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Estate Jewelry Timeline

Georgian 1720-1830

Jewelry from this period is very rare, as it was all handmade. Nature themes were very popular, such as organic shapes, scrolls, floral designs, leaves and birds. Memento Mori (meaning "remember you will die") was also a recurring theme, featuring skull motifs and coffins. Mixed metals such as silver and yellow gold were often used, along with rose-cut diamonds accented by flat-top garnets, Image of period pieces to be added emeralds, rubies and amethysts. Settings usually had closed backs or foil mountings behind the stones, to accentuate the color.

Victorian 1835-1901

Jewelry and who was able to wear it changed significantly during this period because of the Industrial Revolution, as well as the discovery of major diamond mines in South Africa. Once only accessible to the very wealthy, jewelry could now be mass-produced and began to be collected by women of lower social status. There also began to be a distinction between "everyday" jewelry like lockets and brooches, and "evening" jewelry featuring diamonds and precious metals. Themes were heavily influenced by Queen Victoria's taste. Early Victorian themes were also nature-inspired, but with delicate metal work and etching. Mid-Victorian jewelry was more solemn, using heavy, dark stones such as onyx, amethyst, garnet and jet. The Late Victorian or Aesthetic period saw a move towards lighter stones such as peridot and spinel, and featured more delicate themes such as crescents and stars.

Art Nouveau 1880-1910

The Art Nouveau movement originated in France as a result of French jewelers rebelling against the mass-produced jewelry of the Victorian age. This period is characterized by romantic and ethereal themes, and figurative forms depicting very stylized natural forms, sensual women and Japanese art. Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany's work epitomize the Art Nouveau aesthetic. There was also a move away from traditional compositions and towards unorthodox use of precious and non-precious metals, unusual gemstones and enamel work.

Edwardian & Belle Époque 1901-1915

A brief but extremely influential period, the Belle Époque was inspired by King Edward VII's elegance and style. The introduction of platinum allowed for more lightweight designs and more durable, secure settings. Open, airy looks such as the “Garland Style” as well as lacy, embroidered techniques like mille grain and engraving defined this era.

Art Deco 1920-1939

Named for the Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris, 1925, Art Deco design was industrial, sleek and stylized. Inspiration came from architectural marvels like skyscrapers, as well as geometric forms seen in Cubist and Dadaist artwork. Global influences also came into play as world culture began to be in vogue, from Africa, India, China, Japan and particularly Egypt.

Retro 1940-1949

As a result of the many resources depleted during World War II, platinum and precious gems became scarce. Lower karat yellow and rose gold, along with semiprecious and synthetic gems were the main materials used in jewelry design of this period. Pins, bracelets and clip earrings were most popular, and often featured combinations of rose gold & rubies or yellow gold & sapphires

Postwar 1950-1959

Inspired by Hollywood and influenced by the middle-class dream, Postwar jewelry was bold, elaborate and colorful. Cocktail jewelry, particularly large gemstone rings, was extremely popular. Themes were often whimsical, featuring animals, insects and sea life, often in three-dimensional form and accented by enamel and vivid semiprecious stones.

Contemporary 1960-1980

Fashion highly influenced the jewelry of this period: Op Art and geometric shapes and patterns in the 1960's, Indian colors and motifs in the 1970's and big, bold, sculptural jewelry in yellow gold in the 1980's. Modern designs in sterling silver, vermeil and 14K gold were fashionably affordable alternatives.