The period of Georgian jewelry featured designs of nature like flowers, leaves, insects, birds, feathers, and ribbons. Beautifully engraved gemstones and intaglios were favored along with agates and cabochon cut stones. During the early nineteenth century, cameo brooches and earrings became popular. Garnets, turquoise, amethyst, and particularly pearls were the rage.
Early Victorian jewelry featured intricate scroll work, floral sprays, animal themes and multi-colored gold pieces. There was a surge of deep religious feelings which gave way to a Gothic Revival Movement. A renewed interest in enameled jewelry inspired some of the most beautiful jewelry creations of all time.
During the mid-Victorian period massive suites of colored stone jewelry became popular. Mosaics, sea shells, fringes, and rosettes were used with increasing frequency. Fine diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls were used and pieces were set in Etruscan style frames. The death of Prince Albert in 1861 threw the entire population into mourning. Jet jewelry became extremely popular and was often imitated. The 1880's saw the rise of heavy lockets and chains, cuff bracelets and brooches.
In the late Victorian period diamonds gained an all time high in popularity. Bird, insect, and animal themes took on new meaning as genuine scarabs, birds, and claws were set in gold. Many pieces of fine jewelry featured spring mechanisms. The delicate pendants of colored stones and pearls were very popular during the late 1880's.
Arts and Crafts jewelers rebelled against the mass production of jewelry brought on by the Industrial Revolution. They formed the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1888. These jewelers were opposed to any specialization of their craft. They crafted pieces in silver using uncut and cabochon stones. Color was very important and many pieces were brightly colored with rubies, garnets, sapphires and emeralds.
In the Art Nouveau period jewelers were inspired by flowing feminine and fantasy figures, stylized flowers, vines, leaves, scrolls, birds, serpents and insects in beautiful enamels. Plique-a-jour enamel, a beautifully transparent enamel without a metal backing, was commonly used. Cabochon gemstones as well as pearls were incorporated into the designs along with the scrolling gold work. Rene Jules Lalique led the French in Art Nouveau jewelry, while Louis Comfort Tiffany was the American Jeweler best known for his Art Nouveau designs.
Edwardian jewelry was strikingly feminine with a lacy and delicate appearance. Favored motifs are bows, ribbons, urns, stars, crescents and garlands of small flowers. A common trait of Edwardian jewelry is platinum on yellow gold usually with all diamond trim, giving this period its all white appearance. Large focus fine diamonds were usually Old European cuts, with smaller diamonds in rose or single cuts for accents. Sometimes large high-quality faceted colored gemstones were used as focal points, but diamonds, pearls and moonstones were the most favored.
The introduction of cubism into the art world after 1925 brought about the strong geometrical patterns and angular shapes associated with Art Deco jewelry today. Fine diamonds and platinum were used without regard to cost. Art Deco engagement rings with their fine diamonds and filigree work are still highly sought after today. Stones were cut into triangles, pentagons, trapezoids along with oblong shapes and emerald cuts. Pave set diamonds were often accented with caliber cut colored gemstones- rubies, sapphire, emeralds and onyx set in strong contrasting combinations. The Asian influence can be seen by the carved jade and coral in pendants, bracelets, and earrings, as well as carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds from India. Well known French designers were, Cartier, Bucheron, Van Cleef and Arpels, Fouquet and Mauboussin. For the Americans, it was Tiffany and Company and Harry Winston.
The late 1930's and early 1940's saw Europe going from the Great Depression directly into W.W.II. All of the platinum and much of the gold and silver were needed to fund the war. It was during this period that the American jewelry market finally came into its own. Retro jewelry featured colored gold (yellow, pink, and green) sometimes combined in bi-colored or tri-colored pieces, a change after several decades of white metal dominance. Jewelry designs were three-dimensional and sculptural incorporating ribbons, bows and fabric-like folds. Gemstones were often recycled from older jewelry, diamonds and synthetic rubies and sapphires were combined for a "patriotic" look. After the United States entered the war, 1941, jewelry became less romantic and took on a militaristic look.
Mid-century modernism influenced the 1950's jewelry period with the use of abstract sprays of diamonds in mixed cuts, starbursts and "atomic" shapes. Textured gold dominated this decade with Florentine finishes, foxtail chain, twisted rope, braided wire, mesh, reeding, fluting and piercing. Gold jewelry without gemstones was worn primarily in the daytime, with diamond jewelry saved for evening looks. Amethyst, turquoise, and coral were the favorite colored gemstones while cultured pearls were gaining acceptance into day wear.
This "Anything Goes" period had little restrictions. 1960's jewelry used yellow gold, platinum and silver with natural gemstone crystals and "drusy" gemstones (micro-crystals forming on a matrix). Cabochon gemstones, such as turquoise, were mixed with round brilliant cut diamonds and other faceted gems set in yellow gold. Artists used organic abstract shapes with jagged edges that were incorporated in textured metals.
In the cool and collected 70's, women began buying their own jewelry. This surge demanded affordable quality and the need for "that something different." To do this, jewelers used non-precious materials such as rock crystal, exotic woods, ivory and coral. Baguette diamonds were mounted into solitaires, necklaces and bracelets and were worn both at night and during the daytime. Long necklaces remained popular. To accentuate the jewelry, gemstones such as lapis lazuli, coral, and onyx were used in 1970's jewelry.
The 1980's saw women gaining equality in the workplace. The televisions shows such as "Dynasty" and "Dallas" created a demand for glitz and glamour, while Princess Diana's wedding triggered a graceful, refined fashion emergence. Colored pearls were fashionable in long or short strands with diamond clasps that could be worn in the front or back. In the 1990's, tanzanite became popular along with aquamarine, and retro designs from almost every period. Jewelry designs could be large and chunky, elegant and sophisticated, or stark and minimalist. Silver gained tremendous popularity, as did toe rings and body jewelry. Pierced ears with four or five earrings started a whole new fashion craze.
As with every era, the new millennium ushered in new designers and new techniques. Colored diamonds hit unprecedented levels of popularity with enticing names such as chocolate diamonds or cognac diamonds and champagne diamonds. Alternate materials including rubber, plastic and stainless steel started appearing with diamonds and pearls.