The Georgian Period: How Did This Era Influence Jewellery Craftmanship?
The Georgian period, from 1714-1837, was an era of great development, worldwide societal changes, technological and fashion advancements all of which had a significant impact on the jewellery trends of the time.
History was in the making with influential individuals and events such as Mozart and Gainsborough, Neoclassicism and the Rococo period and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In terms of the reigning Monarchy, the period was defined by the Hanoverian Monarchs of the United Kingdom, comprising of the four Georges; George I (r. 1714-1727) – 52nd in line to the throne, George II (r. 1727-1760), George III (r. 1760-1820) the longest reigning king in English history, George IV (r. 1820-1830) along with William IV (r. 1830-1837). There has been much debate surrounding the reign of William IV and whether the Georgian period concluded after the death of George IV, as such, there does exist some overlap of periods.
In America it was a period marked by a Revolution, George Washington and explorations by Louis and Clark; in France, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Josephine and Marie Louise; in Russia, the reign of Catherine the Great. All of this, combined with great strides in science and world exploration, the advent of rail travel and a changing role for women in society created the perfect backdrop for the creation of the magnificent jewellery we call Georgian.
For the privileged and elite, the 18th century saw the expansion of evening pursuits as improvements in the manufacture of candles gave rise to longer burning and brighter candles. Balls and soirees become a popular fixture, which made way for the need to craft day and evening jewellery.
Women often wore pearls, garnets, moss agate or colored gems or paste in daytime. The most formal evening events, courts, balls and receptions were the only appropriate times to wear diamond jewellery. As a result, diamonds surged in popularity. Mines opened in Golconda, India and Brazil began to produce stones in the 1720s. Now diamonds were more readily available.
In terms of the metals used, silver or gold was in use; platinum was not as yet discovered and white gold was not used in jewellery. Rose gold, yellow gold, silver, and sometimes green or red gold were employed. Most diamond jewellery was almost always set in silver; the sentiments of the time were that the silver color of the metal enhanced the properties of diamonds, whereas a gold surrounding did not. Coloured gems were set in gold. Mounts or bezels for jewels were frequently set in a closed setting, a cut away setting or in a very early claw setting (usually seen for early large pastes). The first two mountings show a good bit of metal that comes up around the sides of the stone, thereby encasing the stone in metal.
Stylistically, the earlier part of the century saw a more ornate form of jewellery with complex and frilly designs. Some examples of the themes and motifs used in the earlier 18th century were bows, floral designs, giardinetti (Italian for ‘little garden’) and feathers while later times saw classical themes such as arrows, quivers, lyres, intaglios, and geometric forms.
The ring below is a fabulous Georgian Giardinetti ring featuring rose cut diamonds and rubies typical of the era resembling a floral arrangement, set in silver with a simple yet appropriate shank for this period.