Tudor jewellery was not too dissimilar to modern jewellery, only people wore much more then than they do now. The jewellery worn by royalty was spectacular. It was only the nobility that could afford to buy jewellery, most of which was designed especially for the person buying it. Many different precious stones were used to create Tudor jewellery, whereas for the poor people of the country wooden beads were more commonly worn.
Anne Boleyn’s Jewellery
In many of the portraits made of Anne Boleyn she is wearing jewellery, much of which was presented to her by the king. One of the first gifts that he ever gave her was a bracelet which contained his image. One of the most famous portraits of her shows her wearing a pearl choker from which hangs the letter ‘B’ which is itself adorned with three drop pears underneath.
Much of her jewellery bore the initials ‘H’ and ‘A’. Upon her execution her jewellery was taken back by the king, with the pieces being broken apart and reset in new items of jewellery for his new love, Jane Seymour. It was not only the queen that wore the jewels King Henry VIII jewellery was no less spectacular. He is said to have worn a ring on every finger.
Tudor Jewellery for the Poor
With no money to buy precious stones for their jewellery items, glass was often used instead, as well as mother of pearl, bone, horn and wood. Glass beads were often woven into a woman’s hair as well as being used in necklaces and in other jewellery items. Gold work was popular with all of the classes and while at the start of the period it was quite plain, by the close of the Tudor period the gold smiths had developed new techniques and styles making their finished pieces much more intricate.
Aside from rings, necklaces and earrings, the Elizabethans had other forms of jewellery with which they could adorn themselves, or show off their wealth. Mirrors were often worn attached to a lady’s girdle and these would be heavily jewelled and ornate. A mirror could also be crafted into a jewelled brooch. Pomanders were also popular, not only for their appearance but because they were filled with sweet smelling herbs or perfume to take away the stench of the Elizabethan world.
Pomanders would also hang from a lady’s girdle, whereas a man would hand one from his belt, or on a chain. The cases for these perfumes were highly decorated which made a statement in itself. Buttons too were not merely for fastening things together, they were often used for decoration too. Some garments actually had precious stones as buttons.
Popular jewels of the time were diamonds and pearls as well as emeralds, rubies and opals. Semi-precious stones were also used in the creation of Tudor jewellery. Jet was popular, as was turquoise, amber and onyx as well as crystal and coral. Stones would be set in gold or silver according to the wealth of the individual.