Jewelry of the Nineteenth century


As was true in the past two centuries, Paris led the world in fashion. One of the first vogues to enter from this domain was the use of amethysts and topaz. Perhaps the most important aspect of this fashion in the future of jewelry was that they were set with the new method of being machine stamped and then finished by hand.

A photo of French filigee dangle earrings from the 1800's.

Museum of Art
Rhode Island School of Design
Gift of Mrs. Robert H. Ives Goddard, Jr.
Photography by Erik Gould
Click on the above image for a larger detailed view

Eclecticism was the hallmark of the first years of the nineteenth century. One of the first of these diverse sources of ideas was the prolongation of a trend set in the eighteenth century, that of imitating nature. By 1820, full bouquets of flowers were used to decorate all sorts of ornamentation. To make them look more real, tremblers were used so that the flowers would move like they would in nature whenever their wearer moved. In 1840, Pampilles carried on this tradition of copying nature, only a little more richly, as flowers were portrayed being surrounded by showers of tiny diamonds.

Jewelry was not only light, but it was equally classical. Filigreed gold and hollowed chains returned with fervor, and yet another revival of cameos occurred. It has been stated that in the early nineteenth century "a fashionable lady wears at her girdle, cameos in her necklace, cameos on each of her bracelets, and a cameo on her tiara." There was a serious attempt to renew the art of cameo making as an industry. Since the ancient and medieval cameos could not be improved upon, the artists employed new materials to make the art their own. The most prevalent of these materials was shell. Although antique stones were the most sought after, shells were acceptable in order to fulfill the fashion needs.

The classical diadems also found a corresponding object in this reawakening, in the form of a ferroniere. This headdress, first appearing in 1825, was a circlet of gold holding a jewel and worn just above the eyebrows.

Another major source of design was one of the few not originating in France, but from the Victorian age of England. It was under this influence that jewelry turned from nature to solid, more dignified designs and richer, heavier stones. By 1860, women were covered by hoopskirts, shawls and long sleeves and jewelry coordinated with large pins worn at the throat, long earrings , heavy bracelets and heavily worked gold rings. When Albert died in 1861, mourning became a national pastime and mourning jewelry went along with the trend. Black onyx and jet were worn constantly. After 1869, the mountings of these jewels became more inconspicuous. The were referred to as the Montour illusion. Gold became preferred over silver, but even when used it was completely invisible.

As women began to play a different role in society towards the end of the century, their jewelry became more massive than delicate. Hearts , bows and flowers all took on a bold and unashamed look. With the influx of moonstones, diamonds and pearls, colored stones became passť.

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