Heavenly Bodies. The Sun, Moon and Stars in Jewellery

Exhibition  /  08 Jul 2016  -  30 Oct 2016
Published: 26.07.2016
Heavenly Bodies. The Sun, Moon and Stars in Jewellery.
Pforzheim Jewellery Museum
Fritz Falk
Cornelie Holzach
Unknown. Object: The Nebra sky disk, 1600 BC. Bronze, gold. Photo by: Juraj Lipták. © LDA Sachsen-Anhalt. Unknown
Object: The Nebra sky disk, 1600 BC
Bronze, gold
Photo by: Juraj Lipták
© LDA Sachsen-Anhalt
© By the author. Read Copyright.

The myths surrounding precious metals are closely linked to our celestial bodies. In many early cultures and on all continents, the sun, moon and stars were considered to be divine signs in the sky that were revered as much as they were feared, being regarded both as preservers of happiness and prosperity and as harbingers of evil. Poets, composers, painters and artisans from classical antiquity to the present day have also concerned themselves with our celestial bodies, which can be found in multiple forms in jewellery as well, whether charged with magical powers or »merely« appealing or expensive.
»This is the first show ever to put jewellery in relation to the cosmos. The meanings of this Ancient Greek word - order, global order, universe, and jewellery as well - suggested doing this at Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum,« explains Fritz Falk, the exhibition’s curator and the museum’s former director. On show from 8 July to 30 October 2016, the exhibition will be spanning an arc from Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean cultures to the present day, and will also be including non-European cultures, as well as watches and sundials.

As a first indication of next year’s anniversary »250 years of Pforzheim’s jewellery and watchmaking industries« two pendants from Chopard’s series »Happy Sky« also are on display. They were designed especially for the anniversary and will be available at Leicht Juweliere from October onwards.
From the Bronze Age to the Baroque era
Symbolizing the sun, spheres were a ubiquitous motif back in the Bronze Age. Also, the glowing star has always been epitomized by the warm gleam of gold, as exemplified by the Nebra Sky Disk, which is thought to be the oldest depiction of the sky. In the land of the pharaohs, too, the sun was believed to possess magical powers, as is evidenced by its image on a golden signet ring of Pharaoh Ramses II, on loan from the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich. The sun god Helios was reified in artefacts in Ancient Greece, as was the moon: the crescent symbolized the goddess Selene and, later on, in Roman times, the goddess Luna. What are called lunula pendants found their way from there to Asia Minor and regions north of the Alps, to Southern Germany and the Rhineland. Famous for their superlative goldsmithing artistry, the Etruscans eternalized the sun and the moon in jewellery enhanced with tiny spherules using the granulation technique. While only relatively little is known about the Migration Period, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as regards jewellery featuring celestial bodies, the Baroque era marked the beginning of a veritable heyday in terms of people’s concerning themselves with them: astronomy and astrology celebrated triumphant advances, and the scientific discoveries in the 16th and 17th centuries found expression in multiple forms in the arts and the artistic crafts. One rather special example is the breast stars of an order’s insignia, and sometimes, even the entire cosmos found its way into a piece of jewellery, as is evidenced by an astronomical ring whose bands can be unfolded to form a sphere.

The 19th century, Art Nouveau and the modern era
There’s hardly any other epoch that produced as much »heavenly« jewellery as the 19th century. While magical, mythological or religious aspects had become less and less relevant, the focus back then was rather on the decorative function of jewellery. This is exemplified by what are called »sunburst« ornamental elements featuring sunrays (usually set with diamonds) and representing the rising sun, like those adorning the nephrite stamp box created by Carl Fabergé in St. Petersburg.
In the Art Nouveau period, the rising or setting sun was a highly popular motif. René Lalique, for example, incorporated the »soleil couchant« in the depiction of evening lakeside scenery on an ornamental comb. Since the late 1950s, jewellery artists in Europe, Israel, Japan and many other countries have concerned themselves with celestial bodies for various reasons, inspired by ancient mythologies, music or the visual arts, or by astronomical events like solar and lunar eclipses. In 1999, for example, the Pforzheim-based Jewellery + Design Guild called for entries to a competition themed around translating that year’s solar eclipse into jewellery.
Non-European cultures
In jewellery created by non-European cultures, celestial bodies can be found aplenty and in multifaceted forms and shapes, like the crescent in Northern Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula, for example. In Yemen, people have always worn and still wear silver amulet containers, which are often complemented with moon- and star-shaped elements, for accommodating religious texts. Other examples include the silver disks featuring a multi-ray star that are worn by the women of the Hmong people (a sub-group of the Miao people) on festive occasions, or the golden disks embellished with sun symbols, incorporated in magnificent necklaces worn by the Ashanti and Baoulé in West Africa.
From sundials to sophisticated watch dials
In addition to their popularity as ornamental elements, celestial bodies have also always played a very practical role in the field of time measurement. The sundial is considered the oldest timekeeping device of all. Crafted in small format, it was also incorporated in pieces of jewellery, for example in a ring.
Moreover, numerous pocket and pendant watches, and wristwatches too, have been equipped with a variety of functions, including a moon phase display.
An eponymous book to accompany the exhibition has been published by ARNOLDSCHE Art Publishers.

Dates and price

Admission to the permanent exhibition €3, reduced fee €1.50, free of charge up to age 14 and for holders of the Upper Rhine Museum Pass, Guided group tours by appointment, Public guided tours through the permanent exhibition Sun 3 p.m., € 5.00, reduced fee € 3.50


Tuesday - Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(except for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve)
Unknown. Necklace: Byzantine lunula pendant on a chain necklace, about 600. Gold, a sardonyx, emeralds, a sapphire, pearls. Photo by: Günther Meyer. Syria, on permanent loan from the ministry of science, research and the arts Baden-Württemberg, Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim
.  . Unknown
Necklace: Byzantine lunula pendant on a chain necklace, about 600
Gold, a sardonyx, emeralds, a sapphire, pearls
Photo by: Günther Meyer
Syria, on permanent loan from the ministry of science, research and the arts Baden-Württemberg, Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Thomas Kewell. Piece: Pocket watch depicting the sun, moon and stars, 1690. Gold, mixed materials. Photo by: Günter Beck. London, Philipp Weber Pocket Watch Collection, On permanent loan from the Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw art foundation
.  . Thomas Kewell
Piece: Pocket watch depicting the sun, moon and stars, 1690
Gold, mixed materials
Photo by: Günter Beck
London, Philipp Weber Pocket Watch Collection, On permanent loan from the Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw art foundation
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Carl Fabergé. Object: Stamp box, 1900. Nephrite, diamonds, rubies. Photo by: Wartski. St. Petersburg
.  . Carl Fabergé
Object: Stamp box, 1900
Nephrite, diamonds, rubies
Photo by: Wartski
St. Petersburg
© By the author. Read Copyright.
André Ribeiro. Bracelet: Untitled, 2008. Mixed materials, diamonds. Photo by: P. Hoffmann. André Ribeiro
Bracelet: Untitled, 2008
Mixed materials, diamonds
Photo by: P. Hoffmann
© By the author. Read Copyright.