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Period Jewellery

Browse through each period of jewellery design. Each link will open in a new window.

The Georgian Period 1714-1830

Refers to jewellery produced during the reigns of King George III and IV of England.

During this time, jewellery tended to be thin, lightweight, small and restrained. Gold was used sparingly and in an understated manner. The cannetille design was developed due to the lack of gold available. Silver was used for setting diamonds.

Marquise shaped cluster rings and closed back mounts are trademarks of the era. The forms of bows, floral garlands, ribbons and stars were common. Shoe buckles, Rivière or straight-line necklaces made of paste or diamonds are seen. The upper classes did not scorn the use of paste. In 1736 a pair of paste buckles cost two guineas. Paste jewels for ladies did not cost much more than “a pair of fine paste three drop earring and coloured drop” cost only four guineas.

The parure is a matched set of jewels comprised of a combination of a necklace, earrings, bracelet, and tiara of the same design and gem type, which was made to be worn together.

Symbolism and sentiment were shown in the heart shaped lockets, pendant of sets of keys, and the snake biting its tail signified the eternal union of two people. The mourning colours were black, white, purple and blue. Pearls were used to depict tears, white enamel for virgin or child, and black for their partners. Hair of the beloved deceased was incorporated into the design on the front of the article. Hand painted portraits on ivory and the famous painting of a woman by a weeping willow-urn was made. Coral was used in children’s jewellery to ward off evil spirits.

New designs included the Sevigne bow, girandole earrings and micromosaics. Vignerettes were used by holding one to the nose to avoid the smells in the street and as well to prevent fainting.

The gemstones used were diamonds, emeralds, rubies, garnets, pinked topaz, peridot, garnet, citrine and chyrosprase.

The Regency Period: 1820-1837

The era refers to jewellery produced during the reign of King George IV and King William IV. This era is short and is many times included in the Georgian Era. However, with the industrial revolution the speed of change is worthy of note.

The Regency Period marked the development of a style that was already approaching maturity. Jewellery fashions were international with France as the leader. Social changes from the French Revolution and the European Wars caused social changes. At the end of the Napoleonic era in 1815, many persons of fortune found themselves without the substance to support their positions.

During this time, jewellery became lighter, larger and more decorative in style. Regency jewellery showed a certain tendency toward vulgarity. New jewellery was needed to satisfy the tastes of the bourgeoisie, a class of influence that had emerged even before the period had begun. The aristocracy followed the bourgeoisie in fashion by wearing jewellery of modest intrinisic value. Materials and technology were introduced in order to cheapen the jewellery and make it more accessible to widening market.

Stamping by machine was used to reduce the cost. The goldsmiths embellished the settings with filigree work around settings and built up twisted wire for relief around the stampings. Gold was alloyed with other metals to produce contrasting tints. The process of granulation was introduced. Jewellers neglected to sign their work.

The oval shape replaced the marquise shape. Open back mounts replaced the closed dome backs. The aigrette replaced the diadem and Spanish comb. Earrings were shaped like stalactites. By 1830, earrings measured as much as two inches in length. Mourning jewellery included massive gold hoop earrings with the name of the deceased enameled on them. Black enameling was for married persons and white for unmarried persons. Hair jewellery became larger with whole bracelets formed with intertwined hair.

Chains were heavier in appearance and lighter in weight. The largest amounts of bracelets ever were worn to enhance the Grecian fashion of dress. Tiaras and cameos and seed pearls were vogue.

The style of Etruscan and Classical Roman jewels from Castellini and the Romantic Gothic style became painfully academic in its efforts to reproduce accurately. Berlin-iron, jet and micromosiacs of views from Italy and sentimental dogs garnished brooches and bracelets.

New designs included the sautoir and the ferroniere (a jewel suspended over the forehead from a chain which encircled the top of the head).

Amethyst, aquamarine, topaz, peridot, garnet, turquoise and crystal were the gemstones of choice.

Victorian Era: 1837-1901

The era refers to jewellery produced during the reign of Queen Victoria. Victorian jewellery was designed to be set against heavy fabrics of somber colours.
The era is divided into three periods: romantic 1837–1860, grand 1860 –1880 and late 1880–1900.

1) Romantic Era 1837-1860
The era was based on sentiment, symbolism, romance, nature and history

During this time, fashion changed rapidly with an irresistible desire for novelty. Costume jewellery was in its infancy with the use of semi–precious gems and metals making it comparatively expensive to make. Gold was scarce and the illusion of more metal on items continued. Aluminum was used for jewellery. Bloomed gold was a popular finish on items. Gold began to be used for the backs of jewellery (silver topped gold).

The basic trend was one of revival of all styles drawn on different periods and cultures. François Froment-Meurice, the leading French jeweler at the Paris Exhibition, exhibited Gothic designs in 1851. The most popular Gothic jewellery was made out of cast iron, first seen in Berlin then in Paris. Renaissance jewellery were the most expensive, especially those made by Castellani. Rococo was revived in floral jewellery mostly made in silver or silver plate. These items were now die-stamped and had lost the delicate contrasting scrolls of the original Rococo style. Floral jewellery took on a realistic form.

Tiaras and stomachers had naturalistic flowers, were not necessarily made out of precious stones and were set in two tone gold or pinchbeck. Brooches had en tremblant centers (settings with springs that oscillate). The rules of fashion dictated that the young never wear rings unless they desired to appear older.

Coloured gemstones were prominent with diamond as accents. Pearls in multiple strands were worn everyday. Ivory, turquoise, jet, amber, lava, bog oak, tortoiseshell, coral and goldstone (manmade glass with copper filings) were used.

Opals were the Queen’s favorite stone.

Hair was such a precious commodity for jewellery that it sold for triple the value of silver. Cameos were sold for their artistry. Cameos made of lava are Victorian.

Bracelets were worn in groupings of five.

Chatelaines were hooked or pinned at the waist to hold scissors, sewing cases with needles, thread, knife, vinaigrette, coin purses, pencils, note case, scent bottle, a watch and keys. They were made of gold, pinchbeck, silver, silver plate, stamped metal and cut steel.

2) Grand Era (Black) 1861–1880

This period came after the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, in 1861. Mourning was declared mandatory. The art of setting and design regained importance. During this time the fashion was somber and the materials were heavy. The jewellery complimented the fashions by being somber and massive.

New discoveries of gem deposits in South Africa caused a drop in value in diamonds and other precious stones. Diamonds were in abundance. Conservative diamond jewellery was mounted in silver and worn in the daytime. Diamond simulants were also being used. They included zircon, rock crystal, spinel, Strass glass and diamond doublets.

A common honeymoon was the “Grand Tour.” Souvenir jewellery from these travels were cameos, micromosaics and pique (inlaid gold or silver in tortoiseshell).

Lockets were large with hair compartments at the back. Jet, gutta percha, onyx, vulcanite, bog oak, black glass and black enamel were used for the mourning jewellery.

Coral, ivory, amber, garnets, turquoise, seed pearls and goldstone (glass with copper filings) were incorporated into brooches and bracelets. Earrings were large and dangling.

The design themes included hearts, angles, floral, four leaf clovers, crosses, crowns, doves and snakes, bows and forget- me knots. The Scottish motifs included wheat sheaves, sprays of leaves, flowers and thistles.

Two unusual items were the use of aluminum and bloomed gold.

3) Late Era (Aesthetic) 1880–1900

The Aesthetic Period came in response to the formality and overindulgence of fashion in the Grand Period. During this time, the artistic merit was valued over the preciousness or intrinsic value of the item. The Aesthetic Period laid the foundation for the later movement called “Arts and Crafts.”

Smaller, delicate jewellery was fashionable. Reverse crystals, silver, miniature portraits, stickpins, bar brooches and star shaped settings were favoured. Festoon and fringe necklaces, earrings and bracelets with small gemstones were also worn.

Tiaras and hair ornaments made of diamonds and pearls; coloured stones were highlighted with polychrome enamels.

Chatelaines were used once more.

Brooches were made of sterling silver. The motifs of circus characters, Punch and Judy, steamships and bugs reflected the activities of the period. American manufacturers of jewellery set up centers in New York, Newark, New Jersey, Providence Rhode Island and North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

The popular gemstones were sapphire, opal, aquamarine, turquoise, garnet, chrysophrase, carnelian, banded agate, malachite, lapis lazuli, bloodstone, moonstone, coloured zircons, peridot, amethyst, citrine, coral , gold in quartz and topaz and opal.

The Art Nouveau Period 1880-1914

The jewellery produced during this period raised the level of jewellery to an art form. Design and workmanship were emphasized over intrinsically valuable design and materials. Art Nouveau is a decorative period style that influenced all aspects of the design world.

In France, bloomed gold was used and silver items were often die struck. In America, die struck items had hand chasing giving them a hand constructed look. The styles used are stylized intertwining and curvilinear ornamentation characterized by curves, flowing, natural lines, asymmetry and use of forms and motifs such as a whiplash and the female body. Other motifs include human forms with insects, butterflies, peacocks, grasshoppers and snakes.

The Art Nouveau style is closely associated with Lalique and Bing. Fabergé was also popular during this period and it was during this time that the famous Fabergé Eggs were produced. The Japanese influenced design was popular from 1890 to 1917.

Designers favoured ivory, plique a jour, tortoiseshell, horn, moonstone, opal, diamond and marcasite. Favoured metals included gold, silver, copper and steel. All forms of enameling are present.

Where can I buy Antique and Period Jewellery?

At a Respected Dealer
Benefits

Able to return and exchange (probably cannot get money back)
Getting advice for free
Locating the perfect item you want
Making a good long term investment

Drawbacks

You may be paying over the odds as they have overheads to cover
The choice may not be so large
Pieces may be restored

At Auctions

This is a tempting alternative but you have to know what to look for

How to spot a reproduction, repair, and marriage.
Is the estimated price fair?
Will it be a good investment?
How much will any restoration cost in addition?

Drawbacks

Competing against other dealers/ private buyers
Additional buyers premium on the cost
Being on a time line with only hours to make a decision
Getting stuck with a mistake

At a Private Sale

From friends or people you know in the trade. This is good as long as you know what you are buying. Keep your friends

At House Sales, Yard Sales, and Car Boot Sales

These are good for costume jewellery, particularly for those with an eye

Great bargains. No returns

At Antique Markets and Local Fairs

Fun places to try and pick up a bargain but you need to know your price range and only buy what you like. No returns.

Web based purchases

While it fun to view items on line for some it would be daunting to purchase jewellery on line.

Some precautions should be taken. The package should always be opened with two people present to witness that the item is inside.

Take to an appraiser to verify the item is the what you ordered.  Always know the return policy.

Arts and Crafts 1890-1914

Arts and Crafts is a movement that started in the1850s in reaction to the effects of mass production and the fact that craftsmanship, artistic expression and pride were being removed from the process of creating jewellery.

The founders of the movement were William Morris, a designer and philosopher, and John Ruskin, a writer whose philosophy was to re-establish the role and virtues of the craftsman in modern society. The limitations facing them were the high cost of labour to produce one of a kind items or limited production of pieces. The jewellery is unsigned.

As the movement gained popularity, Liberty and Co. started to mass produce items to satisfy consumer demand. The “Cymric” range of silver and jewels and “Tudric” pewter are examples of two designs that were carried by Liberty.

The movement was internationally accepted. In Austria, Weiner Werkstatte was established by Josef Hoffman and Kolomon Kosher. In Germany, Jugendstil was a commercial success. In Scandinavia the movement was called Skonvirke and in Italy, Stile Liberty. World War I caused the movement to be short lived in Europe while in the United States the movement continued till 1930.

There was work without the theory. Designers Georg Jensen of Denmark, David Anderson of Norway evolved from the movement.

The requirements of an Arts and Crafts item were to be made entirely by hand. Metals used were sterling silver, copper and brass. Gold was rarely used. Chasing, repoussé, piercing and acid etching added the three dimensional look to the item.

Gemstones were primarily cabochon cut and included lapis lazuli, agate, carnelian, moonstone, jelly opal, garnet, pearl, emerald, sapphire, shell, mother of pearl, and blister pearls. Enameling was used as an accent.

The design motifs included natural forms of flowers, garlands, peacocks and abstract shapes.

The Edwardian Period 1901-1919

The major influence on jewellery produced during the reign of King Edward VII was France’s involvement in Morocco, the Turkish wars, and the Balkan crisis which produced an oriental influence in the French style.

The focus of jewellery was on the gemstone, craftsmanship and elegance. The return of opulence to society marked the era with the “garland” and “white on white” jewellery.

Design elements included open trellis work incorporating the foil form and draped swags of garlands of flowers and crescents, filigree, and mille graining. The jewellery was flowing and reflected a quiet eloquence.

Motifs included good luck charms such as horseshoes or wishbones, doves, hearts, wreaths, flowers, hunting scenes, the sun, stars, and the moon.

Typical jewellery of this time included dog collars, lavalieres, sautoirs, negligee necklaces, drop earrings, long pearl stands, sautoirs decorated lorgnettes, enamelled lockets, long platinum and diamond chains and tiaras. Gate link bracelets, narrow bangles and stickpins were popular.

New cuts of stones were used along with the cushion cut and rose cut diamonds. The shapes were calves head, trapezoid, triangular, Portuguese and baguettes.

Jewellery makers favoured peridot, kunzite, pearl, diamond, demantoid garnet and ruby sapphire. Black, white opals and fire opals, black onyx were used with near colourless stones, diamonds and coloured diamonds

White and pink gold was used with increasing frequency after 1915.

The Art Deco Period 1920-1935

Jewellery produced during the Art Deco period exhibited a geometric and structural appearance and was characterized by geometric, cubic and abstract forms and motifs, fine handicraft and the use of precious metals. Again, there was an oriental influence in the design which influenced by the Edwardian period but was more compact and geometric in colour.

While the jewellery tended to be compressed, straight and flat in execution it glorified dramatic plays of colour and the impression of speed.

Platinum was the metal of choice with yellow gold used sparingly.

Designs included fruit salad clips, double clip brooches, strap bracelets and elegant and ornate cigarette holders. Jewellery designers favoured diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, rock crystal, onyx, coral, jade, chrysophase, cinnabar, carved hard stones, aquamarines and blue zircons. Diamonds were the main focal point. Other stones included maracasites, ivory, bone, bakelite, mother of pearl, glass , synthetic gemstones and tortoiseshell. Settings were pave or channel.

Long beaded necklaces were “Chic”— pearls, amber and glass.

Motifs include arrows, bows, door knockers, flower baskets, tassels, skyscrapers, sports related, temple of love, a vase and urn. The Egyptian motifs of scarabs, falcons, and vultures were seen on belt buckles to pendants.

New idea in marketing began called Name Branding.

Retro: 1940-1950

During the Retro time period there was a move towards a grander scale, which had architectural dimensions in form, concave and convex surfaces, bows, ribbons, feathers and flowers.

Gold and silver restrictions were imposed. Copper was added as an alloy to gold giving a pink tone. Tricoloured gold is common. 14 karat was mainly used.

Palladium took the place of platinum.

Travel was restricted due to World War II so alternative sources of gemstones were found in Brazil, New Mexico and US on the North American side of the world. The gemstones used were aquamarine, citrine, peridot, tourmaline. The favorite cuts of stones were emerald cut and cabochons.

In North America travel to Europe naturally fell off and as a result Mexico became the destination of choice. As a result, Mexican silver jewellery became popular.

The Cocktail Era 1950-1960

In this era Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack as well as Elvis Presley set the style. During this time period, India was the place to travel, bringing a Moghul influence to jewellery. The major influence of the time was television bringing “Name Branding” to the public.

Baguette cut diamonds were set in waterfall and ballerina settings. Necklaces were cascading and rings were large in size. Masses of diamonds were used. Yellow and cognac diamonds began to be marketed to the public.

Suites and demi parure of rubies, sapphires, emeralds jade and turquoise with diamond accents in clusters settings were worn in the evening. Coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli, black onyx, carnelian and carved gemstones were the choice for daytime. Motifs included a softer more feminine style of animals and whimsy.

Gold was textured, with braiding, engine turning, Florentine mesh, snake, and twisted or woven designs. Pearls, either coloured, round or baroque, were the backbone of fashion in triple or multiple strands.

Auction houses began to recognize items as period and started to catalogue them with dates.

The Mod Era 1960-1970

With Twiggy and Woodstock as the milestones of the era, the look was bigger and bolder. This was also the era of the Vietnam War and with it the growth of the peace movement.

Jewellery motifs were influenced by these cultural trends — gold nuggets, Maltese crosses, big beads, pendants of flower power, peace signs, yin/yang and mood rings and cameos were popular. Many of the designs were bright with psychedelic colours using Lucite, and coloured plastics. Big chandelier and asymmetrical earrings were worn. The diving watch was introduced.

In haute couture, Chanel necklaces, Roman coin jewellery ,bib and fringe necklaces along with the “gold and diamond look” thrived. Schiaperelli’s designs of the ram’s head, bangle watches and Roman coin watches are symbolic of this era’s designs.

Clothing was influenced by mediaeval and Middle Eastern designs such as long draping sleeves and harem pants.

The Groovy Decade 1970-1980

In the 1970s, the ethnic and peasant look led the way in fashion and disco was the exercise of choice.

The price of gold was deregulated and gold prices skyrocketed, leaving it neither feasible nor profitable to use gold on a large scale in manufacturing. As a result, smaller designs emerged. Snake, curb link, serpentine, box links and fox tail chains became a wardrobe staple in lengths of 12 to 24 inches. Hoop earrings in gold and sterling silver were worn. Scarab bracelets were seen again.

The 1970s were considered the “Me” generation and this was reflected in the trend to personalize jewellery such as identification bracelets, initial rings and pendants. Charm bracelets and open hearts were gift items of choice. Jade became increasingly popular with designs such as elephants, fish, butterflies and Buddhas. Tiger eye, carnelian and onyx were used for gentlemen rings.

Diamonds with coral, carved onyx, turquoise, twisted cords, fabric motifs; silk cords with gemstones, plastics and resemblance of the 1940’s Retro jewellery were vogue.

Bulgari used ancient coins in their designs and Elsa Peretti developed the kidney bean earrings and pendant for Tiffany. “Diamonds by the Yard” was marketed.

One major development was the development of galleries that began to sell jewellery apart from that which was mass marketed in department stores and boutiques. Once again artistic merit was recognized.

The 1970s also saw the introduction of the “Punk” style with body piercing, metal spikes and studs, black leather dog collars and wrist bands.

A favorite pastime was macramé.

Consumer Decade 1980-1990

The Hollywood styles of the 1930-1940’s are back. Princess Diana wore a Butler-Wilson (a costume jewellery designer based in England) brooch in the form of a diamante snake to a rock concert.

Marcasite, silver, and Bakelite jewellery reappear, as do nautical themes and charm necklaces. “Red Cobra” is the colour of the day- black, white and red.

Preferred gemstones included South Sea pearls, aquamarines, rock crystal, emeralds, onyx, peridots, rose quartz, blue topaz, pink sapphires and tourmalines. Cabochon cut stones along with pavé set diamonds are the rage.

Jewellery designers favoured fantasy cuts for diamonds — fire rose, marigold and Zinnia.

Paloma Picasso marketed her famous “kiss earrings.”

Watches have pavé set, invisibly set dials and diamond bracelets.

By the late 1980s, the Art Deco style was experiencing a revival.