Saturday, 16 May 2009

Georgian gems

During the Georgian era (1714-1830) arts, architecture and literature flourished in the UK, with noted names such as Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Constable, J.M.V Turner, Robert Adam and John Nash making memorable contributions in their respective fields. The British Museum was established in 1753 and its growing collection of items from abroad brought new influences and decorative developments in the arts and architecture.

Georgian jewellery was inspired by the trends in architecture and interior decoration of the Rococo, Neoclassical and Gothic styles which spanned over the Georgian years. Designs from nature were popular; birds, flowers, leaves, insects, acorns, feathers, as well as intaglios, mosaic, the Greek key, hearts and urns. Cameos became fashionable in 1804 when Napoleon had Roman cameos placed on his coronation crown. Other prominent design forms of the Georgian period are bezels, foilbacked stones, low flat goldwork, cobalt blue and black and white enamelling. In essence, jewellery was elaborate and beautifully designed, such as this set from Marie Antiques.

Amazing Georgian Parure jewellery set in 15ct gold featuring pink topaz and pearls. All pieces present and within original box.

Miniatures containing pictures of loved ones were popular and the dead were remembered with early mourning jewellery, memento mori, which were decorated with skeletons, coffins, skulls and crossbones. Other prominent inventions were glass paste copies of real gems as well as a substitute for gold called "pinchbeck" named after its inventor. The best and most lasting paste jewellery was produced after 1734 by Georges Strass. Diamonds were the favoured gem at the beginning of the Georgian period, with coloured stones coming back in fashion in the 1750's. Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires were worn along with new stones like white-imperial-pink topaz, amethyst, chartreuse chrysoberyl, coral, ivory, pearls, and garnets. In addition, lava, shell, onyx, and carnelian became popular with the introduction of carved classical theme jewellery.

A 15ct gold ring with buckle style shoulders set with a large cabochon cut garnet stone from Peter and Naneen Brooks

Natural materials such as pearl and coral were favoured together with precious stones, seen in these seed pearl earrings from Peter and Naneen Brooks and multi-strand coral necklace with carved coral sections, also from Peter and Naneen Brooks

Fine gold work was celebrated in the Georgian period and items were made to the highest standard, like this beautiful French gold mesh purse in 18ct gold with sapphire and pearls from Marie Antiques.

Bright colours were combined with decorative motifs later on in the Georgian period, for example the strong blue together with a plant in this Bristol blue glass set ring with diamonds, ca 1830 from Peter and Naneen Brooks

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