Jewellery Influencers Through Time
Influencer; a word that has been on the lips of marketing experts, and executives tongues since 2010. A seismic sociological shift in the way that many consumerist industries work, influencers have vastly impacted the way that information has disseminated, especially in the worlds of fashion and jewellery. Influencers, rather than magazines and industry professionals have impacted what trends are on the scene. Plus, influencers have affected how we look at ourselves, as a new career path for the young and ambitious, potential influencers have to look at how they can become a brand.
In 2018, English language experts chose ‘Influencer’ as the word of the year. Through social media platforms, young and old can generate a large following allowing them to easily market themselves and another brand’s products to an authentic, eager audience (affiliate link ad anyone?). Influencers create and promote an idealistic and utopian world, one that a viewer can easily access.
Yet, influencers, as a concept didn’t just arrive in 2010, influencers and icons within the intertwining worlds of jewellery and fashion, have traversed millennia. As a leading antique jewellery company and specialist in all things glittery, we will show you the original jewellery icons and influencers from the deepest depths of history, a far cry from the filtered lens you see today.
Empress Elisabeth of Austra, 1865, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Oil on Canvas, Source - WikiArt
Cleopatra (69BC - 30BC)
One of the most prolific and powerful women in history, Cleopatra was known for being a devilishly charming Queen, living in the lap of luxury until her death. The many mysteries and intrigue surrounding Cleopatra are aligned with her great wealth and her commanding and dominating such a presence. Like many great women in history, she knew that the way to fight in the world of men is to utilise the charms of dress, makeup and most importantly, jewellery.
Cleopatra by Gustave Moreau, 1887, Private Collection, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Ancient Egyptian Jewellery was a glittering array of deeply saturated gemstones, set within glowing caramel Gold. Nothing short of spectacular, jewellery that has survived from the period is incredibly ornate, hyperbolic, and excessive.
From serpent bracelets that symbolised fecundity and immortality to amulets inscribed with hieroglyphics and ancient Egyptian deities, all of Cleopatra’s jewellery would have been created to project her immense power, elevating her presence in the eyes of her people and her enemies.
Gemstones that were abundant during Ancient Egypt were Agate, Pearl, Emerald, Lapiz Lazuli, Carnelian, and Amethyst. In fact, Cleopatra and her dynasty quickly took claim to the Emerald mines in Ancient Egypt, and today these still survive as being called ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’.
Cleopatra’s image has influenced plenty of costume jewellery, and how she is portrayed in popular culture today. A noteworthy depiction is the Cleopatra film with Elizabeth Taylor, where no expense was spared in adorning the actress, reminiscent of how Cleopatra would have dressed.
In fact, due to archaeological discoveries in both the 19th century and the 1920’s, and the enduring fascination with Egypt’s most notable woman pharaoh, Egyptian revival jewellery trends emerged.
Notably, in the 1920s, ancient Egyptian inspired jewellery was symbolic here too, as women were adopting new exciting roles outside of the domestic sphere. The powerful presence of ancient Egyptian jewellery used for a woman to dominate and command men aligned with women having more freedom in society.
Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci (1453-1476)
A famous Florentine noblewoman, Simonetta Vespucci was believed to be the woman who is painted in some of the Renaissance masters most famous portraits, notably Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Primavera and Portrait of a Woman.
Portrait of A Young Women, Sandro Botticelli, ca.1480, Source - Staedel Museum
The latter portrait is what makes her a jewellery influencer. Typically the model of female Renaissance beauty, in this portrait she is adorned with pearls within her hair and has the famous “Seal of Nero” cameo around her neck, which is a reproduction of the “Apollo and Marysas” and part of the Medici collection.
Carnelian Seal of Nero, Naples National Archaeological Museum, Source - Wikimedia Commons
The power of the Medici collection was well-known throughout Renaissance Florence, and the fact that the muse of the day, Simonetta Vespucci was wearing one of these pieces (albeit a reproduction) is very significant. This contributed to both the arcane power of these gemstones and motifs, meaning that they were one of the most reproduced and collected in Renaissance Florence, ardently pursued by Popes, Cardinals, rich men and women.
The ‘It Girl’ of Renaissance Florence, Simonetta oozed girl-next-vibes, being considered the most beautiful woman in Florence and Botticelli’s muse. Tragically, Simonetta died at age 23.
In fact, in a painting by Piere de Cosimo, Simonetta is portrayed as Cleopatra.
Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Cleopatra, 1490, Piero Di Cosimo, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Anne Boleyn (1501-1536)
A woman sits in the dark, wearing a plush navy velvet french hood upon her head, around her neck are draped cooling pearls, suspending an elegant “B” from her throat.
One of the most famous and recognised portraits from the Tudor period, this arresting image of Anne Boleyn gives us a haunting glimpse into a woman that fell so quickly from grace, a position she fought her way into, destroying England’s ties with Rome in the process.
Portrait of Anne Boleyn, circa 1533-1536, Source - The National Portrait Gallery
Sadly, none of Anne Boleyn's extensive jewellery collection has survived, yet the memento mori of the ‘B’ necklace remains, becoming a symbol of a woman that was undeniably proud to be herself. Many theories believe that once Anne was beheaded by King Henry VIII, her jewellery collection was broken up to be made for the future Queen Jane Seymour, or a few pieces were passed onto Elizabeth I, her daughter.
Princess Elizabeth I, c.1546, Source - The Royal Collection Trust
Unlike the jewellery influencers of today, it is unknown if Anne’s pearl strewn B necklace resulted in other women at court or in the lower classes wearing the same piece. However, she is known for bringing the fashionable french hood to court. Sumptuary legislation restricted only the most important members, the Royal Family and the clergy, to wearing high-value pieces of jewellery.
Plus we have recently noticed that Anne Boleyn’s fashionable presence has been revitalised in the world of fashion and jewellery. Dubbed “Renaissance-Core” by leading fashion blog Man Repeller, Baroque pearl necklaces are cool, accentuated padded hairbands are the norm, corsets are the new underwear as outwear accessory, puffed sleeves hug our arms and neckline shapes are routinely becoming more square.
Evidence that Anne Boleyn is still just as powerful as she was 500 years ago.
Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Anne Boleyn’s love of jewellery was clearly hereditary, as illustrated from Elizabeth I’s prolific portraits. Whether bedecked with pearls, the symbol of innocence and purity, to fiery rubies, Elizabeth I’s jewellery collection clearly displayed her success and tenacity as a leader.
Like her mother, Elizabeth I loved decorating herself with pearls, so much so that apparently all of her ladies in waiting wore pearls too. However, unlike Anne Boleyn, who from her portraits used them to attract and validate her wealth, Queen Elizabeth I favoured pearls for their meaning. This is because pearls were symbolic of purity, values that attested with her ‘brand’ and image of being the Virgin Queen. Her ladies in waiting wanted the Queen’s favour, which meant that they wore pearls and devoutly followed celibate lives!
The Ditchley Portrait, Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1592, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Source - The National Portrait Gallery
In fact, in 1587, an inventory shows that Elizabeth possessed 628 items of jewellery, something any antique aficionado would be jealous of!
Jewellery was an important signifier of class, so it was imperative that the most powerful person in the land would be dressed head to toe in a glittering display. Like in former Tudor years, sumptuary legislation prevented lower classes and noblemen and women from wearing certain jewels, meaning that the Queen had all of these to herself. Yet undeniably, the richly encrusted portraits are something we all recognise.
The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588, Source - The Royal Museums of Greenwich
Marquise de Sevigne (1626-1696)
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sevigne was a 17th century French aristocrat, known in history for her distinctive sharpened wit and tone within her writing.
An incredibly fashionable woman, Marie was attributed to wearing the “Sevigne” brooch. Rich in 17th century sensibility, the Sevigne brooch was an elegant symmetrical bow-shaped brooch worn low at the centre of a bodice. Encrusted with paste gems, diamonds and pearls, this brooch had a distinct ‘girandole’ style.
Portrait of Marquise de Sevigne wearing the Sevigne brooch, Claude Lefebrve, c.1665, Source - Wikimedia Commons
The Sevigne brooch was exceptionally popular during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Barbara Villiers (1640-1709)
England during the Restoration period was dripping in excess. A time known for its excessive portrayal of wealth, drinking and gambling, this paved the way for the raucous and romantic Regency period, the direct antithesis to the puritan Cromwellian government.
It is no secret that Charles II had numerous mistresses, 9 in total. Quickly accelerating to being the most fashionable and envied woman in the land, being a King’s mistress was a great way to secure land, title, and plenty of jewellery. Like Anne Boleyn, throughout royal history, women were played as pawns, and once they got into the king’s bed and secured his affections, the world, for a short time, was their oyster.
The longest of Charles II’s mistresses was Barbara Villiers, a woman who bore him five children whom she ensured would receive titles. Villiers was lavished with jewellery by Charles the II, and was so famous amongst court that she was known as the “uncrowned Queen” herself. Her importance meant that many households clamoured to have a portrait of her within her home, dressed in the latest fashions and of course, jewellery that was unlike anything else.
Louis the XIV (1638-1715)
Our first, yet not the last, historic male jewellery influencer on our timeline is Louis the XIV. Known as the sun king, Louis the XIV dramatically changed fashion, design and culture. He favoured elaborate Baroque and Rococo designs, which filtered down in jewellery.
Significantly, during his reign, Louis the XIV cemented Paris as the capital of luxury.
Like many others, Louis the XIV was enchanted with Diamonds. The twinkling pieces allowed Louis to cement his supremacy and power over others. Reportedly, Louis wore Diamonds at every chance he could, from Diamond buckles on his shoes to Diamonds inlaid into his sword. In fact, to impress the Turkish ambassador, Louis wore a suit that was embroidered entirely with white Diamonds.
Louis the XIV’s love for Diamonds and gemstones of every variety wanted Parisian goldsmiths to exceed every other goldsmith in the world. Notable names that you may recognise are Pierre le Tessier de Montarsy, Slyvestre Bosc, and Pierre Blain.
Louis’s excessive love for style meant that everyone at court wanted to be like him. According to written historic accounts, jewels were encrusted on bodices, placed in hair, and fastened sleeves.
By the end of his reign, Louis XIV had the most sumptuous jewellery collection in the west. In 1691, 5,885 Diamonds were recorded within his possession. There are also two famous coloured Diamonds that were Louis’s apparent favourites: the Bleu de France, and the Hortensia.
Duchess De La Valliere (1644-1710)
One of Louis XIV’s many mistresses, Louise de la Valliere is often compared and contrasted to Barbara Villiers by historians. Perceived as an innocent religious girl, she was reportedly in love with the king and not interested in the titles and fame that can come with being a royal mistress.
Portrait of Louise de le Valliere, Jean Nocret, c.1667, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Whilst she may not have had the same recognition and fame as Barbara Villiers, her impact on jewellery and fashion was profound. Like most historic jewellery influencers, Duchess de la Valliere’s footprint on the world grew with time, especially in the 19th century, 100 years after she died.
Are you familiar with the term French term lavaliere? Or, perhaps the Anglo translation lavalier? The name for a fashionable way to tie a bow in a floppy fashion, this was extremely popular in 19th century dress. In jewellery, a lavalier pendant is a distinctly elegant design where a pendant had one stone (usually in the centre) that was pendulous and separate from the rest.
Antique 15ct Gold Turquoise Pearl Pendant, Source - Lillicoco
Fashion and jewellery historians also attribute the "vogueness" of lavalier pendants to a late 19th century French actress Eve Lavalliere, whom we will explore further below.
Madame du Barry (1743 - 1793)
One of the Louix XV’s mistresses, Madame du Barry does pale in comparison to Madame du Pompadour in history. Yet, her love for jewellery lands her a place upon this coveted list.
Madame Du Barry as Flora, François-Hubert Drouais, 1769, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Allegedly, Louis XV wanted to possess du Barry’s affections by sending her a bouquet of flowers tied by a string of Diamonds. Throughout their short relationship before the King’s death, he sent her plenty of jewellery which she avidly wore without interruption. In fact, she was known for wearing and commissioning different coloured gems together at the same time, something which was previously unknown in French jewellery fashion.
As the French revolution started to gain traction, Madame du Barry smuggled most of her prestigious collection to England, or buried it around the gardens of her chateau.
Madame Du Pompadour (1721-1764)
A lover of cameo jewellery, madame do pompadour is a Georgian jewellery and fashion influencer known for her love of excess. Like Barbara de Villiers, Madame du Pompadour is one of the world’s most famous mistresses. Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, she was the esteemed mistress of Louis XV, and had both a famous sexual as well as political identity in Enlightenment France.
However, Madame du Pompadour was also a patron of the arts. Known to have the ‘shop till you drop’ attitude, she lavishly spent the King’s money which started to accrue in an unfavourable reputation for the French monarchy.
Madame du Pompadour is allegedly the muse for the Marquise cut Diamond. According to legend Louis XV wanted a Diamond shaped after his mistresses lips, and he commissioned his court jewellers to create a jewellery item set with Diamonds as a present.
François Boucher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
What’s more, the “bague pompadour” a style of ring was named after her too. This was where a large stone is set within the middle, crowned by a halo of glittering gemstones.
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)
Reviled by the French in the 18th century, yet romanticised by modern thought, Marie Antoinette as Queen of France had as any Queen would, an incredibly large jewellery collection. Like Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry (whom she hated), Marie Antoinette was known for being an avid spendthrift, one that would lead to her eventual demise. In fact, the Queen’s love of jewellery, notably the famous affair of the Diamond necklace, culminated in her fall from grace.
Marie-Antoinette, 1775, Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty, Source - Wikimedia Commons
In 2018, a historic jewellery action by Sotheby’s sold some of Marie Antoinette’s jewels, notably a large Diamond and Pearl pendant that fetched an eye-watering price of £31.8 million. Marie Antoinette’s jewellery collection was vast, apparently, her wedding gift from her husband was a large chest full of jewels worth two million livres at the time (today, priceless).
Acquiring jewellery was part of her looking for her personal identity, she moved towards jewelled ribbons and ornamental flowers than large ostentatious pieces, and on special occasions, she wore matching sets of jewellery. As the revolution started, Marie Antoinette showed deliberate opposition by wearing her most magnificent of jewels on all occasions.
A piece of jewellery that holds a special place in the Lillicoco heart is the Bagues au Firmament. A style of ring that was reminiscent of the celestial heavens. In one of Marie Antoinette’s portraits she is wearing this style of ring, which lead to many being created in the Georgian period, one that we have here with us today.
An eternal celebrity for many reasons, Marie Antoinette's lasting impact on fashion, jewellery and art knows no bounds.
James Belcher (1781-1811)
An unlikely jewellery influencer from history, you may recognise and find affinity with this person’s surname. James Belcher or Jem Belcher was an English bare-knuckle prize fighter and Champion of All England between 1800-1805.
What is even more exciting about James Belcher, especially for us, is that he was born in Bristol! Originally apprenticed to be a butcher, this jewellery influencer is important because he wasn’t born into a place of wealth and social status. His natural talent for boxing meant that he found his way into this Georgian masculine entertainment circle relatively easier than others.
Portrait of James Belcher, Charles Allingham, c.1800, Source - Wikimedia Commons
During his career James Belcher was known as the “Napolean of the Ring” and “the Black Diamond”, yet despite his latter nickname, Belcher’s impact on men’s jewellery is nothing to do with gemstones.
A Belcher chain is a thick rounded link chain, known for being exceptionally sturdy and statement in appearance. The substantial and heavy links were adopted by both men and women for necklaces, albert chains, and bracelets. This masculine, strong chain was named after James Belcher, though it is relatively unknown if he wore these chains alot himself - however, as they were fashionable at the time, it was likely that he did!
Victorian 9ct Gold Belcher Chain Necklace, Source - Lillicoco
Prince Albert (1819-1861) and Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
A jewellery influencer duo, during the 19th century more and more people started to wear jewellery and many wanted to have the creations that were exactly like the gifts that Prince Albert gave to Queen Victoria.
The Royal Family in 1846, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Source - The Royal Collection Trust
Yet, Prince Albert was a jewellery influencer that still commands attention today. Prince Albert often wore decorative chains to secure his pocket watch into his waistcoat. This lead to the creation of the Albert chain, which many Victorian men quickly adopted. These Albert chains often had chunky oversized heavy links, with T-bars, dog clips and oversized bolt rings, all of which occur in necklaces today.
Victorian 15ct Gold Albert Chain, Source - Lillicoco
Empress Eugenie de Montijo (1826-1920)
The last Empress of France, it is well known in the luxury world that Empress Eugenie di Montijo had a major impact. Bolstering the status of designers like Charles Frederick Worth, and using the trunks of little-known luggage maker Louis Vuitton, Empress Eugenie’s singular touch on designers and jewellery makers alike were stratospheric!
The Empress Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, c.1855, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Being an Empress, it was imperative to have the most lavish and spectacular of clothing and jewels at all occasions. Paintings of the Empress have spared no detail on her beautiful clothing, perfectly rendering the sheen of her satin or glisten of her pearls to the most brilliant effect.
The Empress Eugenie, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, c.1854, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
At this time two businessmen joined forces; John, F. Young worked with the also unknown businessman Charles Lewis Tiffany. Together, Young and Tiffany opened their “stationery and fancy goods store” called Tiffany and Young in 1837. But how was the Empress involved?
Young was making a buying trip to Paris during the time that the Empress was at her peak. The Empress had a signature shade in dress, which was known as “nattier blue”. Young, recognising this impression of this shade on others, chose this specific colour for his stores brochures and product packaging, later evolving to become the trademarked Tiffany blue that we know today!
Much of Eugenie’s bejewelled jewellery collection is now on display at the Louvre Paris, as can be expected from a woman of such esteemed status, her jewels were specially commissioned for her.
Eve Lavalliere (1866-1929)
One of the most known actresses in Belle Epoque France, Eve Lavalliere was a staunch Catholic and later became a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.
Photograph of Eve Lavalliere, c.1890, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Like Duchess De La Valliere, Eve Lavalliere is known for popularising and wearing the lavalier style cravat on stage. One of the many examples how dress history and jewellery history have a deep and profound relationship.
The lavalier pendant was extremely fashionable amongst the genteel society in 1900, epitomising the Belle Epoque’s grandeur and sophisticated style.
The Lavalier, Guy Rose,c.1867-1925, Source - Wikimedia Commons
Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Coco Chanel may have been one of the world’s greatest designers, but her influence on jewellery isn’t as documented. Although high Chanel jewellery is still created today, it was Chanel’s love of string pearls and her first Jewellery collection that lands herself on this list. Although we have tried to stray away from famous antique jewellery designers (who should have their own blog post dedicated to them themselves!), we couldn’t resist including the woman who not only is synonymous with a layered pearls necklaces, but also who revitalised the Diamond industry during the Great Depression.
Coco Chanel adored costume jewellery, mixing up the faux with the real. The double intertwined C was used in a multiplicity of her designs. She wanted necklaces to be stacked, created bangles that imitated shirt cuffs, and bejewelled belts that would cinch in a woman’s waist and enhance her silhouette.
Before Chanel, costume jewellery was frowned upon, afterwards it was revered and grew to become women from every background’s greatest accessory. The playful stacking of fine and costume jewellery is still celebrated in the Chanel house today.
Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
One of American’s greatest actresses, Audrey Hepburns stand-alone performance in Breakfast at Tiffanys, the adaption of Trueman Capote's novel, earns her a spot in this line-up. Of course, we should probably say that it was Holly Golightly and also the talented costume and styling team behind the film. But this film bolstered the reputation of Tiffany’s itself.
The first scene is of Audrey staring at a Tiffany’s window display, dressed in a chic black dress, draped in pearls and perfectly poised tiara within her immaculate coiffure. Although Hepburn did not wear any actual Tiffany jewellery in the film itself, her faultless performance and artful storytelling made Tiffany’s the retail mecca it is for avid tourists, cementing its status as one of the most revered jewellery shops of all time.
Jackie Kennedy (1929-1994)
As the first lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy had as can be expected an illustrious jewellery collection. Jackie Kennedy Onassis was known for being timeless, like Chanel, she was known for her three strand faux pearl necklace.
There are many items of Jackie’s jewellery that remain potent and artistically great today. From the Ilias Lalounis Apollo earrings that she wore to commemorate the moon landing to an antique Victorian starburst brooch that she wore within her hair.
Jackie's love for timeless classic pieces meant that these could be easy to emulate, as whatever she wore - people wore.
Princess Diana (1961-1997) and Kate Middleton (1982-)
These two famous women in the current British royal family are tied by their Sapphire and Diamond ring. Known as being one of the world’s most famous Sapphires, when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with this ring, formerly Princess Diana’s engagement ring from Prince Charles, this ring is still widely copied.
As illustrated throughout this blog, Royals have had a big impact on jewellery design and longevity, mainly because they were in THE positions of power and they had the finances to create these gorgeous pieces. The Sapphire Diamond ring in question consists of 14 solitaire Diamonds and a 12-carat oval Ceylon Sapphire.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)
A high profile actress known for more than just her multiple marriages, Elizabeth Taylor also had an incredible array of jewellery too. At this point, jewellery designers were everywhere, so having the greatest designs from the most luxurious houses were paramount to any cement of jewellery status.
Elizabeth Taylor loved her jewellery collection so much that wrote a book about it herself! From glittering Diamond tiaras to chandelier earrings, Bulgari emerald brooches to Krupp Diamond ring, everything in her jewellery collection oozed elegance, excess and passion for all things sparkling. A sybaritic relationship that has pervaded throughout time.
Anna Wintour (1949-)
Arguably the most famous woman in fashion today, Anna Wintour is the editor in chief of American Vogue. It simply goes without saying that her impact on the luxury goods, media, art and design industries is incredible. What’s more, Wintour is a icon within popular culture, with her architecturally precise bob, dark sunglasses and perhaps austere expression a recognisable symbol for the elite fashion industry.
For jewellery alone, like most fashion influencers, Wintour can simply be photographed wearing a necklace from an upcoming designer or a specific signature style for it to become en vogue. Yet, a particular style that is known for being ‘Anna Wintour’ is the collet riviere necklace.
We love riviere necklaces, a quintessentially Georgian creation that would have been paraded around the streets of Bath in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Wintour has been pictured many a time wearing these bedazzling pieces, putting this antique style under a fresh guise altogether. Riviere and collet necklaces are known for framing both the face and neck, so it really is the perfect complement to Wintour’s signature tailored bob.
Rare Early Victorian Rock Crystal Riviere Necklace, Source - Lillicoco
Love, Lillicoco xoxo