From the naturalistic to the highly stylised and downright cartoonish: how wildly creative animal brooches evolved from the late 19th century through to the 1990s, with examples offered in October’s Online Jewels Sale
Animals have been a recurring theme throughout the history of jewellery design, their exquisite forms having captured the imagination of jewellers for centuries.
One of the earlier examples offered in the Online Jewels sale is this charming turtle pendant brooch from the late 19th century, with bright green demantoid garnets set amid silver-topped gold. Demantoid garnets were first discovered in 1868 in the Ural Mountains of Russia, and the highly refractive gems soon became very popular. Delicate flora and fauna brooches such as this one were typically worn in small groups along the fashionably high necklines of the period.
Towards the end of the first decade of the 20th century ‘black and white’ jewellery suddenly became fashionable, a trend perfectly embodied by this brooch.
The 1903 invention of the oxy-acetylene torch, which could reach the extremely high temperatures required to work with platinum, enabled jewellers to work with the precious metal to create more refined pieces that were also softer and lighter. The goose in this brooch appears to be in mid-flight, and such movement and attention to detail in the design would not have been possible without the use of platinum.
By the mid-20th century several design houses were taking a more playful approach to zoomorphic jewellery. This whimsical Cartier duck brooch is a fine example of a piece designed for daytime use, the playful form of the waddling bird created using gold, enamel and semi-precious stones.
These cute critters are from Van Cleef and Arpels’ ‘La Boutique’ collection of cartoonish animal brooches created in the early 1960s. The ‘Lion Ébouriffé’ and frog brooches were designed to attract a new clientele through a combination of charm and more accessible price points. Notable collectors of the ‘La Boutique’ designs included Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy.
One of the most notable American jewellery designers of the 1960s, David Webb is known for his bold geometric designs. He, too, looked to the animal kingdom for inspiration: this beautifully crafted gem-set enamel Zebra brooch evokes the spirit of the classic animal jewels of the 1960s and ’70s.
This 1990 Cartier elephant mother and offspring brooch and pin set and Cartier dolphin mother and calf brooch may have been inspired by the environmental movements of the early 1990s. Several notable jewellery design houses, including Cartier, launched collections in conjunction with wildlife organisations to help safeguard the beauty of the natural world.