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The organic jewels

Ann Boleyn 'B' pendant with fresh water pearl necklace

What are ‘organic’ jewels? This a category of ‘jewels’ created from or by living things. Today fine jewelery tends to recognise only four; that of Amber, Pearls, Coral and Jet. During the renaissance and medieval periods there were many more including a few that may seem rather bizarre by our standards.

They include bone, bezoar stones, feathers, timber and seeds, insect and insect parts such as butterfly wings, and fish scales – anything in fact, which was considered beautiful and or useful by attributed virtues. They were treated with the same craftsmanship and reverence that more familiar precious stones do today, as can be seen by the setting of these organic jewels alongside or as focal points in jewels made for every part of the body and clothes.

While inherently fragile by nature, organic jewels with the correct care can last a very long time. A Scottish freshwater pearl, currently a part of the British crown jewels, was brought into the British royal treasury by Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry the 8th. With care it has survived many re-settings into different jewels and holds its beauty now as then.

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