Georgian Jewelry

christies, earrings, filigree, georgian, sothebys, timeline, v&a museum -

Georgian Jewelry

"Modern" is a bit tongue in cheek when your jewelry is inspired by history. I've been hard at work cleaning up our modern collection and its subsets, and I want to walk a bit through the periods we represent.

Specifically today I want to talk about the Georgian era in general and dive into Georgian fashion, and some of the Georgian jewelry trends represented in our collection.

 

The Georgian Era

1714-1837 - Reign of the 4 Georges - and one unfortunate William

George was a good name. So good a name that four successive kings: George I, George II, George III and George IV - all went with it. The reigns of the King Georges began in 1714 and lasted until 1830. The short reign of King William IV (who ruled from 1830 to 1837) - because he was not named George but definitely does not look like a Victoria - is usually bundled in with the Georges for good measure. 



Illustrated in the pictures of Kings above: wig to powdered wig to natural hair, square toed to rounded to floral motif shoes, increasingly elaborate clothing, an inherited horse pendant and necklace.

It should be noted that though the naming of the era favors English monarchy, the fashions are stateless. Georgian jewelry was a worldwide trend with styles originating in Europe, the Americas, Russia, and Elsewhere.

 

Georgian Fashion

Duchess Of Newcastle Georgian Earrings
Duchess Of Newcastle Earrings
Trends and movements and fashion proper was alive and well in Georgian England. Jewelry styles, stones, cuts and finishes came in and out of vogue. Often styles spread from Paris to London to the Americas and back again - or sometimes vice versa.

An 18th century rose-cut diamond pendant of Girandole design, set throughout with foiled rose-cut diamonds, in a later fitted case
18th century rose-cut diamond pendant. Via Christies.
Regal and elaborate, jewelry during Georgian times was an accessory for the wealthy. Heirloom jewelry sets - in the most literal sense of the term - were a way to accumulate wealth. A family matriarch might have matching earrings, necklace, tiara, pin, bracelets and comb that had been passed down and grown for a few generations.

 

Georgian Jewelry

Duchess Of Newcastle Georgian Earrings
18th Century Pearl and Gem Set. Via Sothebys.
Goldsmithing is transformed and changed as industrial inventions - such as the rolling mill - automate away tasks. Everything is still handmade but with a sense of precision crafting that is omnipresent in todays products. Additionally increasingly jewelry does not involve gold. Steel, copper, iron and zinc alloys are represented in period works.

Georgian Diamond Stud Earrings
Georgian Diamond Stud Earrings
All of Europe has been in colonization mode for about 100 years at the start of the era. The huge wealth disparity between various nations and thats payed off handsomely for Europeans. During the Georgian period trade routes were established in Africa and started to bring in an abundance of amethyst, diamonds, emeralds, rubies and topaz which in turn helps to drive jewelry design.

18th Century Chanterlaine ©️ Victoria and Albert Museum, London
18th Century Chatelaine.
©️ Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Jewelry was largely utilitarian. Watches were a huge focus. Ladies wore a variety of pieces familiar to us modern folk such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and cameos. They also wore some items less common today: Chatelaines (belt chains) replaced the handbag for a bit. Lapel pins were common.

Notable Trends:

  • Openwork airy settings.
  • Elaborate goldsmithing. Extensive use of filigree and granule work.
  • Oversized gemstones. Hand-faceted with large spaces and sharp angles.

 

Georgian Citrine & Pearl Earrings
Georgian Citrine & Pearl Earrings

Georgian Jewelry Today

Because of their age antique Georgian Era pieces are rare outside of museums. Most jewelry from the era has been recycled by jewelers for its gems or metals. As a result, Georgian jewelry is valuable and often fetches high prices at auction. The museums Georgian jewelry collection represents contemporary handmade reproductions at a more affordable price point.

 


1 comment

  • B. Stidman

    What a great surprise!!! I love the Museum of Jewelry and saved your catalogs I received (by regular mail) years ago (they’ve moved twice with me. Thanks for sending me this.

Leave a comment