Design Inspiration: Historical Jewelry

Old jewelry is having a moment againat least when it comes to exploring historic and trendy jewelry styles from the 19th and 20th centuries. According to GIA (Gemological Institute of America, the top authority in gemology), todays jewelry designs often interpret the same stones, shapes, and patterns as they did in bygone eras. A look back at past eras reflects the similarities between eras.


Victorian Period (1837-1901)

During the reign of Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom, various styles were popular – the early Victorian period (1837-1861) was characterized by romantic nature; the mid-Victorian period (1861-1880), with the death of Prince Albert, was popular with mosaics. Memorial jewelry with black gemstones such as coal jade; while jewelry from the late Victorian period (1880-1901) tended to be lightweight and chic. Cameo gemstones follow the local customs. Some jewelry from the Victorian period was a recreation of past cultures, inspired by ancient Assyrian, Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Egyptian, Gothic and Renaissance themes.


Art Nouveau Era (1890-1914)

Art Nouveau (Art Nouveau in French) jewelry styles are very different from the Historical Revival style. It is inspired by nature and characterized by imagination and twists of artistic expression. Flowers, animals, butterflies and insect patterns are common, as are various imaginary characters such as fairies and mermaids. The female subject is transformed into an exotic creature, symbolizing the beginning of the women’s liberation movement. Actress Sarah Bernhardt was a patron of Art Nouveau. The jewelry designs of René Lalique are also classic examples of this style.


Edwardian Era (1900-1915)

Edwardian jewelry is known for its “garland” style, usually a wreath tied with a ribbon and bow. This type of jewelry is extremely luxurious and is often used by rich people to show off their wealth. Upper-class women such as Alexandra, Princess of Wales, wore this decorative style of jewelry, which originated from 18th-century ornaments. Silver was often replaced by platinum, a result of technological advances that showed jewelers becoming more comfortable with the metal. Diamonds have a higher availability and special attention is paid to the quality of the stone in addition to improved facets. Phenomenal gemstones such as opal, moonstone and alexandrite are highly prized, as are exceptionally fine diamonds and pearls. Rare and expensive colored diamonds are set on a platinum base with exquisite craftsmanship, which is the most distinctive theme of the Edwardian era.


Art Deco Era (1920s and 1930s)

Art Deco jewelry emerged after World War I and contrasted with the ethereal splendor of Art Nouveau era styles and the delicate elegance of the Wreath style. Geometric patterns are refined and elegant in bold and contrasting colors [especially white (diamond) and black (onyx), or white and blue (sapphire), red (ruby) and/or green (emerald)], A good reflection of post-war pragmatism. Platinum was extremely popular during this period. Abstract patterns and sleek, streamlined designs became a fad until 1939, when World War II broke out. Designs of the time were also influenced by Mughal carved gemstones.


Retro period (1940s)

In the early 1940s, vintage jewelry was often made from yellow or rose gold, due to the high demand for jewelry and the heavy use of platinum in the military. Bold, sculptural curves are often seen in conservative settings with small diamonds and rubies (often synthetic) or with cheaper, larger stones such as citrine, amethyst and garnet. The late 1940s reflected the post-war boom, and more ornate uses for colored gemstones were discovered. The design is inspired by mechanical objects such as bicycle chains and padlocks. In contrast, floral and bow patterns show the feminine side.


21st century

Modern jewelry has reincorporated many of these historical themes. Exceptional gem carvings, such as the extraordinary works of Idar-Oberstein, are still highly appreciated. In fact, some modern artists exclusively use gemstones as a medium for abstract art, similar to the imaginative Art Nouveau era.


In the 1990s, it was as prosperous as it was in the Edwardian era, with a renewed rush for rare and precious diamonds and extraordinary gemstones. New high-tech cuts such as the princess cut and radiant cut were introduced, and there was a renewed interest in older cuts such as the starry cut, rose cut, and old mine cut. A number of new gem setting techniques also emerged in the 1990s, such as hidden setting and tension setting of diamonds. In the late 1980s, unique blends of gemstones in pavé settings were introduced. Patterns of butterflies and dragons are back, along with a slightly earthy Art Nouveau style.

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