An Art Deco sapphire and diamond bracelet An Edwardian diamond ring

Late 19th Century  1880-1900

During the late Victorian period the use of jewellery became more conservative and it was worn less during the day, saved for formal occasions and evening gatherings. As was the case with previous decades, in the late 19th century the emphasis was on owning one or two higher quality pieces, rather than quantity.

As a result of the discovery of diamonds in South Africa, circa 1870, diamonds were in abundance and most certainly in vogue during the last two decades of the 19th century. In addition to these discoveries, Kashmir sapphire deposits were also found in the foothills of the Himalayas but only mined during a limited period of the late 19th century. Kashmir sapphires are deemed to be the Rolls Royce of sapphires with a velvety, mid-cornflower blue hue being the most rare and desired.

In contrast to the expense of diamonds and coloured gemstones, pearls and split pearls were also used generously to make necklaces and tiaras. Running in parallel, the introduction of machine produced jewellery resulted in poorer quality, mass produced pieces such as charm bracelets and pendants as well as machine carved shell cameos in low carat gold and base metal.

The late 19th century is well known for jewellery in the form of crescents, quatrefoil motifs, stars and hearts often in openwork form and set with silver and gold. Naturalism was still an important part of the period, taking the form of insects such as dragonflies, bees, butterflies and spiders as well as exotic flowers such as orchids and fruiting vines set with enamel, diamonds and coloured stones.

With times about to change, the last two decades of the century saw creative thinking move away from realistic depictions of nature to a more idealistic, original and evocative approach to nature; the birth of Art Nouveau.

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A pair of 19th century diamond pendent earrings A tigers eye, diamond and emerald turtle ring