Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monograms and Jewelry: Make Your Mark

I don't know about you all but I absolutely LOVE anything that's personalized. I'm sure Freud could have a field day with that statement but in the meantime, let's just focus on a specific form of personalization - monograms!

I've always enjoyed collecting antique and vintage wedding bands - especially the personalized ones!  There is something about wearing a piece with such a rich history.  In fact, they started my obsession with antique jewels (to see my original post, click here).  So, of course, it's only natural that my love of that personalization would also translate into a love of antique/vintage monogrammed jewelry as well.  The stories those monograms could tell!

But what started it all?  Where did the monogram come from?  When did it make its first appearance and why?  How has it evolved?

Well, the monogram started out as simple initials carved onto coins.  This marked the reign of a particular Roman or Greek ruler.  In the Middle Ages, artisans - who always know a good thing - began to personalize their work by monogramming their initials onto their pieces as a way to identify their work.  This evolved even further into artists actually signing their work.  Essentially, monogramming was the first form of social media or word-of-mouth advertising.  By identifying their work in such a manner, it allowed artists, rulers and the like advertise.  Someone fancied a painting in your home, they looked for the artist's mark so that they too could have something commissioned.


This amazing 14K white gold & carved Sapphire Ring from Beverly Hills Estate Auctions is a Bucket List piece of
jewelry for every monogram lover out there!  The initials appear to be "RMR" & the sapphire is approx. 6 carats.

In the Victorian era, monograms became a symbol of aristocracy.  Believing that monogrammed letters marked on their table linens, cutlery and more was a sign of prestige and wealth; upper class families became veritable monogram generators and before you knew it, every household boasted its own form of monogram styles.  There were embroidered monogram letters for noblemen and simple personalized stamps for the lower classes.

While members of the Victorian era aristocracy often used the monogram to demonstrate their high rank in society and it has had a long historical connection to royalty, it is very widely used today on a variety of personal items, both big and small.  And now, monogram formats are more lenient. Monograms are common among more people than just the wealthy, as they have become more accessible and trendy over time. Some people choose to stray from the traditional Victorian monogram format and create monograms in the style of first-middle-last name.  With this monogram style, all three initials are typically the same size.  Married couples’ monograms typically include the bride’s first initial on the left, the groom’s first initial on the right and the joint last name initial larger in the center.  Modern British royals do this differently, featuring a two-letter monogram reading the groom’s first and bride’s first initials left to right.


This Victoria 14K rose gold, hand-pierced monogram initial Charm Pendant from Roman Jewels Gold is
adorable!  It is roughly one inch in diameter with the initials "KIU" & has some of the most wonderful detailing!

So what started out as a strictly practical way of identifying personal belongings and advertising one's status within society or to symbolize the uniting of two people has evolved into a great branding tool.  So much so that it has become a part of our lexicon.  John Hancock's famous script on the Declaration of Independence was so stylish that his famous personalization become synonymous with the word "signature."  After eight years and numerous iterations of his monogrammed letters, Rembrandt finally landed on his now instantly recognizable mark.  In more recent history, you have Louis Vuitton's son, Georges, the monogram creator of the now-famous "LV" logo which was actually developed as a way to prevent counterfeiting of the company's designer luggage.  Then there are the two interlocking "C's" that helped transform the legendary Coco Chanel into an international symbol of elegance and wealth.


This vintage monogram, a simple "B" in 14k yellow gold Ring from My 1970s Store is a more modern
 interpretation of the monogram.  I might have to add this one to my collection just because it's a "B."

Before Johannes Gutenberg introduced movable type printing in the 1400s, there were also only three script styles: gothic, roman and italic.  Gothic is the oldest and is recognizable as a tight, upright writing style typically seen in religious manuscripts.  The Italian Renaissance inspired a lighter, more open form of typeset which resembled classical stone inscriptions known as "roman."  Then there was the development of the "italic" type-style - narrow and space efficient.  By the 16th century, these styles combined into type families known typefaces or fonts.  Evolving from its early handwritten origins, typefaces soon became either mechanical or decorative.  The strokes became less calligraphic and more constructed like the famous "LV" or interlocking "C's."


Circa 1898, this 14K yellow gold monogrammed Photo Locket from Barclays Auction is a dream!  It epitomizes
why I love monograms & even has an inscription which reads, "Presented to Gemmel McArthur by his fellow
employees Lailey Watson Co Toronto, Nov. 11, 1989."  What is not to love about the history of a piece like this?!?!

So where will the monogram go from here?  Honestly, I don't know.  But I am excited to see how it continues to develop and evolve!  But in the meantime, I will continue to relish in its history.

After a good cleaning, I took my antique monogram ring for a spin with another of my favorites from Jewels by Grace.


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