At its height, revival jewellery was closely related to a wealth of archaeological discoveries in the 1800s. Back then, museums showcased throes of recently uncovered treasures of gold accessories, studded with gems and imbued with exotic mysticism.

Most of these artefacts were kept under lock and key, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts for wanting a piece of ‘ancient fashion’. Jewellers took heavy inspiration for these treasures, borrowing motifs and techniques or reimagining styles to suit the current times.

A 19th-century Hellenistic period-inspired revival piece, featuring a facsimile of an ancient Syracusan coin (Image credit: 1stdibs)

Few others took the extra step of using actual artefacts for added ‘authenticity’. In 1926, Cartier was one of the first to incorporate antiquities in jewellery. The most famous piece was a buckle brooch, created by Louis Cartier, set with ancient scarabs and faience wings for American socialite Linda Lee Porter. In trend with the art-deco aesthetics of the time, the piece was accompanied by geometric lines studded with sapphire cabochons.

Scarab Egyptian belt buckle made by Cartier in 1926 and owned by Linda Porter. (Image credit: Marian Gerard, Cartier Collection)

While Cartier had its fair share of revival jewels, only 150 of such masterpieces were ever made due to the limited supply of quality antiques. Rarity, coupled with the value of the museum-quality pieces involved, have made such gems the stuff of auction house legends.

Revival jewellery is no longer in vogue as before. Still, jewellers today are restoring the extravagance and exclusivity of using artifacts in contemporary settings — invoking the spirit of Linda Lee Porter and Louis Carter.

Instead of eternity behind a glass case or in a storage room, these jewellery pieces give antiques a new life in the modern world. Old Roman coins or remnants of an ancient Egyptian statue are weaved into modern contexts with a fresh streak of polished gold and a sparkling diamond or two.

Bulgari’s Monete collection

In the spirit of preserving aspects of Ancient Rome’s glory, Bulgari set to task of setting antique coins in a series of contemporary necklaces, signet rings and cufflinks. The 2000-year-old coins, which carries the likeness of members of Roman ruling class, are set in a thick gold bezel surrounded by mother-of-pearl inlays and diamonds. Each Monete piece comes with not just rare coinage but a quick history lesson as well. The bezel of each piece is engraved the name of the emperor or general depicted on the featured coin.

Dubini’s Empires collection

 

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While Bulgari offers an elaborate take on coin jewellery, Dubini sees a more youthful presentation. Coins come as simple pendants set in gold bezel surrounded by semi-precious cabochons or mounted on a quartz disc. Dubini presents these medallions as casual lariat necklaces, leather cuffs, thin-banded rings and dangling earrings. Each piece is designed to show the two different sides of the ancient coin as well.

Hemmerle’s Revived Treasure

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, the Munich-based jewellery house Hemmerle revealed the Revived Treasure collection revolving around faience amulets from Ancient Egypt. Protective amulets of gods are set in a scintillating cascade of diamonds along with other unique materials like olive wood, bronze, and aluminium. The star piece here is a chunky pair of chandelier earrings, boasting a total of 14 scarabs bound together in an elegant net of diamonds and matte bronze coils.

Coomi’s Antiquity collection

Indian-born jewellery designer Coomi Bhasin goes for a series of charms in her Antiquity collection. Beads and bronze figures, dating all the way back to the Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras, are featured here as small pendants further enhanced by playful, geometric settings and bedazzled with an array of colourful gems.

Maison Auclert

 

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Founder Marc Auclert grew up with a strong passion for antiques and jewellery. While first and foremost a jewellery designer, Auclert is determined that each antique that’s used is ‘respected’. That means strictly no soldering, permanent glueing, re-piercing or any other changes that might alter the antique. The maison works with most with a collection of ancient intaglios and cameos in a series of signet ring, bracelets and earrings. However, Auclert has a penchant for crafting up some unexpected pieces, such as remodelling a 1st-century Roman spoon or an antique gold earring as a necklace pendant.

Jasmine Tay
Senior Writer
Jasmine Tay is the dining, culture and jewellery writer. She makes fine silver jewellery and causes mini-explosions in the kitchen when she can't afford fancy dinners. Sometimes she tells people what she thinks about art, and binges on the music of Danzig when they don’t agree.