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Edwardian Era Jewelry Trends: The Historical Epochal of a Short Lived Era

Tanzy Ward

The early 20th century ushered in new jewelry trends and designs inspired by the societal influences and fashion changes that encompassed the turn of the century. Queen Victoria's reign lasted from 1837 until she died in 1901. The end of her iconic monarchy meant the new rule of her son, King Edward VII (1841-1910). Womenswear became more stream-lined and dainty. The Edwardian Era is named after the eldest son of Queen Victoria and lasted until he died in 1910. King Edward IV was described as a man who emphasized fashion trends and luxury. His extravagant demeanor and lifestyle influenced the era. Although the period is short-lived, its impact had a lasting effect on jewelry trends that can still be seen in modern times. 

Replica of 1901 Portrait of Edward VII (1841-1910) (detail) by Luke Fields (1844-1927); National Portrait Gallery Collection; Public Domain Licensing; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_VII.-Gro%C3%9Fbritannien.jpg

The Edwardian Era (1901-1910) is defined by its extensive use of filigree designs, innovative platinum jewelry styles, and emphasized femininity. The Aesthetic Period (1881-1901) of the Victorian Era can be seen in Edwardian styles, and the Arts and Crafts Movement was also a significant inspiration. Edwardian Era characteristics and influence can be seen in Art Deco jewelry styles. Many innovative techniques and inventions were created during the Edwardian Era, which can be seen immensely in the jewelry designs of the period. Platinum was the most popular and preferred metal of the Edwardian Era. Jewelry pieces created with all platinum began to be made in the late 19th century by Cartier. By 1900, technological advancements improved platinum's vigor, and the metal was rolled over a layer of gold, which resulted in a more secure foundation and setting. Platinum demanded higher prices for its high luster and durability, which often resulted in thinner and airy delicate jewelry designs. During World War I and II, platinum was declared a strategic metal/material and banned in the United States. Although King Edward IV is the namesake for this period in jewelry, various significant influences of the early 20th century contributed to the Edwardian Era's aesthetic and designs.

Antique Edwardian Era diamond and platinum pendants and brooches from the S. Kind & Sons (Pennsylvania) 1910 catalog. Courtesy of https://archive.org/details/SKindandSons1910/s-kind-diamond-1910-00021946-LowRes/page/n3/mode/2up

 

 Collier de Chien (Dog Collar Choker)

One of the most iconic jewelry trends of the Edwardian Era was the Collier de Chien, also formally known as a 'Dog Collar' choker. Although choker-style necklaces have been around for centuries, Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), the consort-wife of King Edward IV, popularized the 'dog collar' trend, which was reportedly used to conceal a childhood scar on her neck. The Collier de Chien necklace was designed to fit closely on the neck and consisted of multiple strands of pearls surrounding a central metal plate. This form of choker was often intricately decorated with small to medium-sized seed pearls and metal designs with various etchings. There were also different variations of the Collier de Chien necklace.  The iconic choker became a highly sought-after accessory for ladies worldwide, including in the United States of America. This particular choker-style necklace is still popular, and its influence can be seen heavily in many modern pearl multi-stranded chokers that are currently on the market.   

Queen Alexandra (1844-1925) when Princess of Wales, photographed by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913); National Portrait Gallery; Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Queen_Alexandra,_the_Princess_of_Wales.jpg



Lavallière

 Although lavalier necklaces were popular for centuries before the Edwardian Era and were named after the Duchess Louise de La Vallière, the mistress of French King Louis XIV in the 17th century, a particular type of centered drop pendant necklace, the lavallière was popularized and named after the French actress Eve Lavalliere (18660 1929) in the early 20th century. The Lavallière necklace design consisted of two overlapping pendants, usually of different lengths, and an entwined motif with intricate detailing. Popular materials used for the Edwardian Era, Lavallière pendants necklaces, included rose or European-cut diamonds and were artistically crafted in platinum. The pendant of the Edwardian era emphasized using decorative open-space and delicate feminine designs. Lavallière pendant necklace designs often incorporated dangling pearls, paste/glass stones, gems, and geometric metalwork that complimented the light/airy attire that Edwardian Era women preferred over Victorian Era fashion. Many Edwardian Lavallière pendants created during the 19th century also have overlapping design characteristics of the Art Nouveau movement. 

Diamond and precious stone Lavallière necklaces from S. Kind & Sons Catalogue of Pennsylvania, 1910. Courtesy of https://archive.org/details/SKindandSons1910/s-kind-diamond-1910-00021946-LowRes/page/n13/mode/2up

Filigree & Milgrain 

Perhaps one of the most distinct characteristics of Edwardian Era jewelry is the use of filigree and milgrain designs. What exactly is the difference between milgrain and filigree designs? Filigree was incorporated into Edwardian Era jewelry for lacy and floral designs on jewelry, the metal is bent into wire pieces and soldered onto a metal surface. Milgrain was used to add small beads of metal that resemble tiny dots on the borders/edges of Edwardian pieces. Both design types added a soft and elegant characteristic to Edwardian jewelry and demanded a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail for its quality. 

Diamond & precious stone bar pins and pin sets featuring intricate filigree and milgrain work. S. Kind & Sons Catalog of Pennsylvania, 1910; Courtesy of https://archive.org/details/SKindandSons1910/s-kind-diamond-1910-00021946-LowRes/page/n11/mode/2up

Gems of Choice During The Edwardian Era

The primary color of choice for Edwardian ladies was white. This preference was emphasized in the leading gem choice of the period, diamonds. However, other popular gems used in Edwardian Era designs include sapphires, rubies, aquamarines, emeralds, opals, garnets, and pearls. It was also common for one piece to have several different gemstones. Nevertheless, gem pieces of the Edwardian Era were streamlined and dainty to emphasize the refreshing aesthetic of the Edwardian Era. While the early 20th century wanted to move away from bulky or whimsical designs popular in the 19th century, the Edwardian Era was partly influenced by the Victorian Era's artisan use of gems in jewelry. 

Sapphire, diamond, and opal ring options from the S. Kind & Sons (Pennsylvania) 1910 jewelry catalog. Courtesy of https://archive.org/details/SKindandSons1910/s-kind-diamond-1910-00021946-LowRes/page/n1/mode/2up?view=theater

Turquoise, diamond, ruby, and emerald rings from the S. Kind & Sons (Pennsylvania) catalog of 1910. Courtesy of https://archive.org/details/SKindandSons1910/s-kind-diamond-1910-00021946-LowRes/mode/2up

One of the most popular design preferences of modern fine jewelry is influenced by the antique styles of the Edwardian and Art Deco eras. Although the Edwardian Era was relatively short-lived compared to other periods, its lasting effect on jewelry designs still resonates with lovers of streamlined airy pieces created with platinum, pearls, and diamonds. The epochal of Edwardian jewelry has created an enduring legacy that is still influencing many modern design choices in the present day. 



 


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