Georgian: 1714 - 1837
This was a period when there was great public demand for cheap jewelry, creating a market for paste jewelry. Cut-steel, like the mineral marcasite, was commonly substituted for diamonds for those who could not afford the genuine article.
Both women and men wore an abundance of jewelry during the Georgian era. Men commonly wore jeweled buttons on the their coats and on the knees of their breeches, and pocket watches with a variety of watch fobs.
Women typically favored a full jewelry parure with a number of matching pieces (necklace, ring, brooch, earrings and bracelet) or demi-parure with two or three matching pieces.
Motifs most frequently found in Georgian jewelry include the sévigné bow, hearts, flower garlands, ribbons and stars. Designs were typically openwork gold filigree, repousseé, square shaped brooches with pearl borders, ring with crowned-heart motif, and enamel or engraving ornamentation.
Victorian: 1837 – 1901
Queen Victoria wore mourning jewelry during an extended period of mourning for Prince Albert. Such pieces typically used black jet, onyx, and human hair; common motifs were clasped hands, crosses, doves and garlands.
Cameos are another item popular during the Victorian era. The classic subjects traditionally carved on cameos changed from scenes of mythology and legend to the sentimental motif with an anonymous female profile.
Ornamental motifs on Victorian jewelry included grapes, vines, leaves, serpents, hearts, flowers and crescent moons. Popular gemstones included amethyst, opal, garnet, peridot, coral, citrine, turquoise, carnelian and aquamarine.
Art Nouveau: 1880 – 1914
The jewelry motifs from this era include nude or semi-nude female figures; female heads in languorous poses; sunbursts; crescents; insects and botanical motifs, many of which were often combined in designs with a dreamlike quality.
The jewelry of the Art Nouveau period stressed artistry and enameling with colored gemstones used to dramatize a design. The most popular gemstones were moonstones, opal, chalcedony, peridot, amethyst, aquamarine, topaz, mother of pearl, lapis lazuli, rock crystal, and turquoise. The cabochon cut was preferred.
Arts and Crafts: 1890 – 1914
Designs were abstract or featured naturalistic themes such as flowers, leaves and garlands. Rather than precious metals, inexpensive materials such as silver and base metals were used. Use of enamels and cabochon-cut gemstones instead of faceted ones is another characteristic of the Arts and Crafts period.
Edwardian: 1901 - 1910
Knife-edge settings produced mountings that were nearly invisible, giving the gemstone the appearance of floating without support. Mille grained (raised edges) settings made diamonds appear larger.
Motifs most frequently found in Edwardian jewelry are good luck symbols, horseshoes, wishbones, doves, hearts, laurel wreaths, ribbon bows, small animals, sun, stars and moon. Distinctive to the Edwardian period are drop earrings, long bead or pearl sautoirs with tassels, negligee pendants, bar brooches and bangle bracelets.
Art Deco: 1920 - 1940
Art Deco drew inspiration from a combination of various influences — Cubism in the art world; architecture; Asian, Islamic, Indian, African and Egyptian art; and the machine age. Some of the most typical designs reflecting these influences are the lattice motif, pagoda, dragons, Fu dogs, fish, and disks. Carved and smooth polished jade and coral were commonly used.
Typical of the Art Deco era is jewelry with a “fruit salad” look; rings and brooches made with a combination of diamonds, carved rubies, carved emeralds, and carved sapphires. Platinum, white gold, and tricolor gold were the most commonly used precious metals. Especially popular was the diamond straight-line bracelet.
The use of Bakelite, an early plastic, was unique to the Art Deco period. It could be easily molded and dramatically colored. Bakelite pins, earrings, necklaces and pendants in geometric fruit and floral designs were quite common.
Retro: 1935 - 1950
The most typical motifs include flowing scrolls, bows, knots, florals, hearts, small animals, insects, birds and snakes. Most common are charm bracelets with numerous charms, large pendants of bold design, hinged lockets, and pendants that convert to brooches.