Humankind has always differentiated itself from other animals by spending time and effort on decor. The aesthetic value we place on things of beauty and interest is something almost unique to us as a species. It is not unusual to note then, that since the dawn of our time we’ve been decorating ourselves and our surroundings. One of the simplest and easiest methods to adorn ourselves with beauty has been to deck ourselves in flowers.
Brightly coloured, in many different shapes and forms, flowers have long been an accessible way to adding that certain something to our looks. They can be twined into hairstyles, strung into chains, pinned to lapels and carried. We use flowers to decorate ourselves and our homes, we grow them to brighten our gardens and we use them on special occasions, such as weddings and funerals. The obvious next step was to take the natural form of the flower and recreate it in jewellery.
How do cultures around the world use flowers?
Flowers have great significance in many Eastern cultures. In China, flowers and their meanings are culturally significant in a way that many Westerners wouldn’t comprehend at first glance. White flowers grace funerals to honour to dead, while chrysthanthemums are ideal gifts for elderly family members as their bright colours and many petals represent strong life force. The lotus flower is intertwined with Buddhism, rising from the mud to bloom and being the center of many Chinese poems, art pieces and designs.
In Japan, the art of flower-giving is called ‘Hanokotoba’ and flowers each symbolise a coded message. This is a delightful practice which can easily be transferred to floral jewellery for a more lasting statement of intent. Should you wish to declare your love, roses, forget-me-nots and red camelia’s are all perfect floral jewellery designs to choose. There is a wealth of symbolism behind every flower, so it is well worth looking into.
In India, flowers are often spiritual offerings, worn to show respect or garlanded just for decoration. Brides wear jasmine flowers in their hair to subtly reference their family’s prosperity and couples garland each other with flowers during their wedding ceremony to show that they are sharing their spiritual energies.
Are there any special historical examples of floral jewellery?
Early jewellery created by Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples occasionally references flora, usually in an abstract manner or in etchings. In the 17th century, jewellery showed a marked preference for floral motifs, where flowers created in gems and pearls would be stitched to stiff bodices. Romantic floral jewellery was also very popular during the 19th century, leading into Art Nouveau enamels and floral pieces. The natural world continues to inspire even contemporary jewellers today who work in gold and silver, platinum and titanium, as well as a range of new and classic techniques.
Flowers have so many meanings; do these cross over to floral jewellery?
Flower meanings can definitely cross over into floral jewellery design - it all depends on how you wish to view it. If you’re a fan of peonies, by all means choose a lovely peony-design necklace with no other thought than that you enjoy the profusion of petals. But if you’re gifting the necklace to someone, it might be a nice touch to consider the deeper meaning of the flower which is honour, wealth, romance and beauty.
Is there a particular aesthetic that accompanies floral jewellery?
Floral jewellery aims to capture that light hearted beauty of a simpler time, when the only adornment you could muster was to pick a fresh flower and tuck it into your collar. It runs the gamut of design from basic floral shapes to reinterpreted, abstract or alien floral fantasies. Flowers can be recreated in metal, ceramic, plastic, precious stones and enamels. Jewellery can be tiny and delicate, like a cherry blossom, or huge and statement-making, like an ornamental rose.
Flowers are one of the most beautiful natural occurrences in the world; their appeal is timeless. Borrowing their looks to inspire jewellery is a classic design tradition and one that allows a fleeting bloom to be captured as a gorgeous piece of jewellery to treasure forever.