For the majority of the 18th century, moving into the early 19th century, the Georgian era of jewelry was a prominent statement of luxury and elegance. Also known as the “Age of Diamonds”, royalty and nobility were the primary wearers of jewels that were high in intrinsic value.
Low necklines and upswept hair called for long earring and short necklaces. The most popular shapes for earrings and pendants were:
Girandole earrings - usually consisted of 3 pear-shaped diamond (or colored gemstone) drops suspended from a central element and small surmount
Pendeloque earrings - single pear-shaped drops, sometimes suspended from a central bow and single stone or cluster surmount
Rivieres - short necklaces of collet-set diamonds or other gemstones
Other popular jewelry statements during the Georgian era included:
Large, diamond-set bow brooches, known as Sevigne
Floral spray and feathered brooches set in diamonds
Rings with larger central stones surrounded by smaller diamonds, set in every shape imaginable
For those that could not afford to emulate this lifestyle of extravagant jewelry, large jewelers developed paste jewels that would still imitate the style of these high-value jewels. Paste jewels were set in silver or gold closed-back mounts and foiled for added sparkle. A black spot was often hand-painted onto colorless, brilliant-cut stones to further create the look of beautiful diamonds. The forms of jewelry created with paste jewels were identical to those set with diamonds and colored gemstones.
As paste jewels evolved, they were priced in their own right, rather than as a substitute or imitation, and were sold by the “best” jewelers of England, France, and in the Colonies before the American Revolution.
This design era set the tone for elegance and extravagance at all levels and would be considered key pieces in anyone’s jewelry collection.
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