Edwardian Jewelry has always been known for its elegance, particularly in its understated yet feminine design.
King Edward VII, after whom this period of jewelry history is named, reigned over England for only nine years, yet the style of jewelry known as “Edwardian” was created roughly between 1890 and 1920. The Edwardian period is also known as the “Belle Epoch,” named for the elegant lifestyle of Edward and Queen Alexandra, helped establish an international high society for which fine jewelry was a requisite part of the dress code. Though the style of Edwardian jewelry is credited to the English royal couple, the fine French jewelry houses influenced the jewelry designs of the period as well.
In contrast to other concurrent styles of jewelry design such as Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, Edwardian jewelry’s design was understated and highly feminine in style. In addition, design and craftsmanship were primarily valued by the jewelers of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements while the materials used; pearls, diamonds, platinum, and other precious materials were valued by the great Edwardian jewelers.
The hallmark of Edwardian jewelry was the beginning of the use of platinum enabling intricate design. The strength of platinum over gold allowed master jewelers to create delicate designs that had a lace-like appearance. While the Edwardian period had its roots in the late Victorian period, the diamonds and other materials used in Edwardian jewelry were set and cut to look delicate and ethereal in contrast to earlier diamonds. Since diamonds were primarily used in Edwardian jewelry, this encouraged the development of new techniques in diamond-cutting, giving rise to the marquise, emerald and baguette cuts and the briolette cut was often used in diamond earrings and lavalier necklaces. Edwardian jewelry was created to complement the white silk and lace being worn by affluent and stylish ladies. In addition to diamonds and natural pearls, stones such as amethysts, peridots (favorites of the royal couple), blue sapphires, aquamarines, alexandrites and rubies were often used.
King Edward was passionate about horse racing, and horseshoes became a popular motif in Edwardian jewelry. Other popular and highly feminine motifs were clovers, stars, hearts, bows, garlands and flowers. Filigree details also added to the feminine nature of designs.
Sautoir, négligeé and Garland style necklaces were popular during the Edwardian Period. The Sautoir style referred to a long necklace that ended with a tassel or a pendant. The négligeé pendant necklace, consisted of two pendant drops of unequal length attached to a stone or to draping pieces of fine chain. The garland necklace, which Cartier is credited as having first created, referred to Neo-Classical and Rococo-esque designs with delicate floral, foliate and lace patterns made from diamonds and platinum.
Rings and Brooches were also commonly worn. Edwardian ring styles included elongated designs with diamonds in openwork settings and center set natural pearls bordered by a row of diamonds. Edwardian Brooches often had an etherial look due to their lace-like open metal work design and the use to translucent stones such as moonstones.