Beverly R Blog

Antique Jewelry of the 19th Century
The 1800's is an era which stretched from Napoleonic neoclassicism to late Victorian mechanization, and the 19th century can be broken into four distinct phases, embracing the spectrum of antique jewelry design in a century of both creative and restless change.

1800 - 1837: Most jewelers would describe this as the late Georgian period jewelry, or antique Regency jewelry. But along with George, there was also William IV, who was on the throne for a brief period, along with the antique jewelers with their Napoleonic legacy, during this period, and especially the fifteen years leading up to Victoria's accession in 1837, antique jewelry designs were constantly evolving. 1800 - 1810 in antique jewelry terms is closely associated with neo-classicism. Prior to this during the years of the French revolution little antique jewelry was made, and the previously popular diamond necklaces and tiaras were seen as unacceptably bourgeois. Sadly much of this antique jewelry owned by the aristocracy was looted, broken up and sold for scrap.

Napoleon's military campaigns in both Egypt and Italy inspired the antique jewelers with the plunder of the art and treasures of the Ancients. During the early 1800's much of the antique jewelry was gold tiaras, similar to those worn by the Egyptian queens, armbands, and clasps were set with cameos or intaglios depicting mythological deities., and very often the antique settings contained laurel wreath designs, and or Greek keys. Another popular 'classical' medium in antique pieces was micro mosaic jewelry. The 1830's were also associated with sentimentally inspired pieces where little messages were conveyed in the antique jewelry, with the first letter of the gemstone in a line of colored gems spelt an appropriate endearment such as 'Dearest' or 'Regard', with the frames of these antique pieces very often being padlocks, keys and hearts.

1837 - 1860 When Queen Victoria was crowned this period is called Early Victorian Romanticism by must antique jewelry dealers; it was an elegant era, and also a period of some of the greatest change in antique jewelry development. In the 1840's naturalism was still a large influence, with gold brooches fashioned as grape clusters, bows or cascading foliage. Bracelets in the 1840's - 50's had adjustable lengths with jeweled buckle clasps. The 1840's also saw the development of antique serpent jewelry, especially when Queen Victoria received a serpent engagement ring from Prince Albert. Also with speedier transport being developed, people were travelling more, and the tourist industry was in full swing, to Italy where people were bringing back souvenirs from their visits, which included coral cameos, and antique pieces set with both garnet and turquoise.

1860 -1880 This was an era of exploration and also prosperity. This was a time of historical inspiration, and a passion for archaeological gold jewelry. The fashion for the neo-classicalism  again made a revival in antique jewelry, with goldsmiths such as Fortunato and Pio Castellani, pioneering the technique of applying minute shotwork and ropework to gold surfaces, thus reviving a skill in antique jewelry which had died out, with the ancient Etruscan jewelers. Also by the 1860's gemstone polishing had advanced to the extent that semi-precious gemstones such as garnet and turquoise could be cut and shaped to fit the contours of antique jewelry settings, and by the 1870's pendants and brooches were mounted with large cabochon garnets, which were sometimes chiseled and set with diamonds at their center.

Also this was a period when enameling became popular, and there was a combination of enamel pieces set with semi precious gemstones. Carlo Giuliano was probably the best known of these antique jewelers. And in Paris Alexis Felize along with the enameler Tard, started producing antique jewelry with cloisonne enamel in the 'Japanese taste' for the European market. Nature continued to fascinate the antique market with insect brooches - bugs, bees and spiders, all became very popular in antique decorative jewelry.

1880 -1901 This was an era of prosperity, and for the wealthy diamonds were abundant and readily available, along with many colored gemstones, especially ruby, sapphire, opal and turquoise. also there was the discovery of gold mines in Australia and North America. There was economic growth and confidence, which meant the Victorian middle classes possessed a disposable income to purchase the more expensive antique jewelry, and lead the lifestyle where they wore it. One of the most influential goldsmiths of this era was Edward Streeter. He along with a lot of the Victorian jewelers produced not only sentimental pieces of antique jewelry, such as - hearts, lover's knots, horseshoes and shamrocks, but also sport's jewelry, with enameled cufflinks showing horse racing or fishing scenes. Gold tie pins were produced as sets of golf clubs, galloping racehorses, cyclists and even musical instruments such as Violins.

Pieces from all these different eras' can be found at Beverley R Jewelry at 172 E. Walton Place, Chicago Illinois 60611, along with helpful staff who can tell you more of the history of the Georgian and Victorian Periods.
1/ Carved Coral Cameo earrings
Carved Coral Cameo earrings
2/ Cabochon Garnet fringe brooch, with diamond bug motif
Cabochon Garnet fringe brooch, with diamond bug motif
3/ Agate Cameo of Hercules, in laurel wreath frame
Agate Cameo of Hercules, in laurel wreath frame
4/ Etruscan Revival locket signed Castellani
Etruscan Revival locket signed Castellani
5/ Georgian green enamel and diamond brooch (very rare)
Georgian green enamel and diamond brooch (very rare)