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Beach jewelry: Focus on the Seahorse

Apr 14, 2024 | minusOne jewelry FAQ

Few ocean-inspired beach jewelry motifs are more curious than the seahorse.

I understand they’re cool. Seahorses are all about the fantasy life. They’re a cross between a dragon and a mermaid.

And somehow, with their spindly backs, curled tail and puckered beak, they’re even cute.

But of all the animals, plants, and minerals that the beach has to offer, it’s the seahorse that inspires the best be-jewelry.

Cool and cute, the kind of impossible-to-cuddle love that inspired kids to order them through the mail, to have and not-to-hold. I give you…the seahorse!

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch SOLD

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch SOLD

45 popular beach jewelry motifs

Marine life like seahorses are only one popular motif in themed beach jewelry.

And if you don’t believe that these beach-inspired props have been made into jewelry, shop my Etsy favorites collection of beach-themed jewelry.

All of these beach jewelry themes make fantastic Bon Voyage gifts.

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry palm tree necklace
  1. starfish
  2. sand dollar
  3. dolphin
  4. whale
  5. fish
  6. seahorse
  7. ship
  8. anchor
  9. palm tree
  10. beach umbrella
  11. shell
  12. coral
  13. mermaid
  14. wave
  15. fisherman
  16. sun
  17. moon
  18. sea turtle
  19. sailboat
  20. flip-flop sandals
  21. seagull
  22. octopus
  23. crab
  24. beach chair
  25. lighthouse
  26. tropical flowers (e.g., hibiscus)
  27. surfboard
  28. compass
  29. seashell with pearl
  30. scallop shell
  31. conch shell
  32. coral reef
  33. beach ball
  34. beach bag
  35. beach towel
  36. beach hut
  37. beach umbrella with cocktail
  38. sunset
  39. sandcastle
  40. sand pail with shovel
  41. sea glass
  42. tropical fruits (e.g., pineapple, coconut)
  43. sunglasses
  44. nautical rope
  45. stripes

See a whole post on palm trees in jewelry (because I’d found a cool palm tree brooch, obviously).

Victorian Era ocean-inspired jewelry

A “cult of nature” erupted during the late 19th century, and it was expressed through the Art Nouveau movement.

This fascination with nature encompassed the science and the beauty of the sea.

Ernst Haeckel Plate 49, 1898, Victoria & Albert Museum, ocean life illustration
Ernst Haeckel Plate 49, 1898, Victoria & Albert Museum

Renowned Art Nouveau era artist René Lalique incorporated seahorses in his designs.

His crystal seahorse, designed in 1913, is ugly but iconic.

Lalique crystal seahorse was designed in 1913.

Art Deco era seahorse jewelry: Painlevé & Hamon

Seahorses rode the waves in the 30s.

Art Deco era celeb Jean Painlevé was an avant garde / surrealist photographer and filmmaker who specialized in marine fauna.

His film L’Hippocampe (1934, trans. The Sea Horse) was focus of his wife Geneviève Hamon’s costume jewelry designs, manufactured with the signature Painlevé.


She also included mermaids and ships in her colorful statement pieces. Many pieces are available on the market at affordable prices.

It’s nice to get a sense of where the mid century craze for sea creature jewelry might have started.

Click the pics below to find Painlevé seahorse jewelry on Etsy (minusOne jewelry is an Etsy affiliate).

Art Deco era celeb Jean Painlevé
Art Deco era celeb Jean Painlevé

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch
FoundVintageYYC

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1075867227. minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch
oceanandmorejewels

https://www.etsy.com/listing/550082438 minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1586239373 minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch
Jobakervintage

In addition to seahorses, Painlevé included other sea-themed motifs like mermaids and ships.

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry mermaid brooch dress lcip

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1437620255/jean-painleve-brooch
minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch ship dress clip
WhiskersJet

This 1930s Deco brooch is signed Coro (also found on 1st Dibs).

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch

The meaning of seahorse in beach jewelry

The meaning of the seahorse carries with it not only inspiration from the natural world and scientific discovery, but also the mysteries of the unknown.

The seahorse is two sides of a coin: both sacred and profane, fantasy and science.

The seahorse represents royalty, and is tied to the myth of the Greek God Poseidon, king of the underworld.

Poseidon drinking cup seahorse jewelry minusOne jewelry
POSEIDON RIDING HIPPOCAMP, British Museum London, 520BC-500BC

Poseidon carries a three-pronged spear, the trident, and is either pulled in his golden chariot by the half-horse, half-fish seahorse, or rides its back outright.

This Art Deco era diamond seahorse brooch incorporates a spear that invokes the trident. Found for sale on 1stDibs.

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch

Seahorses in mid century jewelry

Like all jewelry motifs, the seahorse reigned supreme in mid century.

So much costume jewelry was produced from the 40s to the 90s that the reproductive prowess of an actual live seahorse was very nearly rivaled.

(Never seen a (male!) seahorse reproduce? You’re missing out!)


Whereas in the Art Deco era, even whimsical figural brooches would feature precious gems and metals – diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, platinum and gold – by mid century, jewelry was less sacred.

Seahorse jewelry was mostly made with rhinestones – both clear and colored – enamel, lucite and glass, and non-precious metal, mostly plated brass.

Although some sterling was used, especially in Mexican silver Taxco pieces, like this seahorse earring. (Other one was lost, so this poor seahorse is alone in the world.)

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch

This unsigned clothespin seahorse sweater clip could be mid- or late-century. Who cares when it was made, as long as we can wear it today.

minusOne jewelry beach jewelry seahorse brooch

Here’s a mid century seahorse brooch made by costume jewelry mogul Monet.

https://www.ebay.com/str/fjtsjeweltopiashoppe? seahorse Monet vintage brooch
fjtsjeweltopiashoppe on ebay

Monet actually made several variations of seahorse jewelry. Here’s an MCM Monet seahorse necklace that’s pretty vibey – looks like the 60s to me:

KasiesVTGTreasures on Etsy

And a later career (likely 90s) Monet pastel-colored seahorse brooch, with a second baby seahorse charm dangle.

I recently owned this brooch, and it was missing stones. The missing stones and garish quality of this brooch’s plating belies the diminished quality of later Monet pieces. Even from this picture, it’s clear that the stones’ settings are just off.

Send me pics of your seahorse jewelry. I’ve been tickled all year when I see them. And I will never pass up a Harmon / Painlevé!

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Shop your Style. Stay and buy yourself something nice. 

minusOne jewelry logo of a pink Art Deco scallop | Trumansburg NY

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