From a single bud to the most elaborate arrangement, flowers are as captivating as they are inherently fleeting.
That is, after all, part of what makes them so charming — and their purchase, for special occasions in particular, such an extravagance. You are investing in something beautiful that brings immediate joy then endures only as a treasured memory.
But as shown in the delightful pages of “Flora: The Art of Jewelry,” a compact book from Thames & Hudson (128 pages, $24.95), when flowers serve as inspiration for jewelers, the results both sparkle — and last for years.
This survey traces how jewelers from the 17th century through today have worked to capture the transient beauty of flowers through gems and precious metals, touching on everything from techniques to symbolism.
The first in a series that will showcase the French jewelry-making tradition as seen through the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, “Flora” is written by jewelry experts Patrick Mauriès, a writer and publisher specializing in fashion and design, and Évelyne Possémé, chief curator at the Parisian institution.
The book — Olivier Gabet, director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, says in an introduction — is “a sumptuous bouquet of gem-studded flowers, gathered from our jewelry gallery, an ode to creativity, the human imagination and the endless resources of craftsmanship.”
Indeed, he continues, “Long before the founding of our museum, flowers and plants were inspiring designers and decorative artists, craftspeople and creators. Flora is a universal motif yet also one of the most versatile, its forms ranging from pure naturalism to the most abstract of symbolism.”
We travel with these jewelry experts back in time, accompanied by Jean-Marie del Moral photographs, first to the 17th and 18th centuries, when flowers were recreated in enamel or used as motifs, completed in elaborate gemstone designs, to adorn the bodice. There are pocket watches and rings, along with a dramatic garnet-studded Portuguese cross that is topped with rock-quartz blooms.
We see the stylized designs of the Empire period and continue the journey to the naturalistic blooms favored in the later 19th century, with designs featuring floral-themed mosaics on cufflinks and a stunningly intricate necklace on which the petals of a dahlia are interpreted in carved coral.
From the shapely Art Nouveau creations — oh, the delights from René Lalique — we advance to the geometrics of the Art Deco era, highlighted by a circa-1925 white-gold, lacquer and rose-cut diamond brooch from Paris.
We finally reach the contemporary scene, where modern-day creations include 1990s rings from Chanel that feature floral details in onyx and opal and a 2003 Van Cleef & Arpels “Frivole” ring, a gathering of gold blossoms. The volume ends with a most evocative piece, a JAR bracelet from 1995. This vivid “Camellia,” fashioned from gold, aged silver and rubies, is a showpiece that — like all the creations in “Flora” — is destined to be forever in bloom.
For more, visit thamesandhudsonusa.com.