FOR EVER AFTER: THE REVIVAL OF INTIMATE JEWELLERY
There is a trend that has gone on for some years now which has quietly been gaining strength and which has gone largely unremarked on by fashion commentators and jewellery bloggers: the revival of intimate jewellery.
Jewellery has always been used to celebrate special occasions: marriages, anniversaries, engagements. Commemorative jewellery has been around forever and a day and has been struck since Ancient Greek days to commemorate battles, reigns, state occasions and triumphs. Intimate jewellery, however, fully came into its own during the Victorian era where there was an insatiable appetite not for grand parures heralding important life landmarks, but for smaller, more wearable jewels that marked more private occasions, such as births, anniversaries, christenings, birthdays and even deaths. The Victorians loved crystallising intangible memories into photographs, miniatures and knick-knacks, and even more so, jewellery. They explored and expanded the symbolic meaning of precious and semi precious stones and incorporated the language of flowers into jewellery. A favourite motif was the forget-me-not, which was rendered in pearls, rubies diamonds and especially turquoises and was popular as presents to prospective sweethearts.
Another popular theme which began to gather momentum during the Regency was acrostic jewellery: pieces that used the first letter of each precious stone to spell out a message; so DEAREST might be denominated as Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Turquoise. Spurred on by the Romantic movement and a more than passing curiosity in the esoteric, it was also the age in which birthstones and their meaning fully came into their own.
Intimate jewellery today is more than a passing fad or fashion. In an age of mass market and consumerism it allows for a little individuality without having to fork out for the exhorbitantly expensive Bond Street unique pieces. Birthstones and their symbolism remain hugely popular and I have made several bespoke inexpensive pieces celebrating children and grandchildren using birthstones. With modern technology, it is now possible to take, say, the imprint of a loved one’s fingerprint, or their signature and incorporate it into a discreet medallion or bracelet. Hand on Heart is one of the best companies in the United Kingdom doing these at the moment. For wonderfully made silver, go to Theo Fennell and ask them to engrave any message you want in their handwriting. Another brand which has done roaring trade in intimate jewellery is Loquet. Started by Sheherazade Goldsmith and Laura Bailey, you can personalise lockets and charm bracelets with birthstones and symbols. It is in fact an ideal godparent gift, as you can add relatively inexpensive charms every year.
Most importantly, the best thing about intimate jewellery is that it has been reinterpreted in a contemporary manner, and we are long past jet mourning jewellery or rings made out of hair. Whether you decide to buy an antique (and they remain eminently collectable) or something new, there is plenty out there to suit every taste