Antique Georgian Jewelry – Part I Naming an era. Post 95.
In our culture, we usually refer to jewels made between 1715 and the early 19th centuries as Georgian Jewelry.
It is common to identify a jewel with the monarch reigning at the time it was made. We associate most jewelry made during the 18th and early 19th century with the 4 first King Georges. While his Poppa was having a meltdown, one of the later Georges ruled in his Dad's stead. This period was known as the Regency period. Later, the same regent became George IV.
Perhaps because this era coincided with Britain's rise as a great colonial power, we tend to disregard the fact that in other countries, there were other versions of history in the making.
At the very same time as George III was going nuts, there was a Louis in France and later Napoleon Bonaparte. The fashion of Napoleon and Josephine called the Empire style, ran almost concurrently with the Regency period in England. Interestingly, there are only about 20 years between the jewelry of Marie Antoinette and the clean linear, neo Classic style of the Empire era.
#5335 Empire Necklace.
During this time, most jewelry in America either came directly from England or was a copy of English jewels. In fact, for a long time, Puritan sensitivities in America frowned upon wearing too much jewelry and it was only at the end of the 19th century, with wealth overcoming religious principals, that Americans began spending wildly on luxury items.
In Europe, especially what is now Germany or the Habsburg Empire, jewelry of a different nature and style was made. When we look at central European jewels, they are usually heavier and more staid than their French or English counterparts.
#5594 Iberian Peninsula Georgian Earrings.
Most notable in this period were powerful 'new' styles from the Iberian Peninsula. We often overlook the fact that prior to the 19th century, it was Spain and Portugal who led the colonial world. It was Spain and Portugal who conquered most of South America, pillaging gold and precious stones. Fashion of the day was set in the Iberian Peninsula. Fantastic, often enormous jewels with exquisite craftsmanship despite the technical limits of the period were created during this period. Girandole and pendeloque earrings, so heavy that they had to be held up with ribbons, enormous rings are some of the fabulous jewels that were often donated to monasteries and some of which survive to this day.
There was also finer gold jewelry made in the Iberian Peninsula, echoed in the French provinces such as Normandy. The jewels of Provincial France, often deeply religious in nature are a far cry from the sophisticated work that began to be created in Paris.
#4545 French Provincial Crucifix Pendant.
Simultaneously, jewels of a totally different sort were being made in the Far East. Indian jewelry is a subject all on its own, which we have touched on in a number of our posts. Even in remotest Africa and South America, humans were adorning themselves in their own individual ways.
Sadly, not a great deal of fine Georgian jewelry remains from all cultures. When the antique and historical value of an item is not valued, it is often melted down for its scrap metal and gem value - sometimes to be made into more modern pieces for the descendants of the original Georgian owners, sometimes to finance the coffers of the powers-that-be and their latest scraps and scrapes.
Please look out for more posts on Georgian jewelry when we will discuss its characteristics and how to recognise and identify it.