Messages in Jewelry: The Pineapple

I don’t think there’s another fruit more popular with jewelers than the pineapple. With its prickly texture, bold body color, and spiky leaves, this fruit has been a perennial favorite of major jewelry houses like Verdura and David Webb since their mid-century heyday.

From left: David Webb,  Cartier, Verdura

Although common to us today, the pineapple was a status symbol in Colonial America due to its scarcity and limited shelf-life at a time when exotic produce were coveted and only the rich and powerful could get their hands on one for their fêtes.

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(drawing from here)

From Apartment Therapy:

There are several histories recorded regarding the pineapple as a symbol of status, the most popular being that of Christopher Columbus. According to historical document, Christopher Columbus discovered the pineapple on his second trip to the Caribbean (most specifically Guadeloupe) in 1493. Preferring the sweet taste of the pineapple and several other tropical island fruits to cannibalism, Columbus and his men embraced the fruit. They returned to Europe, where the pineapples became a symbol of great wealth, as European gardeners were not able to grow the fruits in the correct conditions until well into the 1600s (first recorded in the Duchess of Cleveland’s hot house in 1642). Honored and distinguished guests were gifted the extremely fashionable pineapples by royalty.

The Colonial pineapple trade in the late 1600s and early 1700s solidified the pineapple as a status symbol. Pineapples were not only expensive, they were fragile! The sea voyage from the Caribbean to the colonies rotted most of the fruit during the hot and humid voyage. Hostesses scrambled to have the expensive, prickly fruit adorning their tables, and the trend grew. Pineapples have graced tables ever since — even continuing through the 1950s in America, where pineapple upside-down cakes and gelatin molds abounded. Their popularity eventually gave life to the host of architectural or ornamental pieces that you see today (i.e. door knockers).[/alert]

Pineapple jewelry is a great example of how jewelry can be more than the sum of its parts. Adornment imbued with symbolism and coded with messages have always been my favorite kind of jewelry.

From left: Marshak, Verdura

If you want to read more on this, there’s an excellent book written by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright entitled Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (Hardcover – September 29, 2009) which discusses how she used brooches to convey messages at meetings with world leaders and politicians.

Of course, we can’t leave out Victorian jewelry if we’re to talk about symbolism in adornment. There’s so much to learn and read on this subject. I’ve written a few posts in the past about just a tiny fraction of this fascinating period in jewelry and personal adornment. See them here:

Enjoy! xx- Bex

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