Posted on June 15 2020
The Georgian Era is remembered in many ways. In America, it was the time of the revolution, the explorations of Lewis and Clark, and George Washington. In France, it was the time of Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon. The name of this era, however, comes from the time when King George I – IV reigned in the UK from 1714 all the way to 1837. With a newfound love for the extravagant, and lavish balls sweeping the nation, Georgian jewelry was quite ground-breaking and has helped shape what jewelry is today.
There were many stylistic changes throughout the Georgian period. Early Georgian era jewelry celebrated the baroque style, with intricate symmetrical designs as well as a lace like aesthetic. Many of the common motifs you would see during this period included bows, feathers, flowers, and leaves. Late Georgian jewelry took more of its influence from Rococo style, which was lighter and more delicate and used asymmetry in many of its designs.
During both style periods, the historical site of Pompeii was being excavated and many jewelry pieces took on a Roman influence. Often featuring intricate cameos, grape vines, leaves, keys, and simple geometric patterns, this style is now referred to as “Neo-classical Georgian”.
Everyday jewelry often was set with pearls, garnet, moss agate and paste gemstones. Paste stones were not precious gemstones at all, but hand-cut leaded glass. They were often cut, placed on a metallic colored foil base, and polished until they resembled and gave off an effect like natural gemstones.
The chatelaine was one of the most popular pieces of jewelry a woman could wear during the day. The chatelaine was a delicate clasp or belt hook which was worn at the waist connected to a series of different chains. The chains were then mounted with useful items such as scissors, pocket watches, keys, and thimbles. Everything they would need in their day to day life, easily accessible and on hand! For gentlemen of the era, adorned shoe buckles and fancy buttons were all the rage.
With the invention of candles that could burn for much longer then their predecessors, evening get-together's and parties became more and more common, and the types of jewelry worn to these outings was different then what was to be worn during the day.
At the time, formal events such as balls and receptions were viewed as the only appropriate time to wear diamonds. The cut of gems was either the rose cut, or the old mine cut and you would see them set into many different types of jewelry. Extravagant cocktail rings were quite commonly worn to these get-together's, as well as pendants and brooches.
However, one of the most popular types of jewelry a woman could own during this era was hair jewelry! With women styling their hair in magnificent towering styles, tiaras, diadems, and hair pins became all the rage and were seen being sported by everyone. Marie Antoinette is one of the most notable and iconic examples of this. She had a sizable collection of hair jewelry which she wore to any special occasion she could and is often depicted with it on display.
Extravagance on a Budget
In the late 19th century, gold and precious gems availability decreased as a result of the war spreading through Europe at the time. Most of these materials were sacrificed towards the war efforts, leaving extraordinarily little for jewelry manufacturers to use. Due to this, Cannetille jewelry gained in popularity. Cannetille is a style that uses many tiny wires that intricately wrap around each other to create delicate and ornate pieces of jewelry. This style used very little material in comparison to the other common styles of the era, so it was much more cost efficient to make and to own. Paste jewelry also became even more popular then it already was, as it gave off the illusion of opulence for a fraction of the cost.
Looking to add a bit of history to your jewelry collection? Take a look at our Georgian jewelry on 100 Ways!