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The Renaissance was a vibrant cultural movement that occurred across Europe roughly between 1300 and 1600. The word "Renaissance" is the French word for "rebirth". It originated in Italy and turned cultural focus away from the strict values of the Medieval period to a reworking of the classical Greek and Roman virtues, it was a time of rebirth of humanism and new discoveries in fine arts, music, literature, philosophy, science and technology, architecture, religion and spirituality. Key characteristics of Renaissance art include realistic linear perspective, emphasis on the relationship between light and shadow and a glorification of nature and the human figure.
It is possible that one historical event had more to do with the change in the design of jewelry than any other. This was the discovery of the new world. It was from these lands that the great variety of animals were brought back to stir the jewelers and buyers imaginations. Another discovery helped to originate the title of "the jewel age" for the renaissance. This was the conquering of Peru and Mexico, for it was there that gold and silver were found in greater quantities then had ever been known. With the findings of the Incas and the Aztecs, the rulers of Europe were able to have the most spectacular jewels made regardless of the amount of rare metal needed.
If any form of jewelry was chosen for the reason that is outshone all other forms during the renaissance, it would have to be the pendant. The pendant expressed the mental concepts of the renaissance. It took a multiplicity of forms and embodied many significances. The large irregularly shaped pearls, known as baroque pearls, were extremely popular. Due to this widespread acceptance, these pearls were often used as the center of design.
The inspiration of antiquity did not only take hold of the medieval mind, but also that of the renaissance. A problem of design occurred due to the lack of knowledge about the jewels of Greek of Rome, for their jewels were practically unknown. Antique cameos were collected and imitated, but most of these were made during the revival of the middle ages. The fashion for cameos spread quickly, but their work never surpassed that done by the medieval craftsman.
The renaissance's contribution to the history of jewelry was also its vivid colors. Jewelry became spectacularly eccentric with the use of baroque pearls, enamels, faceted diamonds and colorful stones. It was this bestowal that has made the greatest influence on future jewelry craftsmen and collectors.