One of the most iconic jewels of the eighteenth century was the cross. Whether created in solid gold or adorned with sparkling gemstones, the cross is the standard bearer for a symbol that represents faith and spirituality. During the Georgian era the cross also became a must-have symbol of fashion.
Wealthy Christian women across Europe adorned their decolletes with sparkling crosses to demonstrate their devout beliefs and to also make a fashion statement. They wore their crosses as easily to church as they wore them to a ballroom.
Popular designs included the Latin cross, the Greek cross, the Maltese cross and the St. Georges cross. Additionally other symbols of faith included the Saint Esprit, which is in the form of a dove, a symbol of the Holy Ghost, were worn frequently, especially by French women throughout the eighteenth century.
One popular style included a matching suite of jewels (known as a Parure or a Demi-Parure) which included a cross pendant that could easily be clipped on or off a necklace for extra versatility.
In 1752 the fashionable Lady Jane Coke penned a letter to her friend Mrs. Eyre regarding her new cross jewelry set. She writes “I went to Russell’s the day before I came out of town and he would neither show me your cross and earrings nor tell me what they came to. I shall be glad to know what he makes you pay for the setting. You can’t mistake in putting the ribbon to it, and as to the length of your cross. You may either wear it high upon your neck or let the bottom of it touch the top of your stays”.
Excellent advice for wearing a versatile piece of jewelry that still is relevant in today’s modern world. My favorite pieces of jewelry can be worn at multiple lengths to achieve the perfect look.
Although I don’t spend my time hanging out in ballrooms, I can appreciate a piece of jewelry that combines both spiritual meaning along with making a fashion statement.
Trends come and go in the world of fashion and recent years (even decades, I dare say….think Madonna and her Like a Virgin video) the popularity for crosses in jewelry fashion is a trend still with us. Even men have joined women in this trend by wearing long rosary style necklaces in recent years.
As for me, I prefer the beauty of eighteenth century design. Full of gem set sparkle and incredible handmade details, Georgian jewelry and in particular a beautiful Georgian cross can set my heart a flutter.
Reference: Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes with Olivia Collings, and Letters from Lady Jane Coke to her friend Mrs. Eyre at Derby 1747-1758
Photos: Pinterest, Bell & Bird, Bonhams
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