One of my favorite scenes in my not-so-favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation of 2005, is where Mrs. Bennet admonishes everyone to “behave naturally” as she shoos them about the room in a mad cleaning session before Mr. Bingley (and the pompous one, Mr. Darcy) return to Longbourn.
Almost one minute in, we hear Jane beseech Mary to toss her “the ribbons, the ribbons, the ribbons.” And then we see a giant ball of fabric pieces fly across the room to be hidden behind the sofa.
Ornaments, chiefly women’s, such as ribands, necklaces, etc.
It’s not difficult to find examples of the myriad ribbons ladies used to decorate their dresses and trim their bonnets. My post last week illustrated one year in the life of hats and embellishments. So this week I’d rather look at period jewelry. To wear too much was to be vulgar, but there were still plenty of beautiful pieces to be treasured and admired.
In terms of jewelry classification, it’s all Georgian. The Georgian Era is defined as the time covered during the reigns of all the Georges in England – the First, beginning in 1714 and the Fourth, ending in 1830. Some include the reign of William IV from 1830-1837, as he was the third son of the third George. This period also overlaps with the long eighteenth century (which began with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and ended with the Battle of Waterloo).
Now that we’re all inundated with somewhat superfluous data for this discussion, let’s talk Georgian jewelry.
Because a lot happened in England (and around the world) during the Georgian Era, and the four Georges were, after all, four distinctly different men, jewelry of this time period enjoys some variety. While the French had their Louis kings and then the Empire style of Napoleon, the Georgian aesthetic traveled the world. After all, the sun never set on the British Empire.
Antique Jewelry University posits that when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and caused the Huguenots to flee France, they fled to Germany, Holland, and England – the three countries responsible for the bloodlines of the Glorious Revolution(aries) and the Hanoverian Georges. The most interesting fact of this emigration is that a large percentage of the Huguenot emigrés were artisans and designers. Jewelry designers.
Merci, Sun King.
Georgian Era gold was 18K or higher and completely handcrafted (however, as noted below in the examples I found, much seemed to also be 9K). Iron and steel were also popular and valued metals, and were heavily utilized during this period. World exploration, as well as English mineral deposits, yielded an abundance of materials for jewelry design. Pieces featured a myriad of stones: garnets, topaz, emeralds, rubies, diamonds, corals, amber, ivory, pearls, turquoise, agates, and carnelian. Items were designed as strands of beads, parures, demi-parures, mourning pieces, cameos, and intaglios. Wedgewood even got into the jewelry-making game with their popular Jasperware.
And because thievery was also a profitable occupation during this period, imitation jewelry likewise enjoyed popularity. You were just as apt to see a lady wearing diamonds or emeralds as you were paste, faux pearls, opaline glass, Vauxhall glass, or tassies.
But enough with the history. Let’s get to the looking. Some of these are men’s pieces, so not technically fallalls, but I simply couldn’t pass them.
Cross pendant, gold with closed back set with central pearl surrounded by garnet, emerald, sapphire, zircon, ruby, chrysoberyl cat’s eye, and amethyst. Circa 1800, British Museum
Georgian Emerald Paste Parure, ca 1810, of 9K gold in rivière setting, seen in portrait of Madame Recamier painted by Jean-Louis David.
Fan comb, ca 1810-1820, private collection of N. Garbett.
Turquoise Cannitille Drop Earrings, ca 1820, with torquoise beads in the cannitille manner, supported by an open work design drop consisting of a lace-like gold, The Three Graces.
Lovers Eye Brooch ca 1840, miniature painting in oval frame of 10k yellow gold with heart motif and ribbon border, with glass covered locket and braided sprig of blonde-brown hair on reverse, The Three Graces.
Gold demi-parure of brooch and earrings set with turquoise and small diamonds set as forget-me-not sprays, ca 1840, British Museum.
Wedgewood Plaque Jasperware with Birmingham Cut Steel Border, ca 1790, British Museum.
Pair of tiny gold studs of pointed oval shape with bright-cut borders, with monogram WA with fronds, all in hair under glass and set onto a short post. Backplates engraved ‘FP 1788’, British Museum.
Mourning Ring, ca 1800, courtesy Dickensian Dandy.
Gold comb of leafy oak twig entwined with wreath of forget-me-nots surmounted by bird with ruby eye and ring in beak, on trembler spring. The branch is set with gemstones whose initials spell ‘dearest’ from diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and turquoise. There is a hair compartment in the reverse of the bird. Circa 1830, British Museum.
Double cravat pin of gold, enamel, and tourquoise, with first pin featuring Prince of Wales three feathers design, in torquoise and enamel, which is linked by a detachable torquoise-set chain to the companion pin headed in a raspberry design. Such double pins were very fashionable in the first half of the 19th century. Circa 1800-1820. Museum of London
And from the Royal Collection Trust, from Rundell Bridge & Rundell, official jeweler of the Prince Regent, later George IV:
Brooch with an intaglio of George IV. Siberian amethyst, diamonds; gold collet mount, framed by open scroll-shaped mounts in silver set with smaller brilliants, interspersed with eight larger cushion-cut diamonds, silver-gilt open back and brooch pin. Circa 1820-30, Royal Collection Trust.
Brooch with a cameo of the four Georges Cameo: 1820; Brooch: 1820 with later additions, Royal Collection Trust. Sardonyx: white on brown; diamonds, wreath of laurel and palm leaves set with rose-cut diamonds in silver mounts on a matted yellow-gold ground, surmounted by a diamond-set crown. The reverse with later open mount of red gold with brooch pin and slide loops.
Cast of George IV’s crown 1821, Royal Collection Trust. Gilt bronze, velvet, ermine.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- There’s an entire blog devoted to the Long Eighteenth Century, and it’s marvelous.
- Georgian Era jewelry is profiled at Antique Jewelry University.
- The Jane Austen Centre reveals all about the Changing Tastes in Georgian Jewelry.
- And if you truly want to be in the know, look no further than the International Gem Society’s Guide to Antique Georgian Jewelry.
- Coral necklaces are truly a Regency phenomenon (I know they show up in other eras, but they really show up during this period). Jane Austen’s World tells about Coral Necklaces, Regency Style.
- Georgian Index has a nice biography of THE jewelry makers of the Regency, Rundell and Bridge (1787), then Rundell, Bridge & Rundell (1804), then Rundell, Bridge & Co (1834).
- The best/easiest way to find period jewelry is to search by reputable auction house or museum collection, such as The Three Graces, Christie’s, the British Museum, and the Royal Trust Collection.
- There’s a lovely blog site, en française, with a thorough look at Napoleon’s Empire Collection.
- I also have an lengthy Pinterest board of Regency…Jewelry. Like a moth to a flame, it’s all so pretty!