Delicate and luminous creatures, links between the sky and the earth, birds have always given amazement. Then, it isn’t surprising that they are magnified in jewelry.
Populating our universe as well as our imagination, these sublime creatures are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. They enchant us, whether in mythology, through poetry or through pure and grandiose symbols such as the dove, an allegory of peace. However, they attract jewelry artists in their creative research. But also, the birds, by their exquisite range of colors, allow them a great possibility of expression. Between lines, shapes, tones or gestures, the diversity of species offers an infinite field of interpretation.
Unveiling an exotic aesthetic, birds began to arouse strong interest between the 19th and 20th centuries. They provoke curiosity and imbue minds with the image of travel and adventure. Their beauty pushes jewelers to represent foreign species like the brooch in the shape of a Peacock Feather by Mellerio. Unveiled at the Universal Exhibition of 1867 in Paris, the subject of this exceptional piece was unprecedented for the time. Likewise, their power of seduction invites artists to design new imaginary creatures.
Moreover, Art Nouveau was a very fruitful period for this theme. Between the irregular and sinuous lines or the flamboyance of colors, a new aesthetic develops, visible for example in René Lalique’s swans of remarkable elegance. This new aesthetic moved over the period towards more geometric lines, simplifying the shapes of period jewelry. Inspired by elsewhere such as Japan, new birds appear in French jewelry such as the crane, a symbol of longevity in the land of the rising sun.
The decline of the Art Deco period from the 1930s requires a change in the emphasis on jewelry birds. The creations become more sculptural and are processed in 3 dimensions. Dynamism is highly wanted, contrasting with the previous synthetic stylization. Finally, after the war, jewelers also moved towards more modern forms with clean, even abstract lines.
Beyond aesthetics, birds carry with them many cultural, symbolic and political references.
For example, during the Second World War Jeanne Toussaint and Peter Lemarchand drew caged birds for Cartier. This creation is a protest against the German occupation. At the Liberation, Boivin created a rooster which became the symbol of French independence. Van Cleef & Arpels “Lovebirds” celebrate the harmony and peace found in homes after war. From this image, many jewelers design creations that embody the new found freedom. The eagle, meanwhile, from ancient times to the present day remains linked to power.
Usually bearers of positive messages, birds often represent joy, peace (symbol of the dove with an olive branch), fidelity and even love (such as the dove and the turtledove).
The symbolism of the peacock is most flattering in Asia. It is in the East a sign of beauty and nobility, a cosmic bird in India. Its plumage also recalls the magnificence of seduction thanks to all the splendor of its courtship display. Its colors, a fabulous mix of blue, green and gold, have led it to symbolize the sun. Complex, it also evokes vanity, pride and luxury in the West. Assimilated to the image of the femme fatale in the arts of the 19th century, sensuality, mystery, danger and exoticism are in the spotlight.
The hummingbird is the quintessential bird of jewelry. Its size which allows the miniature evokes lightness and preciousness. Quite naturally, it matches jewelery codes thanks to the plume of its tail which allows a wide choice of stones and color schemes.
The Birds of Paradise unveils extravagance. Populating distant lands, they fascinate Westerners and invite jewelers to compete to create magical and flamboyant plumages that call for the exotic and the marvelous.
To use the words of the École des Arts Joailliers, historian Jules Michelet, publishing L’Oiseau, recalls the latter’s role in nature. “At the center of this harmony, it is simultaneously an architect, singer, educator and fighter. It is the guardian of freedoms ”. Then, jewellers creators of dreams, beauty and history, could only pay homage to its splendor and grace. Successful bet.
Source : Paradis d’oiseaux, L’école des Arts Joailliers, Paris, 2019