Early 19th Century, 1800-1837
The early 19th century saw the rebirth of tastes and styles in Europe as Napoleon came to power. Napoleon and Josephineʼs interest in jewellery was well known and they sought to change the jewellery style from simplicity to that of a more elevated and sophisticated design which articulated their ideal of power and glory.
After the long years of the Napolenoic wars in Europe, precious stones and metals had become rare and highly expensive. Due to the scarcity of diamonds in France during the 1830ʼs silver pinched collet settings were designed to enhance the reduced number of gemstones used to make a piece of jewellery.
During this period of austerity, imagination led to innovation which resulted in the production of cost effective pieces of cannetille design using gemstones such as aquamarines, topaz, peridot, chrysoberyl and amethyst. These gemstones were typically set in clusters and mounted in foiled closed back settings which intensified the stonesʼ colour.
Classicism was popular in the form of Greek key motifs, acanthus and laurel leaves, arches and eagles. Paurers were desirable, in particular for court and formal occasions. In addition, the period saw a renewed interest in micro mosaics, camoes and intaglios often set in tiaras, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Berlin iron was a significant movement in the first two decades of the early 19th century. During the Prussian rebellion German patriotic women donated their gold and precious jewels to the state to support the Prussian troops who badly needed equipment. Berlin iron jewellery consequently often bore the inscription ´gold gab ich fur Eisen, 1813´ meaning ´I gave gold for iron, 1813´.
Sentimental and memorial jewellery were an important part of the mourning rituals of social and family life. During the first 20 years of the century, rings often took the form of a rock crystal cabochon protecting a lock of hair which was sometimes in the form of a monogram. In contrast, the wealthy English landowning aristocracy lived sumptuous lifestyles and were eager to buy diamond and precious gemstone jewellery, which was typically of French influence and designed in London or on the continent.