Jewellery by Antique Era
The Georgian era is a period in British history from 1714 to c. 1830–37, named eponymously after the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV. The sub-period that is the Regency era is defined by the regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III. The definition of the Georgian era is often extended to include the relatively short reign of William IV, which ended with his death in 1837.
Georgian jewellery is characterised by the use of rose-cut and table-cut stones frequently taken from older pieces as diamonds were scarce in number. Silver and gold cut-down settings were used for stones and exquisite ‘canitille’ gold-work is seen as the jewellery became lighter and more sophisticated moving away from the heavy enamels of the seventeenth century.
Common motifs are stars, ribbons, scrolls and flowers. Popular trends were memorial jewellery, cameos and intaglios, neoclassical motifs, Berlin iron and painted miniatures. Many Georgian pieces were later re-set to reflect more contemporary Victorian design, making original and intact pieces highly collectable.
Early Georgian jewellery combines elegance with design. Flowers, ribbons, crosses and bows were executed into light and pretty asymmetrical designs. Diamonds, mined in India, mostly cut into rose and table cuts, release more light than ever before. The stones were generally closed in at the reverse with a fine layer of beaten silver ‘foil’ to reflect the light back into and through the stone. Jewellery is mounted in silver and gold and is worn by people in society and those with extreme wealth.
Since love was a major preoccupation of eighteenth-century society there are many jewels of sentiment, containing the hair of loved ones, decorated with the symbols of Cupid’s quiver, bow and arrows, hearts, hands, turtle doves, snakes and pansies.
Later Georgian jewellery illustrates the return to neo-classical principles. Cameos and intaglios are mounted in symmetrical designs often outlined in royal blue enamel. There is a larger range of more light-hearted decorative daytime jewellery. Sentiment remains an important theme with locks of hair and miniatures enclosed in pendants, rings and bracelets identified by monograms. The sheer prettiness of Georgian jewelled bouquets, insects and fireworks exploding upwards demonstrates how this can be achieved.