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Sunday 20 January 2019
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A Brief History of English Antique Jewelry

A Brief History of English Antique Jewelry

England has a rich heritage of producing beautiful jewelry pieces, with many pieces still surviving to this day.

Collecting antique jewelry from the UK has become increasingly popular, with sites such as Royal Antique Jewelry offering a range of pieces dating back as far as 200 years.

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Jewelry can often tell us a lot about the period it was produced in, and we’re going to take a brief look at how it has evolved from the Georgian period onwards.

Georgian Era: 1714-1830

Jewelry of the Georgian era was largely influenced by the Romanticism movement, and the public fascination with Medieval and Renaissance times and artefacts as the birth of archaeology brought older styles back into the mainstream.

The Industrial Revolution was of course another major influence on jewelry. On the one hand, new production methods and cheaper materials meant there was an increase in more affordable pieces such as costume jewelry, and the use of paste.

While jewelry had previously been reserved for the rich elite, it was now accessible to people from all classes.

On the other hand, this meant that the expanding middle class sought to purchase even more expensive pieces that would make them stand apart from the jewelry of the masses, through rarer metals and stones, as well as more sophisticated designs.

It was also around the beginning of the Georgian era when the world’s fascination with diamonds really kicked off, and it really hasn’t subsided to the present day!

Advances in cutting techniques meant that diamonds now sparkled like never before, and they were often mounted in silver to really enhance their dazzling white colour.

Victorian Era: 1837-1901

Much like the Georgian era before it, the Victorian period tended to look to the past for inspiration when it came to jewelry, with classical Greek and Roman styles proving popular.

Naturalistic designs were also popular, with flowers and fruit motifs inspired by the increasing study of plants and the works of the likes of Wordsworth.

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Toward the latter half of the period, these delicate designs gave way to more complex and extravagant ones.

A category of jewelry which is almost unique to the Victorian period is mourning jewelry.

These black pieces were often made from Whitby jet and were worn to express that the wearer was in a state of mourning following the death of a loved one.

Mourning jewelry really took off after Queen Victoria refused to wear anything other than black jewelry (and clothes) following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861.

Edwardian Era: 1901-1914

The Edwardian era was largely dominated by the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements.

Art Nouveau placed an emphasis on colour, utilising enamelling techniques such as basse-taille and using motifs including plants such as orchids and irises, animals and the female form.

Many pieces moved away from the traditional precious stones and made effective use of other materials such as glass and enamel.

René Lalique is accepted as being one of the eminent figures in this movement, and you can learn more about his work at Lalique.com.

The arts and crafts movement stood for traditional craftsmanship and rejected the advances made by the industrial revolution, instead producing much simpler pieces.

Jewelry from after this period is generally not considered ‘antique’ as the term usually refers to something which is at least 100 years old, but there is a wealth of great pieces from the last 200 years out there for budding collectors to get stuck into!