“Jewelry wasn’t influenced directly; hardly any ancient jewelry was known in those days apart from the surviving cameos which had remained fashionable objects throughout the Middle Ages. Ancient techniques like filigree or delicate, all gold jewelry weren’t revived but rather, it was the classical and mythological themes that provided the link with the ancient world.”
With the start of the 17th century Renaissance jewelry evolved gradually into a new style. From 1625 on, we see a clear reaction against the rigid and contorted dresses that had been worn by the ladies of the Renaissance. Soft, flowing dresses with low necklines became the gowns of preference and new jewelry was created to go with the new fashion.
1714 – 1837: Georgian Jewelry
Fashion cultists abounded. Macaronis’, men wearing extreme costumes consisting of bright colored, tight-fitting clothing, red high heels, diamond buttons, and buckles and carrying a “quizzing glass,” could be observed circa 1770. Circa 1797, the so-called Incroyables created another outlandish gentleman’s fashion that included jackets with large lapels, extreme bicorne hats atop flamboyant hairdos, layers of scarves and walking sticks.
1837 – 1901
The Era of Queen Victoria
Victoria’s long reign coincided with a time when, spurred by the advent of photography, the phenomenon that would become mass media was putting down its roots. Never had anyone been so thoroughly documented and emulated. The Queen’s jewelry and fashion, along with that of her family and members of the court, influenced the world.
Art Nouveau Jewelry
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, there were many forces at work in the world of decorative arts that would propel artisans out of the humdrum and into the incredible. A marshaling force for inspiration in the arts was the reopening of the trade routes with the East in 1858. Jewelers soaked up the Japanese bond between nature and design, its simplicity of form, the intense use of color and the concept of mixed metals, giving birth to an entirely new decorative style.
Arts & Crafts Jewelry
In a distinctive departure from the industrial revolution in Europe, the guild revival movement, known as Arts & Crafts, breathed new life into the business of designing and making jewelry. Suddenly, out from under the drab and lackluster tradition of mourning jewelry, a riot of enameled color, glimmering cabochons, and sinuous design gripped the imaginations of a particularly ambitious group of artistic minded individuals.
The “new” designs of the Edwardian Era had their roots firmly planted in eighteenth-century jewelry. The Court of Versailles was inspiration for the customers who desired aristocratically styled jewels. Ornamental motifs from earlier centuries were available through pictorial records and eighteenth-century pattern books circulated freely beginning c.1850. In particular, Cartier encouraged his designers to wander the streets of Paris looking at seventeenth and eighteenth-century architecture for inspiration.
Art Deco Jewelry
The era we now know as “Art Deco” received its moniker from the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, which was largely dedicated to the jewelry arts. Emphasis was placed on the association of art and modern industry. Inspiration for this style was as far-reaching as Oriental, African and South American Art and as varied as Cubism and Fauvism, both popular movements at the time.
Although the term “Retro” wasn’t coined until the 1970s, the jewelry of the late 1930s and 1940s was definitely different from its antecedents. The end of the Art Deco geometric aesthetic came at the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Modern Life – 1937, Paris. Assistant Commissioner General Paul Léon believed that the Exhibition would revive the jewelry arts and return jewelers to the use of ornamentation with grace and variety.
The 1950s jumped and jived their way into our hearts with rock ‘n’ roll, the birth of the “Beat” Generation, the launch of Sputnik, the beginnings of the space race and the knowledge that we were all living in a nuclear world. Dubbed the “Atomic Age,” the art world seized its symbols and created an aesthetic that found it’s way into nearly every aspect of design from architecture to zippers, fabrics to formica, including the diverse subject matter of 50s jewelry.