/ Belle Epoch Period - 1890 to 1915
Edward VII ascended the throne following
the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1901. He and
his wife Alexandra set the tone for the Belle Epoque,
a time when elegance and fashion became society's predominant
values. New wealth flourished among the upper and middle
classes; the automobile, airplane and movie industries
were born. Although Edward died in 1910, the stylistic
period termed "Edwardian" is considered to continue
until World War I.
The figure gained a new importance
in fashion: the feminine S-shape silhouette prevailed.
Fashion drew inspiration from the French courts of the
eighteenth century; it took on an almost ethereal lightness,
with layers of delicate fabrics, lace and feathers. Pale
pastels and monochromatic white-on-white were the dominant
color schemes. Demand for jewelry styles as light and
delicate as the clothing ensued.
Edwardian Bow by Tiffany.
Platinum's strength enabled the
creation of "invisible" settings, in which very
little metal was used to hold a gemstone in place. Such
settings complemented fashion's lightness. Jewelry made
with saw-piercing and filigree techniques matched the
lacy looks of the era. White gold alloys were developed
as a less expensive alternative, and as a substitute for
platinum (considered a strategic metal) during WWI.
and pearls set in platinum were favored for their white-on-white
color scheme, and sense of refined elegance and luxury.
decorative motifs, such as swags, bows, ribbons, tassels,
wreaths and flower garlands, show the neo-classical and
Rococo influences on Edwardian jewelry design.
The new fashion--with its upswept
hair, high collars for day and low necklines for evening--emphasized
the head and neck. Pendants and lavalieres were widely
worn. Particularly popular was the negligee pendant, consisting
of two drops of unequal length suspended from a central
When Edward toured India, Alexandra
developed a keen interest in the style of the Indian princesses,
or Maharajas. This exotic influence started a fashion
for diamond aigrettes (feathers worn as hair ornamnets);
sautoirs (long ropes of pearls or chain ending in a tassel);
and chokers, or "dog collars" (one of Alexandra's
Circle brooches and bar pins, particularly
with lacy filigree designs, were very fashionable. Stars
and crescents were also popular.
A favorite stone of Alexandra's,
amethyst was often included in jewelry of the era. The
combination of these violet stones with white pearls and
green peridots represented the colors of the suffragette
movment; the "g," "w," and "v"
stood for "give women the vote."
Today, diamond engagement
rings from this time period are extremely popular. These
engagement rings often feature filigree detail, and contain
antique diamonds such as the Old Mine Cut and Old European
Cut diamonds. The rings are typically made of platinum
or white gold. Filigree diamond earrings and necklaces,
and white gold and platinum wedding bands, are the ideal
complement to such engagement rings.
The Edwardian style
of jewelry had its beginnings in the Late-Victorian era.
The princess of Wales had already become a trend setter
with jewelry fashion. The official beginning of the period
was 1901, when Edward VII took the throne, at the age
of 56. The Edwardian Period was a time when elegance and
fashion became society's predominant values. Fashion,
although inspired from the French courts of the eighteenth
century, took on an almost ethereal lightness. Layers
of delicate lace and feathers were incorporated onto garments
rendered in the palest pastels or white on white.
Diamonds were an essential ingredient in Edwardian Jewelry
which represents some of the finest examples of diamond
and platinum jewelry in existence. Edwardian jewelry was
made to look as light and delicate as possible, reflecting
the femininity of the Edwardian lady. This was the first
time jewelry was made to be worn at night, lit by electricity,
Advances made in
platinum fabrication led to the creation of fine, delicate
and sophisticated jewels, resembling diamond encrusted
lace. The strength of platinum was fully exploited. It
became possible to create jewels that resembled "petit
point" embroidery. Edwardian brooches, rings and
pendants were often made in this fashion. Milgraining
was a typical decorative technique used throughout the
Edwardian period. It is a border of small balls or ridges
around a setting or on the outer edges of the jewelry
that gives a piece a softer and lighter look, similar
to the edge of a coin.
A number of examples of Edwardian Jewelry reflect Art
Nouveau lines, while others show an Art Deco influence
with subtle geometric patterns. That being said, Edwardian
Jewelry was not as narcissistic as Art Nouveau Jewelry,
nor as self absorbed as Art Deco Jewels. It had an understated
elegance and noble opulence that reflected the tastes
of the people it adorned. Some unique and very sweet jewels
emerged at this time. The négligée pendant
became fashionable. This Edwardian necklace had two drops
of unequal length, dangling from either a single stone
or central element, all suspended from a very fine chain.
The sautoir (or long
necklace) was usually made of pearls and ended in a tassel.
An excellent example of a sautoir is pictured on the right.
This was one of the most fashionable of the Edwardian
Jewels and a personal favorite of Queen Alexandra.
Stars, ribbons and
bows were favorite motifs for Edwardian Jewelry. Diamonds
were the most popular gemstone of the period, but amethysts,
peridots, demantoid garnets from the Urals, pale blue
sapphires from Montana, unheated aquamarines displaying
subtle green undertones and black opals from Australia
were also favored. These colored gems were frequently
combined with tiny pearls or diamonds. The ladidary arts
became much more sophisticated in the early 1900's. Calibré-cut
rubies, emeralds, sapphires and amethysts were set with
baguette, triangular, trapeze, and marquise shaped diamonds.
Although Edward VII
died in 1910, the "Edwardian" style continued
until the outbreak of the war. World War I put an abrupt
end to the light hearted Edwardian spirit. Life changed
overnight and jewelry all but disappeared, either hid
away in secure vaults or sold. Precious metal became scarce
and platinum, which was used in the manufacture of armaments,
disappeared almost entirely from the market!