People have been manufacturing and wearing some form of jewellery for centuries. It was incredibly popular in ancient Rome, even with the very lowest sectors of society. Yet as time progressed the wearing of jewellery items become something that was only done by the upper echelons of society and royalty, including members of the church. The first ever Guild of Goldsmiths was formed in the 12th century in order to serve noble families and provide them with all of the jewellery and adornments that they may need. This was the time that the first great jewellery artists and masters of the renaissance came to the fore, people like Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci were charged with designing jewellery items for the court of Francis I.
By the end of the 16th Century the tastes changed and the age of the renaissance was over, this became a time when jewellery was a true symbol of wealth so the more jewels and precious stones that were included the better. This was the age of Baroque design, the amount of jewellery that men were wearing reduced dramatically and the amount that women were wearing increased. Precious stones were imported from the lands of the new world and from the lands in the Far East.
The most popular jewellery items through the course of the 17th century were pearls, their value actually increased threefold across the course of the century. Pearly were woven in the hair, and as the hairstyles increased in height they were decorated with strings of pearls, whilst the men used them to decorate their hats. It was during this time that diamonds started appearing in designs. They were mainly imported from India and Brazil by the Dutch merchants, and Amsterdam became the centre of the diamond cutting industry. It was at this point that the diamond superseded the pearl in popularity. By the time the 18th century rolled around the diamond necklace was the jewellery item of choice to display wealth and stature.
Along with the other advances that the Industrial revolution brought with it, there came advances in the mass manufacture of affordable jewellery items, which meant that the middle classes were finally able to afford jewellery of their own. The wearing of jewellery was no longer only something done by the upper classes and royalty; it was now available to anyone that could afford it. It was around 1850 when Charles Tiffany came onto the scene a silversmith who also made settings for precious stones, but it was his son Louis Comfort Tiffany whose name is still respected today as being a master of jewellery design. Hot on the heels of Tiffany came Cartier in 1898, quickly followed by the Faberge Company which was established in St Petersburg but came to public attention when a display of their intricately decorated and jewelled eggs was shown at the Paris exposition in 1900. All of these names are still regarded as being masters of their art today in the 21st century.