The Six Eras of Antique Jewelry

June 23, 2014 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

There were six separate and distinct eras in jewelry that spanned the years from the 1700s to the 1950s. Although the periods do sometimes overlap one another, the following is the widely accepted breakdown of the jewelry historical eras.

The Georgian Era (1714 – 1837)

Georgian Era Party with Jewelry

The Georgian Era lasted for over 120 years and spanned four English Kings: King George I, King George II, King George III, and King George IV. While the era is impressive simply because of the length of time it encompassed, the reality is that during the Georgian Era jewelry advanced much more slowly than the jewelry styles of other eras.

High-quality Georgian Era jewelry is very difficult to find today. Most of the fine Georgian jewelry is sitting in museums, is lost, or hasn’t passed the test of time.

Jewelry pieces from this Georgian Era consisted of yellow gold and silver. The common stones found in Georgian jewelry consist of foil-backed diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies, glass, paste, topaz, and garnet.

Primitive stone cutting tools and handcrafting techniques were used and therefore it is often very easy to date Georgian Jewelry.

The diamond cuts are point cuts, table cuts, old mine cuts, antique cushion cuts, single cuts, and rose cuts.

To learn more about the jewelry from the Georgian Era, click here to read our complete guide.

The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)

Victorian Era Women with Jewelry at Ball Title Image

Not surprisingly, the Victorian Era is a reference to Queen Victoria of England. She reigned during the 1800s and was she was directly responsible for many of the important changes in the jewelry styles. The era itself splits into three periods. Each of these three stages correlates to the different periods of Queen Victoria’s life.

  • The Romantic Victorian Era
  • The Grand Victorian Era
  • The Aesthetic Victorian Era

Jewelry from the Victorian Era is far more prevalent than during the Georgian Era and easier to find. Gold and silver remained the most popular metals in Victorian Era Jewelry. Stones popular during this time were garnets, amethyst, turquoise, sapphires, pearls, and diamonds. Motifs involving animals, especially snakes were very popular.

Edwardian Era (1901 – 1915)

Edwardian Era Party with Women Wearing Jewelry

The Edwardian Era follows the reign of England’s King Edward VII. King Edward VII reigned from 1901-1910 and was the last monarch to serve as a namesake in jewelry history.

This very important jewelry period, also known as La Belle Epoque Era, is the first time platinum was officially a part of the jewelry scene. Although platinum was first crafted together with gold, it very quickly grew in popularity and was later an item of its own.

Diamonds and pearls retained their prestigious status during this period.

Compared to those of the Victorian Era, Edwardian engagement rings and other pieces from the Edwardian Era are ornate, intricate, and flowery. Contributing to this style are the techniques of openwork filigree and fine milgrain introduced during the Edwardian times.

Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)

Art Nouveau Ceiling

The Art Nouveau period, derived from the French for “New Art,” was named after the 1895 opening of Siegfried Bing’s Parisian gallery “Maison de l’Art Nouveau.” This era’s aesthetics is also Arts and Crafts, Jugendstil, Liberty Style, and Secession, to name a few.

Designs of this era are organic, flowery, and draping. While the timeframe of the period overlaps with the Edwardian Era, the styles were entirely different. While Edwardian Era jewelry is full of detail, symmetrical, and delicate, Art Nouveau jewelry is a celebration of free form. Art Nouveau style contains an organic structure with no symmetry.

Genuine Art Nouveau jewelry from the early 1900s is very difficult to find. The Art Nouveau jewelry that has survived is very hard to obtain.

Click here to learn more about the Art Nouveau Era.

Art Deco Era (1920 – 1945)

Art Deco Era Party with Jewelry and Music

The Art Deco period, emerging after the conclusion of World War I, took its name from the French architect Le Corbusier. He titled the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes simply “1925 Expo: Art Deco.”

A far cry from Georgian Era and Victorian Era jewelry, Art Deco Jewelry is known for being geometrical, angular, and clean look. The Art Deco style inspired many architects to design landmarks using these concepts.

Platinum was the primary metal of the Art Deco Era. The diamonds, sapphire, rubies, onyx, and emeralds helped assert the bold and prominent aesthetics of the time.

If you want to learn more about the Art Deco Era, click here.

Retro Era (1939 – 1950)

Retro Era Jewelry-Eras-Headings.jpg

The Retro Era concluded with the end of World War II. The style is heavily inspired by the war and the victory that followed.

The symmetrical element from the Art Deco Era was not disregarded with the shift into the Retro Era, but rather was interpreted into a bolder and stronger design.

Retro Era jewelry was large and bold. Gemstones were large and colorful. Platinum and yellow gold were both common. White gold began to gather traction because of shortages of platinum but still remained the secondary choice.

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Which jewelry era is your favorite? What is your favorite era among the six eras of antique jewelry? Tell us in the comments below.