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Art Nouveau and Edwardian Jewelry

By Judi Anderson

Edwardian enamel pendant watch.

The turn of the century (1890 - 1910) was a period of great change and innovation.   After nearly 65 years of Queen Victoria's rule (1837 - 1901), even the tradition loving Victorians were ready for something new.   In the realm of fine jewelry, this quest for innovation evolved into two very different but equally beautiful schools of jewelry design - Art Nouveau and Edwardian.

The Art Nouveau was an exploration into the world of nature and fantasy.   The leading jewelers of the day - Louis Comfort Tiffany, Karl Faberge, Rene Lalique and Georges Fouquet - created extraordinarily beautiful and original jewels inspired by natural and mythological themes.   Exotic flowers, mythical beasts, dragon flies and enchanted women set amidst sinuous, vine-like designs were all common motifs. Art Nouveau fairy brooch.

Art Nouveau iris brooch. The Art Nouveau jewelers also experimented with new gem materials.   Tortoise shell, horn, baroque pearls, demantoid garnets, moon stones, and spectacular enameling were all part of the Art Nouveau jeweler's palette.   The emphasis was on the originality and beauty of the jewel, not the intrinsic value of the materials used.

While Art Nouveau was the style of the avant garde, Edwardian jewels reflected the refined, elegant tastes of the English aristocracy and wealthy American industrialists.   An airy lightness and cool elegance characterize Edwardian jewelry. An Edwardian platinum brooch with diamonds.

Edwardian emerald and diamond pendant. Platinum was the metal of choice and it was fashioned into delicate lace-like creations set with sparkling, brilliant-cut diamonds.   Some pieces also include colored gemstones such as pastel blue Montana Sapphires, Australian black opals and natural pearls.

In the finest Edwardian jewels the sparkling gemstones appear to be floating in a lacy field of platinum.

If you love antique jewelry, you inevitably become a collector of books about jewels from the past.   Two wonderful books that discuss the jewelry of the Art Nouveau and Edwardian periods are:  Antique and 20th Century Jewellery by Vivienne Becker and Understanding Jewellery by David Bennett & Daniela Mascetti.   Each of these books is a invaluable reference and will add greatly to your enjoyment and understanding of antique jewelry.   Happy reading! A gallery of Art Nouveau enamel flowers.

If you enjoy beautiful jewels from the past, you will find many more fine examples
in our Antique and Estate Jewelry Gallery.

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