Elizabethan: 1558 - 1603 Design Period

Elizabethan: 1558 - 1603

Elizabethan 1558-1603


Elizabethan: 1558 - 1603

Elizabethan: 1558 - 1603

The Tudor period ends with the Elizabethan era, when Elizabeth I reigned as Queen from 1558 to 1603. This is widely considered a golden age of English history. During this time there was victory over the Spanish Armada, explorers such as Sir Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh discovered more of the known world, and William Shakespeare wrote many of his now famous plays and sonnets. 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.

Whilst some jewellery from this era has survived, it is relatively rare. Other important sources for Elizabethan jewellery are portraiture, and jewellery found in the Cheapside Hoard. This discovery occurred in 1912 by workmen who found an old wooden casket with a heap of tangled jewellery, gems and other precious objects buried in the cellar of a property in Cheapside. The Cheapside Hoard is the greatest find of Elizabethan jewellery to date. Necklaces and pendants were both popular in Elizabethan times. These included gold chains, often set with gemstones, and strings of pearls of varying lengths and sizes, which were often layered upon one another. Tablet pendants opened to show a miniature painting, and were elaborate creations made from gold, gemstones and enamel which often had pearls suspended from them. Pendants could hang from necklaces, be worn on a ribbon, or even attached to a gown or sleeve. Cameos were also worn at this time and gems were expertly carved to resemble people, animals and ships. The goldwork of a piece of jewellery was as important as the gems within it, and settings became more elaborate and were often inlaid with enamel.

Rings were worn on both the first and the second knuckle of the finger. Larger jewels were worn as solitaires and smaller stones were set in clusters, or around the ring in a band. Noblemen wore signet rings, which had a practical purpose for sealing letters, as well as being symbolic of their wealth and status. Rings were mostly made of gold and could be set with a gemstone or have enamelled decoration.

In the latter part of the era, earrings became fashionable. Women would have both ears pierced, while men would have only one. Earrings were typically a continuous hoop, sometimes suspending a pendant or gemstones.

Jewels and pearls were often embroidered into clothing in this era, and pearls in particular were very popular. Symbolising chastity, they were a favourite gem of Queen Elizabeth, who had a large collection, even buying Mary, Queen of Scot's pearls after her death.

Jewellery from this era showcases the finest craftsmanship from a golden age of English history.

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