My love of jewelry has no boundaries in terms of time. New, antique, vintage — there’s just so much darn jewelry goodness out there! Typically, I buy what speaks to my heart, whether I know much about it or not (from a reputable source, of course). This is how I wound up with a couple Victorian rings from Metier in the past year or so. But as time goes by, I’m thirsting for knowledge about the different time periods of antique and vintage jewelry: Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. If I’m wanting to know more, then I’m assuming I should take you all along for the historical ride, right? So let’s dig in to this new blog series, and answer the question, “What is Georgian Jewelry?”
Georgian jewelry comes from the time period 1714-1837, in which there were four consecutive King Georges reigning in England (the I-IV). It was truly a tumultuous time in history, including the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette? Catherine the Great? Yep, also part of this time in history. Because this time period covers over 100 years, you can certainly see an evolution in styles. In the early 1700’s jewelry was more in the Baroque style, characterized by a heavier feeling. Things lightened up in the mid 1700’s.
Jewelry was all made by hand of 18K gold (or higher) or silver. Platinum was not yet discovered, and white gold was not used in jewelry. Gold had to be hand hammered into thin sheets before it could be cut up to make jewlery. This process got a bit easier in 1750 when the rolling mill was invented. Interestingly, Georgian jewlery usually doesn’t bear any hallmark stamps of either the maker or the metal content. It was just not done at this time.
There were many popular motifs during this era, including:
- bows, ribbons and scrolls
- nature: leaves, flowers, feathers, crescents
- Greek, Roman and Egyptian motifs
Diamonds were especially popular, and they normally came in one of the following cuts:
- rose cut: these have a faceted, domed top and a flat bottom (see example in first photo in this article)
- table cut: a square shape with a flat top and bottom
- old mine cut: a faceted rounded square, known as “the brilliant cut” of the time period
Colored stones became more en vogue as well around the mid 1700’s. All stones were set with a closed back, often with a foil backing. This foil made the diamonds sparkle brighter and enhanced the color in other gems. (Due to the foil, it’s very important to never wash your hands wearing a Georgian ring. It will wreck it!) Jewelry was worn mainly by the very wealthy and some of the upper middle class. “Paste” jewels (basically cut glass, often foil-backed) were also popular, and the elite sometimes had paste replicas of their good jewels to wear during travel. That way, if they were robbed, they still had the “good stuff” at home.
Now what about the types of jewelry that were popular? Here’s some key styles from the Georgian period:
Girandole earrings: style where there’s three pear-shaped drops hanging from a bow or some other central element (earrings via 1stdibs)
Unfortunately, there’s not an over-abundance of Georgian jewelry around today. It was often taken apart, melted down, and re-worked. Due to its rarity, you can imagine that quality pieces are an investment. Do you happen own any Georgian jewelry? Or do you know any other interesting facts about the period? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!
21 thoughts on “What is Georgian Jewelry?”
So very interesting!! Great article Amy!!
I got so engrossed in researching this article, I spent most of the weekend doing it! And of course, now I want a piece of Georgian jewelry. Shocker… 😉
well…you must know i am all over this blog post…looking forward to the blog series…vintage is usually my first choice…
i’ve actually been collecting cameos to hopefully one day have enough for a charm bracelet…have a while to go…but it is so fun to find treasures when you least expect it…and it puts you on constant alert…which is ok with me…
can’t wait for the art deco period…one of my all time favorites…
I’m so glad you find this article up your alley, Elena! I really enjoyed learning about this period, and I look forward to the next era as well.
Kay, at Lang Antiques is my go-to salesperson. I’ve been following her jewelry odyssey and now I’m really interested, and buying vintage, as well as contemporary. I have found really nice things there, and reasonably priced. I think their sale is on now. I was impressed with their service too.
Lang Antiques is awesome — thanks for the tip about Kay! And a sale? I’ll have to stop by. 🙂
I’m an old soul with a vintage heart. Looking forward to our new adventure in jewelry.
I’m happy to hear it, Melodee!
Love, your blog!
The Georgian jewelry era to me is the most beautiful one
I’m so happy that you are enjoying the blog, Ale! I must say that I have a whole new appreciation of Georgian jewelry after researching this article. It truly is beautiful.
One important thing to note is that back then, there were limited types of stone cuts available for gems such as diamonds. The most common cuts used were rose-cuts and table cuts, most of which are lined with a reflecting foil at the back. This foil added beauty and addition shine to the gems. This particular effect stood out mostly under the candlelight. During the Georgian era, gold used for jewelry was 18 karats or higher. This is why most of these Georgian jewelry pieces had that beautiful luster.
Thanks for the comment, Harry. I didn’t mention about how candlelight enhanced the foil-backed gems. Must have been quite lovely at the big, formal balls back in the day!
I have recently purchased a jewelery lot with a piece that may be Georgian or before with what looks like silver/gold and table cut/mine cut diamonds,,floral and vine motif,,the number 335 is inscribed on one of the back two loops,,,May I email you a pic? Regards Elaine
I wish I were expert enough to help you, Elaine, but I’m not. I would suggest taking it to one of your local antique jewelry stores to see what they have to say. That would be so cool if it were Georgian!
Another great post/article. I so want a Georgian ring with rose cut diamonds. There’s something so subtle about the beauty of the rose cut. And the one eye portraits are lovely.
Thanks! I would LOVE a Georgian diamond ring as well. Although it’d be risky for me, as I don’t know how “good” I’d be about taking it off to wash my hands. I might be safer with earrings or something. 😉