The Edwardian period was short but beautiful. Advances in metalwork and new gemstone cuts allowed a brand-new style to emerge.
Just like the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, the Edwardian period was a rejection of machine-made jewellery, a new innovation that the Victorians had embraced. Jewellery became delicate and lace like, and to the rest of Europe this period was known as La Belle Epoque.
King Edward's love of luxury and high society contributed to the periods style as did designers such as Cartier.
The Edwardians embraced garlands, ribbons, wreaths, bows, knots and tassels. Designs also displayed a wonderful lightness because of advances made in platinum fabrication.
In 1903 jewellery could be made solely from Platinum and this allowed for more intricate and delicate designs. Sophisticated, well-made pieces set with diamonds gave the impression of lace. Other designs such as millegrain settings and pierced platinum became popular.
Edwardians wore Lavalliere necklaces with gems suspended from simple chains and jewellery was decorated with motifs of bows, circles, swags, and garlands, all encapsulating the delicate design. Bar brooches became popular and pendants with coloured stones and diamonds punctuated the neckline at ever increasing lengths. Round and lozenge shaped brooches set with gemstones and diamonds in platinum also became popular. Rings set with gemstones and calibre-cut diamonds became the height of fashion and were stacked, often with multiples worn on each finger. Larger, more substantial rings with an elongated outline and paved with a myriad of diamonds or coloured gemstones decorated the finger from knuckle to knuckle.
Metal and Gemstones
In 1910 black and white came into fashion. Platinum and diamond jewels were pinned to black ribbons and accentuated by black enamel or onyx. These jewels served double duty as they could be worn for any occasion and did not violate mourning etiquette.
Coloured gems such as amethyst, turquoise, sapphires, opals and demantoid garnets were suddenly in vogue. The Edwardian period’s innovation is highlighted through the huge progress made in the cutting and shaping of gemstones. Many cuts and shapes created in this era such as calibre, baguette, marquise and briolette’s were later developed and used extensively during the Art Deco movement.
Silver brooches, gypsy earrings, simple bangles and many more such pieces of jewellery came to be for the non-affluent middle class, and these gained more popularity at the end of the Edwardian era.
Four years after the death of King Edward and at the start of World War I, formal occasions and parties disappeared overnight and the light-hearted Edwardian spirit came to an abrupt end. Life changed dramatically and in a heartbeat jewellery all but disappeared. Precious metals became scarce and platinum, which was used in the manufacture of many pieces disappeared almost before it gained a foothold as a precious metal.