As you might know, there were a lot of interesting and distinct eras in jewelry that spanned decades, centuries. And although the periods sometimes overlap, the following is a widely accepted breakdown of the historical periods. Let's fly through them!
This style was mainly seen in decorative arts during the Victorian era, the period Queen Victoria reigned. The Victorian era is known for its eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles but also for the cross-cultural influences from the Middle East and Asia. Jewelry from this period can be recognized by working in yellow of pink gold, the use of seed pearls, colored precious stones or paste and the use of memorial jewelry.
This is also referred to as Jugendstil or Arts & Crafts, an international movement and style of art and architecture. Jewelry from this period is often very romantic, has floral motifs in the design, symmetrical designs, fluent and elegant, made with pastel colored enamel and the use of seed pearls, natural materials, such as horn. The Belle Epoque saw more and more opulent diamond, pearls, white gold and platinum jewelry. All made for the new aristocracy. This new style had its origins in the 18th century French Decorative Arts; Garlands, leafs, festoons of flowers, fluttering bows and ribbons. All with an intricately done lace like quality, which demanded a light weight, but robust precious metal such as platinum.
The Edwardian era is overlapping with the ‘Belle Epoque'. It was a period of great wealth for the upper classes, led by the luxury-loving King Edward. Platinum as a precious metal became quite popular. Also, former motifs of the 1890’s such as crescent or star brooches and traditional motifs as bows, ribbons and lace. The diamonds were big and the design a bit more sleek.
Art Deco 1915-1935
Art Deco is an eclectic and symmetrical design style which had its origins in Paris. In jewelry we see a lot of gemstones such as diamonds combined with aquamarine, emerald, rubies, sapphires, but also next to that onyx, mother of pearl, chrysoprase, jadeite and coral were used. The jewelry (the majority was made in white metal, at least at the front) from this period is known for its symmetrical and geometric designs.
Retro period (Late Art Deco) 1940-1950
This jewelry style which was developed in the 1940s and 1950s in response to a popularity for bold, eye-catching graphic designed jewelry pieces that were easy to reproduce. Cocktail rings and bracelets were made with impressive volume and exuberant shapes. Often colorful designed pieces, with rubies, sapphires and spinel.
Vintage jewelry used to refer to pieces from the 1950s to the 1980s, but now the 1990s and unique pieces from more recent decades are popular with 'vintage' fans. You typically see yellow or brushed gold for the sixties, colorful stones in larger cocktail rings in the fifties and large ear clips (for example the ‘door knocker’ model) in the seventies. Also, cabochon cut colored stones and geometric brooches were seen a lot.