Spring is finally here in NYC (hopefully ) and what better way to celebrate than to attend an exhibition and sale at Sotheby’s NY entitled In Bloom, a selling exhibit which traces floral motifs in jewelry from the 19th century through present day.
Over the past few years, florals have sprouted up in fashion during the ready-to-wear shows, ranging from exotic to English garden motifs. And, in fine jewelry, “saying it with flowers” traditional way in which to greet the warm weather months.
What’s unique about this exhibit is that it is curated in partnership with Carol Woolton, contributing jewelry director of British Vogue and author of four books including Floral Jewels from the World’s Leading Designers. Frank Everett, co-curator of the event and SVP of Sotheby’s Jewelry New York City explains, “Flowers have inspired jewelry design since ancient times, and few motifs are as varied or enduring. Blooms of every species have inspired designers for as long as we’ve had jewelry. While florals for spring may not be groundbreaking, they seemed perfect for the May 3rd opening of Sotheby’s new galleries, as the first jewelry installation in our new space.”
In Bloom will feature 75 pieces of 19th century jewels and signed vintage pieces from renowned jewelry houses such as David Webb, Cartier, Boucheron, Belperron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Verdura and Tiffany & Co, planted alongside contemporary designs Sabba, Shaun Leane, Fernando Jorge, Jessica McCormack and Cindy Chao, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Neha Dani among other modern designers. Additionally, it will feature fine jewels by Dolce & Gabbana for the first time.
A little history beyond the exhibit and sale…
Flowers have been rendered in abstract, lifelike and three-dimensional silhouettes and are one of the most beloved motifs throughout history. The most fragile petal, the first bud, a full flower head, and the shape of leaves and stems as they curve and grow have been captured and transformed into precious metals, vibrant gemstones and vivid enamel work from the 17th century through the present day.
The different species of the flowers have longtime meanings and significance in the Western world, most predominantly in the ‘language of flowers’. Although Japan and Asian countries cultivated their own floral meanings in earlier times, botanicals as emblems of emotion blossomed during the Romantic era. Jewelry articulated the affections that could not be spoken or shown freely during that period.
In Western culture, various flowers representing different meanings is said to have been inspired by selam – a Turkish custom of communicating through flowers and other objects. However, this tradition decoded messages based on words that rhymed with the objects. After the 1763 Turkish Embassy Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople) were published describing this secret language, communication through flowers caught on throughout Europe.
In 1819, Louise Cortambert, under the pseudonym Madame Charlotte de la Tour, published what was likely the first dictionary of floral meanings, entitled Le Language des Fleurs. The book was translated into English in 1820 and, by the early Victorian era, sourcebooks and illustrated dictionaries were also published. Enhanced by gemstones with similar symbolism the designs of each time period recreated the beauty of nature in a three-dimensional art form and continues to speak to sentiments that ranged from friendship to the most passionate of love.
The In Bloom selling exhibition will be open to the public in Sotheby’s newly-expanded and reimagined galleries in New York from 3 – 24 May, All pieces on exhibition will be available for private sale, with prices ranging from $10,000 to $3 million.
Here I have combined the descriptions from Sotheby’s with the meaning of the flowers. Other botanicals in the exhibit are more abstract.
Diamond, Colored Diamond and Demantoid Garnet Brooch, Gimel Violet—blue violets traditionally symbolize faithfulness and other violets watchfulness–this one is open to interpretation.
Emerald, Tsavorite Garnet, Pink Sapphire and Diamond Hollyhock Ring, Wendy Yue, which signifies ambition
Pair of Diamond and Tsavorite Rose Earrings by Cindy Chao The Art Jewel. (Roses always are associated with some form of love)
Gold and Citrine Chrysanthemum Clip-Brooch, Cartier, Circa 1940s. Different chrysanthemums have different meanings, for example, white is for truth; while yellow reflects a love that was not meant to be.
Green and White Diamond Orchid Earrings, Shaun Leane. Orchids evoke beauty and strength.
Gold and Diamond Rose Clip-Brooch, David Webb, Circa 1960s- White roses carry the meaning of “I am worthy of you”