Articles of Use and Adornment


During the eighteenth century French art set the fashion in England. At the commencement of this century Louis XIV was reigning in France and Boulle cabinets were at their height of popularity. In those days most furniture had metal and enamelled decorations, and some were covered with inlays of marble, porphyry, lapis lazuli and other stones. Jewellery simply copied these effects in miniature. In the reign of Louis XV, furniture, almost covered with metalwork and richly gilt, inspired golden ornaments and appropriate jewels. The brothers Martin were, however, a refining influence, and their paintings and varnishes were set in gold jewellery, the lids of snuff-boxes, the jewelled knobs of canes, and in ladies' fans.

As Continental artists were then commonlly emploved in London the French influence on English art was very strong, but a few English craftsmen arose with great influences of their own. Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite in furniture, and Adams in architecture, helped also to influence the arts of the goldsmith, the silversmith and the jeweller, for these latter craftsmen always follow prevailing styles in other arts.

The eighteenth century was an extravagant century, and thus many whimsical fashions introduced themselves. Any new trinket which helped to charm the ladv love of an enamoured swain was sure of a warm welcome. Enamels were the vogue: watches, snuff-boxes, and other oddments were enamelled. The most popular colour was dark blue, and lockets for miniatures or for hair or for any fanciful souvenir were made of gold or gold alloy, some part of the frame being enamelled blue.

Possibly the most attractive trinkets used in connection with jewellery were the Wedgwood cameos. The plaques and medallions which Wedgwood made were, of course, too large for jewellery, but many of the smaller objects were set as brooches, scarf-pins and ear-rings. Some of the necklets contained as many as twenty different pieces, fastened together by gold chains. Bracelets were often made to match brooch and necklet.

Towards the end of the century an Englishman, Matthew Boulton, of Birmingham, introduced jewellery of cut steel intermixed with large crystals. Silver jewels and buckles were much worn. But diamonds eventually became the fashion, to vie with the introduction of superior candles, lamps, massive cut-glass chandeliers and brackets.

Rings were of course much worn at the time, particularly marquise rings, which afforded the jeweller the opportunity to set in large cameos, gems, and many rare clusters of diamonds.

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