The ancient Greeks excelled in intellectual and artistic practises, and the creation of jewellery was no exception. Greek jewellery was produced not only in Greece as we know it today, but also throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and Greek city settlements in areas such as Sicily and southern Italy.
The Roman Empire was established in 27 BC following decades of war which eventually saw Octavian become the first emperor and take the name ‘Augustus’. During this time, the use of jewellery as a form of personal adornment became increasingly popular.
The Saxons wore jewellery, including brooches, beaded necklaces and bracelets, made from gold, silver, bronze and copper. These adornments were worn to show their wealth and rank. Much Saxon art and jewellery were influenced by central Europe, in what is now Germany.
The Vikings made their jewellery from a variety of materials including precious metals such as silver and gold, iron wires, natural fibres, precious gemstones, glass, resin and amber. The Viking craftsmen created jewellery rich in geometric and stylised animal design in intricate filigree and repoussé work.
The Medieval Period, known also as the Middle Ages or Dark Ages lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. Stretching for one thousand years, it began with the fall of the Western Empire and extended into the beginning of the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery
The post-medieval era (1485-1750) marked the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and encompassed the Renaissance period, which began in 14th century Florence, Italy. The following centuries, saw the renaissance spread throughout Europe. “Renaissance” means “rebirth” which perfectly sums up this time period, as due to political upheaval it was a time of significant social and cultural change.
Jewellery design during this period mirrored the rapid changes in society and became more ornate and elaborate as engraving, goldwork and enamelling techniques improved. Many of the skills came to England from Europe where the renaissance was ongoing and inspiring jewellers.
It was an era that saw much advancement in the Western world, and this included jewellery. New fashions emerged, such as the adornment of pendants, and new skills were developed which led to goldwork becoming more intricate and ornate.
The Stuart era was a time of upheaval and instability, with the civil war between Crown and Parliament culminating in the execution of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell's republic. The crown was restored with the coronation of Charles II.
Jewellery from this turbulent period, which included the French and American revolutions as well as the invention of the steam engine, is typified by clusters of precious stones, closed back settings in silver and gold, and parures - sets of matching pieces.
This period begins with romantic Early Victorian engraved lockets and brooches, continues with mid Victorian 'mourning' jewellery following the death of Prince Albert and closes with late Victorian sapphires, amethysts and peridots set into star or crescent forms and symbolic designs.
Designs influenced by nature and free-flowing forms typify Art Nouveau jewellery. Enamel becomes widely used. Renée Lalique creates some of the most recognised jewellery of the time.
The Belle Époque era stretched from 1871 with the end of the Franco-Prussian war to 1914 and the outbreak of World War I. “The Belle Époque” French for “Beautiful Era” was so named in retrospect when it began to be considered a golden age of history, characterised by optimism, economic prosperity
Edwardian, refers to designs which falls under the reign of King Edward VII (1901-1910), who brought a fresh new sense of fun to design.
Characterised by bold geometric shapes, design from this period brings with it striking new combinations of colours and gemstones such as coral and onyx set with diamonds.
Platinum becomes scarce due to the war and coloured golds come back into the market after decades of platinum and other white metals dominating.
Textured gold makes a come back with Florentine, twisted and braided finishes becoming popular once more.