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Georgian Period: 1714-1830
The Georgian period refers to a time of political upheaval between 1714 and 1837 during the reigns of four English kings named George. Short necklaces were popular during the Georgian period, and some of the most desirable styles included chokers and rivieres, which had a row of diamonds or gemstones, and multiple cameos connected by rows of draped chain to form a necklace.
During the early Georgian period, diamonds were the most desirable stone, but coloured stones, such as garnets, rubies, and emeralds, were later brought back into fashion. Engraved gemstones and intaglios were popular along with agates and cabochon cut stones. Jewelers experimented with new gem cuts, the most popular being rose cut and table cut. One way to determine if a jewellery item is Georgian is by the mount: stones set in Georgian pieces often had enclosed backs and were set over a foil.
Jewellers created all Georgian jewellery by hand. To keep up with the rising demand for jewellery, reproduced copies of gemstones (paste) and a gold substitute known as pinchbeck became commonplace. Jewellery featured natural designs which included flowers, leaves, insects, birds, feathers, and ribbons. Memorial jewellery was common during this period, such as funereal scenes painted on ivory and jewellery made with hair from a loved one. People often wore miniature portraits of their loved ones on pendants and brooches.
Victorian Period: 1837-1900
The Early Victorian period began in 1837, when Queen Victoria ascended the English throne, to reign for 64 years. Victorian times coincide with the rapid growth of cities and of the industrial revolution. The Jewellery industry benefited from mass production techniques. Machines were developed to stamp whole pieces of jewellery from thin sheets of metal.
The dominant style of the 1840s featured scrollwork, floral sprays, animal themes and multi-colour gold work. There was a surge of deep religious beliefs which gave way to a Gothic Revival Movement. This movement brought about a renewed interest in enamelled Jewellery. During the middle period of the Victorian times coloured stone Jewellery became popular. Mosaics, sea shells, fringes, and rosettes were used with increasing frequency. The death of Prince Albert in 1861 sent the entire population into mourning making Jet Jewellery extremely popular along with Vulcanite. The 1880s saw the rise of heavy lockets and chains, cuff bracelets and brooches.
Diamonds gained an all time high in popularity from approximately 1885. Bird, insect, and animal themes took on new meaning as genuine scarabs, birds, and claws were set in metal. The delicate pendants of colour stones and pearls were very popular during the late 1880s.
Arts and Crafts Movement: 1894-1923
Arts and Crafts jewellers rebelled against the mass production brought on by the Industrial Revolution. They formed the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1888. These jewelers were opposed to any specialization of their craft. They worked mainly in silver using uncut and cabochon stones. Colour was very important and many pieces were brightly coloured.
Art Nouveau Period: 1890-1915
Art Nouveau jewellers used flowing feminine and fantasy figures, stylised flowers, vines, leaves, scrolls, birds, serpents and insects in beautiful enamels. Plique-a-jour enamel was commonly used which is a transparent enamel without a metal backing. Cabochon gemstones as well as pearls were incorporated into the designs along with the scrolling gold work.
Edwardian Period: 1901-1910
Lasting about a decade, the Edwardian era (named after England’s King Edward VII) was a mix of styles and tastes. The era was short but jewellery pieces can easily be found. New technology allowed faster manufacture of items, reduced costs and made jewellery available to more people than ever before. Although the Edwardian era began in the late Victorian Era, the styles of Art Nouveau & Arts & Crafts continued through the reign of King Edward.
Jewellery for this period was strikingly feminine with a lacy and delicate appearance. Common motifs are bows, ribbons, urns, stars, crescents and garlands of small flowers. A common trait of Edwardian Jewellery is platinum on yellow gold usually with all diamond trim, giving this period its all white appearance. Large focus diamonds were usually old European cuts, with smaller diamonds in rose or single cuts for accents. Sometimes large high-quality faceted coloured gemstones were used as focal points, but diamonds, pearls and moonstones were most favoured.
Art Deco Period: 1920-1935
The introduction of cubism into the art world after 1920 brought about the strong geometrical patterns and angular shapes associated with Art Deco today. Diamonds and platinum were used with little regard to cost. Stones were cut into triangles, pentagons, trapezoids along with oblong shapes and emerald cuts. Coloured gemstones – rubies, sapphire, emeralds and onyx were used in strong contrasting combinations.