Georgian Jewelry (Circa 1840 - 1714)

The term Georgian refers to an era in English history during the reign of King George I-IV from 1714 - 1840. Like the term Victorian (used for jewelry during Queen Victoria's rule), it is accepted in use as a term that refers to certain styles of jewelry. While this time period saw a number of stylistic changes and, is in reality a broad, sweeping category, the label is oft used for jewelry with certain characteristics. Sometimes the term is applied to jewelry from other countries (France, Italy, and the United States for example) and although its use is not entirely appropriate, it is generally still accepted as a way to refer to a time period and to certain styles of antique jewelry.

Eighteenth Century Jewelry

For the privileged and elite, that century saw a great increase in evening pursuits as improvements in the manufacture of candles gave rise to longer burning and brighter candles. Balls and soirees of sumptuous proportions rose to exceptional heights. Thus the divide between day and evening jewelry marked a new chapter in jewelry history. Women often wore pearls, garnets, moss agate or colored gems or paste in daytime. The most formal evening events, courts, balls and receptions were the only appropriate times to wear diamond jewelry. Consequently, diamonds found new favor. Mines opened in Golconda, India and Brazil began to produce stones in the 1720s. Now diamonds were more readily available.

Closed backs were used on almost all gems and paste stones. Open backs were known, but most of the examples we see today are of the closed style. The true art of stone cutting (and allowing light through a gem to reveal its refractive properties) was not yet truly understood. In addition, then most stones were foiled. Foiling is the use of a metal coating, sometimes colored, painted on the back of a stone to enhance its brilliance. The cut of gems were either the rose cut or the old mine cut, although a few table cuts were still in use. Brilliant cuts also gained in popularity. Often for colored gems a flat cut was used - the top being flat with a few facets on the edges.

For metals silver or gold was in use; platinum was not as yet discovered and white gold was not used in jewelry. Rose gold, yellow gold, silver, and sometimes green or red gold were employed. Most diamond jewelry was almost always set in silver; the sentiments of the time were that the silver color of the metal enhanced the properties of diamonds, whereas a gold surrounding did not. The backs of jewelry and ear wires were often gold to prevent tarnish on skin and clothing. Colored gems were set in gold. Mounts or bezels for jewels were frequently set in a closed setting, a cut away setting or in a very early claw setting (usually seen for early large pastes). The first two mountings show a good bit of metal that comes up around the sides of the stone, thereby encasing the stone in metal.

Stylistically, the earlier part of the century saw a more ornate form of jewelry with complex and frilly designs. As the years progressed and the next century advanced, the forms turned to more of a neoclassical inspiration of simpler geometric and formal derivation. Also it was a great century for paste. Even Marie Antoinette had her own paste jewelers - it was not just for those who could not afford real gems. Some examples of the themes and motifs used in the earlier 18th century were bows, floral designs, giardinetti (garden) and feathers while later times saw classical themes such as arrows, quivers, lyres, intaglios, and geometric forms.

Types of jewelry worn were the stomacher (a large element worn similarly to a huge brooch at the center of the stomach just below the breasts and trailing down the front), aigrettes (elements for the hair), girandoles (three drop earrings), pendeloque earrings (a bow and drop form), necklaces (sometimes secured by ribbons, rings, slides), bracelets typically worn in pairs usually slipped onto a ribbon, chatelaines, and buckles and buttons - for men for shoes, breeches and other clothing.

Nineteenth Century Through 1830 - Antique Jewelry

Toward the end of the earlier century and into the next, wars tore through Europe and affected life and, consequently, jewelry. Often gold and precious gems were in short supply as these items were typically given toward the war effort. Jewelry used less metal, even of very thin proportion, and cannetille came into use. Cannetille uses tiny wires that are wrapped to make a much more ornate jewel utilizing little metal. A romantic era arose, again sentimental and mourning jewelry became popular by the end of the 18th century and into the 19th. Regard rings, symbolic gems, tokens of affection, and lockets of hair all found great favor. Gems were small and less significant. Queen Victoria's reign brought about many changes in temperament and the jewelry and fashion which followed suite ending a grand and elegant era in the production of jewelry.


Please see reference books as many of these books contributed to the writing of this section.

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