The Best of Best Animal-inspired Jewelry

Published: Thu, Jan 28, 2021
The Best of Best Animal-inspired Jewelry

“They say that pearls make women cry, but the only pearls that make her cry are the fake ones!”
 – María Félix

It was just last week when Trump went out and in came Biden on Inauguration day. It was D-day undoubtedly, with all the events that had unfolded not long ago.
That being said, inauguration day was nothing short of dramatic.
Bernie sanders, just trying to stay warm, went viral with his oversized mittens and made netizens around the world crack up.

Inauguration day. Team Aurus too had its fun.

But it was Lady Gaga who moved the world with her recital of the National Anthem. A long time supporter of Biden, Gaga not only made a political statement with her red, blue and gold outfit but also aced her attempt at making a fashion statement, like she always does—we were not surprised.

As she made her entrance wearing a Schiaparelli haute couture red gown with a cashmere navy blue jacket, it was the golden 'dove with an olive branch' brooch from the same designer that became the talk of the town.


Lady Gaga in her Schiaparelli outfit

Most lapel pins are tiny in size, a modest symbol to a cause that doesn't disrupt the wearer's formal outfit. This is why Gaga's enormous gold dove made a statement.

While twitter had a ball with endless Game of Thrones and Mockingjay bird references, the actual point the star wanted to make was to motivate all to make peace with each other.

Did you know how the dove and the olive branch became symbols of peace?

In an excerpt from the Bible, God, displeased at how corrupt man had become, decided to flood the world. However, he decided to favor animals and Noah, his obedient, righteous server. After days of the flood washing over the world, covering heights as high as hills, Noah sends a dove out to check if the waters had subsided and the land had become dry. The dove returns back carrying an olive branch and that's how Noah figures out the flood is starting to recede. Hence, the dove and olive branch are considered as a sign of peace and vitality, of new beginnings- things that the star singer hopes and prays for America.

Like Gaga, there are many celebrities who have shown their eye for statement fashion and donned exquisite, animal inspired high jewelry.

A picture of Felix from Venice,1959. Notice the Cartier vintage snake bracelets.

Clearly, Maria Felix loved her snake jewelry. 

One such actress, someone we just can't leave out while we are talking about lovers of animal jewelry, who was known as the 'Supreme goddess of Spanish cinema', is the late Maria Felix.

This actress, who never learnt English and never appeared in any Hollywood movies in order to not be typecast, had a spectacular collection of Cartier jewels.

Maria Felix with her 22-inch Cartier diamond necklace

One motif that Felix repeatedly wore and seemed to identify with was the snake. Her fondness was clearly evident on many instances. One was when she visited the Cartier flagship on the rue de la Paix in Paris and commissioned a diamond snake necklace that Cartier took two years to make. The serpent was designed by master craftsmen to be fully flexible with platinum and gold on the inside and a body covered in 2473 brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds weighing a total of 178.21 carats. 
The scales on the interior of the snake featured green, black and red enamel, something we find very similar to traditional Indian jewels with enamel on the reverse sides.

Maria Felix wearing her turquoise Cartier hoops

Not a long time later, she approached Cartier again and got herself a pair of turquoise and gold snake hoop earrings designed with rubies for the snake's eyes.
Come 1975, Felix added another animal jewel, the most glorious one yet, to her collection. This time, she walked into Cartier in Paris carrying the live baby alligator and asked for a jewel inspired from the gator!


Felix’s alligator Cartier brooch-cum-necklace

Felix was delighted when Cartier presented her with a pair of alligators that could be worn as two separate brooches or as one spectacular necklace, and offered a champagne toast to all the craftsmen who worked on her piece. One of the alligators is studded with 1,023 brilliant-cut yellow diamonds weighing 60.02 carats with emerald cabochons for the eyes. The other is covered in 1,060 emeralds weighing 66.86-carats and has ruby cabochon for the eyes.


Monica Bellucci wearing the original Cartier alligator necklace as a tribute to Felix.

Her alligator necklace was worn only once thereafter, by actress Monica Bellucci at Cannes in 2006.

There's quite a mystery surrounding the jewels as to what was the occasion when she got these, since such pieces are usually made for a celebration or to mark a major event in life. No one seems to have found an answer to this and we believe it was possibly a whim, somethings on Maria's bucket list.

Before she died in 2002, Félix sold the crocodile and snake necklaces while the earrings remained in her collection. No one knows why—just another Maria mystery that will continue to beguile us.

Uma Thurman at the MET gala wearing the Cartier bird brooch


Do you remember when Uma Therman walked the red carpet at the 2006 MET gala?

That was definitely a show stopping moment. Heads turned as the actress glissaded down the red carpet-clad steps in an ivory dress and this 8-inches high and approximately 5.5- ounces-weighing big bird. The brooch was flown in just for the occasion from the Cartier Collection in Paris.

Specially created under the supervision of Creative Director Jeanne Toussaint, this diamond and platinum brooch has almost 90-carats of diamonds, including the largest two rocks- a 2.76 carats emerald-cut diamond and two square shape diamonds weighing 2.35 and 1.29 carats, set to perfection.

This unique diamond brooch is a classic example of 19th century wartime jewelry from Cartier, a lot of which was inspired from birds to symbolize freedom, national pride and natural beauty.

Wallis Windsor’s 152.35 carat kashmiri sapphire panther brooch

 Ever heard of “the alternative Crown Jewels”?

This was the name given to the Duchess of Windsor's collection of glittering, rich Van cleef and Cartier jewels; all gifts from Edward VIII, the duke of Windsor to his beloved, for whom he gave up the throne.

It was this exquisite collection, which the Duchess, Wallis Windsor requested be sold to fund the Pasteur Institute, a hospital and research center located in Paris, France. She felt that she should show her appreciation to the people of France, where she and her Duke had lived after being banished from England.

On being auctioned by Sotheby's in 1987 in Geneva, the jewels sold for a whopping 30 million dollars.


Wallis Windsor wearing her Cartier panther bracelet

 The same collection also included the gorgeous Cartier Panther bracelet. Created in 1952, the 6.5 inch bracelet is finely-sculpted with a body of pavé-set diamonds and onyx. Each eye holds a marquise-shaped emerald. The bracelet, fully flexible to drape itself on the wrist instead of being stiff like a bangle, was designed under Cartier jeweler Jeanne Toussaint. It was also the jewel to be sold at the highest price at the auction. There were rumors that the buyer was Madonna!

The Duchess and her beloved Flamingo brooch

Another fabulous jewel from Windsor's prized collection is the Cartier flamingo brooch—another collaboration between the Duke and Jeanne Toussaint. The Duke was believed to love gemstones and jewelry and personally look into the jewels he got made for the Duchess.

This Cartier flamingo brooch set in platinum features a whimsical flamingo, covered in pave set diamonds perched on one leg. The flamingo has a sapphire eye and a yellow citrine cabochon and blue sapphire beak. The tail feathers of the flamingo are designed with a colorful array of emeralds, rubies and sapphires. The brooch was gifted as a birthday gift to Wallis in 1940 and is known to be the piece most frequently worn by her.

The early Bulgari serpenti watch-bracelet from 1940s

 There will be no jewelry lover who hasn't dreamt of owning a Bulgari Serpenti.

But do you know what gave birth to the idea?
It was a gas pipe, Tubogas that inspired the iconic Bulgari Serpenti motif. Tubogas was a flexible tube of gold that inspired Bulgari to design a watch-cum-bracelet in the 1940s, right after world war II, that allowed movement and comfortable fit. This was exactly the kind of jewelry people wanted after the war- practical and sober.

But what started it all for the Serpenti was the decision to shoot the movie Cleopatra in Rome, Bulgari's hometown.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Bulgari Serpenti bracelet

In a publicity still taken on set in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor, the Cleopatra actress who is also known for her love for jewelry, is seen wearing one of the first Bulgari Serpenti watches ever.
The tubogas technique took Bulgari almost 15 years to master.
Later, new versions of the Serpenti kept being launched by Bulgari with a variety of different materials- enamel, gemstones and engraved metal among others.
Bulgari describes just what the Serpenti collection means to them, “Coiled around a history of humanity, the seductive serpent dates back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. A motif representing wisdom, vitality, and seduction. A charming Bulgari jewelry collection.”