There is a unique joy in wearing jewellery that carries a history, having brought pleasure and elegance to previous wearers. Vintage pieces not only evoke a sense of nostalgia, but they also transport us to different times and cultures.
In this blog, we’ll take you through some of the prominent eras in history where jewellery was known for its distinct form and style.
Georgian Jewellery (extravagance personified)
Georgian jewellery represents an exquisite era of craftsmanship and elegance, named after the reigns of the four King Georges of England (1714-1830). This period is characterised by a distinct style that reflects the cultural and societal influences of the time. Common features of Georgian jewellery include intricate metalwork, delicate filigree, and a fascination with nature-inspired motifs such as flowers, leaves, and animals.
The use of precious gemstones, particularly diamonds, was prevalent, often arranged in elaborate designs that showcased the gem’s brilliance. Another notable characteristic of Georgian jewellery is the use of closed-back settings, which allowed for intricate foiling to better reflect the light, enhancing the gem’s sparkle even under candlelight. Pearls were also highly favoured during this period and incorporated into necklaces, earrings, and brooches.
The craftsmanship and attention to detail in Georgian jewellery continue to captivate admirers today, making it a cherished and sought-after collection for antique jewellery enthusiasts.
Victorian Jewellery (the sentimental era)
Victorian jewellery encompasses the era spanning Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 and reflects the diverse styles during this period. Victorian jewellery is characterised by its sentimental nature and the use of romantic motifs such as hearts, bows, and flowers, reflecting the values of love and affection.
Another distinct characteristic is the fascination with symbolism and hidden messages, often conveyed through intricate engravings or the use of gemstones with specific meanings. This era also saw the rise of mourning jewellery, with black enamel, jet, and onyx being popular materials used to create sombre yet elegant pieces.
Additionally, the discovery of new gem sources expanded the colour palette of Victorian jewellery, with vibrant gemstones like amethyst, garnet, and turquoise adorning many pieces. Intricate metalwork, including filigree and repoussé, was also commonly seen, Victorian jewellery beautifully represents the sentiments and aesthetics of the era and continues to captivate collectors and enthusiasts with its rich history and timeless beauty.
Edwardian Jewellery (redefined opulence)
Edwardian jewellery emerged during the reign of King Edward VII of England, from 1901 to 1910, and represents a distinct departure from the styles of the Victorian and Georgian eras. Edwardian jewellery is characterised by its lightness, elegance, and refinement, reflecting the changing attitudes and fashions of the time.
Unlike the ornate and heavy designs of the Victorian era, Edwardian jewellery embraced a more delicate and feminine aesthetic. Platinum became a favoured metal due to its strength and ability to create intricate, lacy designs. The use of diamonds and other precious gemstones continued, but with a focus on emphasising their brilliance rather than relying on large, elaborate settings.
Common features of Edwardian jewellery include graceful curves, intricate filigree work, and openwork designs that allow light to pass through, enhancing the overall sparkle. Popular motifs included bows, garlands, and ribbons, inspired by the elegant and ethereal influences of Art Nouveau and the Belle Époque. The Edwardian era marked a shift towards lighter and more refined jewellery styles, embracing a sense of grace and sophistication that still captivates admirers today.
Art Deco (king of geometry)
The art deco style of jewellery first became popular in the 1920-30s and was characterised by the use of geometric designs such as squares, triangles of circles. Precious gemstones were also introduced to form blocks of bold colour.
White gold and platinum were the preferred metals, allowing for intricate, precise settings and contrasting metalwork. In addition to gemstones, materials like onyx, coral, and jade were incorporated into designs, lending a sense of exoticism and sophistication.
The jewellery of this era embodied a sense of luxury and glamour, with bold lines, geometric patterns, and a blend of both traditional and innovative materials, reflecting the spirit of the Art Deco movement that extended beyond jewellery into architecture and design. Art Deco jewellery, to this day, remains highly sought after for its timeless beauty and enduring appeal.
Retro Jewellery (Hollywood glamour)
Retro Jewellery or ‘cocktail jewellery’ as it’s sometimes known, came about in the 1940s. As fashion trends moved towards more structured, tailored items of clothing, there was a need for jewellery to reflect this bold new look and so the retro era of jewellery was born.
The knock-on effects from the great depression and WWII also meant that precious stones were in short supply so retro jewellery often features more modest materials including semi-precious stones such as citrine, amethyst, aquamarine and topaz. In some cases, glass, wood and enamel were used to provide colour and eye-catching design while making things much more affordable.
Oversized statement pieces, such as chunky bracelets, elaborate brooches, and chandelier earrings, were favoured to complement the fashionable cocktail attire of the time, often sported by Hollywood starlets. Animal motifs, floral designs, and abstract shapes adorned these pieces, reflecting the era’s playful and whimsical aesthetic. Retro cocktail jewellery embraced a sense of fun, elegance, and individuality, making it a captivating choice for those seeking a touch of vintage charm and glamour in their accessories collection.
Mid-century Jewellery (the post-war age)
The mid-century jewellery era, spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, brought forth distinctive trends that set it apart from the styles that came before. This era witnessed a shift towards a more minimalistic and sleek aesthetic, embracing clean lines and simplicity.
Mid-century jewellery favoured geometric designs and abstract shapes, often featuring asymmetrical arrangements. While Art Deco jewellery embraced bold colours and luxurious gemstones, the mid-century era opted for a more subdued colour palette, with white gold and silver being popular choices, heavily influenced by Scandinavia. This era also saw the rise of innovative materials like plastics and Lucite, which were used to create bold and playful pieces.
Another significant shift was the focus on wearable and versatile designs, reflecting the changing lifestyles and fashion preferences of the time. Mid-century jewellery celebrated modernity, functionality, and a sense of understated elegance, setting it apart from the ornate styles of the previous decades.
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It is clear that history has a lot to offer jewellery enthusiasts, so whether you love the opulence of Georgian jewels or the bold lines of the Art Deco movement, there is definitely something for everyone.
If you think you’d like to own a piece of history with a vintage necklace, bracelet or brooch, why not get in touch, or visit one of our showrooms to find out more?