Victorian Era 1837-1901

England's monarch 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 Egyptian influence.

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 then.

Victoria's beloved 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.


Art Nouveau 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 day.

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 pieces.


Edwardian 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 quality.

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 look.


Art Deco 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,
Cartier created "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 era.

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.



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Photography by:  Michael Livshin     Website By:  Taft Tucker / AJSLLC     Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved.