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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.

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Silhouette

The representation of a subject by outline filled in with a uniform colour, usually black, and most often used to make a profile portrait. Silhouettes were made by cut-out paper patterns or by painting on porcelain, ivory or glass, and were used to decorate some articles of jewelry, e.g. brooches, pendants, finger rings, snuff boxes, patch boxes, etc., during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The silhouette was introduced in 1759 by Étienne de Silhouette (French Minister of Finance under Louis XV), its eponymous promoter, as an inexpensive form of household decoration as wall pictures so as to encourage economy. Although the French were especially skilled silhouettists, the style did not win favour in France, and silhouette jewelry became more popular in Germany and England, where it was used for mourning jewelry. The style ceased to be fashionable when the daguerreotype was introduced.

Perhaps the greatest exponent of the art was Augustin Édouart (1789-1861), who cut out freehand in black paper over 200,000 portraits. The silhouette was known in England as a 'shade' or a 'profile'.

From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

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