What you might realize about me by now is that I love details, mystery, and a good narrative. Paintings of yore used to have all those aspects incorporated into their canvases, and Dutch still-life portraits of the 17th century excelled in this storytelling. Each painted item indicated something specific and displayed a tale to be visually told for millennium to come. Last year I saw an amazing exhibition at the Mauritius Museum (in The Hague, The Netherlands) of a large collection of flower paintings. Their beauty overall was enthralling, but one painting in particular caught my eye – this one had a handful of perfect diamond octahedrons painted in the corner! While coins or jewels were commonly depicted in paintings, I knew diamond octahedrons were highly unusual and rare. Immediately my curiosity was peaked.
In the early 1600’s, a flower picture was part of a private domain. My guess is that this portrait was painted for a wealthy (Dutch?) businessperson – someone who had connections to and benefited from overseas trading and colonial ventures. Most likely, since this painting was completed in 1605, he had a tie to the East Indies, although Brazil or South Africa were also possibilities. Wherever these gems were mined, together with the other rare status symbols such as cut flowers, gold coins, sapphire crystals, and a fancy gold ring, this painting would celebrate, and immortalize, the trappings of the commissioner’s wealth, position, and power.
Jewelry has always been used to indicate status for thousands of years. Where you wear a certain piece on your body means different things (read my past blog on this), what color stones you wore had certain connotations, and while many of us don’t commission portraits anymore, the jewelry we put on can still tell a story about ourselves. For example, wearing a necklace like the Green/Green No. 5 featuring the large bubbly malachite indicates you have a sense of whimsy, fun
and confidence. While wearing a necklace like the Envy, although similar in hue and stone, has a very different vibe – a more refined, elegant feel. Whichever you choose, these pieces indicate your style and what you’re feeling in the moment. And when people look at photos or video of you in years to come, perhaps will they be able to derive your story from just your jewels.
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