Lions, pearls and bears, oh my! For centuries, the animal kingdom has been a muse to jewellers, not only inspiring some of the most memorable jewels in history but also by becoming icons that are forever linked with a jewellery house.
Animal motifs have taken on many themes throughout the years. From dramatic pieces such as the Panthère de Cartier Collection of bejewelled panthers, or Schlumberger’s bird of paradise perched upon a rock carved of sapphire, to symbolic jewels such as Egyptian scarabs offering rebirth, lions symbolising strength, or elephants of wisdom, these jewels all tell stories of whimsy.
Since the Renaissance, jewels have been inspired by animals. Exotic baroque pearls made the perfect animal body, such as this ‘Octopus’ Ring, a cultured pearl with onyx and diamonds found in our Geneva Jewels Online sale wraps its bejewelled arms around a finger in a playful design from Luciano Marotta Gigli.
In the 20th century, animal jewels enjoyed several periods of revival. René Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany, both master jewellers of the Art Nouveau movement, embodied the epoch by finding inspiration in the forms and lines of nature. Pendants featuring swooping fireflies and brooches with enamel insects crawling up glass branches characterised the times.
The Deco Period ushered in Cartier’s famous menagerie of jewelled animals, including the famed panther. Elephants, giraffes, and exotic birds from the African plains all found their way into bejewelled creations as the splendour of Africa was romanticised throughout the decade.
In the 1960s David Webb’s bold jewels often featured animals using colour, volume and structure, which would become his signature style. Today, animal jewels are still some of the best loved. Whether it’s a brooch reminiscent of a beloved animal, such as the above dog in our Geneva Jewels Online sale or a piece that would be the perfect complement to a blazer such as this sweet pair of birds (see above), there is a piece for every jewellery lover.