Since man started using his talents to create art, from the earliest rock and cave paintings to the most modern of art and design, he has been inspired by the animal form. This desire to recreate the animal kingdom as art is one the jewellery designer and goldsmith knows well, from the jaw-dropping works of the ancient Egyptians, through to the world famous designs created by Cartier for Wallace Simpson through to commissions received at our own store, it seems animals and precious gems make the perfect artistic match.
Dating back millennia, animal inspired jewellery as would have been worn at the court of Cleopatra still has the power to take our breath away. Of course, in ancient Egypt animals represented a great deal more than they do today; the scarab beetle for example was the symbol of re-birth, and every Egyptian would ensure that they were buried with a scarab to help them move through the afterlife to rebirth.
Animals, including crocodiles, cats, falcons and more, played a big part in the mythology and religion of ancient Egypt. Some animals were associated with or seen as sacred to the gods and the creation of jewellery or precious objects for the home, or to dedicate to the temples, would have filled the hours of many goldsmiths along the banks of the Nile.
As we move into modern times, rather than our jewellery selections being influenced by our religious beliefs, we have accepted our inspiration from Mother Nature – after all, when you look at the sheer variety of birds and beasts in the world it’s clear who’s the design guru here.
Insects, unsurprisingly, have been one of the greatest sources of jewellery inspiration across the years. Whether it’s faithfully copying their iridescence and colours in precious metals and gems, or using these creatures as a mere platform from which to create something wholly fantastical, butterflies, bees, dragonflies and even moths have provided endless inspiration. Indeed, our very own bees, crafted in silver or gold, have proven quite the joy for many happy customers.
One of our clients raised her own Elephant Hawk Moths as a child, this beautiful creature is a symphony in purple and olive, so when she asked us to make her a necklace to celebrate it, we chose a dazzle of white diamonds and green and violet sapphires set into 18k white gold.
Another continuing source of inspiration has been birds. Birds of Paradise, the peacock…there are so many already stunning birds in the world it seems that no jewellery designer need ever dream up his or her own. This one (left,) from Graff, revealed to an adoring crowd in 2013 at The European Fine Arts Fair, is said to be the most expensive brooch made in recent times.
Having said that, we rather like this startlingly beautiful Phoenix (right), a fantasy in diamonds and sapphires again, created for our moth loving client. Once this lady developed a taste for bespoke jewellery, there was no stopping her – or her imagination!
It would be both rude and remiss of us, while we take a look at animal inspired jewellery through the ages, not to mention the cat and in particular the jewelled cats created for Wallace Simpson by Cartier. Panthers and tigers, as bracelets, brooches and clips, formed a significant part of the collection she built over the years with the man who adored her enough to sacrifice his throne. Made to order by Cartier, they became a symbol of both the wearer and the creator, who didn’t limit their inspiration to a single client.
Less well known, but equally stunning, is this fabulous tiger brooch made for Woolworth’s heiress Barbara Hutton in 1957. In 18k yellow gold, set with brilliant-cut yellow diamonds, onyx, white diamonds and with emerald-set eyes, in 2015 it sold at auction for over £450,000.
As you can see: if you can dream it, it can be done.