In the beginning, Victorian jewelry purer 18-22 karat gold. In 1854, gold was standardized and had 9, 12 or 15 karats. It had to be stamped and hallmarked. The other metals used if not gold were electric gilt, mercury gilt, pinchbeck and silver.
The design of Victorian jewelry came from nature. Birds, flowers and trees with detailed engravings. Repousse were large solid pieces that had fluted and raised edges. Cannatille jewelry used strands of gold wire that were twisted and wound into intricate designs.
Near the end of the Victorian era, Egypt, Greece and Italy styles had big influences in design. This was because of archaeological expeditions that uncovered lots of ancient jewelry.
When Queen Victoria died, new jewelry designs rushed into the market. Because of the conservatism, jewelers could not push the boundaries of design while she was still alive. This surge in techniques of manufacturing and design eventually brought about the art nouveau period.
Art nouveau jewelry was expressive, exotic and exuberant. They say the appreciation of it may take time and art nouveau means “new art” in French. Imaginative and mystical jewelry, art nouveau was from 1890-1910.
With pale colors and gentle curves, art nouveau jewelry used amethyst, moonstone, peridot, opal, citrine and pearls. Copper, ivory, shell, horn and glass were also used.
Flowers like lilies, irises, orchids, bugs and animals, even human forms were put into the designs. Mythical beats or enchanted women were common. Enameling was used throughout the art nouveau period.
The Edwardian period was from 1901-1910. The period that many have not heard of because of the two great periods before,(art nouveau) and after(art deco).
Diamonds were a staple of Edwardian jewelry. They were made to look delicate to be able to blend in with lace, feathers and silk. Princess Alexandra had a huge impact on the periods fashion. In this period jeweler’s progressed in gemstone cutting. Platinum was used a lot and sometimes made to look like hand made lace.
Art deco is a style that relates to 1920’s-1930’s, which ended about 1935. The Art deco movement was mainly an American thing. The style of jewelry had strong lines, bright contrasts of color, geometric shapes, they also used bakelite. Symmetry and geometry were at the center of art deco.
Influences in the design of the jewelry were Japanese, Paris, the machine age, Egyptian, jazz, cubism and Russian. Also art deco was influenced by the art nouveau and Edwardian periods. Taking the style and grace from art nouveau, diamonds and platinum from Edwardian and turning them into a geometric, symmetrical array of diamonds and platinum.
Art deco had great vibrant colors, sapphires, emeralds, coral, rubies and turquoise were heavily used. Black and white was also used a lot. Cocktail rings, long pendants, brooches and bangle bracelets were all the rage.
Cigarette cases and compacts of the time were covered in jewels. The movement of art deco halted because of WWII and the depression.
The 1930’s and 1940’s brought about the retro period. Large gemstones were being used. Topaz, citrine and aquamarine were popular. Even synthetics were starting to become popular. Platinum was replaced by rose gold.
Today everything from vintage jewelry to simple elegance is in. Going back to the old stuff and mixing it in with new pieces and designs.