The history of jewelry dates back to prehistoric times over a hundred thousand years ago. Scientists and Archaeologists have found evidence of this in burial sites and tombs. In those earlier times the purpose of jewelry was very different from what it is today. Back then, jewelry made from materials such as shells, stones, wood, bones, and feathers were worn for clothing and protection. Over the decades the purpose of jewelry has changed and so have the styles that were once popular. Much of this can be attributed to the economy and the availability of raw materials, from which jewelry was made. As jewelry became more popular, it was being worn more often to show wealth, social status, rank, political interest and religious affiliations. As its popularity continued to increase, jewelry was  sometimes given as a token of affection and adornment for others to wear. As we look through the years, we see how jewelry has evolved. Styles and trends have changed with the times and resurfaced later to recapture the trends that were so popular in the days of the past. Some of the most influential changes began in the early 1700’s. Through this period, the appearance and different styles of jewelry design had gone through many changes. Most of the antique and vintage pieces that are found today were made during this time which we refer to as the Georgian period. The Georgian period dates from 1715 – 1830. The designs worn during these years were very detailed and so intriguing that many jewelers today have modified and redesigned pieces similar to reflect the trends that were popular and happening during those years. Because of the lack of tools and machining, much of the surviving jewelry from this period was handmade. Gold was very expensive during these years so most all of the jewelry was made using a mix of 18K gold and silver to protect the pieces from tarnishing. The cutting tools and techniques were not as superior as they are today and stones were never cut specifically for a piece of jewelry. The jewelry was designed around the stones and was made to fit the stones that were available. Designs from this era displayed many stones of different shapes and sizes set within one piece of jewelry. With the lack of proper cutting tools, jewelers often set stones behind a foil backing in order to enhance the stones and make them sparkle. As we entered the Victorian and Edwardian period from 1835 to the early 1900’s jewelry continued to evolve with designs constantly changing. Many of the jewelry trends seen during this time were inspired by Queen Victoria who took the throne in 1837 and by her son Edward, who followed her reign in 1901. Victoria and her son, Edward had a high influence on jewelry styles and designs at that time. Many trends such as gold lockets and jet black pieces of jewelry became popular items during this time. Near the end of the Victorian period diamonds were being discovered in abundance in South Africa making them popular again in designs. Birthstones were also gaining in popularity and many were being used in engagement rings instead of diamonds. It was during this time that advances in metal fabrication finally allowed for the use of platinum in jewelry. Platinum is a precious heavy metal which is dense and malleable and is ideal for making jewelry. With the strength of platinum, jewelers were able to create more intricate, detailed pieces. In today’s world the use of platinum in jewelry making is still very popular. Jewelry designs from this era were softer and more delicate in style, and the use of many diamonds was essential. Designs of those days were light, feminine, and airy. From 1895 to 1950 the period of Art Nouveau was born. Art Nouveau came about as an artistic revolt against the technological advances of the industrial age. Jewelry which had previously been handcrafted was now being made with the new techniques of machining. The Art Nouveau period was short lived, but produced some of the most sought after jewelry in the world. During this time the emphasis on jewelry was hand-craftsmanship, creativity, and design. Different stones were being showcased and diamonds were used sparingly as accents to enhance the artistic appeal of the piece. Other trends specific to this era were the use of Japanese themes of nature, including birds and dragons. Techniques such as “enameling” and “plique a jour” were also being used to complement the natural themes highlighted during this highly artistic period. In 1914 when World War I began the manufacturing of jewelry came to a halt. These hard times brought on by the war also marked the end of the fashions and trends that were popular in the Edwardian era. Women needed to take over men’s roles and attain work outside the home while the men were at war. Women who were once homemakers were now working out of the home, learning valuable skills and earning their own money. As women’s rights changed, they were becoming more independent and liberated. Not long after, the war ended a new attitude surfaced and people had a new zest and were living life to the fullest. With this new economy and new attitude jewelry trends were again changing. The most noticeable characteristic of Art Deco jewelry was the emphasis on bold, geometric designs. Lines were straight and linear, and gemstone shapes were very much the same. Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds were used to add splashes of color to the new bold designs and black onyx, red coral, and turquoise were being used as accent colors. Jewelers were now using white gold more than platinum in their designs because the cost of platinum was very high. Women wore multiple bracelets layered on their wrists, and long strands of cultured pearls to complement their flapper fringed skirts and backless dresses. Styles of clothing and jewelry reflected women’s liberation. From 1935 to 1950 we entered the Retro period. Jewelry design regained momentum after the United States began recovering from the fall of the stock market and hardship from the Great Depression. Hollywood with all its glitz and glamour became the main influence of the Retro era and its styles of jewelry at that time. Retro jewelry boasted colors of bright yellow, rose, and green and gold alloys because of the wartime restriction on the use of platinum. The jewelry was bigger, bolder, and three dimensional. Large emerald cut semi-precious gemstones were the main focus of this era. At the start of World War II, platinum became scarce again and jewelers were now using gold as their choice of metal. It was not uncommon to see designs of big flowing ribbons and bows, flowers, and animals. Wide gold bracelets were popular, broaches were making a comeback, and earrings worn high up on the ear were all popular styles. Much of the jewelry in the Retro period was glamorous and dramatic. This trend came about to offset the more serious and masculine styles of clothing worn by women during the War years.  After the war, the 1950’s was a time of great economic growth. It led to the rise of the upper middle class, and with it brought a modern jewelry style. Jewelry from the 1950’s reflected this new prosperity by featuring an abundance of gemstones set in flashy, dramatic designs. Diamonds, once again were the focus in jewelry designs. During this time, DeBeers, the biggest overseas diamond retail company, introduced their famous ad slogan “Diamonds Are Forever”. The demand for diamonds was increasing and diamonds were again being used in all types of jewelry. The trend was moving to more light and delicate styles as opposed to the dramatic designs found in the Retro era. Once again, platinum became the metal of choice used for diamond jewelry as it is today. Many designers and jewelers are reinventing the designs and styles of yesterday. By replicating and combining designs they are able to create new looks that are unique. As jewelry styles advance we are able to show our  personal taste with one of the most expressive forms of art!!

 

 

 

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