When discussing antique jewellery, the Edwardian period is generally defined as being from the very start of the 20th century up to 1910. One of the shortest reigns in recent memory, the Edwardian period managed to have a vast variety of new styles and manufacturing processes that continued to push the production of jewellery forward.
The Edwardian period is frequently seen as one of lavish extravagance - a time where the ruling classes lived excessively in a pre-war Britain. This luxurious standard of living came to a sharp end at the inception of World War I in 1914. It is largely due to this indulgence, however, that we still have so many well-maintained pieces of Edwardian jewellery to examine; the quality of materials used was a big step up from previous eras.
Platinum first became a common metal used in the production of jewellery in the Edwardian period, often combined with diamonds to create pieces that last several lifetimes. This use of hardy materials also led to the creation of the white-on-white jewellery trend, wherein platinum was used in conjunction with diamonds to create jewellery that was dazzling in its brightness and lightness.
The use of platinum also allowed for some revolutionary design and production advancements. Due to the strength of platinum, new settings such as the filigree setting and the invisible setting were able to be utilised.
In the filigree setting, the metal is used to create a pattern similar to that of lace, keeping jewellery delicate and intricate in its appearance – well-suited to the fashions of the Edwardian era. Invisible settings allowed the gemstones of a piece of jewellery, usually in diamond jewellery, to appear as though they were sitting directly on the skin of the wearer, with nothing between them. These kinds of settings are only possible with a strong, well-made combination of metals, hence the popularity of platinum.
Another common element of Edwardian jewellery that came with the use of platinum is millegrain designs. Platinum was used to create very small balls that create ridges along the edges of a piece of jewellery.
This delicate ornamentation made Edwardian jewellery appear softer to the eye and remains a very appealing design feature today. The fashions of the Edwardian era were generally daintier than the Victorian era that had come before. Women’s fashion called for lighter fabrics in lighter colours, with upper class women becoming more mobile citizens, rather than being largely contained to their homes. The delicate designs of Edwardian jewellery were not only fashion-forward, but they were also more practical than the larger, bulkier, and heavier pieces of the Victorian period.
Established in the midst of the Victorian period, jewellery brand Cartier was well-known by the Edwardian period, even becoming the official jeweller to the king. Cartier was frequently at the forefront of fashion, crafting double-pendant necklaces named for the French stage sensation, Ève Lavallière. Pendants of this kind are considered to be postmarks of the Edwardian era, such was their popularity.
Popular Edwardian Jewellery
The popularity of diamonds, platinum, and pearl jewellery has already been discussed, as they were omnipresent features of Edwardian jewellery. Although floral jewellery was popular even throughout the Victorian period, in the Edwardian era it found new popularity. With women’s fashion more oriented towards exaggerating the hourglass figure of women, floral jewellery – referred to as garland jewellery – was also intended to highlight the curving shapes of feminine figures.
Lace-like materials were imitated with Edwardian jewellery, made to appear light to match the silks and satins widely used in women’s clothing of the time. Although these designs directly contrasted with the Victorian period’s larger, heavier pieces of jewellery, some themes remained popular throughout both eras. Bows, for example, can be commonly found in both 19th and 20th century jewellery. Draping bow designs, accented with diamonds and millegrain, were very popular in the Edwardian era.
World War I
Although technically, the Edwardian period had already ended by 1914, the styles and fashions of the era were still going strong well into the 1910s. The wealthy elite were still living lavish lives dictated by full social calendars and tokens of their status like jewellery and fine clothing. The advent of the First World War brought all of that to a sudden end, however. All of the finest quality platinum that had been used previously to create superior jewellery was redirected to help the war effort.
Furthermore, with hundreds of thousands of men being sent off to fight, there were fewer workers available to craft new jewellery. The focus of the nation became less about celebrating a golden age of status and wealth and more concerned with preserving the safety and freedom of the people.
Today, Edwardian jewellery is widely admired for its durability as well as its intricate beauty. A modern movement away from the Victorian and towards the rapid advancement of the 20th century, Edwardian jewellery can be a wonderful time capsule from a different time.
Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.