Post Medieval: 1485 - 1750 Design Period

Post Medieval: 1485 - 1750

Post Medieval 1485-1750


Post Medieval: 1485 - 1750

Post Medieval: 1485 - 1750

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.

New continents were discovered during this period and along with them came the expansion of trade and ultimately an increase in wealth. There were rapid developments in art, music, philosophy, science and technology which heavily influenced the jewellery designs of the post medieval period. Renaissance was a time in history when all European countries engaged in trading styles of fashion and jewellery, with designs developing and evolving as they travelled across the continents.

The brooches and shoulder clasps of the medieval period gradually evolved to more modern items like necklaces, with pendants the most popular form of jewellery in post medieval times. They were worn with long gold chains and were fixed to dresses or worn on the girdle. Many featured elaborate carved details to the front and the back, some with miniature sculptures depicting biblical scenes. Jewellery designs were still influenced by biblical depictions, as in the Middle Ages, but later artists were inspired by Humanism and real-life objects, or classical and mythological themes from the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. Pendants featuring the initials of their wearer were also popular, the initials often styled as a monogram. They were considered so personal a possession that many were destroyed when their owner passed away.

The Post Medieval period also saw a profusion of finger rings. Signet or seal rings with unique intaglio designs were used to authenticate messages and documents and to establish the ownership of property. For convenience, these were worn on the finger. They were worn by the nobility, clergy, lawyers and merchants or indeed any individual with business to conduct, requiring their own signature stamp. Later, the signet became more detailed with the initials of the owner often carved elaborately, alternatively the initials might intertwine to represent two individuals recently married. Some signets displayed symbols of the owner’s occupation or a particular interest of the owner.

Women were often extravagantly adorned with an array of rings on all five fingers and sometimes one on each joint of the finger too. These rings were fanciful creations, richly adorned with engravings and gem stones, some even containing a hidden space for scented material to neutralise bad odour. Earrings again became popular as the hairstyles of the era changed to reveal ladies ears, with designs ranging from simple pearls to eye catching jewelled drop earrings. Hair ornaments were replaced with strands of pearls and jewels that adorned ladies hair.

Renaissance jewellery was resplendent with vivid colours, many pieces featuring large gem stones, with other gems set around them. Gemstones used in this period included diamonds and rubies from India, emeralds from Columbia, turquoise and topaz from Brazil, iolite from Sri Lanka , lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and peridot from the Red Sea, along with many more. Natural pearls were also sought after, with imitation pearls introduced for the first time in the Renaissance. However laws were passed in Italy ensuring protection against these and other counterfeit gem stones by sentencing to severe punishment.

Gold was readily available and goldsmiths of the time were innovative and skilful in their creation of gold and vermeil jewellery. They incorporated a variety of techniques to create their masterpieces, including casting, chasing, hammering, and cold–joining, welding and soldering. Artisans mastered more advanced techniques such as embossing, engraving, enamelling and filigree to create magnificent pieces for the higher ranks of society.

Toward the end of the 16th century, the Renaissance style merged gradually into the Baroque period, which arose at different times in different countries. The Baroque period had a lasting impact on the architecture, art, dress code, jewellery and music of this era, inspiring classical masterpieces.

Floral and foliate themes became the most fashionable theme for jewellery designers, and its popularity spread throughout Europe. There was a prevalence of explorers; their discoveries in various countries capturing the imagination of the public who were fascinated with exotic flower species they had not seen before. The ornamental motifs of ribbons, knots and Rococo scrolls also saw a considerable rise in popularity.

Technical advancements in gem stone faceting techniques meant that the popularity of diamonds and other precious stones rose dramatically. Pearls were also very popular, however, most wealthy men and women from this time period preferred to wear colourful gemstones. Designs were ostentatious and clearly meant to express the creativity and originality of the maker. Jewellers started to produce necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets and tiaras that were nothing short of works of art.

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Examples from our catalogue


Post medieval gold ring hatton garden
Post medieval gold ring, circa 17th-18th century.
Post Medieval signet ring hatton garden
Post Medieval signet ring, circa 16th-17th century.
Post Medieval gold puzzle ring hatton garden
Post Medieval gold puzzle ring, circa 1650-1700.
Post Medieval fede ring with posy hatton garden
Post Medieval fede ring with posy, circa 1650-1720.
front view Post Medieval gold Sapphire ring berganza hatton garden
Post Medieval sapphire ring, English, circa 17th century AD.
17th Century engraved gold posy ring berganza hatton garden
17th Century engraved gold posy ring, 'Let reason rule affection', circa 1600.
Gold posy ring, ‘My choyes is made berganza hatton garden
Gold posy ring, ‘My choyes is made, I am content’, 17th century.
Enamelled posy ring berganza hatton garden
Enamelled posy ring, ‘CONTENEW + CONSTANTE’ (content and constant), 16th century.
front view gold posy ring berganza hatton garden
Gold posy ring 'My heart and eye until I die', circa 18th century.

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Updated 14/05/2022 at 4:23PM

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