Edwardian Jewellery

Early 20th Century, 1900-1925

The Art Noveau period which had already started by 1900 celebrated feminine beauty. In particular the naked female form was used in Art Nouveau jewellery design, reflecting the change of the womanʼs position in society. The preferred material at this time was enamel, often bright in colour, as well as moonstone and pearl. Amongst others it was the renowned Rene Lalique (1860-1945) who epitomised the period with his sumptuous designs of fine female lines as well as butterflies and insects using plique-à-jour enamel which, when applied with open backed settings, has a similar effect to that of stained glass windows.

Alongside the Art Noveau and Arts and Crafts movements, the first 10 years of the 1900ʼs saw a continuation of the late 19th century style which was still the preference of most people. New designs did emerge in the form of ribbons and garlands of cartouche design with gemstones often set in platinum. It was during the late 19th century that platinum had been introduced and it became more widely used during the early 20th century mainly by skilled jewellers to design delicate pieces.

Arguably one of the most important pioneers of the period was Louis Cartier (1875-1942). Already well established in Paris he opened a shop in London (1902), in addition to the renowned 5th Avenue boutique in New York.

Delicate jewellery was still fashionable but worn in abundance. The look however tended to be mono-chromatic, using onyx and diamond as well as black and white enamel. Evening dress included diamonds on black silk or velvet chokers, often worn with a sautoire or a string of pearls to complete the look.

During the early 20th century, a taste of the Orient became an influence. This resulted in an explosion of colour with combinations of sapphires, emeralds, ruby and jade which were sometimes carved before being set. Jewellery continued to be worn with extravagance but less ostentatiously than it had been by their Victorian counterparts.

The impact of the outbreak of war on lives resulted in jewellery being sold or concealed. Precious metals were no longer used for jewellery as they became very scarce. Compounding these factors, governments did not allow any trade in metals whatsoever making the jewellery industry almost non-existent. However, times were soon to change as this period preceded Art Deco, a movement that not only influenced jewellery but the worlds of fashion and architecture.