Why We Love the French

Here at Gray & Davis, we’re big fans of France for many reasons. The Statue of Liberty and cheese are high up on the list, but what really wins us over is the fact that some of the finest antique jewels we come across bear the marks of French makers. 

A selection of nineteenth-century French jewels, all currently available at Gray & Davis.

In fact, when it comes to anything related to fashion and the decorative arts, it’s often taken for granted that the best stuff comes from France. To understand how the French domination of decoration came to be, we have to travel back to the seventeenth century and the reign of Louis XVI.

Louis XIV in his signature huge wig and tiny pants. 

Louis XIV in his signature huge wig and tiny pants. 

Louis was a firm believer in the divine right of kings, and knew that by surrounding himself with fantastically lavish objects, he could convince others to see him as he truly believed he was: a magnificent being chosen especially by God to rule above all others. Palaces, furniture, clothing and yes, jewels, all had to be of the absolute highest quality and most exquisite design if Louis was to appropriately dazzle foreign dignitaries and native noblemen. To achieve this goal, Louis took over the Gobelins textile manufactury, and turned it into his own personal production house.

The finest craftsmen came from all over Europe to provide the Sun King’s royal residences with all the furniture, tapestries, silver and ceramics Louis needed to feel sufficiently fancy. It wasn’t long before the royalty of other nations took note of the superb artifacts coming out of France, and thus the country gained a reputation as a leading producer of luxury goods that still resonates with consumers to this day.