After Romanesque jewelry fell from fashion a new style emerged. Although parallels with the architectural style are minimal the style has been named Gothic. The architectural style already rose in the 12th century but the change in jewelry style lasted until the late 13th century. New techniques and an increased supply of precious stones, made possible by the strengthening of contacts with the East by the traders of Venice and Genova after the damage done by the crusades had faded away, together with the up-rise of larger cities in Europe caused a new fashion to emerge.
The transition from Romanesque to Gothic fashion was occurred gradually. In the 1300's luxury in the form of delicate and exotic clothing entered the French court. The wearing of jewelry was a way of expressing ones rank in the social hierarchy. This, together with the increased availability of gemstones caused a series of laws to be called to life which restricted the use of jewelry. In Aragon such laws occurred as early as 1234 followed by a French ordinance in 1283 and the English King Edward III in 1363. The laws forbade commoners to wear certain types of gem set jewelry and in some cases certain levels of wealth were mentioned which allowed one to wear golden objects adorned with precious stones. The increased supply of gemstones called for more regulation. A law from 1331 forbids the use of paste as a gemstone imitation in Paris and a law from 1355 prohibits the use of oriental pearls next to river pearls. Another one puts a punishment on placing tinted foils behind amethysts or rubies.In London the craft of goldsmith was officially recognized in 1327. Jewelry shops appear to have been selling small ready made articles and do larger work on commission. The largest jewelry producing centres of the High middle Ages were Paris, which was famous for its jewelry throughout the Middle Ages, Venice, Bruges, Cologne and Nuremburg. Jewelry styles were very much alike and it is often impossible to tell were a piece originated. Venice and Genova were by far the most important providers of precious materials, sourced by the cities' traders from all over the East.
Gothic jewelry was more pointed than the rounded forms of Romanesque jewelry. In the 14th century we see little influence from the architectural style in jewelry but by the 15th century its influence increases. Clarity of pattern and line was preferred over the heavy, dense detailing from the past. The result was a style which was more elegant. Stones were set against a plain surface or flat decoration such as niello or enamel. Gold remained the most prestigious metal.
From around 1375 the designs took on naturalistic characteristics and the outline of jewels were softened, something that was achieved by decorating the edge of an object with pearls on prongs. The most valued pearls were imported from the Persian Gulf in those days. The pearls were usually already drilled when they arrived in Europe, something that has led to the belief among the inhabitants of Europe that they occurred this way in nature.
The art of gem-cutting and the greater availability of gems provided change but was a slow and gradual event, traditions proved to be deep rooted. Bruges, situated in modern day Belgium, became the cutting centre of Europe after the Burgundian court moved to the Netherlands in the mid 15th century. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires and spinels were the most precious stones. As mentioned in the introduction laws against the use of imitation stones were put in place but legal imitations did exist. For children's jewelry and funeral purposes imitation stones were used legally.
In the 13th century the classic dress of the European consisted of a high-necked, long-sleeved under dress covered by a short sleeved over tunic. These garments were worn by both sexes and left little room for jewelry except for belts and brooches which formed the larger part of jewelry of the early Gothic period.
The most common brooches were ring brooches, often inscribed with religious texts or expressions of love. One ring brooch of the 13th century, set with rubies and sapphires and decorated with pointillé motifs has the words 'IO SUI ICI EN LIU DAMI : AMO' engraved into the back of the brooch. Meaning: 'I am here in place of the friend I love'. Another 13th century ring brooch, a simpler one has just an inscription as decoration 'IEO : SUI : FERMAIL : PUR : GAP : DER : SEIN - and - KE : NU : SVILEIN : NIMETTE : MEIN' which can be translated: 'I am a brooch to guard the breast that no rascal may put his hand thereon'. From these inscriptions we derive that they were often presented as gifts between lovers.Cameos hadn't lost their popularity since the ancient times and antique ones were highly prized in the Gothic period as well.
As said above the belt and the brooch were the two most common jewelry items. Belts could be of leather decorated with gold plaques, buckles and belt ends. In the Gothic period belt mounts often depicted an architectural motif, decorative initial letters or heraldic devices. At the end of the period saint depictions and religious quotations became popular as well.
Romanesque period but in the Gothic period they were worn by knights, squires and their ladies alike. Marrying with a crown on your head became so common that churches would have a few in stock so that those who couldn't afford one could rent them. The Romanesque crowns had been decorated golden rings and the Gothic addition to the design lay in the characteristic pinnacles called fleurons.
By the 1450's the high necked dress made room for a new fashionable dress with a low neck. This triggered the return of the pendant. Other jewelry that was worn around the neck were the typical collars worn by nobles.
Devotional jewelry like badges of saints, paternosters or Agnus Dei medallions were enjoying a huge popularity. Badges were sold at pilgrim places and the Agnus Dei medallion was produced in Rome and blessed by the pope. The badges and medallions were worn as pendants, brooches and sewn onto clothing.