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Saint Eloi Festival: A Closer Look at Perpignan Garnets

Here at Lillicoco, we are so excited to recently have acquired a myriad of Perpignan Garnet pieces into our collection. These rare finds are unlike anything you can find in antique collections, displaying a delicious burnt Cranberry lustre that when the light hits a glowing fire is revealed. 


Sounds amazing right? Even more incredible is that this particular kind of Garnet itself is native to Perpignan in France and no longer mined, meaning that you can’t purchase a Perpignan Garnet anywhere today, only antique pieces remain. Perpignan is a simply gorgeous jewel in the South of France on the cusp of the Spanish border. Nestled amongst the Pyrenees, Perpignan oozes historic and quintessentially European charm with a Mallorcan King’s Palace and an array of peach, lemon and tangerine toned buildings. 


Perpignan Coast (Source - Pinterest)

Coincidentally, our precious Perpignan pieces found their way into our collection at a similar time that an annual festival is held in Perpignan, the Festival of Saint Eloi. 


Who is Saint Eloi? 

Saint Eloi, also known as Saint Eligius, is the patron Saint of Goldsmiths, other metalworkers and coin collectors. Believed to have lived between 588 and 660 AD, his talent for jewellery craftsmanship was soon realised at a young age and he was sent off to be an apprentice by his family. 


'A Goldsmith in His Shop' (Later identified to be Saint Eligius), by Petrus Christus, 1449. (Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art). 

From this, Saint Eloi quickly progressed to becoming a trusted Goldsmith working for Clotaire II the King of Franks. As his fame and reputation progressed, Saint Eloi began to found many Roman Catholic monasteries in France, often spent many of his money getting alms for the poor and undertook several successful missionary excursions. 

Perpignan Garnet History 

Though we cannot date when the first Perpignan Garnet pieces were mined and fashioned, we do know that these were mined during the 11th century and became immensely popular during the 17th and 18th centuries, so they easily found their way into Georgian England! 


Integral to Catalonian culture, these striking scarlet Garnets epitomised Meditteranean passion, believing to help cure blood disorders and excessive anger. 


One of the most famous pieces that have been created from Perpignan Garnets are the “Croix Jeannette” and many prestigious religious and personal pieces are housed in the Institut de Grenat. 


Perpignan Garnet Cross (Source - Bijoux Regionaux)

 

Though Perpignan Garnets were still popular in the 19th century, the 20th century saw the decline in their production. This was due to the mining of the Garnets no longer being sustainable, and the devastating effect of two World Wars. Today it is illegal to mine these gorgeous Garnets in Perpignan, which is why they are celebrated once a year at the Saint Eloi Festival.  

Saint Eloi Festival 

The Saint Eloi festival occurs on the last weekend of November or the First weekend of December every year, and this years festival is on the 30th of November and 1st of December 2019 - so this weekend! (Spontaneous South of France trip anyone?)


One of the most momentous and amazing events at this festival is the Brotherhood of the Garnet parade where traditional 19th century Catalan instruments and musical tunes are played. 


Picture of Saint Eloi Festival Pamphlet (Source - Institut De Grenat)


This is where both men and women dress up in traditional Catalonian Roussillion costumes and an annual best-dressed competition is held.


A traditional Catalan Mass is held at the Church La Reál followed by the enthronement of the ambassadors of the Garnet. 


A beautiful insight into traditional Catalonian culture, and showing how important a jewel can be to society, this unspoilt festival we hope will be full of splendour and excitement this weekend. 


Here at Lillicoco, we have had a beautiful array of Perpignan Garnets in our collection, these have been snapped up by eager buyers quickly, due to their rarity and gorgeous signature hue! Still want to see them? Have a little scroll below! 

18ct French Perpignan Garnet Ring 

 

18ct Perpignan Garnet Brooch

Perpignan Garnet Marquise Ring

 


We also have a myriad of other beautiful Garnets on our site, and we are sure to have some more perfect Perpignan pieces in future! If you have any questions about our gorgeous antique jewellery, contact us at enquiries@lillicoco.com!

Molly Chatterton

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