Leaves in Antique Jewelry-post 167
#6783 Victorian earrings with enamelled grape leaves.
Ever since The Garden of Eden episode featuring a fig leaf, foliage has played a large, if secondary and not too obvious role in art in general. The art of the jeweller is no exception and leaves play a common and constant role in what we wear as our personal adornment. Just sometimes, leaves even manage to steal the scene and play the starring role. Naturally, leaves are often depicted in antique jewelry.
Through the centuries, leaves have played a part in the life of humankind, whether it was eaten, used as medication, as a building, wrapping or writing material, and of course, for personal adornment.
#6792 Symbol of hope and optimism and life.
Foliage is symbolic of many things, sometimes according to the particular type of leaf and sometimes more generically. The obvious connotation is that of growth, exhuberance and life. We all recognise a wreath of victory or that of mourning, an olive branch as symbol of peace, a hero's laurels and kissing under the mistletoe. Bacchus and his attendants with their vineleaves and the strength denoted by an oak are still part of our lexicon. There are other forgotten or unrecognised symbols associated with foliage in other cultures and traditions.
#6348 Nouveau wheat pendant.
In some religions, figures of humans are not permitted. Instead, artists have used foliage amongst other forms, to create a universe of great beauty. In other religions, leaves might be symbolic of a person or characteristic.
#5294 Islamist cufflinks with foliate detail.
#6393 Georgian Christian religious ring.
Flowers are often the star of the show, but they are shown off to best effect with a background of their own foliage.
Foliage grows in infinite forms which can be used by the jewelry designer in many ways. Leaves can be made to twist, turn, scroll and bend to suit the needs of an imagined jewel.
Foliage is often used to link elements of a jewel. Foliage integrates the parts of the whole jewel. Foliage carries the eye from place to place so that we can appreciate the jewelry in its entirety. Foliage creates a sense of movement.
#5968 falling foliage leads the eye through the elements of these earrings and connects the parts to the whole.
Sometimes, the twisting foliage is the Star of the Show such as in this brooch where it swirls and twines and creates a sense of movement.
#5249 Georg Jensen brooch.
Leaves are highly recognisable regardless of the materials used to depict them in jewelry. Leaves made of gold, platinum or other metals may be left as such. They may be adorned with diamonds or gems. Green gems like emeralds will allow for a more naturalistic look. A jewel may be enamelled with naturalistic colors whether the green of spring and summer or the yellows, oranges and browns of autumn.
#6770 Giuliano pendant with enamel leaves, hinting at Autumn.
6860 Mario Buccellati Necklace
While the foliage depicted in antique jewelry is often easily recognised as a specific species, artistic license allows the jeweller to create generic or leaf-like forms, which our eye and mind readily accepts. Often, especially in more modern items, the form is more of a hint and might depict a long leaf, a fountain or volcano. During the Art Nouveau period, there was often little to distinguish between the hair of a Medusa-like woman and long, green leaves. One happily metamorphosized into the other.
#6780 Retro Aquamarine Earrings with swirling foliage.