The beautiful, intricate silver jewellery of the Edwardian era delights people today as much as it did when it was created in the dawn of the 20th century. The age of Edward VII is the last time in history that an English monarch gave his name to a style of jewellery, and Edwardian pieces are still valued now.
The Edwardian Era of Art Nouveau
King Edward VII ruled England from 1901 to 1910, though the Edwardian era is usually considered to begin earlier, while Edward was still Prince of Wales, and to extend through to 1914 when World War I began. The period was also known as La Belle Epoque in continental Europe and may be referred to as the Art Nouveau era.
Although the sociopolitical arena of the time was not calm, the age was still a lighthearted one for many of the upper class. The emphasis was on parties and generally having fun, likely because Edward himself was quite representative of this lifestyle. It was also a time of affluence, given the rise in a wealthy upper-middle class. In addition to a renewed appreciation for handcrafted jewellery, replacing the former interest in machine-worked pieces that had been popular due to their novelty, there was also money to spend on it.
Fashion Following the Mood of the Day
Along with the lightheartedness of the period came an appreciation for lighter, more finely worked pieces of jewellery that still had traditional roots. Cartier’s designers, for example, looked at motifs used in buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries for inspiration.
Around the same time, new methods for working platinum made it possible to fashion the metal so finely that it could be made to resemble lace. Using the new oxyacetylene torch, artisans were able to work the solid platinum into silver jewellery with a myriad of shapes such as flowers, garlands, and bows, which could then have precious stones incorporated into them. The garland, in particular, became a hallmark of Edwardian style.
Precious Stones Incorporated
By far, diamonds were the most commonly used stones in Edwardian jewellery. New innovations in cutting them, which allowed for a more precisely round shape, assisted designers in perfecting the look they wanted.
Pearls were also often incorporated, as the white colour matched well with the diamond and platinum. Black onyx and black opals became a trend, particularly around 1910 when black-and-white dress became fashionable. Among the other gemstones that found their way into pieces of this era were sapphires, peridots, rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and garnets.
Types of Pieces Created
The pieces in fashion fluctuated along with the dress styles, particularly as changing necklines required different types of jewellery to set them off. King Edward’s wife, Anne of Denmark, was particularly fond of “dog collars,” which were chokers consisting of metal and stonework only or sometimes featuring the jewellery set onto black cloth. Other items included:
- Necklaces: Taking over from pins and brooches, these ranged from pendants to long ropes.
- Bracelets: Styles focused on lighter designs and wearing fewer at a time, and the precious stones might only be on the top, decreasing the cost.
- Earrings: Rather than simple studs, these were now longer, more delicate pieces that flowed with the wearer’s movement, much like the dresses.
- Tiaras: Commonly used by the upper class because of the platinum, these were now lighter and featured garlands and loops with gemstones.
- Rings: They often were worn stacked up on the fingers.
- Barrettes, buckles, and hair combs: All these accessories were used to complete and enhance an overall look.
Although the Edwardian period of jewellery did not last much longer than the king’s reign, it produced unique and beautiful pieces. For examples of these and other traditional styles, look at the antique jewellery offerings at Colonial Acres. If you need help finding something similar, please don’t hesitate to contact us!