Jewelry that Speaks the Language of Flowers

October 2, 2015
A flower is one of nature’s most delicate and beautiful creations. It’s fitting that jewelry designers have been spellbound by its charm. Orchid: Courtesy of Paula Crevoshay; Lily: Photo by David Behl. © Janet Mavec and GIA; Violet: Courtesy of Cartier. © GIA & Tino Hammid

A flower is one of nature’s most delicate delights, so it’s natural that jewelry designers have long found inspiration in them, seeking to capture their fleeting beauty in jewelry.

Flowers are also rich in symbolism. Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Brönte used floral symbolism in their works. Madame Charlotte de la Tour formalized their meanings in her 1852 book, The Language of Flowers.

Jewelry and floriography often cross paths. We share with you some breathtaking examples.

Wisteria

Courtesy of Ineke Peskin. © GIA & Tino Hammid

A fragrant flower that comes in blue, lavender, purple, pink, and white, wisteria symbolizes in Shin Buddhism modesty and contemplation. Because it is a twinning vine, it represented devotion and attachment in Victorian England.

An antique brooch (circa 1850) is an artful arrangement: it is made of a golden sprig of wisteria and enameled leaves and petals of turquoise. The cluster of flowers and the center stem are set with old mine cut diamonds and a pearl pendant.

Violet

Courtesy of Cartier. © GIA & Tino Hammid

Named for its rich, vibrant purple hue, violets mean modesty; white violets mean innocence. In The Language of Flowers: A History, Beverly Seaton writes that violets symbolized the Virgin Mary. Curiously, Napoleon used it as his emblem and Narcissus (who fell in love with his own reflection) turned into one.

This bouquet of violets has amethyst flowers with diamond stamens set in platinum, so both meanings of the flower are expressed. The brooch features gold leaves set with demantoid garnets and channel-set baguette diamond stems.

Bouquet

Courtesy of Neil Lane, Inc., Beverly Hills, California. © GIA & Tino Hammid

During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), British and Americans gave friends “talking bouquets” or tussie mussies (nosegays and small bouquets of herbs and flowers). Various arrangements had different meanings.

Carved rubies, sapphires and emerald “flowers” and diamond leaves make for a colorful bouquet. The piece evokes flower baskets given during the holidays.

Orchid

Courtesy of Paula Crevoshay

Cypripedioideae, or lady slipper orchids represent “capricious behavior.” Cattleya orchids symbolize “mature charms.” Cymbidium orchids represent virtue and integrity. Dendrobium orchids speak of refinement and beauty. Victorians thought the orchid to be an exotic beauty, and wore ones in their hair and placed them in vases.

Paula Crevoshay’s “Midnight Seduction” lady slipper orchid brooch is vibrant with 195 purple sapphires, 148 blue zircons, blue sapphires, black diamonds, coral, and an abalone pearl.

Lily

Photo by David Behl. © Janet Mavec and GIA

White lilies represent chastity and virtue, and have been associated with the Virgin Mary. They are also said to symbolize perfection, majesty, and the ideal woman. “Black” lilies (they’re really dark blue and maroon) are given to one’s first love. Yellow lilies represent gaiety. The color red in red lilies denotes desire or passion. King Charles IX of France gave lilies to women of the court on May Day – a tradition that still continues.

This red lily brooch is exotic and elegant.

Pansy

Courtesy of Lydia Courteille

Say “think of me” with a blossoming garland of pansies. The name pansy comes from the French penser, meaning to “to think.” Give pansies as a gesture of friendship and platonic love.

These purple, pink, and white earrings feature a petal design inspired by pansies. Their open blooms herald nature’s reawakening in the spring.

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