Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dreaming of Valentine Gems from Jewelry's Golden Age

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dreaming of Valentine Gems from Jewelry's Golden Age

Article excerpt

DIAMONDS (hint), rubies (hint) and emeralds (hint, hint) may still be a girl's best friend. Two stunning new books feature fabulous antique jewelry created by the likes of Carl Faberge and Louis Comfort Tiffany. But, alas, most of these gems are in museums are private collections, so hinting will be of very little use.

But these baubles are worth a second look, and a third. They are featured in "The Triumph of Love" by Geoffrey C. Munn (Thames and Hudson, $29), a look at five centuries of jewels created to represent love or lovers, and "The Jewelry and Enamels of Louis Comfort Tiffany" by Janet Zapata (Abrams, $39.95), which explores the jewelry of the man who is best known for his brilliantly colored glass lamps and windows.

Munn, author of numerous books on jewelry, is a fellow of the English Society of Antiquaries and an expert on the history of adornments. Most of the jewelry he collected for this book use symbols you would expect: hearts, arrows, love birds, Cupids, lover's knots, flowers and Venus. These are done up in precious gold, rubies, pearls, diamonds and in more unusual combinations of enamel, lapis, glass, silver, amethyst and garnet.

One early piece is a Roman cameo portrait of a boy's head carved in the second century A.D. In the late Renaissance, it was converted to the head of Eros and combined with gold wings, diamonds and pearls. From 16th-century Germany comes a tiny golden gondola with lovers under a canopy of rubies and pearls.

One of the best-known pieces might be the unmatched pearl earrings in Peter Paul Rubens' "Venus before a Mirror." The white pearl earring is visible on Venus, but the black pearl can be seen only in her mirror. The pearls are said to represent the dark and light sides of passion. (Similar teardrop-shaped earrings are available at the Museum Co., Galleria, $24.)

A French brooch from about 1760 uses diamonds to create the doves of Venus surrounded by laurels and topped by a bow. The laurels represent the "Triumph of Love," according to Munn, while the bow and palms stand for strength and peace. A simpler piece is a diamond- and-emerald encrusted arrow (Cupid's, of course) made in France circa 1700. …

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