Interestingly, most of the artists known to be responsible for the Renaissance artistic expression – Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo, Sandro Botticelli, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi – started off as apprentices in goldsmith’s workshops, showing that jewelry making was just as prominent in causing the “rebirth” of Classicism as any other form of art. The jeweler’s work reached exceptionally high levels, especially in Italy. Jewelry in general became an inseparable part of most people’s lives. Naturally, as jewelry making traditions became more established and the jewelers gained more impressive skills, the worth of many pieces of jewelry vastly exceeded that of raw materials they were made out of. Due to that, the tradition of collecting significant pieces and displaying them for the affection of the public eye was first established.
Jewelry became extensively integrated into other forms of art, especially painting. Elaborate pieces were an intrinsic part of painting people of high social status, both men and women. As exhibited in paintings, another turn that jewelry making took had to do with women’s haircuts. They are seen with detailed decorations in their hair made out of precious metals that were in harmony with complex braids. Paintings also show that bejeweled clothing, from chest plates to hat brims, has become more and more common, and in general people that didn’t necessarily belong to the highest social classes started wearing jewelry a lot more extensively and in greater quantities at once.
The approach of Baroque brought about even more improvements when it came to cutting precious stones and thus a gradual change in how detailed a piece of jewelry could be. Together with the technical means to work them, diamonds, most women’s best friends, exploded in popularity and became the protagonists of jewelry creation. That being said, while the technicalities allowed for more elaboration, the number of pieces being worn at a time decreased, especially among men.
Towards the beginning of the 18th century, significant numbers of Brazilian diamonds were imported into Europe. The already popular precious stone became even more desirable, however, due to its inherent value, it was not accessible to most. Consequently, diamond imitations became a widely used means to create impressive jewelry. The obsession with diamonds led to a change in the concept of jewelry in general – in many cases the accent was the cut or naturally-shaped gems and stones and the metal work around it was minimized to the point where it was almost invisible.
In 19th and 20th centuries, jewelry-making became a matter of mass production as all people wished to have access to it. Requirements for jewelry to classify as valuable were set, many artistic commercial firms as well as niche boutiques were opened to satisfy the needs of all. World Wars brought about changes in how humans view the world, and that was to some extent reflected in the jewelry as well. Cubism, Futurism and other artistic movements lead to such intricate, avant-garde pieces of jewelry, that it transformed the notion of accessories to what we see them as today – pretty much anything that offers people a possibility to express themselves, make statements, emphasize certain features or simply make their looks more detailed.