Queen Victoria reigned a very long time, and the Victorian Period is named for
her. This jewelry is distinguished by extreme sentimentality as many Victorian
jewelry items boasted locks of hair or miniature portraits of loved ones, and
even children's teeth. Owing to increased travel and interest in archaeology
then, jewelry from this time often exhibited design elements of Etruscan or
A young Victoria
married Prince Albert In 1840. Her engagement ring featured an emerald encrusted
snake head, since the snake was a symbol of eternal love and the emerald was her
birthstone. A common practice was setting birthstones in engagement rings
husband died 20 years into their marriage, which threw her into a lifelong
period of mourning. So mid to late Victorian jewelry reflects this transition.
After Prince Albert's death, Victoria wore exclusively dark or black jewelry,
thereafter referred to as Mourning Jewelry.
Movement 1880s -1910
As the name suggests,
the Art Nouveau movement started in France. Nature inspired Art Nouveau jewelry.
From the idealized female form, to delicate floral subjects like water lilies,
or even bugs, nature dominated the themes. Newer techniques emerged like fired
enamel plique a jour, in which an enameled item has no solid backing,
making it appear like stained glass--which was also popular in that
The Art Nouveau
movement was short lived yet it was distinctly sensual and remains highly sought
after today. It has never really gone out of vogue. Like most art movements, the
Art Nouveau period defined an era in revolt against the super structured somber
jewelry that dominated the latter part of the Victorian era.
Japanese design and
the Aesthetic Movement are seen influencing later Art Nouveau jewelry
Period 1901 - 1910
In sharp contrast to
the jewelry that defined Edward's mother Queen Victoria's latter years,
Edwardian jewels are extremely delicate, feminine and almost lacy in design.
Edwardian jewels were often made of platinum which had not been much used prior
to this time. Diamonds were once again plentifully worked into Edwardian
jewelry and it often contained natural pearls. Since pearl culturing was a
product of the early 20th century, pearl jewelry from the earliest Edwardian era
and before bore natural pearls.
Ribbon-like bows and
garland themes were popular design choices. The craftsmanship showed a very open
and airy look to the jewels, often utilizing a skillful technique called 'knife
edge' whereby the metal sections in the jewelry were razor thin. Gone were
the heavy looks from the end of the Victorian era. Fashion and jewelry took on
an almost ethereal lightness with delicate lace and feathers dominating the
pastel colored styles. Edwardian jewelry mirrored that ultra feminine
The artful technique
of milgraining was evident throughout the Edwardian period and is featured on
jewelry with micro-miniature balls or ridges surrounding a setting or on the
outer edges of the jewelry. The effect is one of a delicate handmade
Period - 1918 -1938
Spanning roughly the
time period between the two world wars, the Art Deco era celebrates the modern
industrial strides of the first part of the 20th century. Art Deco jewelry
mirrors those streamlined and geometric designs.
The Empire State
Building and New York's Chrysler Building are iconic examples of the Art Deco
movement. This was also a time when spectacular gemstones were being discovered,
like Kashmir sapphire, opulent emerald, and Burmese ruby,
"Tutti Fruiti" jewelry then, mixing these 3 colorful gemstones into a single
piece, which was wildly popular with high society matrons. It was also the era
of the square cut diamond, today referred to as a princess cut or a baguette.
These cuts were invented to fit perfectly into the geometric designs of that
By the late 1920's, it
became fashionable for society ladies to wear dainty diamond studded wrist
watches sometimes referred to as the cocktail watch, a tongue in cheek snub at
Prohibition which banned alcoholic consumption. By this time, Mikimoto's pearl
culturing was catching on and pearls became affordable to the middle class
consumer. Massive layered ropes of cultured pearls popularized by Coco Chanel
were all the rage with the Art Deco crowd, and jeweled clips decorated lady's
necklines, belts, and shoes.