A Girandole (pronounced “jeer-an-dole”) was the most popular form of an earring during the 18th century. Girandoles received their name due to their typical ornate and curvy appearance, much like the candelabras of the era.
Fashion for women during this elegant time period dictated low-cut necklines and romantic upswept hair styles, thus leaving the perfect display space for large earrings that focused on the area between the ears and the shoulders.
A classic Girandole earring features three to five dangling pear-shaped elements suspended from a central design motif. First making their appearance around 1660, Girandoles remained a very popular earring design for the next couple of centuries.
The discovery of diamond mines in Brazil in 1723 and the perfection of diamond cutting techniques coincided at the perfect time to meet the supply demand for gemstones used for Girandole earrings. By the 18th century, Girandoles were being produced all over Europe using a wide variety of gemstones and materials and often we can today trace the origins of a pair of Girandole earrings by the elements used to create them. For example, French Girandoles were set entirely with diamonds and had great movement & a sculptural quality. It was not until after the 2nd half of the 18th century that the French began adding colored gemstones into their designs.
Girandoles from Spain were sturdier in design and typically set with emeralds and diamonds due to the availability of mined emeralds from Columbia, which belonged to Spain. Portuguese Girandoles featured simple, flat lines and were usually set with topaz & chrysoberyls that were mined from Brazil, then a Portuguese colony. Italian Girandoles had bold lines and were most often set with seed pearls rather than gemstones.
Girandoles with their moving parts really provided maximum sparkle and brilliance of the gemstones used in their creation. Perfect for those evening events held under 18th century candlelight. One can just imagine the glittering sparkle at a formal evening ball!
Diamond Girandoles were perfect for evening & formal occasions but during the daytime hours, Girandoles were worn with more subtle gems that most often included garnets, topaz, pearls, aventurine glass and pastes. This was the first time in jewelry history that there was a marked distinction between “daytime jewelry” and “nighttime jewelry”.
As women have been known to suffer for their beauty, our 18th century sisters suffered a bit wearing their fashionable Girandoles. The large size and the sheer weight of the metals used in their creation to set the stones, combined with the weight of the gemstones themselves, often resulted in painful ear lobes that became elongated from wearing such heavy objects. The need to alleviate the weight of Girandoles led to special fittings being designed to help take the weight off the ear lobe. Wire was hinged on one side that could be inserted, back to front for pierced ears, or looped up over the top of the ear. An additional loop held a ribbon which was secured in the hair, also taking weight off the ears.
By the time Girandoles popularity began to wane, many outstanding jewels were being broken up and dismantled to make smaller earring sets and pendants. Today, finding an original pair of diamond Girandoles still intact, is extremely rare.
Want to purchase a piece of history? It will cost you! These rare beauties below are a perfect example of a stunning and rare pair of Girandole earrings and are available for purchase at Wanton.
These voluptuous emerald girandoles are perfect examples of their genre. From the circular surmount hangs an elaborate ribbon bow motif surrounded by floral scrolls of table-cut emeralds framed with single-cut diamonds set in silver. Three pear-shaped drops dangle below. The combination of emeralds and diamonds reveals their Spanish origin: emeralds were readily accessible from Columbian mines as Columbia was under Spanish rule. As typical of the period, the gems are foil backed to enhance their color. This pair is most likely from the second half of the eighteenth century, when gemstones were combined with diamonds and the central drop was elongated to create a more vertical outline. The gold ear wires are a later addition.
Materials: Emeralds and sterling silver
I have always had a deep passion for 18th century details, especially when it comes to jewelry design and history. As a girl who never leaves the house without lipstick and a pair of earrings on, I am naturally drawn to the beauty & design style of Girandole earrings.
So much so that in my recent rebranding of my vintage & antique jewelry business, I wanted to include a Girandole as my logo to represent my combined passion for all things jewelry & 18th century.
Suite de Quatre Girandoles - Christies
Diamond Girandole Earrings - Epoque Fine Jewels
Isabella Borbone Parma by Anton Mengs in large Girandole earrings
Maria Luisa of Parma, in large Girandole earrings
Maria Christine, Duchess of Teschen (and sister of Marie Antoinete) in large Girandole earrings
Charlotte of Mecklinberg by Thomas Frye in large Girandole earrings
Iberian Emerald and Diamond Girandole earrings - Wanton Jewelry
All other photos or graphics via Pinterest
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