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The Romance of Jewelry

By Carrie Johnson

"Well," you may ask, "isn't jewelry romantic by it's very nature?"

To some extent this is true, but we wear jewelry for any number of reasons that are not romantic... to look sophisticated, to look professional, to impress our friends and neighbors.

So what about the romance of jewelry?

In this case I'm talking about romance in a broader sense than simply relationships.

Something more like this definition from the dictionary:

"A quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life"

That wonderful fission, that bit of a chill that you get from something that is just, well, more than day to day life.

Romantic jewelry is that jewelry that makes you feel special, different, like a princess or a prince. That jewelry that takes you out of your normal hum drum life each time you put it on. The little something extra that comes of wearing something truly special.

Perhaps that is why gold is such a popular metal for jewelry. I love silver and platinum and there are other metals (titanium comes to mind) that make great jewelry, but there is nothing like the romance of gold. To wear gold is to wear the jewelry of kings and queens. In ancient Egypt only the pharaohs and those especially favored by the pharaohs were permitted to wear gold. This feeling of being special and above the fray has continued to the modern day. If you want to feel like royalty (or if you want to give a gift that says you think of your beloved as a king or queen), gold is the answer.

Other jewels that inspire feelings of romance are pearls, emeralds and rubies... and, of course, for many people, diamonds.

Somehow though diamonds don't seem to have the same warmth and romance as the other stones. Actually diamonds were not historically valued as highly was we do today. Much of the romance that has been generated around diamonds is do to de Beers in the early part of the 20th century instituting a brilliant and very effective advertising campaign... so I will leave diamonds for another day.

On the other hand pearls... Pearls feel wonderful against your skin. They are sensuous and mysterious. To look deeply into a fine pearl is to look into eternity. There is also something intriguing about a pearl, knowing that is came not from the cold hard ground, but from an industrious mollusk.

Pearls have been prized in all time periods and all cultures. Historically baroque pearls (large irregularly shaped pearls) were used to make wonderful and fantastic jewelry by embellishing them with gold an gems. Frequently these took the shape of Neptune or other greek gods, sirens, beautiful women and animals. The Canning Jewel in the Victoria and Albert museum is a famous and elaborate use of a baroque as the base for a handsome merman.

Black pearls, particularly Tahitian black pearls have become very popular in recent years. They come in a range of colors from spectacular purples and greens, through pinks to sophisticated browns. All are lovely and the range of colors gives them a great deal of flexibility in choosing just the right pearl for your outfit and mood. The most beautiful black pearl necklace I've seen was from Morrison's a small manufacturing jeweler in Berkeley. The pearls were arranged in a rainbow strung together so that each color melted into the one next to it -- stunning. And of course what could be more romantic than pearls from Tahiti?

(By the way, if you wear pearls, do wear them against your skin, it is good for them, but be sure that you do not wear any perfume, scent or lotion, at least not where it might contact your pearls.)

Emeralds and rubies are traditionally the emperor and empress of gems. Perhaps it is their vibrant colors that inspired our ancestors. Certainly that vivid blood red and cool serpent green are hard to ignore. Even today emeralds and rubies of equal size and quality are more expensive than equivalent diamonds.

In Victorian times colored gems were used to spell out love messages. Sometimes this made for interesting and not necessarily attractive settings; but it is very romantic. For instance a piece of jewelry might have these gems in order:

LOVE: Lapis, Opal, Vermeil and Emerald.

REGARD: Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond.

The shape of jewelry too can harbor a romantic message. Hearts and clasped hands, hands holding a heart (Claddagh) and cupids are self explanatory, but some shapes are a bit more subtle.

For many cultures, including the Romans and the Victorians, snakes were a symbol of enduring love. A snake biting it's own tail so as to make a circle is a particularly potent symbol of everlasting love. Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake engagement ring -- the beginning of a long and celebrated marriage.

Interestingly lizards and frogs were (and perhaps still are) also symbols of wedded happiness. Perhaps this explains the continuing popularity of jewelry depicting this wiggly creatures.

Jewelry in the shape of flowers may also be symbolic. To quote Ophelia "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. That's for thoughts."

Other flowers commonly found in jewelry are daisies for innocence, roses for the growth and continuation of love and bouquets expressing the commingling and compatibility of marriage. When you are considering the perfect gift from that next anniversary, rather than the common "anniversary ring" how about a more romantic bouquet pendant?

So the next time you are rooting through your jewel box before that special tryst or looking for the perfect gift for the perfect lover, consider the symbolic romance of jewelry and gems.


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