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Home > Bestiary

The bestiary : Antique jewelry animals and fantastic creatures

Often eccentric, always flamboyant, terribly precious and resolutely trendy, animal jewelry, also known as bestiary jewelry, has a place of choice in the windows of the most prestigious jewelry stores.

Inspired by nature and the small animals that surround them, more alive than nature, they are just waiting to be tamed. Unusual, these animal jewels taken out of their context become precious companions pinned to the lapel of our jacket, twirling around our neck, or delicately hung on our finger.

Bestiary jewelry through the ages

Existing since the dawn of time, animal jewelry has been successively put forward, according to different naturalistic trends.

  • From the 1st Empire (end of the 1700s and beginning of the 1800s), jewelry was inspired by Ancient Egypt and the scarab, the first symbol of Egypt, was very much represented.
  • In the 1820s, animal jewelry became more realistic. Birds and insects were in the majority, and jewelry with springs cleverly attached to them appeared, giving the illusion that the animal was moving with the movements of the body.
  • The Second Empire and the 1860's, give pride of place to insects : butterflies, flies, grasshoppers, beetles, adorn necks, ears and bodices.
  • The end of the 1800s saw the appearance of representations of fantastic creatures from the imagination and mythology in particular, such as dragons or chimeras.
  • Then came the advent of Art Nouveau (1895 - 1910), which was the great era of animal jewelry. It is largely inspired by nature and its colors, to create butterflies, dragonflies, fish and birds with colorful plumage. Not forgetting nocturnal animals, reptiles or even fantastic animals.
  • The 1940's, marked by a great desire for freedom after years of war, celebrate birds and butterflies.
  • The 1950's saw diversity in the representations. Birds are still represented, but they are joined more widely by ladybugs, turtles and domestic animals such as dogs, cats or rabbits.

Famous animal jewelry designers

Over the years, many designers have shown their talent, creativity and expertise through collections of animal jewelry that are remembered.
We can mention the Maison Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vever who is a figurehead of Art Nouveau, but also the Maison Cartier who has made the panther its famous symbol since 1914.

Let's take a look at the most represented animals :

The Snake

Here is an animal with strong symbolism!
Sometimes considered as the embodiment of evil, sin or lie, it is also a symbol of wisdom and fertility.
Thanks to the fact that it moults, it represents change, rebirth and transformation.
In medicine and pharmacy, it is the symbol of knowledge and regeneration.
The snake that bites its own tail, the "Ouroboros", symbolizes eternity, the cycle of the universe and the continuous renewal of life. 

The Eagle

Represented since the Antiquity, the eagle is still today, symbol of power and victory. Although it can be associated with pride, it has a mostly positive connotation, notably that of regeneration, strength and prestige.
It has often been chosen as the emblem of armies and many rulers.

The Beetle

Symbol of resurrection, it was very fashionable in the late 1700s, early 1800s when women wore jewelry inspired by ancient Egypt. It symbolizes the solar cycle of day and night. In ancient Egypt it is synonymous with wealth, transformation and protection.

The Chimera

It appears in Greek mythology. Composed of a lion's head, a goat's body and a snake's tail, this complex creature originally represents desires that frustration turns into pain. Little by little its symbolism evolves and links it to the unconscious, the invisible and the imaginary.

The Frog

The one that in fairy tales marries the features of a bewitched prince, is adorned with luxury. The frog, symbol of luck, is the icon of bestiary jewelry. Its long process of development and evolution also make it the symbol of rebirth, resurrection and fertility.

The Butterfly

The transformation of the caterpillar into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly has always fascinated us, so it is only natural that the butterfly has become the symbol of resurrection, metamorphosis and change.
Often associated with the soul, it is a symbol of immortality in Asian cultures.

The Bee

This small insect, essential to biodiversity, has been highly regarded since antiquity. Tireless worker, the bee is the symbol of hard work, courage and order.

The Bird of Paradise

Often represented with graceful feathers, this bird is the symbol of lightness and closeness to God.

Let yourself be surprised by the fauna of the collection of antique bestiary jewelry or new animal jewelry
of the Maison Baume.

Precious collection of animal jewelry

Precious Bestiary jewels : a selection of brooches, rings, earrings, antique necklaces

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