The Georgian Period is one of our favorites. Images of grand balls and societal engagements dance in our head when we imagine the 18th century. (Day dream much?) But what really makes us swoon over the Georgian period is of course the jewelry. The Georgian era lasted from 1714 to 1730 and is named after the reign of the the four King Georges. Advancements in candle making in the 1700’s prolonged the length of burning and increased the brightness letting nighttime activities more realistic. In result, there was jewelry you wore during the day, and jewelry you wear during the night, and it was very frowned upon to mix the two. Garnets, topaz, coral, pearls, and paste were only appropriate when the sun was shining, but as soon as darkness came, it was time for diamonds. New diamond mines in India and Brazil were tapped into to help alleviate the demand for the nighttime sparkling gems. We love a good, thought out costume change, and jewelry should be no exception. Maybe it’s those dazzling diamonds making their appearance at those balls that make us romanticize it so intensely, but who can blame us?
Though we love jewelry from ancient times and even up to the Renaissance, it was really in the 18th century when jewelry started to take a turn for the glamorous. With floral and scrolling silhouettes, and shadowy foiled back diamonds, there’s nothing quite as romantic as original Georgian pieces. Diamonds were everyone’s favorite stone of the time, but not everyone could afford it. Real diamonds were worn almost exclusively by high society and royalty but others had a great option- paste. Paste was used as a diamond substitute and was a much more economic option. But the paste trend caught on, even in the higher courts! Apparently, even Marie Antoinette wore paste pieces next to her real diamonds. Stones were in closed back settings more often than not, and rose cut and old mine cuts were predominantly used (and a few table cuts here and there). Platinum had not yet been discovered, so silver and 18k gold were used. White diamonds were thought to be enhanced by the white shine of silver so you’ll see them set in silver with gold backings. Colored stones were set in gold, and the collet or cut down bezel settings were used to keep those sparklers safe. Classic and beautiful materials set into magnificent designs, Georgian pieces are our cup of tea.
With smoky foiled stones, scrolling shapes, and incredible craftsmanship, jewelry created in the Georgian era is fascinating, dreamy, and over all lovely. Since the Georgian era spans over a whole century, several styles can be described as Georgian. Early pieces, dating back to 1714 to 1770, are typically very ornate and whimsical. Later, towards to end of the 18th century and into the 19th, designs began to take on neoclassical inspirations and a little bit more streamlined. You can see a lot of themes of Georgian jewelry roll over into the Victorian era such as mourning jewelry and pieces inspired by nature. At the turn of the century, Europe was burdened with wartime and the use of metal was restricted. You can easily see the effect it had on the style of jewelry, as pieces slowly shrunk in size and abundance. Throughout the time period, all stones were cut by candlelight, and every piece of jewelry was handcrafted. Talk about labor intensive! Georgian pieces are not only rare now simply because of its age, but a lot of pieces were deconstructed and stones recut in the 19th and 20th centuries when new advancements in technology were made. So when we find a breathtaking piece of Georgian jewelry, we rejoice. They truly are treasures from the past.