It's genuinely fascinating to see the way jewelry evolves over time. The differences between what's made today and what was made 100 years ago tell an infinite variety of stories, not to mention the centuries of jewelry history that came before. From antiquity to the present day, the rise and fall of different fashions, technology, and resources have woven an elaborate tapestry for admirers and creators to adore.

antique jewelry

Antique Jewelry

The Dark Ages (pre-1400) 

The further back you go, the rarer jewelry becomes. The middle ages were a time of rudimentary form and fashions. Only the most prominent of nobles were allowed such luxury, and even then the materials and techniques of the time-limited their ornamentation to the simplest of shapes. Brooches and rings made of gold or silver were the height of opulence, while copper, glass, and even iron were considered affluent. 

The Renaissance (1400 - 1700)

As finer materials traded hands and techniques were improved, jewelry gradually diversified throughout the renaissance period. Gold and silver were still quite rare, but they became common enough to serve as betrothal rings and pendants. Coronets for the most prominent nobles, especially royalty, were set with precious gems. Cloth necklaces embellished with jewels were prominent for a time, but these soon gave way to fine metal chains with jeweled pendants.  

Georgian Jewelry (1700 - 1830)

Diamonds and precious metals began making their way into the hands of skilled artisans. Around this period, so named after four successive British kings named George, jewelry was reserved exclusively for the aristocratic upper class. The Rococo and Neoclassical styles were conceived around flamboyant asymmetry and simple geometric shapes respectively. Elaborately detailed pieces became more prominent, but inferior craftsmanship meant that few survived the passage of time intact.  

The Victorian Era (1840 - 1900)

Thanks to the industrial revolution, jewelry finally reached a stage where it became more affordable to the masses and styles could diversify more rapidly. Diamond pieces rose to even higher prominence compared to previous years, thanks in large part to British diamond mines in Africa. While most pieces were still produced by skilled artisans, factory-made jewelry was rising. All types of jewelry could now be produced on a larger scale, but individual pieces remained distinct thanks to the handmade process which was still heavily relied upon.

Keep an eye out for the 2nd part of our timeline, in which we'll explore the evolving styles of the industrial revolution and the birth of modern jewelry in the 20th century. Remember to see us here for questions, concerns, and to peruse a collection of unique handmade pieces.

Photo Credits:

October 20, 2019 — SWCreations Jewelry

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