Jewellery making, as with all forms of artistry, evolved and changed greatly over the centuries. Subtle nuances often interrupted the prevailing themes of each century, inviting new motifs, materials and colours. In some cases the perspective shifts that altered jewellery making were not exclusive to that medium. Evidence of a movement could be gleaned from looking at a range of other contemporary art, such as painting or sculpture. This would prove that the most significant expressions were multilateral, meaning that the diverse community of artists had distilled the same ideas at the same time. In this article we’re going to look at three such periods of mutual expression, the consequent styles and the designers behind them.
Jewellery was heavily influenced by Britain’s ruling monarchs during the 18th and 19th centuries. Firstly there was the English Georgian period, so-named for the successive kings George I – IV, who encouraged creativity within their kingdoms. After that came the Victorian period (1837 – 1901) led by the po-faced Queen Victoria, fervent patron of the arts. The jewellery from this period was characterised by themes of prosperity, romanticism and sentimentality. These themes were prevalent across a variety of styles and aesthetics. The period also saw a flourish of innovative designs. For the first time hand-chased gold with enamel jewels appeared, as well as dark, sombre mourning jewellery. Then the latter part of the 19th century was enriched by several revival movements that saw the return of Egyptian, Etruscan and Renaissance techniques and motifs. Of the many Victorian jewellery designs that survived there are several recurring motifs, including serpents, stars, butterflies and bows.
The family-run Antique Jewellery Company is based in London and currently sits on some 40 years of experience in the antique jewellery trade. They boast an extensive collection of well-sourced antique, vintage and estate jewellery, including a resplendent collection of jewellery from the Victorian period.
The Edwardian period began in 1901 when Edward, son of Victoria, took his mother’s place on the British throne. Regal elegance and high fashion were the most prolific values of the time and the ornate jewellery designs reflected this. The typical Edwardian style of jewellery was intricately decorated with delicate filigree patterns and simple monochromatic colouration. The dog collar and the sautoir appeared and immediately became popular. For the most part they favoured diamond and pearls over gemstones. At the same time they experimented in advanced forms of metal-work, favouring the whitish silver shine of platinum. The skillful jewellers of this period also found ways of adapting the ribbons, bows and garlands of Victorian jewellery.
The Three Graces is a family-owned jewellery business that was established in 2002. They specialise in antique and fine estate jewellery, whilst also offering a collection of hand-picked and vetted Edwardian pieces. Their name was inspired by a sepia-toned panel depicting three women in a beautiful piazza. They are presumed to be the three muses, of Greek mythology, that personify the salient virtues: truth, beauty and joy.
Art Nouveau was a vibrant movement defined by a style that departed from classical forms and strictures. Quickly the Art Nouveau artists developed a more modernist approach to their practice. This most certainly manifest during the artistic explosion of the Belle Epoque, which began in the late 19th century. The jewellery designs of this period could be distinguished by their sensuous shapes and meticulous detail. Interestingly Art Nouveau has often been characterised as a rather feminine movement, perhaps owing to the recurring usage of the female form, often applied to magical nymphs, fairies or mermaids. Erotic themes were also ever-present and enamelling techniques, such as plique-a-jour and cloisonné, were used to imbue a variety of natural motifs with life. This is evident in the myriad colourful depictions of dragonflies, orchids and water lilies.
London-based designer Alex Monroe has been designing and crafting jewellery for 25 years. His elegant work is inspired by nature and enriched by his whimsical charm and dedication. Monroe stated that his love for the natural world was brought on at a young age when he roamed the fecund countryside of Suffolk, England.