Flowers are a reflection of the traditional feminine ideal. They are also essential to reproduction of flowering plants, they contain the reproductive organs. During Antique times, and with the division of sexes between male and female, various words came to be associated with the notions of fair / fairer sex. Men were viewed as the better, stronger or sterner sex; women were the fairer, gentler or softer sex. So, fairer differentiated female from male.
That women are drawn to the creation of life and growth could explain why most women appreciate receiving flowers as a token of affection. Whatever the interpretation can be found to explain the female attraction for flowers in general, the floral theme has blossomed in design to become a classic in jewelry. The vast array of floral shapes and colors offers unlimited possibilities to translate female beauty. Within this rich source of design, some flowers have stood out to express the idea that women should be admired for their beauty, and respected for their power. Below are three examples of delicate flowers with deadly powers, which have been a source of inspiration among jewelry designers.
Lily of the valley is a sweetly scented, highly poisonous woodland flowering plant that is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia, and Europe. In the "language of flowers", the lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness. Legend tells of the affection of a lily of the valley for a nightingale that did not come back to the woods until the flower bloomed in May. This poetic legend can’t hide, however, that this flower has a history tinted with death and drama. On the 1st of May 1561 a lily of the valley was given as a lucky charm to King Charles IX of France. From then he continued the habit of offering lilies of the valley to all the ladies of the court as a sign of good luck and happiness. Seen as a bad king by most of people, he decided to offer lily of the valley to Parisians to bring them luck for the year and be seen as a caring and loving king. He didn’t anticipate the fact that most people who received these flowers were starving and would attempt to cook them into soup. The poisonous and frugal meal killed a few dozen and Parisians nicknamed Charles IX “the cursed king”.
Atropa belladonna, commonly known as “belladonna” or “deadly nightshade”, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Nightshade family (which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, etc.). The name "belladonna" originates from its historic use by women, as "Bella Donna" is Italian for "beautiful lady". Drops prepared from the belladonna plant were used to dilate women's pupils, an effect considered to be attractive and seductive. Belladonna drops act as a muscarinic antagonist, blocking receptors in the muscles of the eye that constrict pupil size. Belladonna is currently rarely used cosmetically, as it carries the adverse effects of causing minor visual distortions, inability to focus on near objects, and increased heart rate. Prolonged usage was reputed to cause blindness. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery; the ancient Romans used it as a poison (the wife of Emperor Augustus and the wife of Claudius both were rumored to have used it for murder); and, predating this, it was used to make poison-tipped arrows.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, commonly known as “bleeding heart” is a species of flowering plant in the poppy family native to Siberia, northern China, Korea and Japan. It is valued in gardens and in floristry for its heart-shaped pink and white flowers, borne in spring. The flowers strikingly resemble the conventional heart shape, with a droplet beneath - hence the common name. The pure white-flowered 'Alba', somewhat more robust than the species, is a popular cultivar. The plant sometimes behaves as a spring ephemeral, going dormant in summer. Contact with the plant causes skin irritation.
At first glance, we admire the beauty of flowers, and yet we rarely do understand them. They strike us with their subtle curves and elegant shades, and only can be handled with respect. These flowers crystalized into jewelry for eternity are poetic reminders that beauty can't be taken for granted.
- Giovanni Boldini, Arm with a Vase of Flowers (1910)