History of Jewellery
Georgian period (the 1700s–1830s)
Named after the four English kings who reigned during the golden age of the British Empire, the Georgian period benefited from influence on the aesthetics and customs of its colonies around the world.
Three main styles dominated the period; the architectural trends set the course for jewellery too.
During George’s reign from 1714 to 1727 Rococo, an off-shoot of the elaborate decorative ornaments, was the prevailing style.
This period has given rise to the Gothic Revival, which took inspiration from the survival of medieval structures designed with a decidedly structural and rigid appearance.
Neoclassical began in the second half of the eighteenth century as a reaction against the sharp and excessively ornate styles of the previous two movements. Recalling the classic Western artistic canon, a return to purity has been sought by emulating idealized images of beauty and clean and flowing lines of ancient Greece and Rome.
Victorian period (the 1830s–1900s)
Named after Queen Victoria, the Victorian period marked an era of prosperity and the rise of industrialization.
The Victorian era is characterized by three distinct periods, Romantic, Grand, and Late Victorian. Apart from this, the jewellery of the time throughout Europe took on a variety of Revival forms.
The late Victorian period coincided, in France, with the rise of Belle Époque and the beginnings of Art Nouveau.
The style transitions during the period didn’t happen suddenly, and usually, pieces could exhibit multiple influences. At that time, jewellery not only reflected wealth but social standing and status.
Rules were set to deem appropriate Victorian jewellery. Young and unmarried women could only wear the simplest of jewellery, while the diamonds and gems could only be worn by older, married women. American women were negligent in following these European standards.
Contemporary of the French period of “La Belle Époque ” and the Late Victorian Period in England provoked a style that was intended to stand against the industrialization of jewellery and decorative arts.
The form marked the turn of the century and start of “modern age.” Despite the short period, the antique jewellery and art from the era was a radical shift from the drab, mass-produced Style of the Victorian era.
Innovative and creative designs were predominant, avoiding references to the past styles but instead incorporating fluid, sinuous lines and soft curves.
One of the most famous motifs was the female body figure or the female head, often depicted with long flowing hair, but also nature themes of butterflies, dragonflies, insects, orchids, irises, water lilies, and poppies.
The harmonic fluid style was often produced in shades of pastel colours. From the beginning, the hand-crafted artistry of Art Nouveau jewellery held importance over the material used in its construction.
Gems and metals used in standard jewellery pieces were used in innovative ways alongside more unusual materials such as horn, amber, and blister pearls. New techniques of enameling, most plique a jour, were developed: the method produces thin layers of enamel resembling stained glass.
A further element of rupture from the classical canon was the free-flowing asymmetrical lines that emphasized the innovation of the designs.
Art Nouveau got its inspiration from many sources, mostly from Japanese art. The Symbolist movement of the 1880s, combining religious imagery and mysticism with eroticism, influenced the Art Nouveau style as well.
In 1900 the Art Nouveau style gained popularity from Paris world fair, but it was for a brief moment.
The successor of Queen Victoria on the throne of England, Edward VII, brought a cosmopolitan update to society, fashion, and jewellery.
That period was a time of significant social change and witnessed the rise of an extremely wealthy upper class. It coincided with “The Gilded Age” in America.
The period included influence from previous styles, from the earlier Victorian era, the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movement.
The characteristics of exact Edwardian design include light and delicate pieces, created in subtle white gold resembling lace. Pearls were widely used also along with chokers, jewels for the hair, and long dangling earrings.
Monochromatic and white pieces were trendy. These pieces were made possible using platinum, which lent itself to very delicate sculpting. Motifs included wreaths, bows, and tassels formed into bar pins, tiaras, numerous strands of pearls worn as a choker. Scalloped edges were also typical in jewellery.
Thanks to new technologies, the manufacture was faster, with reduced costs, and allowed for mass production. In 1914 a unique diamond cut, the “brilliant,” became very popular. Invisible or “Millegrain” settings were used by jewelers to secure stones with tiny metal ridges or grains to fasten a stone in a lightweight manner securely.
Technology apart from the antique jewellery field nevertheless drove the market, like electric lighting, which made monochromatic diamond pieces sparkle brilliantly, and made them more prized.