Various styles were propagated throughout the period. Named “Georgian” after the four English kings, George I- George IV, who reigned during the peak of
the British Empire’s global influence on the aesthetics and customs of its colonies. Three main styles dominated the period; these architectural trends
set the course for jewelry and decorative art styles at the time. During George I’s reign from 1714 to 1727, Rococo, an offshoot of the elaborate decorative ornamentation of Baroque architecture and design, was the prevailing style. This gave way to Gothic Revival, which took its inspiration from surviving medieval structures and having a decidedly structural and rigid appearance. Neoclassical began in the latter half of the 18th century as a reaction against the sharp, overly-ornamented styles of the previous two movements. Harking back to the Classical Western artistic canon, a return to purity was sought, emulating the idealized images of beauty and clean fluid lines of ancient Greece and Rome.
Victorian (1830s - 1900)
The Victorian era, named after Queen Victoria (the longest reigning British monarch who ruled from 1837 to 1901), marked an era of prosperity and the
rise of industrialization and the middle class. The Victorian era in England had three distinct periods, Romantic, Grand, and Late Victorian, while jewelry of the time throughout Europe took on a variety of revival forms. The end of the Victorian era coincided with the rise of Belle Époque in France and the beginnings of Art Nouveau. Transitions in style during the period were not abrupt and some pieces exhibit multiple influences. Jewelry during this period not only reflected wealth, but social standing and status. Rules were set to deem appropriate jewelry. Young, unmarried women could only wear the simplest of jewelry, where as diamonds and gems could only be worn by women “of a certain age.” American women were lax in following these
European standards, and as a result were criticized for being inappropriate in their jewelry displays.
Art Nouveau (1890s - 1914)
Coinciding with “La Belle Époque” in France and the Late Victorian Period in England, Art Nouveau was a style intended to stand against the industrialization of jewelry and decorative arts. The style marked the turn of the century and the coming of the “modern age.” Although the period was shortlived, the jewelry and art from that era was a radical shift from the somber mass-produced style of the Victorian era. The designs were innovative and intensely creative, refusing to reference the past but instead incorporating fluid, sinuous lines and soft curves. The nude female figure or female head with long flowing hair was a popular motif, as were nature themes of butterflies, dragonflies, insects, orchids, irises, water lilies and poppies., produced in pastel colors.
Edwardian (1901s - 1910)
After the death of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and his queen, Alexandria, ascended the throne of England and brought a cosmopolitan update to society, fashion and jewelry. The period was a time of great social change and witnessed the rise of an extremely wealthy upper class, coinciding with “The Gilded Age” in America. The period included a mix of styles, those from the earlier Victorian era, the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movement. The hallmarks of true Edwardian design include light and airy pieces, created in delicate filigree of diamonds and platinum or white gold, resembling lace. Pearls were also in fashion along with chokers, jewels for the hair, and long dangling earrings. Monochromatic “white-on- white” pieces were very popular, made possible by the use of platinum which lent itself to very delicate sculpting. Motifs included garlands, bows, and tassels formed into bar pins, tiaras, multiple strands of pearls worn as a choker. Scalloped edges were also common in jewelry.
Art Deco (1920s - 1939)
“Art Deco” as a term was coined in 1960 by art historian Bevis Hillier to describe the movement known as Style Moderne. The distinctive style of the 1920s and 30s borrowed heavily from other Modernism movements of the time and was established as a distinct style by members of the French artist collective known as La Société des artistes décorateurs, following the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels held in Paris. 2 Antique and Estate Jewelry | Lewand | January 2014 Though born in France, Art Deco was almost entirely an American phenomenon, fueled by the decadence of “The Roaring Twenties.” The movement affected the decorative arts most profoundly, in the commercial fields of architecture, graphic arts, industrial design, and jewelry design. The style is easily recognizable by the use of clean lines, trapezoidal shapes, stepped edges, and arched corners. Unlike the sinuous lines of Art Nouveau, Art Deco emphasized linearity and geometric form.
Retro (1935s - 1950)
The Retro jewelry period, or Cocktail jewelry as it is sometimes called, took place during World War II. As a reaction to this dire world conflict, jewelry became bolder, brighter, and more light-hearted. Unlike the Art Deco style, Retro jewelry has soft curves and feminine motifs, set off against the severe silhouettes of women’s war-time wardrobes. Gold regained popularity, as platinum was essential to the war effort and scarcely available for commercial use. Different colors of gold, such as yellow, rose, and green, were used in striking combinations. Popular gemstones included aquamarines, topaz, and citrines, as well as synthetic rubies and sapphires (often in huge rectangular cuts), which were used in cocktail rings, oversized bracelets, and watches. Patriotic themes were popular, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies were often paired together, and three dimensional sculptural ribbons, bows, and folds made out of metal were common.