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The History of the Fleur de Lys
 
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About the Fleur d Lys

Celebrate the Design Heritage of New Orleans at Fleur d' Orléans

People from outside New Orleans often ask us, "Why do we see so many fleur d lys here? What does the fleur mean?" The fleur de lys has been a symbol of New Orleans since its birth. Fleurs emblazoned French explorer's flag when Nouvelle Orleans was founded in 1717; decorated Mardi Grass Ball invitation in the 1820's; edged silver brooches in the 1890's; decorated marble facades in the 1920's and shine today on the football helmets in the Superdome. The fleur de lys is the most instantly recognized symbol of New Orleans, and Louisiana. Yet it remains a mysterious emblem veiled by centuries of history. Though we think of the fleur as a modern symbol of New Orleans, artists have been constantly re-interpreting and re-designing, this ancient glyph over the centuries. Thus we find countless different styles of fleur de lys. These visual fragments of New Orleans embody a unique history. At Fleur d' Orléans we celebrate this unique design heritage while at the same time urging visitors and residents alike to discover it for themselves all over this unique city.

Origins of the Fleur D'Lys

The symbol we know today as the fleur d lys, has ancient roots in Babylonia and Egypt. In Egypt an early symbol for the asp is said to have been an early prototype for the first fleur d lys. Some say that Roman nobility invented the symbol we call the fleur de lys, as a symbol of fidelity. The fleur as we know today was born about 1062 A.D. as the nation of France emerged from the Dark Ages—the Babylonian symbol—filtered through Egypt, Greece and Rome—appears very early in France. Clovis, a near mythical founder of France, is said to have received a fleur directly from heaven. France’s first king, Philip the First, adopted a version of the fleur as his insignia: clearly, its three-petal form was a symbol of the Christian Trinity when it first emerged in France. Henry, King of France and Navarre by 1600, had a distinct fleur that appeared on his crest and flags. The French fleur de lys is said to be a stylized lily, or iris, and appeared on battle flags, crowns and shields of the House of Bourbon, from the Duchy of Orléans who became the Kings of France. The fleur from Orléans slowly developed into a symbol not just of French royalty but also of France—though its usage spread to royalty throughout Europe as a symbol of all royalty. When it appeared in England it morphed into a distinct British form, very early, and eventually as a feather fleur became the symbol of the Prince of Wales—as it remains for Prince Charles today. In time the fleur became not just a symbol for royalty, but for all things deluxe.

When the French explorer Sieur de La Salle laid claim to the Mississippi Valley on April 9, 1682 in the name of France’s King Louis XIV, the territory was named Louisiana in Louis' honor.

La Salle planted a white flag with gold fleur de lys on it, at the mouth of the Mississippiwhen he laid claim to the territory in the name of the royal family, from Orléans. French settlers who founded La Nouvelle Orléans in 1718, in honor of the Kings ancient ties to Orléans, flew a fleur de lys flag, and the fleur became an early symbol of New Orleans. Though Louisiana passed to Spain, and finally to the United States (in 1803), the ancient stylized iris, or lily, from Orléans has remained the most enduring symbol of New Orleans, celebrated in art, architecture and jewelry, for centuries. Over the centuries, artists and jewelers have created hundreds of styles of fleur de lys. There is no one single ‘correct fleur’. Instead, there are hundreds of variations created over centuries.

The Art and History of Fleur d' Orléans

At Fleur d' Orléans we work passionately to create the largest collection of fleur de lys you will ever see. Fleurs all over New Orleans inspire us. We've found so many different types of fleur de lys during our strolls in the French Quarter, the Garden District, and in Algiers Point: in murals of St. Louis Cathedral, brackets on porches uptown, within the cast iron fence of Jackson Square, and within stucco facades. Searching for these Fleurs hidden around the city, we have also been inspired by Greco-Roman designs that surround the Fleur–which lead to more jewelry designs. Looking through ancient archives in France, and here in the New Orleans public library, we find fleur d lys on ancient maps, on tombs, where ever we turn.

Every fleur d lys in our collection, every small design we reproduce from buildings around the city, reflects the passions and history of its age, and by reproducing them in silver a little bit of our history is kept alive. Our aim is to celebrate the design heritage of New Orleans, in silver, as we urge you to look more carefully at designs hidden all over New Orleans.

While you can own this piece of history for yourself, we also urge you to discover such designs around the city, that have inspired us. We hope to send you on your own journeys of discovery as we share with you on this web site some photographs of architectural details we have found around New Orleans, that have inspired specific pieces of jewelry in our collection.

Welcome to Fleur d' Orléans!

As you browse through our work online, we hope that the history and vernacular designs of New Orleans will inspire you as they have inspired us.
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