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.
Early Victorian, 1837-1860
With the new found prosperity of the middle classes and the abundance of precious metals and gold from new discoveries in Australia and America the jewellery industry flourished. During this Victorian period jewellery was worn unsparingly and heavily influenced by the tastes and ideals of Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837-1901.
Mid 19th Century, 1860-1880
In contrast to the two previous decades hair ornaments and earrings were back in fashion as hair styles changed. Rather than the hair covering the ears, necklines were now exposed and hair tended to be gathered at the back of the head in elaborate styles of sophisticated elegance and femininity.
Late 19th Century, 1880-1900
During the late Victorian period the use of jewellery became more conservative and it was worn less during the day, saved for formal occasions and evening gatherings. As was the case with previous decades, in the late 19th century the emphasis was on owning one or two higher quality pieces, rather than quantity.
The Art Noveau period which had already started by 1900 celebrated feminine beauty. In particular the naked female form was used in Art Nouveau jewellery design, reflecting the change of the womanʼs position in society. The preferred material at this time was enamel, often bright in colour, as well as moonstone and pearl. Amongst others it was the renowned Rene Lalique (1860-1945) who epitomised the period with his sumptuous designs of fine female lines as well as butterflies and insects using plique-à-jour enamel which, when applied with open backed settings, has a similar effect to that of stained glass windows.
Art Deco, 1925-1940
At a time of post war joy, the outlook on life was one of enjoyment and creative freedom and expression, leaving behind the suffering of previous years. The status of women in society had changed during the war and this had a liberating impact on style and fashion with greater emphasis on practicality. Woman began to wear their hair short and trousers were an option for the first time. Revealing dresses cut to show the knees allowed women to dance the foxtrot at endless soirees.
The sobering years of WWII put an end to the use of platinum which was commandeered for the war effort. Gold was in fashion and used to make cuff bangles, large dress rings and chunky bracelets which were often decorated with citrines and amethysts.