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Georgian Era Jewelry

Posted November 07, 2019

I hesitate to even mention Georgian era jewelry since there is so little of it around today, especially here in the Midwest. But, in my next blog, I will be exploring Victorian Era jewelry, and it is interesting to have a little background, and the Georgian era provides that. There were four consecutive Kings named George from the years 1714 until 1837. As with any other era, the jewelry produced during the reign of the four Kings named George reflects the era. Fashion of the day, available gems and metals, limited methods, design inspiration from architecture, design and art of the time all had an effect on 18th and early 19th century jewelers, and the jewelry they made.

Fashion of the Georgian Era

It is not difficult to notice just how different the clothing of the day differs from that of current day. Even looking at King George I, you can see a distinct difference from the clothing worn by the succeeding Kings George. As I mentioned earlier, there is very little available jewelry from this period for a number of reasons. First, it was a long time ago. Second, gold was in short supply, and as time went on and fashion changed, jewelers of the day would take the gold already owned by their clients and remelt and rework it, instead of providing new gold and creating another piece entirely.

Georgian women dressed every bit as elegantly as men. Georgian tailors and clothing makers did not appear to be suffering from a shortage of materials like their jeweler counterparts. Here are some Georgian women in the clothing of the day.

The Influence of Architecture and Interior Design

As I mentioned before, architecture and design, such as interior design heavily influenced jewelers during Georgian times. Have a look at a very popular style of the time, French Rococo (see image below left). It is very beautiful, very, very fancy, very intricate, and quite busy. However, as intricate and fancy as the Rococo style was, the Baroque style (which preceded Rococo), is even heavier and fancier, with layer after layer of very busy design (see image below right).

Examples of Georgian Period Jewelry

Opulent Pieces of Georgian Period Jewelry that reflect the architecture and design of the times.

Notice the gold wires of these Georgian Period earrings (above left), and also the (tarnished black) silver bezels that hold the diamonds. These diamonds have flat bottoms, and the backing behind each diamond is closed, not open. Another example of the closed back setting of gemstones in Georgian jewelry (above right), features gemstones that were a type of glass known as "paste," because the components of the mixture were mixed wet to ensure a thorough and even distribution. Pastes are softer than ordinary glass but have a higher index of refraction and dispersion that give them great brilliance and fire. A closed metal backing enhanced this effect.

Closed backs were used on almost all gems and paste stones. The art of stone cutting was not yet truly understood. As a result, most stones were foiled. Foiling is the use of a metal coating, sometimes colored, painted on the back of a stone to enhance its brilliance. The cut of gems were either the rose cut or the old mine cut. Standardization of cutting was still many, many years away, so nearly every piece of Georgian Jewelry contains gems that do not match perfectly, as they do in modern jewelry.

For metals silver or gold was in use. Platinum had not yet been discovered and white gold was not used in jewelry. Nearly all diamond jewelry was set in silver. The thinking of the time was that the silver color of the metal enhanced the properties of diamonds, whereas a gold surrounding did not. The backs of jewelry and ear wires were often gold to prevent tarnish on skin and clothing. Colored gems were set in gold (see the emerald and diamond pendant above).

So, What's a Piece of Georgian Period Jewelry Worth Today?

Simply put, it could be worth a lot of money. Just like anything else that is in short supply, high prices are paid for Georgian jewelry that is in good condition. At the time of this writing, the newest piece of Georgian era jewelry is 189 years old, so the odds of anyone having a valuable item from this period are very low. However, if you have some old jewelry, and if you're thinking about selling it, please bring it in to either our Champaign or Decatur location. You never know. Maybe you have a 250-year-old treasure just waiting to be re-discovered...

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