The Georgian Era 1714-1830
Before the Industrial Revolution
The Georgian, or Regency era, marked the years between 1714 and 1830 and is named for England’s two King Georges (III and IV) who ruled during this period. Frequent Court functions demanded displays of wealth and, as such, sets of diamond bodice ornaments, known as Sevignes (Sa-vin-yees), would be sewn onto a lady’s’ clothing. Often found in the form of bows or knots in descending sizes, these Sevignes eventually would be broken up and re-appear as 19th century brooches, pendants or earrings. Tiaras often took the form of diamond studded wreaths, from which pear-shaped pearls or briolette cut drops would depend. Hair combs were placed at the front or back of the head and were decorated to match earrings, a necklace or other jewels of the same parure. Bracelets were generally worn in pairs and often consisted of a central oval clasp of colored stones or diamonds connected to three to six strands of pearls. Girandole (Jeer-an-doll) earrings were the most popular of the time, composed of a central portion, from which three pear-shaped elements often dangled.
Men, too, used jewelry both as a display of wealth and for functional purposes. This application was presented in the form of diamond buckles for shoes or belts, as well as engraved fob seals, which hung from the waist by gold or silver chatelaines. Chatelaines are the equivalent of the modern day purse or wallet, and were kept by women as well as men. Equipped with practical personal tools, including scissors, writing instruments, watches, keys, and perhaps a little notepad, these were often miniature in form and constructed of precious materials.
Types of Popular Jewels
Cameos and antique engraved seal stones, either in hardstone or shell, were used in jewelry for both men and women. Popular neo-classical forms of sentimental jewelry for love or mourning consisted of enameled rings (white enamel indicating the death of a child or unmarried person) with inscriptions detailing name, age and date of death. Lovers’ knots, doves, and flaming hearts are other sentimental motifs often seen as brooches or pendants for long chains. Acrostic jewelry consisted of bracelets or rings of colored stones whose first letter of each stone would spell out a message or word, “Regard” and “Dearest” being two of the most common.
An important design element found on all types of jewelry of this period is a technique similar to filigree called Cannetille (Can-a-tee) work. Gold was very scarce in the 18th century and, in order to extend the precious material as much as possible, gold wire would be worked into small tendrils, rosettes or coiled spirals mixed with gold granule shapes. This cannetille work used for the framing of colored stones or diamonds – could make the piece appear heavier than it actually was.
Giardinetti (Jar-din-ett-ee) or “little garden” rings were mid-18th century fashion statements composed of delicate flowers depicted in colored stones, glass paste, and diamonds, often emerging from colored stone set vase shapes. Fashionable colored stones of the period include garnet, turquoise, peridot, topaz and amethyst, all combined with either diamonds or pearls. Sometimes these colored stones would be enhanced with foil at the back of the closed setting to deepen the color of the stones.
Early 19th Century Jewels
In the beginning of the 19th century, design features became plumper and more complex. Naturalistic brooches, which in the 18th century were delicate and simple, now were depicted as whole branches of flowers and foliage, sometimes accented by little springs that would make the assemblage tremble with any movement, called “en tremblant.” The new century brought a revival of continental travel after the Napoleonic wars, and tourists would purchase souvenirs to take home from the “Grand Tour.” These souvenirs might be in the form of “Roman” mosaics, tiny pieces of glass forming pictures of architectural ruins, birds or flowers, or Pietra Dura – hardstone mosaics created by Florentine craftsmen.