Kings and queens have shaped the jewellery scene as we know it for centuries. Geographical discoveries have inspired timeless patterns and shapes, and wars have morphed materials and creativity into magical, ethereal expressions of love and beauty in jewellery.
Among the many beautiful jewellery periods that influenced creation, the Edwardian era carries its weight in terms of materials and delicacy. After one of the longest eras in jewellery, the Victorian era that was filled with discoveries around the world and creativity molded into mass-production, the Edwardian jewellery period brought about its lot of beauty and fun.
How has the Edwardian jewellery era helped in bringing to life jewellery we are still wearing to this day? Why is it that important to our modern society? How, even, can Edwardian jewellery outlive its 20th Century blossoming and be modernized and cherished today? That is what, at Carus Jewellery, we want to show today - so you can understand the history of our most beautiful pieces - and make them your own.
The Edwardian Era: A brief historical context
The Edwardian era follows the reign of Queen Victoria, a reign during which jewellery trends were largely influenced by the Queen’s deep feelings for her husband and her people. The Victorian era was one of creativity in jewellery, following the moods and trends of the Queen herself, from floral and romantic designs to the use of dark materials after her husband, Prince Albert’s death.
The mass-production of jewellery taking place during the Victorian era was triggered by the increase of factories, giving way to a new middle class that could afford wealthy and colorful jewellery for soirées.
The Edwardian era, on the other hand, focuses more intently on the aristocracy, following the luxurious ways of King Edward VII, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s eldest son, and his wife Queen Alexandra. Technically speaking, the Edwardian era already started in 1890, when the young couple started making the trends in jewellery and fashion. Enamels and glass pastes were far less used, giving way to wealthy materials and gems such as diamond and platinum.
The Gilded Age lived alongside two other popular movements, Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau and although they shared some stylistic features, they were all but different in terms of lines, materials and cuts. The Edwardian era only took an end at the beginning of WWI, which required all valuables to be lent to the war effort - a short era that is characterized by the richness of its materials and techniques.
Styles and Motifs of the Edwardian Jewellery
Wealthy materials and techniques to accompany the aristocrat luxury
The Edwardian era almost entirely dismissed the mass-produced jewellery techniques brought about by the Georgian and more broadly, the Victorian era. Rather, handcrafted jewellery strongly came back in style, detailed, intricate, exquisite - to the image of King Edward II and his love of opulence.
Indeed, luxurious materials were the protagonist of jewellery shaped during the Edwardian era, with diamonds paving the way. The Cartier house became the official jewellery supplier to King Edward VII and melted platinum into many styles of the era. Pearls were also a very widely used material, complimenting the white and pastel fashion styles of the moment and became at that time more valuable as diamonds, which became more affordable in the Edwardian era.
Sapphires, diamonds and pearls were sourced from all around the world in this period of prosperity and peace. More colorful gems were also very much in fashion, such as amethysts and garnets, bringing color to a very monochromatic period in the history of jewellery.
Edwardian Jewellery: patterns and motifs inspired by light
Lightness and finesse were a priority of La Belle Époque, and rendered possible by the wide use of platinum, a more affordable and easier-to-work material than gold. Strong and white, it suited the trends of the feminine fashion of the time perfectly while allowing intricate, lace-like settings and patterns.
New jewellery techniques were developed during the Edwardian jewellery era, among which filigree settings and invisible settings that made the diamonds appear to float lightly on the skin. Jewellery of that time was lent a rich, whimsical finesse look, often through the use of another technique called millegrain, that nested pearls around the edges of jewellery pieces, thus making the metal disappear into the intricacy of the design.
In terms of styles, luxurious, heavy jewellery made its way into the royal balls, from heavy rings to delicately crafted sautoirs, a type of long pearl necklace often ending in tassels. Chokers, also called dog collars, were heavily ornate, tight-fitting necklaces sporting rows upon rows of gems or pearls on velvet, and were all the rage under King Edward VII’s reign.
Bracelets with a strong front section and plain links that tapered away under the wrist also shared the spotlight, leaving the gems on the front to twinkle magically. Tiaras and bandanas could at that time double as necklaces or bracelets, and brooches were still very much en vogue, giving a multi dimension to an already rich period in jewellery.
Very delicate motifs were molten into timeless designs, often in a dropping pattern; ribbon bows, hearts, flowers and leaves, suggesting finesse, light and frivolity that characterises the Edwardian era and fashion to perfection.
Rows upon rows of pearls, stil all natural at that time, would showcase opulence, mimicking the competition to wealth that aristocrats of all countries showcased during King Edward VII’s coronation. As such, rings were stacked, necklaces were crafted in rows of delicacy, with large center gems and drop patterns.
Edwardian Jewellery and modern society
The exquisite period of Edwardian wealth suddenly came to a stop when the First World War broke out in 1914, four years after King Edward VII’s death. All the valuables were promptly given to the war effort, and the war brought to a halt Buckingham Palace high-society parties and aristocratic balls.
Some of the openness and light characteristics of the Edwardian jewellery trends can still be observed in today’s jewellery, for instance with the millegrain technique of making the metal disappear under a delicate design, and all of the jewellery created around that period is still very much wearable today.
The refined period of jewellery that is the Edwardian era secured a place in our collections with timeless pieces that you can still come across toda. The affluence and subtlety of the Edwardian jewellery makes pieces from this period a flashy, yet delicate present for yourself or a loved one. Should you wish to own a valuable that personifies opulence, wealth and an all-around beautiful period of peace in your life, Carus Jewellery is prompt to help you find the jewellery of your dreams. Here is one of my favorites: https://carusjewellery.com/product/18ct-gold-sapphire-diamond-ring-2/