What are the first images that come to your mind when we say “the Edwardian era”? You may think of decorated ballrooms and elegant ladies dancing in long dresses with precious jewels. And you wouldn’t be wrong at all.
Edwardian jewelry is all about femininity, elegance, and style.
Most pieces were made of white metals in combination with diamonds. You can recognize Edwardian jewelry by its elaborate designs, as well as lace and floral forms.
The only way to understand a particular jewelry style is to talk about it in a historical context. The Edwardian era started in 1901 after the Victorian era was over. The queen’s eldest son succeeded her on the throne and ruled for the following decade.
The truth is that Edward, the new king, wasn’t particularly fond of jewelry. However, one of the most luxurious jewelry styles ever developed during his reign. In this period, English society was going through a particularly elegant and sophisticated phase.
Ladies had to dress flawlessly, and adequate jewelry was a must-have. We’re talking about timeless, elegant pieces. The Edwardian era jewelry was all about femininity and glamour, but without ostentation. One could say that their engagement rings had a lot of details. However, all the details were carefully chosen and put together.
We have to underline that mostly upper-class ladies opted for this kind of jewelry. And it remained like that through the whole twentieth century as those pieces were very expensive. Fortunately, today we can find some more accessible Edwardian-era inspired jewelry.
It’s hard to say when the Edwardian jewelry era ended, as different styles tend to overlap. For a while, the Edwardian and Art Nouveau jewelry shared the throne, although they’re entirely different. We can say that the Edwardian jewelry was at its peak until 1910 or even 1915. But, as we said, it’s never gone out of fashion.
Characteristics of Edwardian Jewelry
If you’ve ever seen a piece of Edwardian jewelry, you probably have in mind something elegant and white. That’s a pretty accurate description of this period. The artisans were mostly using white metals, such as white gold and platinum. Of course, they decorated every piece with precious gemstones, most often diamonds and sapphires.
It’s not unusual to see other elegant gemstones such as rubies or emeralds. However, there is one universal rule: the more color, the fewer the details. That’s to say that diamond rings had many floral decorations, while red and blue gemstones tend to have simpler rings as a base. As you can see, the craftsmen of the époque wanted to do everything with style and measure.
The two main characteristics of Edwardian jewelry are filigree and milgrain work. When you see filigree earrings with fine delicate tracery, you know they’re from Edwardian period, or at least Edwardian-period inspired. Earrings and tiaras were prominent but lightweight, thanks to lacy details.
As you know, today, milgrain adds a dash of that charming vintage look. However, in that period, milgrain was a very modern technique and a sign of prestige. Sometimes it can be jaw-dropping, other times it’s so subtle that you barely notice it. Nevertheless, you see that the ring has that little something that makes you covet it.
What Makes the Edwardian Jewelry So Special?
We hope that after reading the previous section, you have a better understanding of this period and its characteristics. We’ll now try to explain some of the main features of Edwardian jewelry so that you can recognize an Edwardian piece at first glance.
Did you know that platinum became popular only during the Edwardian era? In previous periods, it was considered a somewhat less attractive alternative to the white gold. However, the Edwardian jewelers realized its true value and managed to show to the world that platinum was as worthy of princesses and noblewomen as gold.
It was a small revolution in the jewelry world. Platinum allowed designers to create lighter jewels and experiment with filigree. Finally, they had a chance to express their creativity, so different from that of the Victorian period. At a time, wearing platinum meant that you were a woman with a modern worldview, who wasn’t scared of trying out the latest trends.
Edwardian jewelry looks delicate and airy. Subtle filigree techniques that can be considered an art form helped to achieve that look. The craftsmen spent hours working on those lace-like details that would look both lightweight and sophisticated.
This is one of the secrets of why women from the Edwardian era wore huge earrings in paintings and photographs. They were much lighter and more comfortable than they appeared.
Unlike the styles that would come after, Edwardian jewelry was all about softness. You can note that their engagement rings have a more natural shape, with curved edges. Everything looks subtle and lady-like, just like the spirit of those times. You can’t see any sharp lines that were so popular during the Art Deco period.
Milgrain is an old French-style technique, used for giving a final touch to rings or pendants. Its name comes from the French term “mille-grain”, which means a thousand grains. The Edwardian engagement rings may not have had a thousand beads, but they certainly had a lot of them. Although milgrain may be an old technique, it wasn’t until this period that it became so popular.
Every girl living in the Edwardian period dreamed of having a diamond engagement ring. If diamond rings are so popular today, we can thank the artisans of this period who promoted them. The two most popular cuts were Old Mine and European cut.
A typical Edwardian engagement ring has a large central diamond that can be surrounded either by smaller diamonds or colorful sapphires. The best thing is that you can still find jewels with rocks from the original Edwardian era.
It’s important to distinguish between the jewelry from the Edwardian era and Edwardian-style jewelry. The first dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was usually passed from generation to generation in wealthy families.
Today, you can find some original pieces, but they’re very expensive. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, we have some other options for you.
First, we suggest you look for Edwardian-style jewelry. Its new jewelry made according to Edwardian standards. Another idea is to purchase new pieces that use antique diamonds from the Edwardian era. This may be the best idea for those who want to have the best of both worlds.
To sum it up: you can find original Edwardian jewelry in antique shops, while most jewel stores sell Edwardian-style inspired pieces. If you like some of the old pieces, you can even order something similar, made especially for you. The combinations are endless, from materials to ornaments.
A Few Pieces Chosen for You
There’s a big difference between ladies from the Edwardian era and us. Their dress code was more formal, and there were more occasions when they needed to have a perfect look. Some Edwardian jewelry still looks fabulous, while some pieces may seem outdated.
That’s why we’ve made a selection of pieces that can look gorgeous on modern women. We’ve chosen five timeless jewels that will never go out of fashion.
Diamond Engagement Rings
Edwardian-style engagement rings are ideal for ladies who have a fine eye for detail. They come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how prominent you want your ring to be. The first decision you have to make is whether you want white gold or platinum ring. We suggest you chose the option that fits with the rest of your jewelry.
Your next decision regards the ring shank. Some Edwardian models come with a simple, tiny shank, but most of them have luxurious, elaborate designs. There’s everything, from floral motifs to lace-like motifs, or milgrain work.
Many engagement rings consist of more diamonds, but the central one is always the most prominent. If you want a combination of a diamond and other gemstones, check out pieces decorated with sapphire and emerald. They create a nice contrast without being too glaring.
On the other hand, if you want something more subtle, opt for rings of single-cut diamonds that have always been a sign of elegance. You can find original Edwardian-era diamonds, cut by the most famous artisans of the Epoque.
Lightweight and airy, Edwardian earrings tend to move with every step you take. Unlike bulky jewelry from the previous centuries, they don’t feel like a burden on your ears. Instead, you can wear them for hours, forgetting that you have them on. They can transform even the simplest outfit into something magical.
Another popular model are chandelier earrings. With multiple chains of diamonds that meet at the diamond base, they look both sophisticated and exotic. If you want to look different and stand out, this shape can be an excellent choice. Moreover, you won’t need any other jewelry as they’ll make you look like a queen.
As we mentioned, the Edwardian era was a period of creativity and innovations. Women no longer wanted to be limited to traditional ring stone shapes. That’s how vertical rings became fashionable. This type of ring is perfect for ladies with long, thin fingers, as they make your hand look even more elegant.
The vertical ring is also an excellent choice if you want to stand out from the crowd, but stay sophisticated and glamorous. Nowadays, there are various kinds of these rings, from simple platinum rings with a vertical diamond to more elaborate versions. For example, a beautiful combination of diamond and green emerald.
Is there a more lady-like piece of jewelry than a beautiful tiara? Edwardian-period ladies knew how to make themselves feel like princesses, and we should learn from them. Typical crowns from this period feature lace-work, decorated with diamonds.
If you’ve always dreamed of feeling like a queen at least for one day, this is your chance. Proms and weddings aren’t the only occasions for wearing tiaras. In combination with a simple black dress, you can wear it on any occasion. If you’re not sure which model to choose, you can never go wrong with simple models with just a couple of diamonds.
Tip: Look for tiaras that can convert into a necklace. That’s right: Many Edwardian-style tiaras can transform into a necklace with a few adjustments, which is perfect for less formal occasions. That way, you’ll have a 2-in-1 piece of jewelry.
Pearls and Diamonds
After diamonds, pearls were also popular in the Edwardian era. As you know, they’re timeless, and every lady has to have at least one piece of jewelry with pearls. That said, we don’t want to talk about ordinary beads. The Edwardian era is known for some pretty bold combinations, such as pearls and diamonds.
You think that’s too much? Not at all. How many times have you been uncertain about what to wear – pearls or diamonds? It’s one of the toughest decisions every lady has faced at least once. Well, who said you have to give up on one of them when you can have them both? At least, that was what Edwardian ladies thought.
Edwardian artisans knew how to combine pearls with diamonds, and still manage to keep it simple and elegant. We can see this on some of the earrings from the époque.
What Do You Think?
We hope this article helped you learn more about timeless Edwardian jewelry and the ways we can combine it today. Was there anything that you didn’t know before? For example, the fact that they were the first to popularize the use of platinum, or maybe the combination of pearls and diamonds we’ve just mentioned?
Anyway, we hope you’ll find a way to combine Edwardian-style jewelry with your own style. Maybe a pair of long pendant earrings or an elegant engagement ring – who knows!
Photography Credit to The Saber Team.