Tiffany's during the Renaissance, but who needed it, when jewelry was being designed by some of the greatest artists of the day?  Botticelli and Ghirlandaio started out as goldsmiths; and if you wanted gems, you could pick up a bauble from Holbein or Cellini.

Favorite Renaissance gems were pearls, rubies, and emeralds.  Stones were often engraved or backed with colored foil to intensify their hue.  Cameos were a special love.  And if you couldn't afford the real thing, you could find some excellent fakes, or look for some glorious enamels. 


Pendants were worn on sleeves, around necks, or dangling from a chain.  There were dragons, sea monsters, mermaids, and ships to celebrate the age of exploration.  For more classic tastes, there were animals, birds, insects, lizards, crosses, or initials.

 A young Princess Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

With or without a pendant, long, heavy gold chains decorated with filigree or studded with jewels adorned all in the Tudor court.  The king often wore an entire collar of links strewn with fabulous gems.

 King Henry VIII
Gold Chain of Office with Tudor Rose.
Created for Sir Edward Montagu, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1546

These old standbys of course, never go out of style, and if there was a gem left over, they were often set in aglets, small brooches that were pinned on clothes. 

 Locket Ring worn by Queen Elizabeth I

With the ruff so big it swallowed up necklaces, jewels were worn as a belt instead.

In the early sixteenth century, ladies wore a chaplet of pearls or a hairnet studded with gems.  

As the century progressed, and hairdos became upswept, jewels were worn in elaborate diadems.

Men wore hat badges: handsome jeweled brooches tacked boldly to an upturned brim.  They featured pictures form Scriptures, animals, and even portraits of the king.

 Mary Tudor with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk 1515

During the Renaissance, it was anything goes.  Jewels were displayed everywhere - on bodices, on the edge of robes, and even encrusted on shoes.


  1. I LOVE jewellery from the past. Im always pestering my professors about historical fashions, and you picked my favourite time!

  2. Natalie - I studied textiles in college. The historical clothing class I took was my favorite. I adore historical costumes, jewellery and shoes, especially fashions from the Tudor court.