Einstein discovers relativity and Madame Curie discovers (to her cost) radioactivity. Plastic is invented and a new method of catching criminals is discovered in Paris, fingerprinting.
Edward VII becomes King on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. England is the only ‘superpower’ at the time, its empire spans the globe from Canada, Australia to India and parts of Africa and our influence was felt the world over. It was an exciting time in jewellery manufacturing and design. Platinum became the metal of choice for the new diamonds mined from South Africa, there was enormous wealth and the jewellery was made to match. It was a time of opulent extravagance in jewellery as in everything else.
A new trend began, one that was to reflect the less ornate and lighter styles of the new era. One made possible by the widespread use of the stronger metal being used, platinum. Platinum could safely hold stones in thinner more delicate mounts, which led to the Garland style. This was characterised by garlands, bows, tassels, ribbons and swags. These were made as brooches, rings and pendants.
This style was adopted by all the major jewellers of the day, predominantly Cartier who led the way. Tradition has it that for Edward VII’s coronation 27 new tiaras were ordered from Cartier alone. Cartier pioneered the use of platinum enabling the delicate fragile looking creations to have both form and function everything was used for inspiration, art, architecture, fashion, even ballet. Other leading jewellers began to copy the trends, Chinese and Indian influences were used with great success by Fabergé, Boucheron, Tiffany, Chaumet and Lacloche.
Every style from Ancient Greek, Classical Roman, French Baroque and Rococo, Napoleonic and Second Empire styles were used. Scrolls, feathers, tassels, swags of foliage, garlands of flowers, ribbon ties in flowing bow knots, triumphal laurel wreaths and the classic Greek Key design were all recreated with subtlety and taste and they ruled jewellery fashion. The monochromatic signature look these designers achieved relied on platinum, diamonds and pearls for its wondrous effect.
The sudden influx of diamonds from the South African mines facilitated the introduction of spectacular new cuts like the marquise, baguette, kite, triangle and briolette.
Pearls, once rare, came pouring in from the Persian Gulf, Australia, Ceylon, the Mississippi Valley and even Scotland, while the rarely seen black pearls appeared from Tahiti and Panama. Coloured gemstones, plentiful and used as accents for diamonds, arrived from all over the globe. Demantoid garnet, pink topaz, amethyst, sapphire, peridot, ruby, emerald, turquoise, and tourmaline rained down on England form every point on the globe.
From the aristocracy to industrialists people saw tiaras as the ultimate status symbol. Elaborately adorned with stars, trefoils, flowers, wings, wreaths, olive branches, acanthus leaves, wheat sheaves, shamrocks, thistle heads, roses, daisies, floral garlands and flowing ribbons, tiaras radiated light like a halo. The Ballet Russe and its six ‘Orientale’ productions in Paris throughout this ten year period were responsible for the popularity of all things Eastern, its repercussions were to be felt the world over. Elaborate hairstyles became home to jewelled combs and crescent brooches. Fringe necklaces, rivières, chokers worn with ropes of pearl, sautoirs of seed pearls and jewelled tassels, lavaliere suspended from chains to guilloché-enamelled discs decorated the long necks of the ladies at court. Brooches were worn in number from the shoulder to the waist and accentuated the lacy gauze of the feminine bodice. Drop earrings were all the rage, dripping with pearls, and diamonds in the ubiquitous garland style. Enamelled and jewelled buckles decorated wide belts both front and back.
Rings grew large, domed and massive with ornate settings and gems. The filigree work made possible by the use of platinum made beautiful lacy settings for diamonds. Large settings that were airy and delicate were also bold, yet delicate in feeling. Stones set in carved half hoops, and crossover rings with two fine stones were seen at many a grand party. Rings, like bracelets, were worn again in number. Edward VII was a fashionable dresser, and established an interest in fashion which was avidly followed by his subjects. Cufflinks comprised of coloured stones like aquamarine, topaz, garnet, quartz and amethyst were common, their colours often matched to the shirt of choice. Gypsy rings set with diamonds, rubies and sapphires were popular for men, while more unusual signet rings were carved in carnelian, bloodstone or chalcedony. The Edwardians also indulged their lavish tastes with gift giving. Hand-engraved cigarette cases done in silver, gold, and guilloché enamel, inset with rose-cut diamonds and various coloured stones. Card cases, scent bottles, gemstone carvings and jewelled clocks were all popular objects. Carl Fabergé was the jeweller to both the Russian and the Swedish Courts and was largely influential in the sudden interest in enamelled pieces and gem carvings. The world famous Easter Eggs commissioned over the years by successive Tsars and Tsarina’s made Fabergé’s pieces the most coveted objects in the history of jewellery.