Snake ear clips, Yellow gold, pink gold, turquoise-coloured enamel, two oval rubies and two rose-cut diamonds, Cartier Paris, special order 1971, N. Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier
If you haven't visited it yet, you have just a few days left before this exhibition packs up. "Serpentina - The Snake in Jewellery Around the World' stretches to February 26 at Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum in Germany and it is all about snake jewellery.
The symbolic meanings of the snake are quite varied and exist in all cultures. The snake has inspired the creation of exquisite works of art and jewellery. This exhibition includes 120 remarkable pieces of snake jewellery from varied periods and countries - and it's all about snakes. Curated by Fritz Falk, the museum’s director for over 30 years, this is the first time ever that the theme of the snake in jewellery has been dealt with so extensively.
The snake is found in jewellery from several ancient civilisations - Ancient Egypt, Minoic civilization of Crete, Ancient Greece and Rome. North of the Alps, the snake adorned Celtic jewellery, enhanced the Franks’ and Alemanni’s golden disk fibulas in the Migration Period, and the Vikings decorated bangles and metal fittings with snake motifs.
The snake’s comeback in the 19th century and especially in the Art Nouveau Period was all the more striking. Snake jewellery were created by such greats as Lalique and Fouquet in Paris, by members of the Arts & Crafts movement in England and by the jewellery industry in Pforzheim.
Jewellery artists and manufacturers of the 20th and early 21st centuries have interpreted the snake motif in a wide variety of original fashions, creating such diverse pieces as Mario Pinton’s delicate snake bangle, Günter Krauss’s mighty necklace or the diamond-studded necklaces and bangles designed by Cartier, Boucheron and the Hemmerle Jewellers in Munich.
Outside Europe, snake motifs adorned golden and sometimes gem-set pectorals (breast jewellery) in pre-Columbian Middle America. In India and Indonesia snake jewellery in the shape of amulets, bangles and earrings is still popular today. Other impressive examples are the golden creations of the Akan in Ghana and Nigeria.
Even in Japan the snake was used to adorn netsukes. Because traditional Japanese garments had no pockets, a netsuke was used to fasten a small container for personal belongings such as an inrō, an elaborately crafted box, to the sash.
Whether good or bad – the snake is a creature which has occupied the minds of people since time immemorial and in many different ways.
If you won't manage to make your way to this exhibtion, you may be intersted in getting hold of the special exhibition publication called,'Serpentina –Snake Jewellery from around the World' which contains 200 colour illustrations, and is in the English and German languages.
Open Tuesday – Sunday and holidays from 10.00 - 17.00hrs
For more information on this exhibition click here
For more information on the city of jewellery and watches click here]
Bracelet featuring stylized snake heads; Gold; Öland, Ås, Näsby; Late Roman Iron Age (approx. 200-300 AD); National Historical Museum, Sweden; Photo: Gabriel Hildebrand
'Snakes' pectoral; René Lalique; Gold, enamel; Paris, 1898/99; © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2011; © Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Photo: Carlos Azevedo