The Edwardian era, like the Georgian and Victorian eras before it, derives its name from the reign of an English King, Edward VII (1901-1910). This is the final jewelry period in our series to be defined by a British monarch.
Edward was the lighthearted, luxury-loving antithesis of his mother. After his coronation, he spent the majority of his time engaged in various social endeavors. Jewelry was an important part of the lifestyle cultivated by the wealthy upper class.
The last decade of the nineteenth century saw the rejection of the machine-made jewelry that had once been a welcomed innovation. Jewelry went from large and boisterous to ethereal and delicate almost overnight, becoming what is now known as “garland” style.
- In 1903 with the invention of a special torch, the strength of platinum was fully exploited and it was possible to create jewels that resembled diamond encrusted lace. Platinum’s strength and rigidity allowed the jeweler to mount stones in minimalist settings.
- Millegraining, a new decorative technique made possible by the use of platinum, is prominently featured in Edwardian jewelry. Its border of delicate balls and ridges surrounding a gemstone or on the knife sharp edges of a design gave jewelry a softer, lighter more feminine look.
- Pastel fabrics were highlighted by the haute couture and this new “white” jewelry complemented it perfectly.
- Linear bar brooches with colored stones and diamonds punctuated the neckline at increasing lengths. Round and lozenge shaped brooches, sometimes centering a colored stone, were dotted all over with diamonds set in platinum.
- An extremely delicate, tight fitting netted style necklace was made possible using platinum. This coverd the entire neck and also overflowed onto the bodice with scintillating diamond-set platinum nets.
- Circa 1910, lowered necklines meant a change in design, long chains of alternating hair-fine platinum links, pearls or colored gems were worn full length, falling past the waist and necklace’s ends held fringed tassels and were wrapped around the neck.
- Stud earrings were replaced with delicate and dangling filigree designs that better melded styles of the period.
- Wearing far fewer bracelets together at one time than during the Victorian period, bracelets consisted of delicate tapered designs with repeating motif and elongated outlines. Bracelets easily fit different size wearers and were less expensive because gemstones were only utilized on small sections.
- Rings featured many of the same bow and garland motifs as earrings and bracelets with large center stones encircled by cut colored stones or small diamonds. Typically, rings were stacked with multiple rings worn on each finger or knuckle to knuckle.
- Buckles and slides also enjoyed a resurgence and with the addition of a ribbon theycould also be securely worn around the head.
- Parures (suites of matching pieces) lost favor and became out of fashion but were replaced by combinations of jewelry worn together as if they matched but with clearly different designs. The monochromatic design of platinum and diamond jewelry allowed for an easy mixing and matching for both day and night attire.
- Circa 1910, the fashion centered on “black and white”, platinum and diamonds were pinned to black ribbons and accented by black enamel or onyx. These jewels served a dual purpose, as they were appropriate for any occasion but also did not violate mourning etiquette.
- In 1920, peacock feathers, and lotus blossoms accented by colored gems were suddenly in fashion, especially amethyst, turquoise, sapphires, opals and demantoid garnets, all in newly created cuts like the briolette.
After Edwards’s death, formal occasions disappeared almost overnight and the Edwardian period came to an abrupt end. Precious metals became scarce and platinum, which transitioned to primarily being used in the manufacturing of military artillery, almost disappeared completely before eventually being deemed a “precious” metal.
Next week we’ll discuss the Art Nouveau era, where France takes the stage in jewelry influence and design.