The Georgian period is named after the four successive English kings George I, George II, George III and George IV spanning most of the 18th and part of the 19th century.
During the early Georgian period diamonds were the most desirable stone, but colored stones, such as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, were later brought back into popular fashion. Jewelers experimented with new gem cuts, the most popular being rose cut and table cut. One way to determine if a jewelry item is Georgian is by the mount: stones set in Georgian pieces often had enclosed backs and were set over a foil.
The Victorian period follows the reign of Queen Victoria in Great Britain from 1836 to 1901. Queen Victoria’s love for her husband and children inspired jewelry that reflected a romantic and sentimental outlook. Flowers, hearts, bows and birds inspired beautiful pieces of jewelry, which showed the craftsmanship of the Victorian age. Serpent motifs were also popular. Semi-precious gemstones were often used during the Victorian period, which helped keep jewelry affordable for the mass market. Garnets, amethysts, corals, turquoise, and seed pearls were in style. Opals became increasingly popular, as Queen Victoria adored them. Diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867 and quickly became popular. Human hair was also incorporated in jewelry during the Victorian Period. This jewelry was given as a token of love and also worn as mourning jewelry.
Early Victorian (1837–1850) Similar to the Georgian era, early Victorian jewelry features nature-inspired designs delicately and intricately etched into gold. Lockets & brooches were popular.
Mid-Victorian (1860–1880) the Mid-Victorian era corresponded with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, which inspired more solemn, grave designs known as mourning jewelry. The pieces feature heavy, dark stones like jet, onyx, amethyst, and garnet.
Late Victorian (1885–1900) During the Late Victorian or Aesthetic period, jewelers used diamonds and bright feminine gemstones such as sapphires, peridots, and spinels. Star and crescent designs as well as elaborate hatpins were very popular.
Art Nouveau 1880–1915
Art Nouveau period is characterized by the use of whiplash curves, organic swirling forms, natural motifs and various enameling techniques. Female forms, dancers, nymphs, mermaids, water lilies, flowers, dragonflies, and flowing lines are also recurring themes. The asymmetrical and fluid interpretation of nature was achieved through impression not direct copy.
Diamonds were used sparingly, usually as a subtle accent or to bring emphasis to a linear element. The most important material used during the Art Nouveau period was enamel. New enameling techniques like plique Ã jour allowed colors to be translucent, evoking stained glass windows.
Art Nouveau changed conventional ideas, rejecting centuries of tradition that art should simply copy nature. New designs expressed in a state of emergence, or metamorphosis, demonstrating a departure from the traditional realism that defined jewelry design throughout the 19th century. Jewelry was a fanciful interpretation of nature not replication. The dream-like quality and whimsical manor of Art Nouveau attempted to redefine the meaning of nature as a work of art.
Belle époque 1890–1920
Belle époque period also know as the Edwardian or Garland period, was a time when elegance and affluence was valued above all else in fashion and jewelry. Belle époque literally means” beautiful era”. A ’golden age’ for the upper classes, society was defined by its elegance. It was a time of peace between European powers. New technologies were improving lifestyles, particularly of the affluent, and the arts were adapting the past into the present.
Platinum was hard to work with because of it high melting temperature. Jewelers could not fuse or melt platinum in their workshops. Platinum sheets were only able to fused on top of gold by an industrial process outside of the workshop. Working with the gold portion, the jeweler could solder the connections and use the platinum top plate to set diamonds.
Jewelry had a delicate quality reflecting the femininity of the generation. The introduction of mountings in platinum, the hardest of metals, made it possible for workshops to create fabric like jewels emulating the new garland, laurel wreath, and lace motif inspiration from the classic style.
Diamonds, the most desirable gemstones, were used alone or in combination with the more traditional colored stones including sapphires, rubies and emeralds. However, colorful stones such as opals, amethysts and peridots were also utilized. The jewelry was subtle and graceful in appearance. Jewelry was worn in abundance. Rings were worn on almost every finger; bracelets adorned each arm and multiple strings of pearls were worn around the neck.
Art Deco 1915–1935
The Art Deco period took place from the early part of the 20th century to the onset of World War II. The style emphasizes strong geometric patterns, pure lines, distinct symmetry, and contrasting elements. Art Deco designs can be quite intricate, reflecting the technological achievements of the modern industrial age
The term Art Deco was first used in the title of an article written by Hilary Gelson in a November 1966 edition of the London times. The term Art Deco is actually derived from the French Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts). The international exhibition intended to showcase new technologies and designs was planned for 1915 but was postponed by the onset of World War I; it finally took place in 1925. A quote from the exhibitions handbook states, “works must incorporate modern industrial and decorative designs, imitations of ancient styles will be strickly prohibited.” Designs had to be new and modern, comprised of new materials and techniques.
Much of Art Deco’s character evolved directly from Art Nouveau and Belle époque, but its style is quite different. Art Nouveau and Belle époque jewelry can be much more simplistic in terms of construction design, using common methods of fastening and hinging, and flexible attached parts. If Art Nouveau drew inspiration from nature and natural form, Art Deco designers borrowed the style of machines. Belle époque forms were rounded and feminine in a classic style, Art Deco pieces were geometric and modern.
Art deco took full advantage of emerging technologies. New diamond cutting shapes and the emergence of platinum allowed designs to be more intricate and complex.
Persia, Egypt and China became sources of inspiration and jewelers borrowed from their decorative themes. The garland style and large floral corsages of the 19th century clashed with the flimsy garments of the 1920s, and the color palette changed from subtle pastels to vivid primary colors. The styling of jewelry evolved to accommodate the new fashion trends by introducing stacks of bracelets, cocktail rings, long pendants, jabots and double-clip combination brooches. Jewelry became the ultimate accessory.
The term Retro or retro-modern is credited to François Curiel of Christie auctions in 1970. During World War II platinum was commandeered for the war effort. With the end of World War II came an age of extravagant opulence. After six long lean years, the world was once again ready for luxury. Emphasis was on bold gold designs accented by semi-precious stones such as citrine and amethyst
The Retro-modern period can be characterized by the use of daring oversized and three-dimensional designs of rose, yellow and green, highly polished gold jewelry. Retro-modern jewelry often features large emerald-cut aquamarines, citrines and amethyst, accented with smaller rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Large pink gold bracelets, watches and necklaces reflected the glamour and enchantment that Hollywood inspired during times of crisis. The movies provided a wartime escape into a world of fantasy and romance that was “larger than life”.
Clips and brooches in the Retro-modern era were exaggerated in scale. The ribbon bow was the most popular motif, often highlighted in the center with a calibré cut gems. The Retro-modern jewels imitated the three dimensional folds of fabric which easily separated them from the two dimensional geometric summitry of Art Deco.
The opulence and stability that characterized post-war 1950’s culture was greeted with protest and defiance in the 1960’s, bringing an end to lavish jewelry design. The younger generation rejected the past and began filtering their opinions through art, fashion and jewelry. Artists were expanding their horizons and began making jewelry that was abstract, geometric, and set at random with colored gemstones. Vivid colors interplayed with various textures transformed into an abstract form. Stones were often left uncut and gold was chiseled, hammered, corded, plaited and twisted to obtain the desired effect.
By the 1970’s jewelry separated into two categories: unique creations set with exceptional stones, mostly made by commission; and jewelry that was affordable and could be worn everyday. Major jewelry houses began creating seasonal collections that followed the current styles and everyday fashions. The use of non-precious materials such as rock crystal, coral and exotic woods mixed with yellow gold became popular.
Perceived as excessive and greedy, the 1980’s were a time of widespread prosperity and a profound change in the social and professional role of women in society. Previously the recipients of jewelry, women were now in a position to choose and buy their own. Adapting to the latest look, jewelry became bold in design and size, mirroring the new status of women. Yellow gold remained the favorite precious metal, diamonds never lost their importance, and colored stones were selected for their decorative appeal.
Following the 1980’s there have been no definitive evolutions in style. The general trend has been to reinterpret nature in fresh, colorful and sculptural ways. This is often achieved using unusual gemstones in striking color combinations as well as making use of small, multicolored precious and semi-precious gemstones in pavé-settings. White metals such as platinum and white gold have become popular again and inspiration has been taken from jewels of the past as well as classic designs. New designers are emerging who work in ‘micro-pavé’; surfaces paved with tiny round stones. The main theme for modern jewelry has been individuality and wearability.