These included the four Georges; George I r. This period, which included most of the Eighteenth Century and continued on into the Nineteenth, was one of rapid, worldwide societal change. Extraordinary individuals and events were transforming the entire globe. It was a time of Mozart, Gainsborough and the decorative aesthetics of Rococo , Neoclassicism and Romanticism.
All of this, combined with great strides in science and world exploration, the advent of rail travel and a changing role for women in society created the perfect backdrop for the creation of the magnificent jewelry we call Georgian. While the reign of English Kings defines the parameters for Georgian jewelry, stylistically the designs, trends, and ideas were shared internationally and the Georgian aesthetic turned up all over Europe and America. At the dawn of the 19th century we saw the Empire style of Napoleon Bonaparte.
In this century of artistic and political turmoil there were many forces at work. These sumptuary laws were often ignored or flaunted and during the Georgian era they largely disappeared.
As a result jewelry, no longer just the purview of the aristocracy, was now more widely available to the middle class. A lighthearted approach to life and an extreme dedication to social activities created a competitive demand for jewels.
In spite of the fact that a great deal of restyling occurred in the successive years, so much jewelry was produced, for this wider customer base, that many excellent examples remain available today. Jewelry for women changed fashion from month to month, shapes went in and out of style; dying out in England and remaining popular in France only to pop back up in England.
Diamonds and pastes were sparkling everywhere. The goldsmiths of the day were highly trained technicians, skilled in all areas of gold work, and although Louis XIV died in , at the beginning of the Georgian period, he left his mark on Georgian jewelry. By revoking the Edict of Nantes in he initiated a massive emigration of Huguenots, most of whom found refuge in Germany, Holland and England.
A large percentage of the Huguenots were artisans and designers. Unwittingly, Louis XIV gave the Protestant world some of the best craftsmen to be found anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
Caricature of a Macaroni in His Outlandish Attire, c. Georgian era gold alloys were 18 karat and higher. Each sumptuous jewelry creation was completely handcrafted. Prior to , and the invention of the rolling mill , apprentices had the task of hand-hammering blocks of gold down to the desired thickness which the master goldsmith could then transform into jewelry. The invention of the rolling mill to roll out uniform sheets of silver and gold streamlined this process and saved a great deal of labor.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques. Jewelry styles came to be designated as to the time of day they should be worn. During the daylight hours women wore a necklace or chain with a watch, a cameo or lace pin, small colored stone rings , matching bracelets worn in pairs as they had been for centuries and earrings of any length.
The chatelaine was the single most important item of daytime jewelry for women and suspended from it were all the items necessary for daily life. Gentlemen could not be seen anywhere without a fabulous pair of status establishing shoe buckles and buttons made from every conceivable material and studded with diamonds, paste and gemstones. Garnet , topaz , emerald and ruby were popular, and materials from nature were abundant in daytime jewelry.
Coral , amber , ivory , pearls along with turquoise , translucent agates and carnelian were used in a variety of ways. Iron and cut steel jewelry with incredible detail was at its apex during the Georgian era.
In an attempt to create gold from base metal, Christopher Pinchbeck created a wonderful alloy of copper and zinc and, in a rather magical way, it became desirable in its own right. These metals along with gold and silver were all utilized as materials for Georgian jewelry. Timeless longchains were created through the use of various techniques, in a myriad of shapes, with patterned links, woven or knitted, and were a signature of the period.
The evening was an entirely different story, rose cut and mine cut , diamonds were abundant at night. Delicately linked together was a glimmering line of silver collets set with graduated, matched diamonds that formed a shimmering circle around the neck. In jeweler James Cox invented a process to back the silver with gold to prevent these magnificent necklaces from marring the skin or clothing with tarnish.
Chrysoberyl and Gold Filigree Parure. Parures glimmering from their satin-lined fitted leather boxes often included as many as sixteen items. The technical ability to mount gems with an open back had evolved from the earlier closed back mounting style, but it was not often seen in Georgian jewelry. A foil and closed back combination is a signature element in Georgian jewelry. This process served to brighten diamonds and intensify colored stones, creating a richer, gleaming effect enabling the diamonds to twinkle and scintillate in the candlelight.
While the foiling may have tarnished and faded with time, it is still appreciated as a quintessentially Georgian technology. Necklaces evolved from ribbon style chokers early in the period to grand glittering cascades of gems. Cut steel became popular with graduated drops, flowers, and garlands.
The wealthy French adopted cut steel jewelry as a replacement for their donated or hidden gems. Repousse Chrysoberyl and Topaz Pendant. Girandole earrings, designed with a central bow-shaped motif suspending two pear-shaped drops flanking a third larger drop, were by far the most loved style for evening wear. Later, pendeloque earrings, comprised of a round or navette-shaped top suspending a bow and a matching larger drop became the preferred style.
This evolution of earring style looked as if the outer flanking pendants from girandole style earrings had been removed. Earrings were designed with a hinged wire hook that threaded the ear from back to front and clicked into place on the earring.
Brooches evolved from the demure gemstone bouquets or giardinetti to magnificent naturalistic bouquets set en tremblant. Bows, feathers, crowns , cornucopia and crosses were other frequent themes from the period. These motifs were often used in the creation of brooches with detachable pendants.
Some of these brooches were fitted with loops on the reverse to allow a ribbon or chain to be threaded thereby transforming the brooch into pendant. Rings were often styled with a larger central stone surrounded by small diamonds and were produced in every shape imaginable. Bands, set all around or half way with gemstones, were worn singly or in stacks. Clusters of small diamonds were set in such a way as to appear more dramatic and important. Magnificent hairstyles required equally magnificent jeweled adornments.
Tiaras , coronets , bandeaus and diadems in every motif from naturalistic to geometric were expressed in diamonds and colored gems. Aigrettes , combs and hairpins decorated with all manner of gems, cut steel and anything that would catch the light, poked out of towering wigs.
Georgian Rose-Cut Diamond Ring. Georgian Eye Miniature Portrait. Portrait miniatures , hair jewelry , silhouettes and eye miniatures comprised tokens of love and remembrance during the Georgian era. Women used their own hair to have mementos created for their children, for husbands and for lovers, both secret and acknowledged. Jewelry made of hair came to a peak near the end of the Georgian era when complete suites of jewelry including bracelets and necklaces were woven entirely out of hair following the many published designs on this craft.
Later, these evolved into rings with skulls or skeletons under the crystal and having skeleton or bone motif bands with black enamel. Memorial bands were made up, by those who could afford it, to distribute to friends and family and often the deceased made the arrangements for this custom prior to his demise. Georgian elements and themes continued to be used well into the reign of Queen Victoria and some were revived later in the period. Mourning jewelry , cameos, portrait miniatures, and many other items remained a constant, with stylistic changes, through both periods.
The analogy of evolution can be used to describe the fluidity of change from one period to the next, rather than simply abrupt change. The fate much of the jewelry created by eighteenth-century jewelers fell to the remodeller's torch.
Bringing one's gems up-to-date with the latest styles was a popular past time for the affluent and any excuse was employed to take one's jewelry to be redesigned. Gems seemed to achieve new brilliancy when re-set in au courant mountings. A History of Jewellery: Boston Book and Art, Publisher, Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Whitby Hall, Whitby, Norwich: Michael Russell Publishing Ltd.