Animals and jewelry are a dreamlike combination. The beauty of the animal itself plus the symbolism that we attribute to them makes us fall in love over and over again with animal jewelry creations made by the most gifted jewelry designers and artisans.
Mathon x Emiline Piot bracelet
There is a reason we treasure our animals so much. Well, more than one reason, of course, but one huge reason is that we love to observe them. Even those who don't have pets and aren't fans of regular zoo visits or safaris. By observing an animal we watch how another being experiences life on this planet. What are its challenges, and how does it face those challenges?
We also love to see how they procreate, experience love, and fear, be a parent, and social beings. Not all of them are social beings, but even those who aren't are living within an ecosystem that they have to survive in and they need tools for that. We like to see what those tools are.
Perhaps it's through those observations that we look at ourselves as if these animals and their lives, challenges, and traits are some kind of mirror. We admire them and sometimes envy them. Looking at a cat in the sun, one might feel slightly envious of its lack of worry.
Life is chaotic and can be overwhelming at times. The apparent easy life of that cat may become a metaphor in our mind, a state of bliss we would like to live in from time to time.
Wonderful jewelry by the genius Lydia Courteille who manages to build a whole story in each and every piece she creates. Animals play a huge role in her work.
Our observations and love for the animal kingdom are not so new. Throughout time we have admired and feared them. We have hunted them down and killed them, we have domesticated a whole bunch of them as pets or farm animals and we have collected them into private and public zoo's to show off our wealth or deep interest in the natural world.
The thing that has changed over time is perhaps our compassion, our way of sometimes putting a human face on them. Sometimes literally like the poor elephant* in the Bronx Zoo in New York.
We also have evolved. Whilst unfortunately there is still hunger, child labor, or repression of women and minorities, we also have, at the very same time, people who do not have to worry about their next meal, and are sure that access to clean water and health services are readily available. We have people who think about defining life, love, beliefs, and politics in their studies as philosophers. We have people that have more money on their own (in assets, not in the bank) than entire countries and we have social media making us worry daily if we live our full potential whilst we compare our lives to those of others. We are, after all, social beings, observing.
In countries where survival is a daily challenge, there isn't room for thinking about animals other than danger or a way to put food on the table by either exploiting their labor or their meat. But in all other countries, we might be in the middle of a new way of living with and loving animals.
So many love to watch (short, supershort) videos of an abused or neglected animal, captured or bought, and brought back to happiness by the immense care and love of people. We adopt more dogs and cats from shelters (although millions of healthy lovely creatures are killed each year, because of our stupidity), and we spend a great deal of our income on their well-being. From the best care at the vet to great food and stuff we love to buy them.
Cartier Brookesia Brooch. White gold, opal, tourmaline, emeralds. onyx, diamond, and brown diamonds. A superb piece of jewelry. A chameleon is synonymous for someone who can change easily in appearance or mood.
Reading books by Frans de Waal (do follow him on Facebook) a biologist and ethologist allow us to see something we regarded as a mere human trait; empathy among animals. Even cross-species.
I think it was another biologist and famous filmmaker/activist, David Attenborough, who made a remark about religion and why we thought about animals as living only to suit our benefits. Using a horse to plow the land, carry you in a war, endure all kinds of things, without any freedom, never made us think (hardly ever) twice about its destiny once no longer fit for our use. A hammer on its head (read the story of Brooks hospital for animals) and its final use was giving us their body to feed our mouths.
''We have felt entitled to think that as the chosen, smartest, most devoted species (to a God) that the planet is created just for us. It's not strange we ended up thinking we aren't part of nature, but rather see that there is nature and there is humanity''
We are slowly embracing the idea that we are part of nature after all. And that nature can teach us, nurture us whilst our job might be to nurture it just as much.
We are opening our eyes, if you like, to see animals and to a larger extent; nature in a new more enlightened, rational, and empathic way.
A stupendous paradise bird with rubies and diamonds and onyx by Cartier and intriguing jewelry by Sicis, a tile and mosaic company, that became also a micro-mosaic jewelry brand.
''We used to eat animals'' is the theme of the book written by Dutch anthropologist Roanne van Voorst (Ooit aten we dieren) in which she believes that in the future we will become vegan. Not just out of empathy or ideology.
As a pescatarian, who kind of struggles she still likes fish, I do embrace that idea. The possibilities of what we can grow without massive amounts of land (and disappearance of wildlife, native communities, or pesticides) are enormous and growing. For those who love to eat meat, we are a step away from growing meat without using land or producing CO2, or pain or misery for the animal.
We are conscious, even more, of what we eat and what it takes to produce it. Blockchain will enlighten us about the actual journey of our food. And we know that drinking milk and eating cheese is made possible from the food destined originally for the young of goats, sheep, and cows. Unless farmers take them away from their mothers (mammals, with strong parental instincts, like ourselves) there is no (productive enough) way to use that milk for our food.
You can almost feel the aggression of the Japanese fighting fish, wonderfully represented in this jewelry piece by Stephen Websiter
As explored above, we love to observe animals as mirrors of our own existence. How they behave reminds us of our strengths and weaknesses, how petty we sometimes show up in a situation, and what we experience when we feel meaning and purpose. How much a small moment of observing our children playing (cubs, foals, kittens, etc) can bring us such deep joy.
We like to associate animal jewelry with our Zodiac sign, even when not believing in the whole astrology ''thing'' we do like to think that being a Leo, Capricorn, Taurus, Pisces, Aries, Scorpio, and Cancer (we say Lobster (kreeft) in Dutch) is a form of representation of our birth, our strengths, our uniqueness. Something that sets us apart, even if millions of humans share the same zodiac sign, it is a conversation point.
''We love to think we have a spirit animal. Something that we deeply connect with. In his fabulous book Tools of Titan, Tim Ferriss asks each of the successful people he interviews, for their spirit animal. I guess most of them, like you, never thought about it, but what would yours be? And why?''
We love all the fables of our childhood, the mythology of the past, and the roles animals played in movies and books. We connect with the loyalty of the dog, the smartness of the raven or dolphin, the agility of the leopard, and the strength of the lion. We use owls to refer to wisdom and knowledge. We say things like; ''he fought like a lion for his life''.
Strong as a horse, cunning as a fox, frightened like a hare, rabbit. Strong or big as an elephant, weaseling out of something. Being a chameleon...
All traits that we connect with animals and see in ourselves. We wear their fur to show wealth, use their feathers to be extravagant, and eat their horns to become more viral (when will this finally stop?!).
Millions of girls dream about horses, people connect puppies with becoming a family and we are en masse creating homes for bees everywhere.
We understand that each creature on this planet plays a role in an ecosystem. And instead of using them to our benefit, we become the protectors of these ecosystems. Ultimately for our own benefits for sure, for the survival of the species, but in the process of awareness and a growing sense of empathy, we seem to become better guardians for it.
''Animals remind us of our existence on this planet and whether we admire them, or reflect on their traits, we LOVE and ADORE to see them in our culture within the arts, our homes, on our bodies (tattoos), and close to our skin and hearts, as jewelry does. A form of communication, a symbol for ourselves and what we cherish.''
May the wonderful jewelry designers, jewelry artists, and -artisans, like all the artists everywhere, create many pieces of gorgeous animal jewelry now and forever. Amen.
Brooch with micro mosaic and enamel in gold with a lovely parrot by Castellani and another stunning chameleon by Michele Della Valle.
Chopard created this bracelet in titanium. A metal that is so light and beautiful, colored often in the same colors as the gemstones used to enhance the color and the stones even more. This is a high-end jewelry piece that leaves us breathless...
Snails by David Webb, This company has created so many wonderful pieces of animal jewelry. The snail is a symbol of being slow and we may not always like them in our garden. Yet, its shape and shell are so perfect!
Daniela Villegas is big on animal jewelry. Usually, she is not shy to create jewelry with creates we do not associate with as being cuddly or fluffy. She likes creatures that creep and crawl. Creating this type of jewelry, this theme is the identity of her brand.
Daniela Villegas rings
Daniela Villegas earrings
Gucci Hortus Deliciarum Ring in gold and engraved opal
A beautiful brooch by the Russian company Jewellery Theatre
Delightful bracelet with small birds in citrine and sapphires in gold by the French Lorenz Baumer
Dragonflies, a favorite of the art nouveau period. This one is by the French brand Mathon and the brooch next to it is by the Spanish Masriera.
A pair of earrings I would love to own myself: by Parulina
Not all jewelry has a famous brand behind it. Many pieces are amazing and created by artists we do not know, like these two pieces found at an auction.
Once more; chameleons. This time by the Parisian Van Cleef & Arpels. Look at all the details!
* Read the story about the elephant by Googling it or this Washington Post article