e love nothing more than to inspire fellow antique jewellery entusiasts, collectors and aficionados. One of the best ways to do this is by imparting some of our collective wisdom with you. Be it in person when you visit us or online via blogs and social media - it really is a pleasure to share our passion with you.
The topic of jewellery eras is rather important as the knowledge will prove to be a useful tool in helping to identify what jewellery came from what era, or perhaps what era it was inspired by. There were six notable eras that spanned the years from the 1700s to the 1950s. While sometimes the styles do overlap as they merge between one another, they all provided us with the unique and beautiful treasures that we enjoy so much today.
The Georgian Era 1714 - 1830
The Georgian era is named after the four British Kings: King George I, II, III, and IV, spanning from 1714 up to 1837. During this era, jewellery was predominantly worn by the upper classes and aristocracy; worn to display wealth and status. High-quality Georgian era jewellery is very difficult to find today; they are typically located in museums, lost over time, or perhaps failed survive the centuries thus making them very rare and collectible. Jewellery from this Georgian era consisted mainly of yellow gold and silver. The common stones found in these pieces were foil-backed diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies, paste, garnet, and topaz. During this period, goldsmithing and silversmithing techniques such as stone cutting, setting and handcrafting were quite primitive and therefore it is often very easy to identify Georgian jewellery.
The Victorian Era 1837 - 1901
The Victorian era was named after the British monarch, Queen Victoria. It is said that the style of jewellery at the time often reflected the tone of current events, such as after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, mourning jewellery became popular with pieces, especially brooches, that would contain hair of the deceased often woven in intricate patterns. Gemstones such as jet, black onyx and other dark stones also became popular - this brooch pictured here is a perfect example of the influential style of the time. Mourning jewellery was not only a decorative accessory; it was an outward expression of people’s innermost feelings and became an important part of the jewellery of this era.The Victorian era also brought with it the Industrial Revolution which meant the Jewellery industry benefited from mass production techniques. Machines were developed to make stamping whole pieces of jewellery from thin sheets of metal. This allowed jewellery to become accessible to the masses and in turn ended the ancient role of jewellery being symbol of social rank.
Art Nouveau Era 1880 - 1910
The Art Nouveau period received its name from the French for “New Art,” which was given after the 1895 opening of Siegfried Bing’s Parisian gallery “Maison de l’Art Nouveau.” This particular era did not last for very long, but it did have a big impact on jewellery design which can still be seen today. There are many daring themes this era is famous for however it's most noticeable influence was taken from nature itself. We saw many floral and foliate designs as seen on this magnificent gold brooch, as well as beautifully intricate details and craftmanship. The popular gemstones for this era were freshwater pearls, amethyst, amber, opal, and citrine. At this time diamonds were less commonly used as they were more expensive and unattainable to many.
Edwardian Era 1901 - 1915
The Edwardian era follows the reign of England’s King Edward VII. King Edward VII reigned from 1901-1910 and was the last monarch to serve as a namesake in relation jewellery history. During this era, the most popular gems that were used for jewellery were diamonds and pearls, they were seen as most prestigious stones however we also saw a lot of amethyst and peridot used too. The styles of this times were thought to be the epitome of sophistication. The jewellery designers of the time would often look at Ancient Greek, Roman, and Napoleonic art for inspiration when designing their jewellery. The term “Belle Epoque” embraces Edwardian jewellery with light, feminine designs, such as swags, bows, hearts, sprays of leaves and flowerheads. This era showed fine intricate workmanship that could be achieved from using platinum and other precious metals.
Art Deco Era 1920 - 1939
Within this era, symmetry was embraced which is reflected in the geometric designs that became popular during this time. Blocks of colour, bold decisive gemstones were used such as sapphires, rubies and emerald. Bigger and brighter stones were also used during this era with jewellery designed to be seen and appreciated. The 1920s, line bracelets were in demand, starting off narrow and pretty, or featuring articulated ribbons with bows, to being more broad, heavier and more angular in style by the 1930s. This ring photographed above is an original 1920s piece, while it does not feature any bold coloured gemstones, it flaunts a magnificent central diamond and a beautiful geometric art-deco setting that is synonymous with the iconic era.
Retro Era 1939 to 1950
While the retro era is a more recent one, it was heavily inspired by the geometric stylings of art-deco period. This is clearly evident with the similarities seen on this sapphire ring pictured to the left. The deco style was interpreted into a bolder and stronger design with larger, brighter stones and chunky jewellery design. Films also became extremely popular during this time thus the demand for Hollywood style fashion grew and tastes became rather extravagant. Jewellery making was interrupted in the 1940s due to World War II and subsequently precious metals became scarce; this meant that less desirable metals such as palladium or white gold had to be used instead. This shortage of materials also led to an influx in repurposing. Individuals would gather their unworn fine jewellery and have a goldsmith re-use the metal and gems to create something more fitting with the trends of the time. Tank rings were a great example of this, typically seen with odd sized diamonds in a mixture of cuts.