Jewellery Through Time – 2
Seventeenth century to Nineteenth century
The 1600s witnessed some incredible changes, and perhaps the most significant shift in fashion at this time was the move from coarse, dark cloths to new, lighter garments. Whereas relatively heavy, bold metals had been necessary to contend with clothing previously, more delicate pearls, gemstones and brilliant-cut diamonds could now hold their own. New trade routes with different parts of the world also led to the use of a wider range of gemstones in European jewellery
The phrase “diamonds are forever” may have been coined in the 1940s, but the age of the diamond really began two hundred years earlier. The more rocks you could fit into a set, the better. The eighteenth century also saw the small-sword phenomenon begin; any man who was anyone would wear a small dagger with an outrageously elaborate hilt, combining jewels, precious metals and sometimes even paintings. They served to both denote rank and provide protection — the purposes of jewellery which keep recurring throughout history.
The 1800s saw a flurry of archeological discoveries, and a newfound respect for the styles of the classical world. As such, a lot of the jewellery — and wider fashion — trends hark back to the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. The language of flowers was also important to many Victorians, so floral brooches and pendants were used as a coded message or means of communicating with others. The popularity of sentimental, and namely mourning, jewellery reached new heights around the death of Prince Albert, when Queen Victoria favoured pieces commemorating her late husband. The most interesting shift in the period saw the women wearing flashier and more ostentatious pieces, whereas in previous periods they had been reserved for the highest ranking men.
In the three hundred years from 1600 to 1900, gendered connotations of jewellery were inverted and sentimentality began to take over from protection as the main reason for wearing jewellery. Of course, that which was worn at the turn of the twentieth century is still a far cry from the hoops and nose studs of recent years.
Check back soon for our next instalment, which tracks trends all the way up to the present day.