Period - 1714 to 1830
The Late Georgian period includes
the reigns of British monarchs George III and IV, and
William IV. It was a time of social and political upheaval,
during which the American Revolution, the French Revolution
and the Napoleonic Wars were fought. Napoleon crowned
himself Emperor of France in 1804.
A Classical revival during Napoleon's
First Empire changed fashion dramatically. The tight bodices,
full skirts and lace collars of the late eighteenth century
gave way to delicate draped dresses with high waists,
short puffed sleeves and low-cut necklines. Jewelry styles
followed suit; large, heavy pieces were discarded in favor
of smaller, lighter forms, often with draped chains and
Necklaces: Short necklaces flattered
the low necklines of the times. Common styles included
rivieres, which consisted of a row of graduated diamonds
or gemstones; and cameos and mosaics worn en esclavage
(several plaques with two or three rows of draped chain
motifs included diamond-set bows, floral sprays and feathers.
Diamonds: Diamonds were generally accessible
only to royalty and the very rich. The diamonds in antique
jewelry from this period are generally rose cut diamonds.
Georgian Crescent Moon pin brooch with paste stones
Berlin Iron: As
part of the war effort in early nineteenth century Germany,
citizens were asked to donate their gold jewelry. In return
they received black, lacy, cast-iron replicas of their
pieces. The style proved popular and was manufactured
through the middle of the century.
Pieces: Jewelry containing a loved one's
(living or deceased) lock of hair under glass gained popularity
during this time. Other mourning pieces featured funereal
scenes painted on ivory. Navette and oval shapes were
common; inscriptions, seed pearls, garnets, black enamel
and onyx were often included. More about Victorian
In the days before photography, people wore miniature
painted portraits of their loved ones in pendants, brooches
is quite difficult to find on the market today. Antique
jewelry from this era is very collectible and can primarily
be found in antique and estate jewelry stores.
18K gold Georgian Handclasp watch chain.
Jewelry from Georgian
times is relatively rare as when time passed most was
taken apart and refitted to reflect the modern trends
of the time. Materials like gold, silver and diamonds
were very scarce and expensive and little consideration
for posterity was taken when the fine period pieces had
to be dismantled in order to create new jewelry. Something
one would not easily do today. The few exceptional pieces
that have survived all show extraordinary craftsmanship.
Most Georgian Jewelry
available is from the later dates characterized by highly
dimensional repousse. Floral and scroll motifs are typical
of the period and the most common stones used are garnets,
precious topaz, coral and early faceted diamonds set in
During most of the
18th century, diamonds were set in closed silver-settings
and in order to protect the skin from tarnish, the interior
of the pieces was crafted in gold. Jewelry was custom
designed to suit the diamonds that were available. Stones
were never specially cut for the pieces. The most common
cuts used in Georgian designs were rose-cuts and table-cuts.
The setters routinely backed the rose-cut diamonds with
a reflecting foil to enhance the beauty of the diamonds
and so creating the beloved fire, which is best seen under
Care must be taken
when wearing these Georgian foil backed diamonds as the
foil will gradually lose its effect after it has come
in contact with water. The best way to clean the setting
is to use a soft brush and chalk powder to act as a polisher.
It takes a highly skilled goldsmith to professionally
replace the foil.
Standards for gold
in the Georgian era were usually 18kt and higher, giving
the finished jewels a lovely satin luster. The goldsmiths
of the days were not only artisans but also highly trained
technicians and all items were completely handcrafted.
When a gold band had to be formed for a ring, this was
done by melting an alloy and casting it into a bar. Young
apprentices then hand-hammered the block of gold down
to the desired thickness which the master goldsmith could
use to do his magic. An incredibly labor-intensive process.
Around 1750, a new
rolling mill was invented, that would revolutionize the
appearance of all jewelry that came after. It was able
to roll uniform sheets of silver and gold, eliminating
the need for time-consuming hand hammering.
The Georgian era
produced many different styles. On the European continent
it is often spoken of as the Louis styles, named after
the French kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. Around
the dawn of the 19th century we saw the Empire style of
Napoleon Bonaparte. In the century of artistic and political
turmoil there were many forces at work and often at the
Although Louis XIV
died in 1715, at the beginning of the Georgian period,
he did leave a legacy on Georgian jewelry. By revoking
the Edict of Nantes in 1685 he caused a massive emigration
of Huguenots, most of whom found refuge in countries as
Germany, Holland and England. A large percentage of the
Huguenots were artisans and designers. Louis XIV unwittingly
gave the Protestant world some of the best craftsmen to
be found anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
One of the key designers
that influenced jewelry and silversmithing in the early
years of the Georgian period was Daniel Marot, whom, when
in his twenties, found shelter in the then Republic of
Holland. Prince William of Orange, whom later became William
III of England, soon discovered his talents. Marot's designs
for the Royal Court became all the rage amongst London
and Amsterdam beau monde.
Most striking in
his designs is the total symmetry and the use of fabulous
hanging elements like culottes, lambrequins and tassels.
Marot's view on the Baroque influenced the world of art
well until the 1750's.
In the European fashion
capital of Paris, the Louis XIV style influenced by Jean
Berain was also dominated by complete symmetry. C-shaped
volutes in the traditional repousse technique are also
Around 1725, when
Louis XV was old enough to reign France, a new creative
breeze blew through Paris. Artists freed themselves from
the heavy Baroque style of Berain and the Rococo was born.
Lines became fluent and asymmetrical. Jewelry became more
frivolous and airy following the Baroque-Regence style
between 1715 and 1725. The motifs seemed to want to break
out of the overall form. Jewelers through out Europe soon
followed this style but only really adopted it in the
1740's, although England almost entirely skipped this
style. Shell motifs and S-shaped lines were highly popular.
Circa 1760, a massive
shift towards Neo-Classicism in the jewelry arts was fueled
by designers such as Robert Adam. The excavations of Pompeii
and Herculaneum some decades earlier planted seeds in
romantic minds that would come to full fruition in the
Victorian period. When Goethe published his "The
Sorrows of Young Werther" in 1774, young men in central
Europe identified themselves with a modern day Narcissus
and followed Werther's fatal example in large numbers.
Artists found inspiration
in Roman history and the assumed pure values of morality
in ancient times. The established powers of the day probably
never had the slightest thought that the new found ideas
of self determination and freedom sweeping the continent
and North America would soon seal their fates. The Western
world was about to change dramatically.
pieces from this Neo-Classicism period are amongst the
most sought after items.
Navette, oval and
rectangular formed rings, finely worked with royal blue
glass or enamel and topped with silver inlays, were in
fashion. Often the inlays consisted of Roman vases which
were delicately embedded with diamonds. Rings, brooches
and pendants with natural pearl rims also were en vogue.
Memento Mori jewelry
from the renaissance was reintroduced. Loved ones requested
locks of hair from each other to be incorporated in brooches
and rings to commemorate them while far away. Jewelry
made of hair came to a peak around the end of the Georgian
era when complete sets including bracelets and necklaces
were woven following the many published designs on this
craft. Cameos, often joined by a series of delicate chains
to form fabulous necklaces, were some of the fashionable
items as well as sevignes, rivieres and chatelaines.
The so-called girandoles
(ribbon bows supporting pear shaped gemstones such as
garnets) were in high demand during the Georgian period,
along with crescent, flower-head and star-bust brooches.
Napoleon Bonaparte was so fond of jewelry that he founded
a cameo carving school which was directed by Roman Vincent.
One of the finest carvers at the end of the Georgian period
was Benedetto Pistrucci.
The Napoleonic war
against Egypt at the end of the century gave rise to a
whole range of new ornamentation - sphinxs', pyramids
and papyrus leaves were incorporated into the jewelry
of the day. Bracelets were worn in pairs as they were
Legend has it that
when Josephine de Beauharnais (Napoleon's first wife)
was presented flowers during an official visit, she handed
a customary bracelet to the young flower girl. The fashion
of wearing a bracelet on each arm was so common that the
girl instinctively offered her other arm. Josephine gracefully
solved it by giving the girl one of her own.
The White House in
Washington D.C. is one of the finest examples of Neo-Classisim
architecture in the USA.
Around 1804 in Prussia,
now Germany/Poland, the wealthy were called upon to give
up their jewelry in order to finance the war against Napoleon.
They were thanked with iron jewelry relacements, often
inscribed with "Ich gab Gold fur Eissen" (I
gave gold for iron). Those delicate 'Fer-de-Berlin' objects
are highly collectible in present time.
This was also the
beginning of the first French Empire led by Napoleon.
Favorite motifs included non-naturalistic flowers, Greek
keys, laurel leaves, eagles and arches. From Italy came
fabulous mosaics that were incorporated in necklaces,
rings and brooches.
The beautiful Roman
mosaics ('Mille-Fiore') were made up of very small handcrafted
glass squares, called tesserae. Pietra-dura mosaics from
Florence were composed of hand-sawed semi-precious stones
which were then inlayed in black onyx to create a dramatic
After the fall of
Napoleon we saw the rise of finely detailed cannetille
work. Very thin gold wires and granules decorated the
detailed repousse ornaments. The long wars made diamonds
so scarce that courser settings were used to make them
appear larger. Coral came back in fashion after a long
hiatus. The new Neo-Gothic style formed the prelude to
eclecticism in the 19th century.