May 20, 2011 2

Georgian and Victorian Era – Antique Jewelry

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An¬†antique (Latin: antiquus; old) is an old¬†collectible item. It is desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, personal or emotional connection. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society. It is common practice to define “antique”, as applying to objects that are at least 100 years old.

Antique jewelry is defined by and classified into different time Era’s. Below we will explore jewelry from 1714–1900, also known as the Georgian Jewelry era and the Victorian Jewelry era.

Antique jewelry

Georgian Jewelry (1714-1837)

Georgian jewelry was most often handmade, eliminating mass production and making each piece unique. This era was notably one of opulence and self indulgence in beauty, luxury, royalty. An example of this was Catherine the Greats’ coronation, where she wore a 75 yard train gown and a crown with 2,564 diamonds and pearls.

The quality of Georgian jewelry is quite varied, depending on the maker of each piece of jewelry. Georgian jewelry often featured shapes from nature, such as birds, flowers and leaves. Jewelry from this period included precious and semi precious stones such as garnets, diamonds, coral, and topaz.

Georgian jewelry is very rare because as time passed and the jewelry became worn out, it was melted or taken apart and re-made into more modern designs. This was a result of materials like gold, silver and diamonds being very scarce and expensive. At that time, little consideration was taken for fine craftsmanship and people were more interested in wearing their gold and diamonds according to the latest fashion in jewelry.

georgian Jewelry

Victorian Jewelry (1837-1900)

The Victorian period can roughly be divided into 3 distinct periods; the Romantic (1837 – 1860), the Grand (1861 – 1885), and the Late or Aesthetic Period (1880 – 1901).

The Victorian era can attribute its designated name to Queen Victoria’s reign which was from June 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901.

The Victorian era is known for its eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles and the introduction of cross-cultural influences from the Middle East and Asia. Victorian design is widely viewed as being overly indulgent displaying excessive ornamentation.

Victorian Jewelry

Early Victorian Jewelry – The Romantic Period (1837-1860)

Early Victorian Jewelry, like Georgian Jewelry, often reflected nature based designs. These designs were commonly etched in intricate gold filigree patterns. Lockets and brooches were also very popular during this time period. For evening wear, one would often display jewelry with gemstones or diamonds.

Mid-Victorian Jewelry – The Grand Period (1861-1885)

The Grand Period coincided with the death of Queen Victoria‚Äôs husband, Albert, where she went into a period of mourning for him. Many jewelry pieces from the Mid-Victorian period had a more subdued and somber design. ‚ÄúMourning‚Äù pieces made of black jet, onyx and deep red garnets abounded. A variety of different materials that were black were used to make jewelry and almost all pieces included a lock of the dead loved one’s hair. Hair was plaited, braided or twisted very tightly until it became hard and thread like. To many of us living today, the use of hair is an unattractive side of some antique jewelry. This period also resulted in different ways of using gems and metals, which resulted in much bolder and more colorful designs.


Late Victorian Jewelry – The Aesthetic Period (1880-1901)

The Aesthetic Period was named after a group of talented artists, poets, writers and actors who were known as the Aesthetes; known to be fastidious about every detail of fashion.

Late Victorian jewelry design was very feminine with the use of vibrant colors and a multitude of gemstones. Fashion accessories such as hat pins or decorative hair combs set with pearls were especially popular. In the 1890’s, broad “dog collars” of diamonds was a style highly favored by the Princess of Wales.

Unlike other antiquities, antique jewelry is distinct in that it can still be worn, and so put to its original use of complimenting fashion and beauty.



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