Jewelry belonging to the Georgian period is that which was made between the years of 1714 and 1830 (or 1840, as some jewelers argue), during which three separate kings by the name of George and one rather short lived king by the name of William reigned in Britain; hence, this is where the Georgian period derived its name from, and why.
Because the Georgian period came before the Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco and Retro, there is far less Georgian jewelry for sale or in existence than in all subsequent periods. As explained by specialist jewelry dealers, Royal Antique Jewelry: ‘Due to its age, Georgian jewelry is quite rare, with some pieces almost three hundred years old.’
That said, pieces can be found and are available to purchase. The Royal Antique Jewelry online store, for example, deal in genuine examples of Georgian jewelry and there are too pieces that pass through specialist auction houses such as the Fellows Antiques & Fine Art Auction House with varying regularity.
Motifs and Designs
It is difficult to speak about the motifs and designs that characterise the Georgian period as it was ruled by five separate monarchs and spanned a period of political upheaval as explored in depth via the article: Empire and Sea Power, 1714 – 1837, written by Professor Kenneth Morgan and featured on the History Section of the BBC website.
Hence, the designs and motifs celebrated during this single period in jewelry making history changed numerous times over the years and with the succession of each monach who reigned within the period – with the exception, perhaps, of IV William who only reigned for the latter eight years of the period and wasn’t succeeded by any of his eight children due to the fact that they were all illegitimate!
That said, there were a few fashions which typify the Georgian period and which proved popular throughout it; the most obvious of these being the desire for and creation of short necklaces, chokers and ‘dog collar’ style reveries which most often and popularly featured rows of precious stones and / or cameos and often featured the addition of draped lengths of chains.
The most valuable and by far the most popular choker style necklaces of the period made use specifically of diamonds and diamonds too proved an extremely popular stone. As such, diamonds featured heavily and were used widely during and throughout the Georgian period.
Stones of many different kinds were used during the Georgian period though, not just diamonds. The fashion at the time prized rich and heavily saturated colours, hence all manner of jewelry pieces from rings to brooches and necklaces to earrings were created bearing assortments of most notably emeralds, sapphires and red rubies.
A little known of and lesser used metal today, pinchbeck is a material created by combining several inexpensive metals, including zinc and alloy of copper which when combined resemble gold.
All Georgian jewelry was necessarily (give the time and technology in existence and use during the time) handmade. Hence, to keep up with demand for jewelry during the Georgian period, pinchbeck began to be more and more used as the period wore on.
This is also another reason why much of the jewelry made during the Georgian period has not survived; pinchbeck can darken over time, though it doesn’t rust and has not continued to be a popular metal with which to create jewelry. Hence, many pinchbeck items were not carefully looked after at the time or after when gold, silver and later metals like palladium and rhodium became popular.
Further, much Georgian pinchbeck jewellery, especially that surviving in Germany, was donated during the war effort in the early years of the 19th century. In return for their donations, German citizens were given replacements made of cast iron, which have become popular collectors’ items in their own right now, but which also further reduced the numbers of surviving Georgian jewelry pieces.
To learn more about the use of pinchbeck during the Georgian period, refer to The Story of Pinchbeck published on the Jewelry Expert website. Meanwhile, for a more in-depth look into Georgian jewelry and the periods leading up to and succeeding it, continue your reading and research via the Victoria and Albert Museum website and their page: A History of Jewellery.
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