“Have a cheerful and at times even a Merry Christmas.” - Jane Austen
As everyone is counting down to Christmas, no one seems to remember that Christmas used to be a dismal time in this country - in fact, it was once banned by Oliver Cromwell in 1644. With the return of Charles II, the holiday was re-instated and gradually became popular again by the Georgian period (1714- 1830).
Traditionally, Christmas dinner was always roast turkey, goose or venison - then followed up by Christmas pudding. Some said that King George I was served plum pudding as part of his first Christmas dinner after he was crowned in 1714. Soon after this re-introduction, Christmas pudding with brandy sauce became a traditional and essential part of Christmas dinner. As a result, King George I gained the nickname as ‘the pudding king’.
To people from the 18th century, Christmas was an important time for their social life. Starting the holiday from December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to January 6th (Twelfth Night, Epiphany), the extended holiday allowed people to spent most of the time in their country houses or estates away from London. It was the time of huge celebration with family and friends. Christmas time during the Georgian period was very much all about drinking, dancing and partying.
We can get an insight into the high spirits that existed at this time of year from Jane Austen’s depiction of Christmas balls, parties, masquerades that were held in people’s country houses and estates from her novels- in Sense and Sensibility she wrote ‘Willoughby dancing from eight o’clock till four without once sitting down’.
Jewellery for these Christmas balls and parties was necessary as it was the most important season for the gentry to show off their wealth. Diamonds were the dominant precious gemstone in the 18th century, due to the significant improvements in cutting and polishing techniques. It was the first time in history that the unrivalled sparkle of diamonds could be properly displayed and appreciated, especially under candlelight. Known as the ‘Old mine cut’, these hand-cut diamonds had 58 facets in total, in a cushion shape - it was cut to display and show its fire effect under the candlelight.
Georgian jewellery features the beautiful enclosed mounting work of gemstones which gives greater prominence to the splendour of the gemstones. Often in rather extravagant and ornate design, as jewellery was inspired by the movements of Naturalism and Romanticism, finely illustrated items were very popular among properly dressed ladies. Are you looking for a statement piece for candlelit balls this Christmas? Make your wish-list from Berganza’s incredible jewellery collection from the 18th century. You will look fabulous at Christmas parties with your elegant Georgian piece this year!