Egypt (3000 BC)
Because it resisted tarnishing and was pliable, gold was the first choice for wealthy Egyptians in this time period. Basically, everything was made with gold: pendants, head ornaments, collars, King Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, you name it. However, these were mainly reserved for the higher class, and most others wore simple beads.
Medieval Period (1200-1500)
This era was all about showing off your status. While those lower on the social ladder typically sported base metals, those higher up, like nobility, favoured gold and silver. Coronets and brooches were popular and they also loved gems, which were more often polished than cut. During this time, jewellery supposedly endowed with protection for the wearer was sought after.
Georgian Period (1714-1830)
Georgian jewellery is handmade, and most of it has 18k gold and silver. The stones, interestingly enough, have different sizes even within the same piece, as in this period jewellery was made for the stones, and not the other way around. The most common diamonds were rose and table cut, which would also be set in silver and only backed with gold (due to its high price). This prevented tarnishing. Floral and scrolling themes were common for rings.
Victorian Period (1837-1901)
The time of the much-loved Queen Victoria, her taste in jewellery greatly reflected what was trendy during this time. When it came to engagement rings, birthstones commonly replaced diamonds–for example, Albert gave Victoria an engagement ring set with her emerald birthstone.
Gold lockets and black jewellery became a trend when Queen Victoria mourned the loss of Albert (‘mourning jewellery’). This was also around the time diamond solitaire engagement rings were birthed.
Art Nouveau Period (1890-1910)
This brief moment of jewellery history produced an explosion of coveted jewellery. It focused on the often nude female form, and on creativity and hand-crafting. Enamelling was a very popular technique during this era to accentuate the nature feel of the art nouveau period. Diamonds were rarely used — they were mainly incorporated to heighten the piece’s artistic look. Common gemstones for jewellery at this time included garnet and opal.
Edwardian Period (1901-1910)
People of this period favoured delicate pieces of jewellery, made possible by the advancement in work with platinum. This newfound strength of jewellery meant a whole new world was opened: delicate and intricately detailed jewellery was now possible, with the technique of ‘millegraining’ — a border of tiny beads — birthing from this era. Various diamond-cutting techniques such as the emerald and baguette cuts were also birthed from this time due to the widespread use of diamond. Brooches also held great popularity in the Edwardian period, beautifully complementing this new style of feminine, lacey jewellery. This all went perfectly with the white silk worn by wealthy women.
Post WWII Era (1950s)
Met with an era of rising upper middle-class, bold designs were in as were a plentiful supply of diamonds. Jewellery also began leaning more towards the feminine.
Stone-wise, people reached for pearls and amethyst, focusing on the colour more than the value; design-wise, people began leaning towards the abstract, and gold textured with a braided design, reeding and piercing. Animals were also a popular motif, with emphasis placed on the incredibly intricate details, such as the scales of a fish.
Nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be such a solid jewellery trend, or if there is, it changes far too quickly. What with how closely connected everyone is across the globe with the help of the internet, it’s safe to say that it’s far too difficult to pinpoint one specific trend in one specific area.
There were statement necklaces, then there were giant hoop earrings, and for a very long time now ther’s been a great emphasis on the biggest diamond engagement ring — but at the end of the day, the trends of jewellery should have no bearing on what you choose to put on tomorrow morning. You’ll look great no matter what.
Words: Minnie Jung