Glitter and Gold – History of Western Jewelry: A Six Part Course with Estela Mendes

Glitter and Gold – History of Western Jewelry: A Six Part Course with Estela Mendes


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Since the beginning of humanity, men and women have adorned themselves with items provided by nature. At one time, the adornment served purposes of protection against disease or evil spirits. But in modern times, jewels are more often a symbol of power, wealth, and social status. 

In this course, we will learn how jewellery evolved in the western world, from Ancient Egypt to the most famous jewelry houses such as Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels. We will analyse the different types of jewelry and their purpose through centuries, the symbology of stones and the evolution of the jewellery trade. 

This six-part course is a journey through the significance of jewelry through times, how societies connected with this type of adornment, how metals and stones achieved value and how the desire or owning jewellery developed a trade, making some countries very wealthy. 

Lecture One: Treasured Jewels in Egypt, Greece, and Rome
In the first lecture, we will learn how Ancient Egypt, Greece and Roman societies perceived jewellery. We will learn which type of materials were most common and appreciated, and their symbology. The interaction with other peoples and expansion of territories influenced the choices of different stones and metals and ultimately what kind of jewellery to wear.

Lecture Two: European Splendor
In this second lecture, we will analyse the European development of jewellery from the Middle Ages to Renaissance and finally the splendour of the Baroque Period. This vast period will unveil the evolution of societies and their social and economic development. The sumptuosity of European courts and the rise of the bourgeoisie contributed to the development of jewellery design and trade.

Lecture Three: Precious Gems and Metals
In the third lecture, we will cover some of the most popular gemstones by learning about their provenience, trade and symbology. New ways of cutting stones were introduced, providing a new brilliance. The expansion of European territories into the “New World” and new trade routes with Asian countries provided a new influx of precious metals and gemstones.

Lecture Four: Love and Power
In the fourth lecture, we will learn how jewellery and power were connected. We will analyse how The French monarchy created the Crown Jewells collection and what was its purpose. How the Tudor dynasty used jewellery to accentuate their power and how the Romanovs introduced a European taste in the Russian royal collection. Jewellery is associated not only with its intrinsic value but also with sentimental value. We will learn about the different types of jewellery developed to express love and commitment and will learn about the birth of the engagement ring.

Lecture Five: The Past Meets the Future
In the fifth lecture, we will learn how the political, economic and social changes of the 19th century were expressed in the jewellery industry. From the beginning of the century looking into the past, and by reaching the new development later on, with innovations and a great sense of individuality. Art movements such as Art Nouveau will play a pivotal role in the development of jewellery design.

Lecture Six: Modern Glamour
In the last lecture, we will learn about the development of jewellery design in the first part of the twentieth century. We will learn how some of the most iconic jewellery houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chaumet became such household names. 

Estela Mendes is an art historian with a MA in Museum Studies. Her research background is in Costume Design. Born and raised in Lisbon, she has been teaching about the beauty of the world for the past 15 years. After working in national palaces in Portugal, Estela moved to London where she spent 5 years working at museums like Buckingham Palace, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, where she has delivered gallery talks focusing on Fashion. In Portugal she created a company of Costume Hiring and Historical Re-enactments working with Museums, Opera Companies, Theatre, and Film.

How does it work?
This is a six-part course held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule above for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

When will I receive the Zoom link?
The link used to enter your Zoom room will be the same for each lecture in the course. It will be sent to the email address that was used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each session's start time.

Is there a reading list?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided via email at the course's conclusion. 

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time included for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $210 USD for six lectures.

Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 48 hours of each event's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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