From the Renaissance to the end of the Belle Epoque, miniature portraits of famous personalities – political, military, literary, artistic – and of private individuals inspired jewelers to design precious settings to enhance their beauty and emphasize their significance.
The jewels bring to life five centuries of extraordinary events and personalities, and illustrate a fascinating aspect of the history of jewelry.
The story begins in the sixteenth century with the Medici and other powerful dynasties, and ends just before the fall of the Romanovs. Rings, pendants, lockets, bracelets and objets de luxe set with cameos, intaglios, medals and miniatures: the desire for these jeweled portraits was international, ranging from Lisbon to Moscow, from Stockholm to Naples, from London to Paris to New York.
Diana Scarisbrick draws upon her knowledge of jewelry, painting, history and literature to set the portrait jewels in the context of people's lives, and shows how they were worn and what they meant to donors and recipients – tokens of allegiance to a ruler, of commitment between lovers, of affection within families.