Early Georgian which combine sparkle with elegance. The favourite motifs- flowers, ribbons and bows- are executed in light and pretty asymmetrical designs using diamonds and coloured stones. Diamonds, now obtainable from Brazil, thanks to the adoption of the rose and brilliant cuts, release more light than ever before, and are set in silver, while gold is reserved for coloured stones only.
Since love was a major preoccupation of eighteenth century society there are many jewels of sentiment, containing the hair of loved ones, decorated with the symbols of Cupid’s quiver, bow and arrows, hearts, hands, turtle doves, snakes and pansies.
Later Georgian includes that of the Napoleonic Empire and Regency England illustrates the return to classical principles.
Cameos and intaglios are mounted in severely geometric, symmetrical designs often outlined in royal blue enamel. Similarly to enhance their white brilliance, diamonds are surrounded by coloured stones, or contrasted with bright enamels. Whereas these were worn on formal occasions, there is a large range of more light hearted decorative daytime jewellery.
Sentiment remains an important theme with locks of hair and miniatures enclosed in pendants, rings and bracelets identified by monograms
Early Victorian divides into two categories. There is the formal parure richly mounted with precious stones in naturalistic designs of leaves, flowers and bull rushes. Cheaper
alternatives are available in amethysts, aquamarines and topazes in impressive but light filigree and stamped gold settings.
Secondly, enamelled gold jewellery inspired by the art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, associated with the masters Froment-Meurice and Lucien Falize in Paris, and by Carlo Giuliano in London expresses the nostalgic spirit of Romanticism. Bracelets assume great importance, especially as tokens of sentiment.
After the discovery of the mines of South Africa in 1867 diamonds became the pre-eminent element in formal jewellery, worn in larger quantities and by more women than ever before. The stones are massed together into stars, crescents, bowknots, feathers, Greek key, floral and leaf patterns for head and bodice ornaments, while single stones, large and small are linked together into rivières for the neck.
In Rome the return to the designs of the Etruscans, Greek and Romans reviving the techniques of filigree and granulation, pioneered by Castellani, was so successful that this became an international fashion. The desire for novelty drove jewellers to create jewels in an ever increasing range of themes expressing cultural and sporting interests.
In reaction to jewellery as a display of wealth and the uniformity of contemporary design the Arts and Crafts Society was founded by William Morris in 1887, followed by groups of goldsmiths such as Henry Wilson and C.R. Ashbee working independently for a clientèle drawn from the intelligentsia.
Led by René Lalique, jewellers of the French Art Nouveau group had similar ideals, seeking inspiration from nature rather than history, with an emphasis on artistic settings rather than intrinsic value and introduced new materials such as horn and the technique of “window” or translucid enamelling.
The mainstream jewellers turned to the art of late eighteenth century France to provide the motifs for elegant “garland style” diamond jewellery now executed in platinum rather than silver and gold. The brightness and superior hardness of this metal resulted in much lighter, more precisely modelled settings. At night tiaras were worn high on the head, and important stomachers occupied the front of low cut dresses, while every woman of means possessed quantities of brooches, bracelets, chains and pendants for daytime.
Because diamonds were no longer in short supply the string of perfectly matched graduated pearls became the Edwardian status symbol par excellence. This passion for diamonds and pearls meant that the Art Nouveau movement was over by 1910, and support for the Arts and Crafts Society also declined.
Art Deco jewellery emerged at the 1925 Paris exhibition of Decorative Arts at which only designs independent of the European historical tradition might be shown. It was strongly geometric in character, using precious and coloured stones with black onyx, jade, amber, agate and lapis lazuli in hitherto unknown combinations.
With the exception of small round and baguette diamonds all these stones were now cut into a variety of shapes to fit the design. Most were abstract, though inspiration also came from the art of China and of ancient Egypt with a further exotic touch provided by emerald cameos and quantities of carved coloured stones imported from India.
The slump which followed the stock market crash of 1929 meant that jewellers only survived by using cheaper aquamarines and citrines, though “all-white” diamond jewellery was adopted by the few who remained rich. A significant invention was the clip, worn individually or in pairs, pinned to hat or bodice, hung as the pendant to a necklace, or placed as the centrepiece of a bracelet.
The 1940s and After
Art Deco jewellery broadened into more massive, less static forms modelled into thick volutes, straps, buckles, and stepped shapes which looked well with the sportive silhouettes of the time- padded shoulders, belted waists and short skirts. Since platinum was requisitioned for the war effort in the Allied and Axis countries gold, already in fashion from around 1935, now became the principal element of jewellery until 1945, epitomised by the flexible “gas-pipe” and mesh bracelet and necklace, the centres embellished with a coloured stone spray of flowers or a bow.
The success of the “New Look” of Christian Dior in 1947 which brought back more feminine clothes with long skirts, trim waists and sloping shoulders did not entirely exclude jewels echoing pre-war and wartime styles, and the emphasis on size and movement continued. However, the prosperity of the 1950’s is reflected in the return to platinum diamond jewellery in traditional styles rejuvenated by the mathematical precision of the modern cuts.
Throughout history coloured stones have never lost their desirability. For centuries they were not only sought for their beauty and rarity but for the magical and healing powers associated with them, and even today the possession of a birthstone is believed to bring good luck. At first used in the natural domed cabochon form, improved faceting techniques have brought out the full glory of the colour, which can be further enhanced by skilful foiling. While the rarer larger specimens can be mounted on their own, the more numerous smaller stones present more of a challenge to the jeweller who has to group them together attractively.
The sheer prettiness of Georgian jewelled bouquets, insects and fireworks exploding upwards demonstrates how this can be achieved. Contrast with the white light of the diamond has the effect of intensifying the colour, and this is usually through cluster designs, in which the diamonds surround a larger coloured stone, or conversely, the coloured stones encircle a diamond. Two advances in the twentieth century have been perfecting of calibré cutting which was developed into the invisible setting which masses groups of small stones into a mosaic of glorious colour unbroken by metal supports.
Although not a mineral, the organic pearl is just as precious as the diamond, the sapphire, ruby and emerald on account of its “orient” or lustrous iridescence. Each pearl is a jewel in itself, requiring no setting, and can be worn individually as a pendant, but when strung with others into a necklace it forms one indivisible whole.
In history the largest, most symmetrical pearls of good colour were so esteemed that they were given individual names- the Peregrina, the Régente, the Hope, the Dudley, -as were necklaces such as those of Queen Mary of Scotland and Catherine the Great of Russia. Having reached astronomic prices in the Edwardian period pearls declined in value after Mikimoto perfected the cultured pearl in the 1920s but today the individuality of the natural pearl is once again recognised so prices are very high.
Blending so well with the skin they look best when worn in the ears or as bracelets and necklaces but a fine specimen, large or small can be shown off to advantage when mounted in a ring or brooch, surrounded by the glitter of a diamond border.
Prized since antiquity above all other stones on account of its invincible hardness, faceting techniques improved dramatically in the seventeenth century leading to the primitive point and table cuts giving way first to the rose and from the 1660s the brilliant cut. The next step came after the discovery of diamonds at Minas Geraes in Brazil, when India was no longer the main source of supply and the French jeweller, J.H. Pouget could declare in 1762 that “we are now in the age of the diamond”, and some of the most exquisite jewels ever created date from this period. It remained the mark of the highest social and economic status, and in 1822 The Lady’s Monthly Museum observed that “diamonds are worn in profusion by the rich and all endeavour to have a ring or brooch of the same costly gem”. A further development came later in the century when the market was flooded with so many diamonds from South Africa that the stone lost its rarity and became available to a wider range of people than ever before. For most of the twentieth century it has been set in platinum which light in weight yet solid and neutral in colour shows off the brilliance of the large and the sparkle of the smaller stones. At the same time great progress has been made
in faceting leading to the introduction of new cuts. This has resulted in the creation of “all- white” diamond jewellery, composed of a mixture of cuts, each one contributing its own individual accent of light to the composition.