Figural jewelry showcases the fun of wearing and collecting jewelry and is an excellent conversation starter or ice breaker. I’ve discovered that while many people own it, a lot of them don’t know that it has a name. By definition, it is jewelry that depicts flora and fauna, people, places and things from mythical creatures to ballerinas to bugs and everything in between.
There are several jewelry books dedicated to it. It can be costume jewelry but there is also a lot of fine jewelry with a figural motif. While the majority of figural jewelry pieces are brooches and charms, they are designed as necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings as well. They truly are wearable works of art.
Figural jewelry has something for everyone. Animal lovers, historical places, royal themes, fantasy creatures, flowers, birds, fish, musical instruments, sports, food, transportation, world events, fads, famous people, holidays--you name it, there’s likely a piece of figural jewelry for it created at some point in the long history of jewelry.
Not only is it fun to wear, figural jewelry holds symbolic and sentimental meaning too. It speaks to me, connects me to people and places, expresses a bit of my personality. This is what attracted me to figural jewelry and it’s why all the pieces I offer for sale come with a description of its symbolic or historical meaning. A piece may be visually beautiful but what makes it special is what it means to its owner. A figural collection can be started based on one’s own passion, hobby or simply things you like. For example, I collect figural brooches of three’s to represent our three children as this has personal meaning for me.
My collection is comprised of things that I like, that make me smile and that have sentimental value to me. Most are costume jewelry pieces but a few are sterling silver. A gold figural piece is on my wish list!
Figural jewelry can be a visual cue of one’s mood on a particular day, get a point across or showcase a passion for a certain topic.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her book called “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box” tells how she used her collection of figural brooches to express her moods or make a point during diplomatic conversations and to the press and simply to add a bit of humor to her very stressful job. The serpent pin shown below is the one that got her started using figural pins this way. This woman is my hero. Anyone can use her example as inspiration to style and make a statement with figural jewelry!
While I’ve shown some higher end and highly collectible examples in this blog, figural jewelry can be found at vintage markets, antique shops, flea markets, and garage sales for bargain prices too. Most of my personal collection is from treasure hunting, gifts or shopping small online businesses.
It’s really more about finding a piece that speaks to you and less about price or even book value.
I adore figural jewelry as it really is an expression of personal style and adds a whimsical touch to your look, a good reminder not to take oneself too seriously.
Find an ever-changing selection of figural jewelry in my Ruby Lane shopSuzy’s Timeless Treasures Vintage Jewelry and I am always on the hunt for interesting, fun pieces to add to my personal collection!
I’d love to hear about a favorite piece of figural jewelry in your collection in the comments!
Lisa Sullivan is a jewelry dealer, collector, busy wife and mom who gets easily distracted by shiny, sparkly things and dragons. The finds she doesn’t keep for herself can be found online atSuzy’s Timeless Treasures on Ruby Lane
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