Egyptomania refers to the widespread popularity of & renewed interest in Ancient Egyptian culture throughout the contemporary world, as reflected by design & consumer trends, literature, scientific research, & art.
Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign (1798–1801) marked the first of two waves of Egyptomania, both of which had a significant impact on the cultural imagination, world-wide. Wishing to follow the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Napoleon successfully commandeered a massive naval expedition to Egypt, along with 167 scholars & scientists.
The second wave of Egyptomania was prompted by Egyptologist Howard Carter & his benefactor, Lord Carnarvon's extensive search for King Tutankhamun's tomb. Finally, in Feb. 1923, Carter used the chisel his grandmother gave him on his 17th birthday to breach the sealed doorway, revealing the sarcophagus of the "Boy King" who died aged 18, in 1352 BC. Ironically, it had taken Carter & Lord Carnarvon exactly 18 years to find him.
Louis-François Cartier founded the Cartier brand in Paris in 1847. His son (& successor) Louis was an avid collector of Egyptian artifacts & antiquities. Beginning in 1913, Louis Cartier produced many of the most elaborate and exceptional Egyptian Revival jewelry ever created. While other designers featured imitations of Egyptian hieroglyphics and motifs, Cartier honored Egyptian history by researching the gem materials, color schemes, & subject matter favored by ancient Egyptians. He brilliantly incorporated actual hieroglyphics, imagery found in excavations, & ancient Egyptian faience in his contemporary Art Deco designs, which were encrusted in platinum & diamonds. Cartier's most notable Egyptian Revival creations were made from 1913-1929. Cartier's "Temple-Gate" clock, created 1927 & modeled after the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak, is widely regarded as the finest Egyptian Revival creation of the 20th century.
Everyone is buzzing about the latest swarm of chic offerings from high-end designers & historic estate collections.
The ancient Egyptians incorporated scarab motifs in their jewelry for protection. The Barbarinis of Italy & the Bonapartes of France both featured bees on their family crests to symbolize enterprising diligence, hard work, & persistence. The prominence of insects, specifically the dragonfly, in Victorian & Art Nouveau jewelry design reflected the era's romantic interest in naturalism. Today, inventive designers like JAR, Wallace Chan, & Daniella Villegas are crafting gorgeous objets d'art featuring a variety of bugs & insects.
Perhaps the enduring popularity of insect motifs in jewelry can be attributed to the fact that a giant spider or rhinoceros beetle clad in precious metal & encrusted in gemstones is far less threatening than a living bug - in fact the bigger, the better!
Fair warning though: bug-jewelry seems to be unstoppable this season & once you are bitten, you might just catch the fever, too.
Carlo Giuliano (1831-1895) was a goldsmith and jeweler operating in London from 1875. He started work in Naples for Alessandro Castellani and was sent to London to establish a branch of the Casa Castellani. He left Castellani's employ in 1867 and in turn worked for Robert Phillips, Harry Emanuel, Hunt & Roskell, and Hancocks & Co - all leading London jewelers. In 1875, he set out on his own by launching a retail outlet at 115 Piccadilly, and specialized in Renaissance-style design.
Fordite (or Detroit Agate, Motor City Agate) is a man-made material that was an unintended byproduct of automotive assembly lines. During the painting process, car chassis were placed on conveyor belt tracks & paint was hand-sprayed & then dried as the cars slowly advanced through tunnels with strong lights that expedited the drying process.
The excess overspray paint gradually built up in layers in the belt tracks after thousands of cars passed through the paint bays. After several years, the paint accumulation (which had been baked into the tracks hundreds of times) would become an obstruction & had to be chiseled out & discarded.
Eventually, factory workers noticed the paint slag had striking colors & would hold a polish well. Word got around about this new "gemstone" with psychedelic colors & soon rock-hounds began showing up at auto factories to "help" remove the problematic paint deposits.
Unfortunately, the techniques that produced this great material are no longer used today. Today's factories use an electrostatic process that essentially magnetizes the enamel to the car body, eliminating overspray.
Collectors continue to learn about Fordite as its scarcity increases. Demand for both rough material and polished cabochons has skyrocketed. Interestingly, certain assembly plants produced cars of different specific colors during different years, & with a little research, a collector can identify the origin of his or her Fordite specimens - much in the same way gemologists identify the pedigrees of natural gemstones.
My advice: We know the Fordite mines have long since dried-out, so if you see this incredible material, get it while you can. Gem hunters, start your engines!
The cosmos were a source of intrigue for even the earliest civilizations. Ancient people learned about their environments by recognizing certain celestial patterns & the climate changes which routinely followed. This was all so critical to their survival, because their crops, livestock, & general safety & well-being depended on being able to prepare & plan for seasonal change. The artifacts & objects of adornment we have found, from practically every civilization we know to have existed, feature some evidence of their understanding & appreciation for the sun, moon, & stars.
This gallery features a collection of Celestial Jewelry from several different eras. From Cartier's golden model of Apollo 11, to a collection of Victorian brooches celebrating the discovery of Halley's Comet, to equisite modern-day creations by JAR & Wallace Chan, we are over-the-moon for simply ALL of these designs.
A memento mori (Latin 'remember that you will die') is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.
The phrase is said to have originated in ancient Rome: as a Roman general was parading through the streets during a victory triumph, standing behind him, his slave was tasked with reminding the general that, although at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall, or — more likely — be brought down. The servant is thought to have conveyed this with the warning, "Memento mori".
Memento mori jewelry presents death in its most literal form, showing the desecration of the body through skulls, skeletons - symbols that required little interpretation. Wearing this jewelry was an outward display of a relatively new philosophy: recognizing one's demise inspires one to live life to its fullest while still alive. Renaissance philosophy and the values of the Reformation are reflected in the motifs of memento mori jewelry.
Memento Mori & Political Instability in England
The memento mori jewelry trend took-off in late 17th cen. England. To understand the significance and history of memento mori jewelry, we really need to have a look at English history & the events which occurred around this time.
The 17th century saw great tribulation, an increase in mortality rates, but also advances in manufacturing technologies and newly emerging economies, like the funerary industry. The rise of the mourning industry during the 1660's fueled the popularity of the memento mori symbols & the outward, very sentimental commemorations of loved ones. As the English public reacted to bleak circumstances - an extensive civil war, the execution of a king and ongoing political uncertainty, an average national lifespan of only 40 yrs, the Great Plague of London in 1665, the city-wide decimation of the Great Fire of London in 1666, & a 4yr. period of cold known as the "Little Ice Age" beginning in 1683, in which the Thames froze over completely for 2 months - the symbols of death seemed familiar & appropriate. These identifiers of death remind people not only of the fleeting nature of life, but also that there is a natural outcome to dissent, & thusly were in the best interest of the monarchy, as well.
In 1686, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes forced Calvinist Protestants (Huguenots) in Switzerland to emigrate to Great Britain. The Huguenots bought with them skills which enabled the London "jewellery" trade to compete with those of Paris & Geneva. This led to an influx of new fashions & better designs, as well as an increase in patronage, which fueled the industry. The shrewd artisans noted the market for tokens of affection for deceased loved ones, & recognized that by partnering with funerary providers, they could produce a product that would be easy fabricate & even easier to sell. Funds for the creation & distribution of mourning rings were set aside & written into wills - it was not uncommon among the elite to distribute rings to all in attendance at funerals.
The bleak and blunt symbolism seem strangely macabre, compared to modern jewelry design - which to me, makes momento mori jewelry all the more interesting.
Live bugs as jewelry in Mexico!
Geometric patterns on the molecular level form the most fundamental building blocks for all matter...which is why it matters all the more that some of the hottest designers are currently showcasing geometric designs!
Check out these shapes before they ship-out!