Ivory – In the 18th century, there were a few key ivory carving centres. Why they had become centres differed. I will discuss two in particular – Dieppe and Erbach. One became a centre because of location, the other through sponsorship. Historically, Paris had a strong ivory carving industry but Dieppe, which was the port into which African ivory was shipped, began to develop carving schools. The jewellery they produced was intricate and delicate and included crosses and brooches comprised of sheaves of wheat, lily of the valley and bouquets of flowers. In 1731, there were 12 ivory artisans and 250 assistants, but the industry had reduced significantly by the 1870s.
Germany also had a thriving ivory carving industry, dating back to the 10th century, with a focus on religious figures. While the centres continued to thrive in the Renaissance and thereafter, by the end of the 18th century, there was a decline in activity. In the 1870s, Count Franz I of Erbach-Erbach encouraged a revival, even learning to carve ivory himself. He began to import ivory into Erbach to add to an existing but small horn carving industry. Initially, the artisans specialised in brooches with stags set in forest scene before moving onto fork handles and tobacco boxes. In 1860, Erbach became famous for carving roses (the Erbach rose) and from the 1870s, for delicate carved women’s hands, usually holding flowers. Over 200 artisans worked in Erbach at its peak.
Bohemian Garnet Jewellery – Garnets from Bohemia (later to become part of Czechoslovokia) had been mined and used in jewellery for centuries. The garnet was predominantly the pyrope garnet, a blood red to black red coloured gem. The industry grew in the 16th century with sponsorship from Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria and the King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia. Originally centred in Prague, the processing of the jewellery moved to the town of Turnov. In the 18th century, new rivet technology enabled the binding of small stones into a compact face resulting in pavé-set clusters of multi-faceted stones. This enabled smaller garnet stones to be used. The jewellery was mounted either in gold, often low grade, but also in silver gilt or metal. A typical design used rose cut garnets clustered around a garnet cabochon in star shaped patterns or flowerheads. They produced a range of pieces from drop earrings, brooches, pendants and necklaces. Some of the pieces were very elaborate. The settings were usually closed at the back
In 1896, a visitor to the town estimated that there were 3,000 men engaged in garnet-cutting, hundreds of garnet-drillers, about 500 goldsmiths and silversmiths, and over 3,500 working jewellers. ‘The collecting of garnets employed some 350 or 400 persons, so that, including the many persons whose work is indirectly connected with the industry, there must be between 9,000 and 10,000 persons gaining their livelihood by labour connected with the working of this precious stone ( Schliiter and Weitschat, 1991, 168)’. The introduction of larger scale manufacturing of garnet jewelry created mass-produced machine pressed metal settings and garnets of inferior quality. Production began to slow in the 20th century and an economic depression in the 1920s affected the industry. The two world wars led to instability in the region and the industry never recovered. Small amounts of Bohemian garnet jewellery are still being produced today in the Bohemian Hills district in Czechoslovokia.
E Martin and D Stiles, ‘Ivory Markets of Europe’, 2005, https://savetheelephants.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2005MarketsofEurope.pdf.
J Schliiter and W Weitschat, ‘Bohemian Garnet – Today’, 1991 Gems & Gemology.