The Georgian Era

γεωργιανή εποχή

In today’s article, we will find some important information about the Georgian period and its jewellery. Questions will be answered regarding the duration of the period, the style of jewelry that prevailed, what gentlemen and ladies wore at different times of the day, which gemstones were the most prevalent, and much more. We will also see what the most important and characteristic jewellery of that era made history.


The Georgian era and its jewellery

The Georgian period, which runs from 1714 to 1837, was named after the four George monarchs of Hanover, UK. This period, which spanned most of the 18th century and the early 19th century, was a time of rapid global change in which important events and individuals transformed the entire globe.

While the Georgian era is considered a period of British history, the Georgian aesthetic emerged throughout Europe and America. Prior to 1700, attempts had been made, through parliamentary legislation or royal decrees, to delineate the types of clothing and jewelry that were permitted to be worn by citizens based on their social status and income. During the Georgian period these laws were often ignored until they disappeared. As a result, jewelry no longer belonged only to the aristocracy, but became more widely available to the middle class, in which the developed taste for social events and activities created a great demand for jewelry.

The 1770s is the era of the “Macaroni” men with their tight suits in bright colours, high heeled red shoes and impressive diamond buckles and buttons. From about 1795 to 1799 the couples composed of the gentlemen “incroyable” and the ladies “merveilleuse” appeared. They embodied in their style the high fashion of the Parisian aristocracy, which included jackets with large lapels, impressive hats over flamboyant hairstyles, walking sticks and scarves, accessories which were adorned with diamonds and jewels. In 1804 the first train journey was achieved, so during the Georgian era people travelled frequently to foreign countries and therefore local fashion was easily influenced by that of other countries.

The gold alloys of the Georgian era were 18 carats and above, and each creation was entirely handmade. In 1750 the lamination press was invented so the making of uniform sheets of silver and gold improved the appearance of the jewellery and also speeded up the manufacturing process.

Jewellery styles in the Georgian era

The style of jewellery worn by men and women was determined by the time of day at which it was to be worn. In the morning hours, ladies wore link chain necklaces, or chains with pendant watches, brooches, small rings with coloured stones, sets of bracelets worn in pairs as was customary for centuries, and earrings either studded or dangling.

Another important piece of morning jewellery was the chatelaine, a decorative belt hook made of gold or silver, with a series of chains from which all the necessary items for daily life were hung. The long chains were worn a lot, and were made using various techniques and in many shapes. In France, the colliere d’esclavage was very much in vogue, with many chains attached to central plates, and with its gradually increasing length adorning the bodice of the ladies. Gentlemen chose buckles with diamonds and precious stones, and equally shiny buttons on their clothes and shoes.

The gems had their honour

The gemstones used in the morning jewellery were garnet, topaz, emerald and ruby. Also biogenic materials such as coral, amber, ivory and pearls were often chosen, along with turquoise, agate and engraved cameo in chalcedony and shell.

In the evening, rose cut and old mine cut diamonds were abundant. Important evening jewelry included the diamond rivière, an array of striking diamonds that shone around the necks of the ladies. The technique of studding gemstones a-jour had already been developed, but is not seen in Georgian jewellery. Instead, jewelers preferred to use a membrane/mirror and a closed back so as to create a more sparkling effect with the diamonds glowing in the candlelight.

An important jewellery item of the period were the lavish sets (‘parures’) which included up to 16 pieces, all matching, with a cohesive theme and matching gemstones.

Necklaces of the Georgian era

Necklaces, at the beginning of the Georgian period were choker necklaces, but gradually evolved into large and shiny cascades of gemstones to accentuate the ever-increasing neckline of the garments. The hairstyles of the period allowed women to wear earrings and one of the preferred evening styles was the girandole which had a central motif often in the shape of a bow from which hung two small and one larger diamond drop. Later this evolved into the pendeloque which consisted of a round motif with a bow and a matching larger pendant drop. Most earrings were hung from the earlobe with a wire hook, and in 1773 the first button or screw earrings for unpierced ears were created.


Pins, rings and other jewellery

Brooches of the Georgian period usually had a floral design, and a striking style was the en-tremblant, which allowed pieces of jewellery to move gently with the movement of the body. Often the pins had hidden loops on the back so they could also be worn as a pendant by hanging them from a chain.

Rings were often rosette-style, decorated with a large central stone in various shapes and colours, surrounded by smaller diamonds .

Tiaras, combs, crowns, diadems and bandeaus with diamonds and other gemstones were often worn to adorn the elaborate hairstyles of the period. Also, a fashionable head accessory was the aigrette, which included feathers and metallic elements with sparkling gemstones.

The Georgian era also saw the birth of sentimental jewelry, eye-shaped amulets and pendants that were worn or given as a token of love and remembrance. Jewelry designed to feature a child’s braided hair was a treasured keepsake for a mother. Women used their own hair to create keepsakes for their children, husbands and lovers, and hair jewelry reached its peak near the end of the Georgian era. Often, sentimental jewellery had the braided hair in the background, on top of which it was embellished with carved colourless quartz, diamonds and pearls.