A request I often receive is for a piece of jewellery that is beautiful and unique, yet timeless. However, iconic jewellery trends through the decades demonstrate how preferences in jewellery have changed significantly.
Georgian (1714 – 1835)
The Georgian period spans the reigns of five English kings and distinguishing factors of their jewellery trends include intricate and intensive work. Stones were often set in closed-back settings and jewellery often showcased numerous enamel with ribbon and foliate motifs. Other common elements include bow motifs and teardrop shapes and jewellery could feature everything from diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, topaz, citrine, and amethysts. Specifically, chandelier earrings, ancient cameos, and Riviere necklaces were very popular.
Victorian (1837 – 1901)
The long reign of Queen Victoria ultimately was a heavy influence to the jewellery trends of the era. Initially, jewellery trends were romantic, including floral motifs and love symbols, and later, when Prince Albert passed, jewellery trends represented the mourning period and thereby transitioned to black enamel details. Jewellery featured darker motifs like skeletons and skulls and gems often used include onyx or black glass. Interestingly, after Prince Albert offered Queen Victoria a snake engagement ring, serpents became an increasingly popular motif in jewellery. Lastly, from 1881 – 1901, diamonds were downgraded and became a style to be worn everyday and jewellery often included motifs such as peacocks, insects, flowers, and japanese-inspired forms.
Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)
The Art Nouveau era demonstrated jewellery trends relating to organic forms and nature. Jewellery often drew inspiration from nature including birds, flowers, and the female form, and had a softer feel. During this era, materials such as moulded glass, ivory, and precious stones became more common.
Edwardian (1901 – 1915)
Throughout the last decade of the 1800’s, machine-made jewellery faced rejection which caused a stir in the jewellery world. Jewellery transitioned from large and ostentatious to delicate and dainty almost overnight. As a result, the fluidity of the lines of the Art Nouveau movement were borrowed and incorporated into more traditional motifs, creating what we know as Edwardian jewellery. Interestingly, Cartier encouraged their designers to wander Parisian streets in search of seventeenth and eighteenth-century architecture for inspiration. As a result, the company grew very popular due to its intricate and delicate designs.
Garlands and ribbons, bow knots, tassels, and lace grew popular due to advances in platinum fabrication. Consequently, the strength of platinum was fully employed and jewels that were fine and delicate where ultimately possible to create. This is due to platinum’s strength that allows a jeweller to mount stones in very minimalistic settings. As a result, a new technique for decorating jewellery termed Milligraining was often featured on Edwardian jewellery. Milligraining features a border of delicate balls and ridges that would surround a gemstone which would result in the jewellery looking softer and lighter.
Interestingly, diamond ‘dog collars’ became a fashion fixture which were tight fitting necklaces. These pieces ranged from elaborate platinum designs to simple black velvet with designs at the centre. Additionally, these pieces could be made of strands of pearls, often several rows wide. Another necklace trend included the tight-fitting resille style necklace which Cartier called the draperie de decollete. This was because the necklace not only covered the entire neck but continued onto the bodice with diamond-set platinum nets.
Art Deco (1920 – 1935)
There isn’t quite any other era that has continued to resonate so emphatically through history than the Art Deco age. A decadent period of prohibition parties, cocktails, and glamour, the Art Deco age touched the world of jewellery. Art deco trends often have striking colour combinations and highly stylised decorative elements. In jewellery, these trends emerged as geometric shapes and strong colours. Additionally, as a result of designers’ travels to various destinations, exotic jewels became popular. Motifs from ancient Egyptian, Persian, Indian, Greek, and Japanese civilisations were all popular and as a result, the jewellery of this era were the most inventive and impeccable.
In the art deco era, there was an intense rivalry between Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. This era led the way to Cartier’s legendary Tutti Frutti jewels that were inspired by Jacques Cartier’s travels to India. Their jewellery often featured carved rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Van Cleef was also admired through their setting of three types of semi-precious stones rather than diamonds. They were able to showcase a new stone-cutting technique which led to hexagonal cut peridots, citrines and amethysts. Furthermore, Van Cleef developed their famous mystery setting, a method of invisibly setting gems, which remains sophisticated and time-consuming even today.
Retro (1940 – 1950)
Jewellery from the Retro era often featured bold, chunky gold that was showcasing large less costly gemstones. This includes, citrine, aquamarine, topaz, and tourmaline and the use of less expensive stones and materials was a result of limited resources during the wartime. The sober style of the WWII era was featured in jewellery designs of this time, therefore, flowers, bows, and butterflies were often incorporated.
2000s – Colored diamonds, and timeless classic diamond jewellery.
Today, preferences lean towards classic jewellery pieces and pink diamonds. Pink diamonds dominated the news in 2021, whether it be at auctions, tenders, or mining operations, not a week went by without something ‘pink’ to report. Furthermore, the significant prices of pink diamonds have made them the most portable form of wealth on our planet.
Another interesting colour of diamonds is yellow diamonds, especially in oval shapes. Oval diamonds have been super trendy for the last few years, and especially coloured diamonds in ovals are sought after.
I find it so interesting to follow the different jewellery trends, and If you want a piece of jewellery that will stay timeless forever, then I suggest the following three.