As one of the most interesting eras for antique jewellery, the Georgian period was defined by skill, artisanship, and glamour. Every detail from gemstone to the cut and setting can feel distinct when comparing the jewellery by its most popular eras, including Victorian, Edwardian, and other alternative styles throughout history.
The Georgian era of jewellery is often highly sought-after and finding authentic pieces of antique jewellery from this period isn’t always easy if you don’t know what to look out for. For those after an inspiring piece of Georgian jewellery, our buyer’s guide covers all the essentials.
Georgian Jewellery History
Many historians and experts agree on the rich history of Georgian jewellery, which covers from 1714 until 1830. These dates coincide with the reign and rule of five different kings, mostly held by the House of Hanover, including:
- George I, II, III, IV (commonly as the Hanoverian Kings)
- William IV
The period of Georgian jewellery is often extended by many historians to include the brief reign of William IV, which abruptly concluded in 1837 after his early death and ushered in the Victorian age.
Broadly, Georgian art and culture is unlike other eras, notable for its handcrafted glamour. It’s commonly misconceived that Georgian art, including jewellery of the era, was influenced solely by the reign of prominent English kings. Yet, cultural powerhouses of Europe, such as France and Germany, also shaped the kinds of motifs and themes explored through Georgian period jewellery. Jewellery from this era became associated with a deeply passionate culture shaped by the likes of America’s independence and the prevailing French Revolution overseas.
From stately country manors to a global Empire, this era was marked by change. Not excluding art and jewellery, the likes of Mozart and Gainsbourg and the ornate aesthetics of Neoclassicism and Romanticism helped define the period.
The turbulent history of the Georgian era is well established as a period of equal parts pressure and passion that would later invent art and culture in this image. Georgian jewellery is often associated with luxury and can be hard to find on the market because of its status and value.
Key Features in Georgian Jewellery
No two pieces of jewellery are the same. When it comes to identifying the history of a piece of antique jewellery, the different features, characteristics, and styles can help to distinguish one era from another. Whether the gemstone, the quality of its craftsmanship, or even the recurring themes in the motifs– these smaller details reveal the difference between Georgian jewellery and other eras.
Ultimately, buyers will notice the difference in Georgian jewellery where styles look and feel more dramatic and possibly even decorative than previous eras. Through different metal-work techniques and practices, mostly repoussé and cannetille, the Georgian era became largely associated with these more dramatic and detailed designs.
- Repoussé in Georgian jewellery
This defines a metalworking technique of hammering metal from the reserve side in a low relief to imprint a design.
- Cannetille in Georgian jewellery
Used most in embroidery and to achieve a lace or woven affect, this is a technique of twisting spirals from fine silver or gold wire.
Georgian era jewellery is often associated with these different metalworking techniques that were used to create pieces that weren’t as neat or refined as the craftsmanship you might find in more current eras.
Gold assaying, which tests its purity, didn’t become enforceable until the 1900s and this means stamps and makers marks are absent from Georgian era jewellery. Typically, these kinds of identifiers would indicate the firm or designer responsible for the item. But these regulations were not enforced before the 1900s.
Often in closed-back settings, jewellery of the era might be found with foil backings to improve the scintillation of each piece, which amplified the natural colours. Experts suggest that gemstones can appear a little ‘rough’, or more authentic, because of the more intensive process used to create decorative styles.
Popular and attractive stones are often featured throughout this era, including pearls, sapphires, and rubies. These are a staple design feature, often cut to either the shape of a cabochon or teardrop. Diamonds were, however, more popularly featured in rose cuts or table cuts.
The more delicate techniques – from repoussé to cannetille – meant that jewellery from this era is often celebrated for its handcrafted luxury.
Everything from gemstones, golds and silvers were used during this period. Gold in the era is often 18ct (or greater), and this has become a signature of Georgian jewellery. Georgian times narrowly predates the later periods of industrialisation when mass production was would affect the kinds of jewellery available on the market. As a result, metals and other materials had to be hammered by hand until finish.
Silversmiths were popular and this is reflected in the growing complexity of designs throughout the period. The scarcity of gold meant that silver was more often featured in pieces of jewellery, which were designed to dazzle the upper market.
Common Motifs in Georgian Jewellery
The rise of ‘paste’ jewellery was the result from the high demand for gemstones. This describes how other materials were used to replicate and stimulate the lustre and charm of authentic gems. Even though this practice predated Georgian times, this demand for gemstones demonstrates the market taste for attractive jewellery that features authentic and precious resources.
Another major shift in Georgian times was the invention of candlelight that could burn brighter and last longer. Though seemingly small, this change allowed the aristocracy to entertain guests in the day and night. Gemstones, including topaz, were typically worn during the day, whereas diamonds were popular for evening jewellery pieces.
How did this reflect in the jewellery?
The wealth and excess of the upper market shaped how jewellery should look and feel, where the Gregorian era featured colourful gemstones and dazzling diamonds.
Georgian jewellery can be summarised by its quality workmanship and market rarity. Age and a tumultuous history have meant that Georgian jewellery is scarcer on the market than other eras, which has only increased its value. The investment of time and resources coupled with techniques that took years to fully master has meant that these items are rare on the market. Over time, the perception of this jewellery has grown favourably, and many insist that Georgian jewellery is an investment that will appreciate because of its intense workmanship, entertaining history, and individuality.
Our Favourite Pieces of Georgian Jewellery
- Antique Festoon Georgian Necklace
- Georgian Garnet & Pearl Rose Gold Ring
- Diamond & Pearl Memorial Ring
- Gold Pearl & Sapphire Ring
Investing in Georgian Jewellery
Whether you’re buying for the history or the mystique, The Chelsea Bijouterie can help you discover the meaning behind vintage jewellery. To find rare pieces of dazzling Georgian jewellery, explore our collections today.