Many very splendid works in the precious metals were executed at this period. A very large amount of these is supposed to have been melted down, in Italy, about the date of the sack of Rome; and in France to pay the ransom of Francis I.; and much more was, no doubt, re-fashioned in after times; but the Cabinet of the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Florence, and the Museum of the Louvre at Paris, still contain fine collections of jewelled and enamelled cups and other objects, which sufficiently attest the skill and taste of the goldsmiths and jewellers of the sixteenth century.
One of the richest jewels which the fashion of the period introduced, and which continued to be used for a considerable time, was the "enseigne", a species of medal generally worn in the hats of the nobles and in the head-dress of the ladies.
The custom of giving presents on all important occasions furnished constant employment to the jewellers of both countries, and in the vicinity of the courts, even during the most troubled periods. The restoration of peace in Italy, by the conventions of Chateau Cambresis, and in France at the accession of Henry IV, caused an increased demand for the goldsmiths' productions; and subsequently the magnificence of the Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin paved the way for the age of "Louis le Grand" in France, for whom numerous fine works of art were executed by the Parisian goldsmith, Claude Ballin, who, together with Labarre, Vincent, Petit, Julian Desfontaines, and others, worked in the Louvre.
One of the objects which greatly employed the ingenuity of the jeweler at this period was the "aigrette", which was generally worn by the nobility. From this time the style of the French jewellery rapidly declined, perfection of workmanship in metal-work having been transferred to bronze and brass, in which last alloy the chasings of the celebrated Gouthier, in the days of Louis XVI, were above all praise. Of designs for such work we engrave two pleasing specimens of the Parisian burin. The wiriness and frivolity of this class of ornament were redeemed by its faultless execution.
The details of the art, and its popularity, were not without their influence upon general design; for since the delicate draughtsmen and engravers of the day were much employed by the goldsmiths in working out their designs and patterns, it followed, as no unnatural consequence, that many of the forms peculiar to jewellers' work were introduced into decorations designed for altogether different purposes.
This was especially the case in Germany, and more particularly in Saxony, where a great deal of a mixed style of Renaissance and bastard Italian, with strap and ribbon-work, cartouches, and intricate complications of architectural members, was executed for the Electors. The engraving we present of a decoration composed by Theodore de Bry affords no bad illustration of the way in which motives expressly adapted for enamelling in the style of Cellini were thrown together, to make up the ordinary grotesque of the day. It is by no means in the works of Theodore de Bry alone that such solecisms are to be found; for in the French etchings of Etienne de Laulne, Gilles l'Egaré, and others, the same features are presented.