Skip to content
CUSTOMER SERVICE : +33 (0)1 84 60 50 35
CUSTOMER SERVICE : +33 (0)1 84 60 50 35


"Jewel of sentiment" in the XNUMXth century


Lhe "sentiment jewel" is a jewel inspired by love, in its broad sense: amorous, fraternal, filial, friendly... Offered, exchanged, pledge materializing the unbreakable bond between the person who wears it and his donor. Carried on oneself, sometimes directly on the skin, it is a mediator allowing one to remain physically in contact with the person one wishes to be kept close to one. This very intimate jewel, sometimes not "readable" to outsiders, deploys a delicate ingenuity and uses a very personal language in order to restore the presence of the absent being. The modes of representation are varied: portraits, symbols, emblems, allegories, inscriptions and body fragments are used to bring the loved one to life with oneself.

The portrait in the jewel of feeling

Already so frequently set in miniature in the XNUMXth century, the portrait, made from the “original” or sometimes from memory, fixes the features forever. The latter must be very faithful, in order to make up for the absence and to create "the liveliest sensation", physical disturbance, when it is looked at. For lovers, he is a talisman. It enables remote communication, like Saint-Preux, in The New Heloise, in front of the miniature portrait of Julie: "Don't you feel your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth, your breast, squeezed, compressed, monopolized by my ardent kisses?" ".
The gaze of the possessor animates them, thus in the Memoirs of two newlyweds of H. of Balzac, Felipe contemplating the “wonderful ivory”, portrait of Louise, sees there his “blue eyes (which) come alive and the painting immediately becomes a reality”.

The portrait (continued)

Executed in watercolor on ivory, these portraits of various sizes, tiny (1cm) to imposing (5 cm and more), are visible to all eyes, protected by glass, mounted as the main motif of brooches, rings or bracelets, some of which exhibit several, inserted on hinged plates. The portraits can also be hidden inside a kind of medallion whose lid can be opened thanks to a small hinge or hidden by a rotation system, as on this ring with a pivoting bezel (ill. 1) or even on the back of a brooch.
Of the beloved face, sometimes only an eloquent part is retained: the gaze, concentrated on a single eye, painted in miniature. The expression, often striking, has been set particularly in England since the end of the XNUMXth century, in brooches, rings, pendants and bracelet clasps.
After the invention of photography in 1839, miniatures were gradually replaced by more “real” photographic portraits, without the interpretation of the miniaturist artist. Reduced, sometimes painted, when visible, they are inserted in the center of the jewels (ill. 2). Hidden they could be numerous, up to half a dozen, inserted in a single medallion with clever processes.

Allegories, emblems and symbols in sentimental jewelry

Allegories, emblems and symbols, inspired by Renaissance manuals, reappropriated in the XNUMXth century, can be added so that the link with the loved one and the feeling are reinforced. The most frequent allegory is that of Friendship, so often associated with the feeling of Love in the XNUMXth century, which is why their iconography is often identical until the beginning of the XNUMXth century.
Often represented by a female figure near an elm, surrounded by vines or ivy, a symbol of constancy and eternity. On the small ivories of this period, she may be accompanied by a dog, a symbol of fidelity. To this is sometimes added an inscription reinforcing these signs: "gift of friendship", "memory of friendship". This pledge of affection, in the XNUMXth century, can be written on the ring of rings with diamonds and colored stones or on the bezel highlighted by colored enamels (ill. 3).
Reading the messages is not always easy on "sentiment jewellery", particularly when it is necessary to know the name of the stones in order to juxtapose their initials in order to understand their meaning. Thus, on the acrostic bracelets made by Nitot, it is possible to discover the first names of Napoleon and Marie-Louise, the dates of their first meeting and their marriage.


Love is represented by Venus, a Roman goddess, often accompanied by her son Cupid (Eros in Greek mythology) (ill.4), chubby and mischievous child, messenger of love, armed with a bow, a quiver and arrows piercing the most hardened hearts. Her chubby face makes up the kitten of Roman rings and her schemes to achieve her ends, demonstrating the power of love are illustrated on miniatures in the XNUMXth century. Hovering over the altar of love and now the flaming torch of Hymeneus, he stokes the fires of passion. His attributes are reproduced on miniatures and make up head jewelry and brooches in the XNUMXth century (ill.5).
Seat of love, of which it is the symbol, maintained by Cupid, the heart is the most popular motif. Alone or paired, ignited, pierced with arrows, encrusted with the initials of lovers, crowned with the attributes of Venus: roses and myrtle, it adorns all types of jewelry.
Doves or doves, other attributes of the goddess of love, were very present in jewelry in the XNUMXth century, becoming rare at the beginning of the following century. We observe them pecking at each other, brooding the eggs of the nest or flying, holding in their beak a crown or the ends of a ribbon forming a knot, while they move away from each other.
Symbol of the indestructible bond between two beings, the Gordian knot cannot be untied. In 1824, it was a frequent motif, worn as a ring and pin, made in gold, enamel, bronzed steel and iron.
The doves will give way to the snake, rolled up, biting its tail, a symbol of eternity. As a necklace, it can hold between its hooks, a small opening heart to hide a lock of hair (ill.7).

Messenger flowers...

If the rose refers to love and its initiation in The Romance of the Rose, other flowers are highly valued for their coded language. Thus, the forget-me-not, in English “ forget me not », « do not forget me », with its petals of turquoise color and its yellow heart is very appreciated around miniature portraits.
Another flower, the pansy, for "think of me", or accompanied by the inscription "to him", is frequent, enamelled on the "slavery" necklaces, on the rings and in relief on the "reliquary" medallions, openings or on the reverse of a portrait (ill.1 et ill.6).
Inspired by love and friendship, the ring faith (from Italian mani in fede) known as the "foy ring" or "good faith", emblem of two intertwined hands with or without inscription. Many of these rings, set with an intaglio, or twinned, can be opened, revealing two names, a date, a message. Some offer a heart or a forget-me-not.

hair jewelry

But what makes it possible to remain closest to the absent being is to wear “a part” of himself: his hair. At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, finely cut, glued on ivory, they will still represent small landscapes with allegories and symbols: altar and temple of love, flaming hearts, birds... They will also be gathered in the shape of loops or delicately rolled up in medallions, brooches and in the bezels of rings, exposed to view or hidden on the back of a miniature or a photograph. Braided, they constitute chains, belts, rings, earrings, bracelets (ill. 8). From about 1840, the work of the hair is more and more voluminous, particularly for the bracelets to which symbols are added.
In 1852, leaving for Germany, the Comtesse de V*** brought a bracelet made by Lemonnier, jeweler, hair designer. The jewel "in hair on which rise, from distance to distance, forget-me-nots" are "admirably imitated" and remarks the Baroness de Lagny: "Isn't it a happy thought to wear, close to those who are far of France, the emblem of remembrance? ". In 1853, a snake bracelet was noticed at the Champ-de-Mars “whose rings in blond hair are, so to speak, gilded in the sun. (The) snake crawls gracefully over a natural shade reed leaf in green enamel. The head is flamboyant with emeralds and brilliants. It is a dazzling masterpiece. »

The jewel of feeling, evocation and testimony

Composed of often associated complex signs (portrait/symbols/allegory/hair/inscriptions), the "sentiment jewel" allows the evocation of the loved one and thus reduces the distance which separates its possessor from its donor. It is the moving testimony of these present or disappeared links, the trace of the feelings and the existence of anonymous lives or not.

Caption details:
Ill. 1: Swivel ring, portrait and thought painted on mother-of-pearl and circled in black and gold. French jewel around 1800.
Ill. 2: Bracelet with colored photographic portrait and braided hair. Second part of the 750th century. Clasp in 3,2 thousandths gold. Height at the level of the miniature: 5 cm, total width of the clasp: 1,3 cm, width of the bracelet in hair: XNUMX cm.
Ill. 3: Friendship ring, enamelled and chased 750 thousandths gold. French work from the XNUMXth century.
Ill. 4: Souvenir pendant, silver and 585 thousandths gold, miniature, fine pearls and red stone. Around 1850. Dimensions: 46 x 30 mm
Ill. 5: Arrow brooch, yellow gold and silver, tiger eye cabochon, entourage of rose-cut diamonds. Second part of the 6,5th century. Length: XNUMXcm
Ill. 6: Opening medallion that can hold a photograph or a lock of hair. 750 thousandths gold and emerald. XIX. Dimensions: 9 x 3cm
Ill. 7: Snake necklace holding an opening heart, 585 thousandths gold and garnets. Nineteenth century.
Ill. 8: Hair bracelet, 585 thousandths pink gold and half-pearl surround. Early 10th century. Dimensions of the central element: 15 x 19,5 mm, total length: XNUMX cm
Ill. 9: Brooch in hair, silver and gold. Around 1850. Dimensions: 5 x 4,5 cm
Find all of our selection  vintage 1850-1890