Georgian Jewelry

• Amatory Jewelry

Blue and White Enamel Navette-Shaped Amatory Brooch with Seed Pearl Nosegay and Hair Compartment on Reverse c. 1800. © The Trustees of the British Museum

In the late 1700s amatory jewels were known as the romantic and idealistic jewelry of the age. Although they were in the style of the French, the jewel itself was produced in England. These ornaments were usually in navette-shaped pendants, brooches, with pearl, gem-set or enamel settings. The center featured flowers, initials, or sentiments rendered in seed pearls atop a woven hair background.

• Benedetto Pistrucci

During the neoclassical era Benedetto Pistrucci (1784 – 1754) was a notable Italian Gem-engraver and medallist that ultimately was given the honor of becoming the Chief-medallist at the Royal Mint in England.

• Berlin Iron

Berlin iron is a black-lacquered cast iron material used in jewelry making commenced in the 1790s. Originating in Silesia, Prussa at the Gleiwitz Foundry, the Royal Berlin Foundry and a manufacturer in Horovice, Bohemia all produced jewelry by this process.

Berlin iron was formed through molding wax that was then pressed in sand, creating impressions into the molten iron. The hand-finished fragments were then coated with black lacquer. Early Berlin ironwork was typically neo-classical in design but the style changed to more naturalistic designs in1815, followed by the Gothic Revival in 1825. Most ironwork was unsigned; a few signatures of note are Geiss, Lehmann, Hossaur, and Devaranne. Similar steel mesh jewelry was also produced in Woodstock, England.

Berlin Iron Bracelet Composed of Classical Figures, c.1830. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

• Cameo

Five-Layered Sardonyx Cameo, Roman Artwork, Second Quarter of the 1st Century AD.

A cameo is a glyptograph (the process of engraving gems or other stones) usually depicting a scene or portrait, for use in jewelry and decorative arts. It encompasses a technique of carving an object including an engraved gem, item of jewelry or vessel). It nearly always features a raised (positive) relief image; contrast with intaglio, which has a negative image. It comprised of carefully carving a piece of material with a flat plane where two opposing colors joined, stripping all the first color except for the actual image.

When layered materials such as banded agate or shell are used, the foreground or lighter color usually depicts the scene and exposing a deeper layer of another color creates the background. Not all cameos are multi-colored, they can be monochrome and are carved from nearly every gem material including agate, quartz and corundum and many natural materials such as coral, shell, horn and ivory. Cameos have been created since Biblical times and were particularly popular during the end of the 18th and the entirety of the 19th century.

A revival of cameo cutting in the late 1700s accompanied a period of classical decorative motifs and Grecian style fashions. The demand for cameos was so extensive that any materials were carved in an attempt to meet the high request. Shell cameos were the most successful alternative to the more expensive and difficult to carve gemstone cameos. In addition, cementing a lighter carving over a dark background produced faux cameos. Collecting ancient cameos was also popular and these antiques were copied and even molded to provide inspiration for this new generation of cameo artists. Some of these antique collections became new works of art such as the Devonshire Parure, Napoleon’s "Crown of Charlemagne" and Empress Josephine's cameo tiara.

• Cannetille


1 The Rise and Fall of Cannetille Jewels
2 Early Examples of Cannetille
3 Kinds of Cannetille
4 Reproductions
5 Notes
6 Sources consulted
7 Acknowledgments

Pink Topaz & Chrysoberyl Cannetille Gold Cross c.1830.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Cannetille is a design closely affiliated with filigree work. It generally features fine gold wires or thinly hammered sheets. Jewelry with cannetille was very popular in the 1820's and 1830's. Motifs included tendrils, scrolls, coils, beehives and spider-like rosette ornaments. Jewelry featuring cannetille was often embellished with granulation and thinly stamped metals. In the early days of cannetille, stamped metals were typically disk shaped; it wasn’t until later that floral and shell motifs became popular. Colorful gemstones tend to embellish the pieces: Brazilian aquamarine, pink topaz, amethyst, and chrysoberyl. In central Europe, jewelers also used garnets (from Turnau, Czech Republic), turquoise and opals while in England, rubies were common. Most of these stones were relatively inexpensive compared to diamonds, which offered the public jewelry at a minimum expenditure. The stones were typically set in closed backs and foiled at the back to create a more uniform hue. Very unusual pieces have open settings and pieces set with diamonds and enamel.

The Rise and fall of Cannetille Jewels

Cannetille Bracelet Clasp c. 1830. Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Cannetille work was inspired by embroidery, reputedly the embroidery found in traditional peasant garments. Some sources mention 18th century Portugal or India as a source, others mention France. The simple filigree tendrils that started to appear in the fashion and jewelry world around 1820 transformed into cannetille during the following decade. One can find cannetille work from almost every European nation during the 1820's and 1830's.

The rise of cannetille came about through the Napoleonic wars: precious metals were extremely scarce on the European continent and the economy was crippled in the early 1800's. Even the upper classes struggled to survive the depression, but grand jewelry continued to stay in fashion. Cannetille jewels were very prominent, but used only a small amount of gold. Though they were typically quite labor intensive (goldsmiths fabricated the intricate wire work completely by hand), the jewels were kept affordable by low labor costs.

Nostalgia and Romance caused cannetille jewelry to break out into a particular aesthetic urge. In France, as the Bourbon monarchs returned to the throne in 1814, jewelry from pre-revolutionary days, in particular the Louis XVI style worn by Marie Antoinette, became fashionable again. In Germany, scions of the literature and arts like Goethe and Novalis celebrated nature and the infinite, nodding to a distant, more authentic past. With its robust connection to the traditional garb worn by women in rural areas, cannetille fit attractively with this new aesthetic disposition. It is plausible that city dwellers were exposed to such garments during their jaunts to country feast days.

Cannetille disappeared just as soon as it appeared in jewelry fashion. The peak of cannetille jewelry in civil fashion was around 1830 and no other clues are present to properly date these pieces.

Early Examples of Cannetille

Catherine the Great had a silver toilet service in Moscow's Hermitage from the collection created around 1740-1750 in China. While it features mainly filigree work, the piece portrays early signs of cannetille decorations. In particular, it features a delicate spider-web "over stitching" around a small stamped circular dome, a design which would became popular later in the 19th century.

Kinds of Cannetille

Cannetille work based on fabrication method:
1. Thread cannetille: The main body of the jewel is created from very fine gold threads of high alloy on which other ornaments were soldered. These pieces are very lightweight.
2. Plate cannetille: Instead of creating a framework of threads, the main body is made from a very thin plate which was, usually, worked open (à jour) on which the ornaments were soldered. This was used especially for larger jewelry objects.
Cannetille is different from filigree in the way that the ornaments in the former are 3-dimensional (such a twisted coils or springs) with hints of repousse while the filigree work is primarily flat. The overall body of filigree work may be enclosing a space, yet the ornaments themselves are 2-dimensional.


Very convincing replicas of cannetille work are fabricated in Turkey from the 1830s. These can deceive even the finest jewelry experts, especially when they have been worn for several years. The peasant cannetille is also still produced today, but mainly serves an audience who continues a folklore tradition

• Commesso

Commesso is a precisely cut gem comprised of a bas-relief composition merged with enameled gold elements to form an assembled cameo. Unlike the cameo, the commesso technique is not carved completely from one piece of material, but joined in a mosaic to form the image. This technique was also used extensively to ornament furniture and walls. The popularity of commesso reached its peak in Florence in the sixteenth century and remained popular throughout Europe until the early twentieth century.

Coque de perle is a term in French which means, 'pearl shell” that encompasses a Georgian faux pearl carved from the East Indian nautilus shell. The central spiral of the convex was cut away to form these delicate "eggshell pearls." Coque de perle was very popular because of its high level of iridescence and was filled with cement for stabilization.

• Cut-Steel Jewelry

Cut-steel jewelry is arranged with tiny faceted and polished steel studs, shaped to resemble gemstones. All manner of jewelry was produced from cut-steel: earrings, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, chatelaines, shoe buckles, indeed, even entire parures. Additionally, cut-steel frames were admired settings for cameos. Cut-steel's unique attribute lies in the fact that it was the only fine jewelry imitation in which both gemstone substitutes and their settings were made of the same material; most other faux jewels were composed separately of faux gems and metal settings. One such faux material is marcasite, an extremely popular diamond substitute with a metallic luster. Cut-steel has a distinct similarity to marcasite; in fact, examining the reverse of a piece is essential to differentiate between the two.

Scallop Shaped Cut-Steel Brooch: Reverse. Note the Pattern of Rivets Securing the Studs.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

Scallop Shaped Cut-Steel Brooch.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

Cartoon c. 1777 Advertising Cut-Steel Buttons.
• Earing

Throughout history, various types of material, metal and gems have been implemented in the decoration of the ear. These decorations are typically attached to a wire hook or a post with a fitted nut.

Styles: studs (solitary stones), girandole (a top with three pendant drops), chandelier (cascading waterfall of stones), disc, hoop, and top and drop.

Ear Clip
Ear Studs
• En Pampille

En pampille is a series of gems (typically diamonds) in a cascade arrangement. The gems descend in size and trickle in a very small "icicle-shaped" pendant found on brooches and earrings of the nineteenth century.

Antique diamond brooch of en pampille design mounted in silver and gold. 1860.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.

En Tremblant

"En tremblant" is a French term - meaning "to tremble". It was first used to describe 18th and 19th century jewelry where parts of the diamond set pieces were attached to a trembler to create movement in the jewel when worn. Brooches mounted in this way were particularly effective in reflecting the scintillating fire of candlelight.

Detail of Georgian Diamond Flower Brooch Mounted En Tremblant.
Image courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Diamond Flower Brooch Mounted En Tremblant c. 1870.
Image courtesy of Christie's.

• Fer de Berlin

Fer de Berlin meaning "Berlin iron" in French.

Fer de Berlin was the jewelry that came to fashion during the early 1800's when the Prussians were driven to finance the war against Napoleon. Berlin iron was sand-cast and lacquered black. Citizens and particularly the upper class, was asked to turn in their valuable metal jewelry in order to fund the military troops. They were rewarded with iron jewelry, often inscribed with "Ich gab Gold fur Eisen" (I gave gold for iron). Berlin iron jewelry initially followed the neoclassic style, but by the 1830's the Gothic revival transformed the appearance of the iron jewelry. Today, Berlin iron pieces are extremely rare; more in demand are the Neo Gothic pieces.

• Ferronnière

La Belle Ferronnière: The Term ferronnière is derived from the Jewel on Her Forehead. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Attributed to the School of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan.

The ferronnière is a delicate jewelry item worn by women on the forehead and served to maintain the hairstyle. It usually comprised of a chain with fine links or a textile thread with a single gemstone in the center. The term originated from a painting accredited to Leonardo da Vinci, named La belle ferronnière (from French: "the beautiful blacksmith's wife") currently in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

This Renaissance fashion was revived shortly during the 19th century from 1830-1845. Costume balls were a prevalent entertainment beginning in the 1820s; portraits were popular sources for inspiration both for clothing and accessories. Adapted from these portraits, the ferronnière launched out as a costume accessory but quickly became a fashion necessity. Hairstyles featured face hugging center parted looks that were perfect for a ferronnière.

• Blog: Fishing for Hooks

By Alain, April 7, 2008

“This fine, fat fishwife, with her head twisted backwards, and whose pale coloring, and showy kerchief, all mussed, and expression of pain mixed with pleasure depicts a paroxysm that is sweeter to experience than it is decorous to paint.”

— Hesse, Carla. The Other Enlightenment: How French Women Became Modern.

Liberty leading the poissardes.
Anonymous German print.

Poissardes from Vever

The virtual world is a fabulous place to be in. The strong emphasis on adult content has long been replaced by billions of pages filled with all kinds of information and services of varying quality. Today, one can obtain music, images and even complete movies for free without ever needing to leave the chair. Contacting friends and family on the other side of the globe takes only a fraction of a second without the need to pay international calling fees. I believe, the greatest strength is the easy way in which information is shared, both through informative websites maintained by volunteers, as well as through the large Internet communities. Not very long ago we were depending on our own research skills to get the information we were searching for through visits to libraries, conferences, shows and colleagues.

While I was reading up on jewelry from the neoclassical era, I stumbled on the typical earring type named poissardes, which triggered my curiosity about them as all my own books referred to them in generally the same matter. For instance, large oval earrings of geometric design, often made from 2 or 3 ornaments below each other on a typical hook with an s-shaped cross over bar. I always knew they were named after fishwives, yet I never wondered how they received such a plastic name. My own book sources gave no extra information and I soon found myself skimming through dozens of pages on the Internet, trying to discover anything related to them. To my surprise, there was very little written on the earrings—other than the usual descriptions in the paper references. However, this made me more curious about the type of earring that is so ideal for the French revolutionary days. I decided to throw out my rod in the Gem-A Internet community as it has more than a few jewelry historians as members and I hoped to get some extra hooks on the subject.

One of the first clues I received wa from the GIA library, relating them to the fish selling woman at the market (Les Halles) in Paris and to a clan of fishermen in Boulogne, France. Both the market women as well as the women of the fishermen in Boulogne were denoted by the name poissardes. The only reference to the earrings came from the Boulogne source where Isabel Burton wrote about them ".. Their long, drooping, gold earrings and massive ornaments are heirlooms, and their lace is real .."[2]. This description matches those found previously with the added detail that they were heirlooms, so in a conservative taste. Another clue lead me to the writings of Jean-Joseph Vadé (1719-1757) which provided me with the necessary background on these women and possibly an answer to why this type of earring was so popular in those days. A good summary of the poissarde cult, which emerged in the second half of the 18th century, is given by Carla Hesse [3] where she describes the role of the "lower class" women of the days in French literature and society, in particular relating to the fish selling market women of Les Halles - the poissardes.

These poissardes were not your every day women; they were strong and enterprising women who used their oral skills to sell their products in the rough neighborhoods that the markets usually provide for. They were most likely illiterate but their street speech and moeurs were so profound that it became a parodied way of expression one self in the upper classes, much induced by Vadé's comic plays in the "genre poissard". According to Hesse the poissardes held a prominent place in society since the late middle ages due to their role in the fasting rules (eating fish was permitted during Lent). Under the rule of Louis XV and Louis XVI of France they were invited a few times a year at the court of Versailles - even to attend royal weddings - and they held a special place in the heart of the French Kings. Bittersweet the taste that they played an important role in the downfall of the ancien régime, mostly not by their own wrong - or right - doing. The libelles and poissonades published in the years before the revolution were not necessarily the opinions of the market women, rather a platform for revolutionists to express their critics through popular speech to the working classes. Nevertheless the market women were not content anymore with the royal protection by the late 1780's and they took part in the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and they forced the royal family to reside in Paris instead of at Versailles.

Due to their role in the revolutionary days the poissardes became some of the heroines of the new cause and we can safely assume that the new elite (instigated by the Directoire and Napoleon) wanted to indentify themselves with them under the égalité motto, much like the fashion of wearing long pants by men. Which leaves us with the question "what did the earrings of these poissardes look like in the days before they got popular in the circles of the upper classes". In other words, what was the inspiration in relation to conservative or costume jewelry. Were they of a typical design c.q. form, did they have a characteristic hook, were they just of plain gold or were they encrusted with gemstones. For an answer on that we need to look at paintings of the days and illustrations in early publications.

Poissardes from Vever

In Vever's book there is a publication of poissardes of typical designs and with the typical earring hooks that are usually associated with them, but in the same image[4] he also shows two pairs of earrings that do not fulfill the ideal image as shown by most sources. Neither do the two pairs (in the center of the image) look like they would have the typical s-shaped crossovers as in the other earrings on the same picture. When one looks at Vever's illustration, one can see that there is an extra eye attached to the wire of some of the earrings and my first impression was that it would act as a "stopper" behind the earlobe to keep the earring from "crawling" up the ear. Möller however states that these extra eyes were used to draw a thread through and then attach the thread in the hair, in effect acting as a weight relieve for the earlobes, but the many images of poissardes do not indicate they need that extra support. The s-shaped bar in the wire was probably used to keep the cascading ornaments in one line and this technique was obviously not needed for earrings that were larger and heavier.

The Vever illustration did not satisfy me much - as it merely shows sec images of the earrings worn at the time. To make it worse, it even added to my confusion. Hence I started looking for portraits of women as painted by Le Brun, Greuze and others. Although the women of the days were not wearing much jewelry - it just didn't fit the Hellenistic look and gold was scarce -, there are many images left of women wearing some jewelry in official portraits, even paintings of commoners who could not afford to pay for a portrait. But none of them were caught wearing the typical poissardes earrings. Maybe the latter is the problem in my quest. During the times of the early "genre poissard" the working classes were depicted in many ways, but that hardly ever was related to anything of good taste or jewelry. The market women are usually depicted as amazons to fight the revolutionary cause, never in full tenue and all that we can work with are the surviving pieces of jewelry from the upper classes and some less elaborate examples. I could not find one image of a woman wearing poissardes earrings.

Although I did not get the definite answer on what a "poissarde" is as an earring type, I did learn much on the backgrounds of the French revolution and the emancipation of women during the 18th century. The Museum of the French Revolution (near Grenoble, France) seems to have a good collection of images of the days and hopefully one day I can continue this quest. For the time being I'm left unsatisfied in my search but also very satisfied that I'm not the only one wondering about this topic and that I got all the support I could get from the internet community. In time we will undoubtedly find more sources that can solve this puzzle.

• Folied

Georgian Foil Backed Quartz Pendant.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Foiling is the process of backing a gemstone with a metallic or non-metallic sheet to improve its optical performance. The foil acts both as a reflector, as well as a coloring agent. Many jewels that survived carried diamonds and gemstones that were foiled. More often than not, these stones were set in silver closed backs to shield the foil from diminishing.

• Georgian and Victorian Cameos

Cameos were valued since antiquity as engraved gems that were exceedingly popular during the Georgian and Victorian periods. Various materials were used for carving cameos:

Hardstone cameos: variations of agate including onyx, sardonyx and jasper were popular. The stones with layers of different colors allowed for depth and nuance in the carvings. Other non-layered gemstones such as malachite, coral and amethyst were fashioned into magnificent monochrome cameos.

Female Bust with Rosettes and Curling Hair in Amethyst.

Medusa Depicted in Coral.

Carved Sapphire Female Profile.

Seated Male Figure with Standing Female in Ivory.

Georgian and Victorian Cameos

Cameos, valued since antiquity as engraved gems, were exceedingly popular during the Georgian and Victorian periods. Many different materials were used for carving cameos. For hardstone cameos, varieties of agate including onyx, sardonyx and jasper were popular. These stones, with layers of different colors, allowed for depth and nuance in the carvings. Other non-layered gemstones such as malachite, coral and amethyst were were fashioned into magnificent monochrome cameos.

Helmut Shell.

Shell was another popular piece incorporated in cameo carving because it was light in weight and did not limit the size of the piece. Tropical helmet shell was extensively used for its good color contrast and depth of layers. The Cassus rufus variety was white and pink, the Cassus madagascariensis had white and brown layers. The Helmut shell exuded enough of the white layer that resulted in very high relief with intricate detail.

The methods used for carving these two types of cameos were as vastly different as the materials themselves. Hardstone was cut on a specialty lathe with steel drills and wheels. Carvings using this process took months to complete. Shell cameos could be carved by hand with a burin or engraving tool, taking only days to complete a magnificent carving. These less labor intensive therefore less expensive shell cameos were popular with tourists looking for just the right souvenir of their trip.

The myriad of cameo subjects included figures and scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. Renaissance art, classical sculpture, famous paintings and official portraits also provided inspiration. Religious imagery included Christ, the angel of the annunciation, PAX, and the crown of thorns. Cameos were considered “smart” jewelry because of the intellectual nature of the subject being carved. Tourists on holiday, viewing the full sized artworks, were delighted to take home a wearable miniature version as a remembrance.

Castellani Heavy Rope Motif with Pearl Frame Surrounding a Cameo of Medusa. c.1870, Sapphire.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

England imported cameos by the thousands as jewelers eagerly waited for their arrival and to specialize in cameos. Jewelers often specialized in one type of cameo or another: antiquities, coral, mosaic, and even different subject matter often went to a jeweler who carried only that specialty. Countless unsigned shell cameos were available for the customer to select and custom build.

• Georgian Jewelry: 1714-1837

Portrait of King George I of Great Britain (1660-1727).

The Georgian period was named for and defined by the Hanovarian Monarchs of the United Kingdom from 1714 to 1837. This period encompassed the majority of the Eighteenth Century and continued on in to the Nineteenth rolling into a rapid, worldwide societal change. Extraordinary individuals and events were transforming the entire globe; tt was a time of Mozart, Gainsborough and the decorative aesthetics of Rococo, Neoclassicism and Romanticism. In America it was a historical period marked by a Revolution, George Washington and explorations by Louis and Clark; in France, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Josephine and Marie Louise; in Russia, the reign of Catherine the Great. All these major historical events in combination with great strides in science and exploration, the advent of rail travel and a changing role for women in society created the perfect backdrop for the creation of the magnificent Georgian jewelry.

While the reign of English Kings defines the parameters for Georgian jewelry, stylistically, the designs, trends and ideas were shared internationally as the Georgian aesthetic turned up all over Europe and America. Simultaneously, the European continent, and styles were known as the Louis styles, named after the French Kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. At the dawn of the 19th century the Empire style of Napoleon Bonaparte emerged.

Efforts were made to maintain class limitations through Parliamentary legislation and Royal decrees stating specifically what items of clothing and jewelry could be worn based on rank or income. These laws were often ignored or flaunted and during the Georgian era they largely vanished. As a result, jewelry no longer no longer belonged solely to the aristocracy, but was widely available to the middle class. A lighthearted approach to life and an extreme dedication to social activities created a competitive demand for jewels. In spite of the fact that a great deal of restyling occurred in the successive years, so much jewelry was produced, for this wider customer base, that many excellent examples remain accessible today.

Caricature of a Macaroni in His Outlandish Attire, c. 1770.

Fashion tycoons in that period thrived professionally and socially. Macaronis’ were a typical fashion forward statement often observed during the 1770s. Macaronis’ were men wearing extreme costumes consisting bright colored, tight fitting clothing, red high heels, diamond buttons and buckles and carrying a “quizzing glass.” Around 1797, the self-proclaimed Incroyable’s shaped another outlandish gentleman’s fashion that included jackets with large lapels, extreme bicorne hats atop flamboyant hairdos, layers of scarves and walking sticks. Diamonds and pastes began shimmering everywhere. Jewelry for women changed fashion from month to month, shapes went in and out of style; dying out in England and remaining popular in France only to pop back up in England.

The goldsmiths of the day were highly trained technicians, skilled in all areas of gold work, and although Louis XIV died in 1715, at the beginning of the Georgian period, he left his mark on Georgian jewelry. By revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685 he initiated a massive emigration of Huguenots, most of who found refuge in Germany, Holland and England. A majority of the Huguenots were artisans and designers. Unwittingly, Louis XIV gave the Protestant world some of the best craftsmen to be found anywhere in the Western hemisphere.

Georgian Chatelaine Scrolled and Foliate Frame in Repousse. C. 1740-1760.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Georgian 18k Foil-Backed Topaz and Chrysoberyl Bracelet.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Jewelry styles worn were contingent upon the time of the day. For instance, during the daylight hours, women wore a necklace or chain with a watch, a cameo or lace pin, small colored stone rings, matching bracelets (worn in pairs as they had been for centuries) and earrings of any length. The chatelaine was the single most important item of daytime jewelry for women and linked all the items necessary for daily life. Gentlemen could not be seen anywhere without a fabulous pair of status establishing shoe buckles and buttons made from every conceivable material and studded with diamonds, paste and gemstones.

Garnet, topaz, emerald and ruby were prevalent, and materials from nature were copious in daytime jewelry. Coral, amber, ivory, pearls along with turquoise, translucent agates and carnelian were used in a variety of ways. Right alongside, and almost equally as popular, were the imitations; paste, faux pearls, opaline glass, Vauxhall glass, tassies and Wedgewood’s jasperware beads and cameos.

Steel Bracelet c. 18th Century.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Iron and cut steel jewelry were also in their prime during the Georgian era. In an eager attempt to create gold from base metal, Christopher Pinchbeck fashioned a brilliant alloy of copper and zinc which became desirable in its own right. These metals alongside gold and silver were all utilized as materials for Georgian jewelry.

Timeless longchains were created through the use of various techniques, in a myriad of shapes, with patterned links, woven or knitted, and were a signature of the period. In France the collière d’esclavage featured swagged chain of various link designs linked to central plaques creating a draped symmetry.

The evening was an entirely different story, rose cut and mine cut, diamonds were abundant at night. What better way to showcase them than the diamond rivière (river of light). Delicately linked together was a glimmering line of silver collets set with graduated, matched diamonds that formed a shimmering circle around the neck. So popular was the rivière that they were also made with pastes and colored gemstones set in gold, silver and pinchbeck, sometimes foiled and often suspending a matching detachable pendant. The rivière was an instant classic, often escaping the temptation for redesign. In 1767 jeweler James Cox invented a process to back the silver with gold to prevent these magnificent necklaces from marring the skin or clothing with tarnish.

Chrysoberyl and Gold Filigree Parure.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Radiant Parures glimmered from satin-lined fitted leather boxes and could include as many as sixteen items. Each item was created to compliment the other and pursued to highlight the lady’s gown. Set with matching gemstones, diamonds or pearls and a cohesive theme, the parure was an essential part of every woman’s jewelry wardrobe.

Georgian Lover's Knot with Closed Back Set Garnets, c. 1800.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

The methodical ability to mount gems with an open back had progressed from the earlier closed back mounting style, but was often unseen in Georgian jewelry. The use of tinted and silvered copper sheets to “foil” back many gems of the Georgian era required the continued use of a closed back. A foil and closed back arrangement is a signature element in Georgian jewelry. This process served to brighten diamonds and intensify colored stones, creating a richer, gleaming effect enabling the diamonds to twinkle and scintillate in the candlelight. Although, with time the foiling tarnished and faded, it is still valued as a quintessentially Georgian technology.

Georgian Repousse Chrysoberyl and Topaz Pendant.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Necklaces advanced from ribbon style chokers to grand glittering cascades of gems. Harlequin festoons of colored stones and monochromatic suites of diamonds and paste were created to adorn the ever-increasing décolletage. Cut steel became popular with graduated drops, flowers and garlands. Starting in England with “up-cycled” horseshoe nails, the trend caught on in France in 1759 when King Louis XV requested that jewelry be donated to the state in order to fund French participation in the Seven Years War. The wealthy French adopted cut steel jewelry as a replacement for donated or hidden gems.

Georgian Diamond Silver-Topped Yellow Gold Earrings.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Girandole earrings were intricately designed with a central bow-shaped motif suspending two pear-shaped drops flanking a third larger drop, were by far the most loved style for evening wear. The preferred style later came with the pendeloque earrings; encompassed round or navette-shaped top suspending a bow and a matching larger drop. This advancement of earring style looked as if the outer flanking pendants from girandole style earrings had been removed. Earrings were designed with a hinged wire hook that threaded the ear from back to front and clicked into place on the earring. Another innovation, in 1773, allowed earrings to be “snapped” onto unpierced ears, resulting in more than a little discomfort for the wearer.

Brooches evolved from the demure gemstone bouquets or giardinetti to magnificent naturalistic bouquets set en tremblant. Bows, feathers, crowns, cornocopia and crosses were other frequent themes from the period. These motifs were often used in the creation of brooches with detachable pendants. Some of these brooches were fitted with loops on the reverse to allow a ribbon or chain to be threaded thereby transforming the brooch into pendant.

Georgian Rose-Cut Diamond Ring.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Rings were often styled with a larger central stone surrounded by small diamonds and were produced in every shape imaginable. Often, the large center stone was a foiled “lesser” stone or made of paste. Bands, set all around or half way with gemstones, were worn singly or in stacks. Clusters of small diamonds were set in such a way as to appear more dramatic and important. Tiaras, coronets, bandeaus and diadems in every motif from naturalistic to geometric were expressed in diamonds and colored gems. Aigrettes, combs and hairpins decorated with all manner of gems, cut steel and anything that would catch the light, poked out of towering wigs.
Georgian Eye Miniature Portrait.
File Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

Portrait miniatures, hair jewelry, silhouettes and eye miniatures included tokens of love and remembrance during the Georgian era. Jewelry designed to feature a plaited lock of a child’s hair was a treasured keepsake for a mother. Women used their own hair to have mementos created for their children, for husbands and for lovers, both secret and acknowledged. The French created “amatory jewels,” brooches or pendants, navette-shaped, with an enamel or pearl frame that centered miniature floral designs rendered in seed pearls often atop a bed of the loved one’s hair. Jewelry made of hair came to a peak near the end of the Georgian era when complete suites of jewelry including bracelets and necklaces were woven entirely out of hair following the many published designs on this craft.

Georgian Memorial Brooch with Hair and Gold Wire Accents.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

To honor the dead, there were mourning rings set with a “Stuart” crystal (carved rock crystal) cap atop a gold wire cipher or monogram with a hair memento background. Later, these evolved into rings with skulls or skeletons under the crystal and having skeleton or bone motif bands with black enamel. Memorial bands were made up by those who could afford it, to distribute to friends and family and often the deceased made the arrangements for this custom prior to his demise.

Jewelry did not transfer from Georgian to Victorian simply as a result of the coronation of a new monarch. Georgian elements and themes continued in popularity well into the reign of Queen Victoria. Mourning jewelry, cameos, portrait miniatures and many other items remained a constant, with stylistic changes, through both periods. The analogy of evolution can be used to describe the fluidity of change from one period to the next, rather than simply abrupt change.

By the 18th century, jewelers fell to the remodeler’s torch by reviving costumer’s gems with the latest styles, which was a popular past time for the affluent. Gems seemed to achieve new brilliancy when re-set in au courant mountings. Overall, any excuse was invented to take one's jewelry to be redesigned.

• Georgian Silver

New discoveries of silver during the Georgian era were found in South America consistently. Production was booming as the fashion of setting diamonds in silver launched the Baroque period. Diamonds were flowing into Europe in numbers never seen before from India and from 1727 on from Brazil where new deposits were discovered. Fine jewelry was often executed in gold with silver topped front sides but items composed completely of silver certainly weren't uncommon. The typical cut down collet settings of Georgian jewelry are almost always composed of silver, complimenting the 'white' color of the diamonds they contained.

A pair of closed-back silver ear-rings set with green and colorless pastes.
1760 (circa) © Trustees of the British Museum

Pair of earrings each with four coques de perle (nautilus shell 'pearls'); bordered with iron pyrites set in silver.
1726-1775 © Trustees of the British Museum

Hair-ornament with a centre in the form of a lyre and gilded silver with a closed-back and set with pastes. Late 18th century © Trustees of the British Museum

• Giacomo Raffaelli

Micro mosaic attributed to Raffaelli

Giacomo Raffaelli (1753 - 1836), an Italian artist, was renowned for his specialized mosaics. Raffaelli was one of the initial pioneers to incorporate micro mosaics in jewelry during the end of the 18th century.

• Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at age 69 by Stieler

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832) was a German writer and poet who immensely influenced the enlightenment of the neoclassical period through his powerful works. The romanticism of the 19th century was undoubtedly influenced by his drama as well. His most famous works include Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther.

• Gurilande

A guirlande (or garland) is a ornamental hanging decoration created in the form of a flower wreath. This ornament was often used during the renaissance and later during the neoclassicism and Edwardian eras.

Edwardian diamond brooch finely crafted in the delicate and graceful floral garland and openwork design so popular for the era. Image courtesy of Lang Antiques

• Hair Jewelry

Human hair has been combined with jewelry since the 17th century. The hair of dear was combined into memento mori pieces, as a wearable remembrance of deceased loved ones. Somewhat less morosely, hair from treasured living friends and family was worked into small pieces of art as an inlay for sentimental rings and lockets, pendants, watch fobs, anything that could be adapted to secure a precious scrap of hair. A child's locks, those of a lover’s hair from a soldier gone to war along with snips from the deceased all culminated a flourishing business for hair jewelry of mourning and sentiment in Victorian Britain. The process was reasonably priced, affordable to many, causing its popularity to explode. Extraordinarily, Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie exchanged hairwork bracelets along with other gifts in August of 1855 on the Queen's visit to Versailles.

Trailing the untimely death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria's bereavement transformed basic love tokens and mementos to more seriously dramatic mourning jewelry that incorporated the hair of a deceased loved one. In America the Civil War was raging and the desire for a memento of a beloved soldier headed off to the uncertainty of war spurred the adoption of this fashion. Too often, these sentimental remembrances were similarly transformed to memento mori by the cruelty of war.

Georgian Mourning Bracelet with Amethyst , c.1828.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Victorian Bow Motif Woven Hair Brooch with Heart Pendant.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Exquisite Victorian "Palette Work" Hair Brooch Depicting a Flower.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

• Hellenism

Hellenism is an ancient Greek revival style induced by the works of Johann Joachim Winckelmann and other scholars who studied ancient Greek texts. It brought on a commitment to and imitation of ancient Greek beliefs, customs, or styles. It was one of the neoclassical styles in the 18th and early 19th century.

• Herculaneum

Herculaneum is a small Roman city located in Italy, near Naples. It was buried in ashes after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., along with the Roman city Pompeii. However, the buried city was rediscovered in 1738, after its disappearance for nearly 1700 years. The ashes have preserved most of the city and its inhabitants by acting as a source of inspiration for the neoclassicism period in the 18th century.

• Inseperables

A double needle stickpin brooch connected with a small and delicate chain. It came in use around 1835.

• Justaucorps

Justaucorp is the French term for a collarless knee-length coat worn by men during the later part of the seventeenth century and into the early eighteenth century. It was fitted to the waist, flared below. It could be in a simple, woolen style or fine silks and velvets, dressed up by embroidery and even jeweled buttons of such materials as diamonds, gold, silver, and ivory.

Portrait of Don Luis de la Cerda, later IX Duke of Medinaceli (or Medinacelli) 1654–1711

• Language of Flowers

You are as slender as this clove!
You are an unblown rose!
I have long loved you,
and you have not known it

—Baron Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, “Sur le langage des fleurs”,

Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

The Romantic Movement ascended during the second half of the 18th century as a remedy to the Enlightenment era. It came to full blossom during the first part of the nineteenth century, a period generally describe as Early Victorian or the Romantic Period. Although historically speaking the Victorian era began around 1830, its roots undeniably began to develop in the 18th and early 19th century. The Enlightenment movement viewed nature from a rational perspective, however, the Romantic passion placed emphasis on inner emotions. These elements were hard to describe by those who experienced them. It was a fusion of awe, loving sentiment and smallness towards history and nature.

In the field of visual arts, the Romantic Movement encompasses works by Caspar David Friedrich, J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. The terrors and vast ship of nature are expressed in dramatic sceneries of shipwrecks, cliffs and woodland panoramas. The literary works of the German writers in the Sturm und Drang movement helped shape the mindset of the early Victorian middle and upper classes. In Goethe’s, almost autobiographical, "The Sorrows of Young Werther" we can read about the foolishness of youthful lovers and their desire to self-destruct. Werther, enchanted by the betrothed Charlotte, tortures himself by staying near his unanswered love and her more than understanding fiancé with an almost inevitable result. Distant admirers seek confirmation in all they can find however minimal the gesture. In music, this suffering genre is of course based on strong minor modes.

It seems almost natural that in the light of attempting to describe their most inner feelings - which could now be expressed openly - the Victorians were on a quest for symbolism. In jewelry this had already developed in the early 19th century in the form of regard type jewelry where a text was spelled out with gemstones. One could, for instance, spell the word "regard" by lining a row of gemstones as follows: "Ruby-Emerald-Garnet-Amethyst-Ruby-Diamond" and the receiving party would be able to decipher the meaning from it. The Weeping Willows themes in mourning jewelry which were used since the late 18th century also belongs to this category. From around 1830 it became popular to "say it with flowers" as a florist advertising would say. Emblematic meanings were given to almost any flower inhabiting the vast amount of gardens and this language was well understood to every class in society. This fashion in jewelry had its zenith between 1830 and 1850 in England - up to around 1880 in the USA. Even today we assign emotions to flowers, even when in a slimmed version.

Four-leaf clover diamond watch pin, with basse-taille enameling.

The ancient Greeks already knew the emblematic meaning of flowers but it found its way to medieval Europe during the times of the crusades. Flowers were used during renaissance as well as during the early baroque period. The horticultural style between 1650 and 1700 is a notable example: It was in the first half of the nineteenth century that it transformed into a craze, inspired by the published works of Lady Mary Wortley Montegu (1717 - published 1763), Aubry de la Mottraie (1727) and Louise Cortambert (1819).

Lady Mary Wortley Montegu resided, as the spouse of the English ambassador to Turkey, in Constantinople (Istanbul) during the latter years of the 1710's where she was introduced to the rich cosmopolitan culture of the Ottoman Empire. The letters she wrote during her stay were later published in print as the "Turkish Embassy Letters" and they reveal the secret language of flowers as practiced by the ladies in the harems and the billet-doux[3] in nosegay form by servants and slaves in order to keep their thoughts unspoken, yet conveyed to the object of their desire. Much as the Capoeira dances from Brazil or the colors attributed to the suffragette movement.

This mysterious and exotic language of flowers was mnemonic in character rather than the emblematic meaning Victorians gave to the various flowers. A message was understood by the sharing of a flower or a fruit. This flower or fruit rhymed with a small message. When one would want to send a message "do not despair", handing a pear would be enough for the message to be understood.

Victorian billet-doux locket encrusted a sweet enameled white calla lily and golden clovers.

The language of flowers was a significant one in jewelry and everyday life through most part of the 19th century. Common flowers and their meanings:

• Louis XV

As the great-grandson of his predecessor Louis XIV, Louis XV was the King of France between 1715 and 1774. The absolute reign of the French monarchs came to a halt during his lifetime and he was subject in many anti-monarchial pamphlets. His name is directly connected to the French rococo baroque style.

• Lover's Eye Miniature

Throughout the ages, eye have long been believed to be the 'window of the soul' consecutively revealing and concealing a human’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Symbolically, the eye has turned up as the all seeing eye of God long used by the Masonic Order. The French police adopted the watchful eye as a theme for buckles and belts during the French Revolution. The Revolutionary party used it to signify a member's allegiance. A more innocent interpretation of the eye began to emerge during the late eighteenth century. A more as a simple love token appeared on the scene in the form of a miniature painting.

A "lover's eye" miniature is presented to a loved one and resembles the gift giver’s eye. The concept accompanying this very temporary trend (1790-1820) was that the eye would be recognizable only to the recipient and could therefore be worn publicly keeping the lover's identity a secret. In contradiction however, portraits from the period rarely show the sitter overtly wearing or holding an eye miniature thereby perhaps indicating that the wearers concealed these intimate portraits from view to further guard their secrecy.

Cushion Shaped Eye Miniature Set in a Brooch with Pink Stone Frame c.1800.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Eye Miniature Set in a Brooch Garnet, Turquoise and Pearl Frame c.1800.

Eye Miniature in an Ivory Case with a Mirrored Lid c.1817 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Eye miniatures also changed into a form of memorial jewelry also referred to as 'tear jewelry’ in the early 19th century. The purpose of the eye portrait was refocused from secret love to reminiscence. Decorated with a tear or depicted as gazing through clouds, the miniatures evoked powerful sentiment. Eye miniatures with a memorial intention usually also incorporated hair work; the symbolism of the gemstones supplemented the sentiment. Pearls often represented tears when they surrounded an eye portrait. Diamonds were a theme used only by patrons with the means to pay for them and signified strength and longevity. Coral was meant to protect the wearer from harm, or perhaps to protect the subject of the miniature from harm. Garnets were very popular in Georgian jewelry and represented true friendship.

• Macaroni

A macaroni is a longer form of a chatelaine, but the difference is visible in the macaroni’s belt or girdle suspensory hook. The macaroni chain was draped over a belt and had hooks at either end. One end generally suspended a medallion and five or so hooks for a watch and other necessities. The reverse end suspended decorative tassels and a fausse montre. A macaroni could be quite elaborate with gemstones, pearls and enamel embellishments. The macaroni was prevalent from Georgian times into the late Victorian era and was sometimes referred to as a hookless chatelaine.

• Memento Mori

Sixteenth Century French Memento Mori Pendant.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Memento mori jewelry is the name given to 16th-18th century jewelry that was created as a means to remind people of the inevitability of death and the need to live virtuously. Translation from the Latin, "remember you must die," is very clearly indicative of the objective of the theme. Skulls, skeletons and coffins often worked in gold and enamel were the chief motifs vividly illustrating the underlying sentiment of pending mortality. An important part of the memento mori jewel was the use of text to express thoughts of death, mortality, remembrance and religion. Composed in Latin, French or English they were either engraved or enameled on the outside of a jewel or secretly on the inside, viewable only by the intended recipient.

The most common form of memento mori jewelry was rings. However, they also took the form of lockets, pendants and brooches. The sixteenth century saw an increase in bequests for mourning rings. Often these were just plain bands engraved with a sentiment referencing the departed (sometimes specifically outlined in the will.) Money was left for the purpose of creating the rings along with a specified list of mourners. In the mid seventeenth century, the theme merged with memorial jewelry and became popular to have the hair of the departed person, along with relevant dates and initials worked into the piece alongside the skull, coffin symbols and message. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth century but the name of the individual being memorialized became more prominent, the mourning motifs became somewhat less gruesome and the use of intricate hair work and elaborate allegories were de rigueur.

Memento Mori Fede Ring c.1526-1575.
Inscribed: For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord (Romans, xiv. 8)
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalm xxxvii)
© Trustees of the British Museum.

• Mourning Jewelry

Mourning jewelry is jewelry traditionally worn when someone was in mourning. During the 16th-18th century, memento mori jewelry was popular for mourning and became more popularized following the death of Prince Albert. Queen Victoria remained in mourning until her passing in 1901, causing a revival of this type of jewelry. During the latter half of the 19th century, they were of somber design incorporating dark colors. Materials used were normally black enamel, jet, onyx, human hair, glass, vulcanite and gutta-percha.

• Necklaces


Necklaces have existed since our ancestors began to walk upright on the earth. Our desire to adorn ourselves has been evident since ancient times with Paleolithic and Neolithic necklaces made from shells, bones, teeth and claws found at sites of archaeological explorations. As our sophistication and knowledge grew so did the variety of materials and the level of detail and design used in jewelry. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, virtually all civilizations, had unique methods for designing and making jewelry, moving from simple strung bead arrangements to more elaborate combinations of materials and patterns.


Ancient Egyptians truly admired a broad collar with beads strung in vertical, parallel rows fashioned in a bib-like shape, and tied with a cord at the back. These funerary collars were created from metal sheet and chased with talismanic Egyptian motifs. Choker style beads and pectorals designed as large emblematic motifs were inlaid with faience and gemstones.

Gold Repoussé Bula Pendant Necklace c.400-350 B.C.

© Trustees of the British Museum.

The Minoan civilization stamped out gold beads to create many different forms of jewelry. Necklaces and pendants featured beads decorated with complex granulation and repoussé. An Egyptian influence was evident in their choice of pectorals and the motifs that they created and adorned with an expert use of filigree. Large gold disks with repoussé animals were often suspended from the pectorals. The Minoans were also clever chain weavers and, as a result, chains began to be worn as necklaces in their own right without the addition of charms, pendants or other symbolic motifs.

The Etruscans were the ancient world's most accomplished goldsmiths. Fabulous necklaces included the art of chain making further embellished with a myriad of repoussé beads with intricate granulated designs. When discovered centuries later, jewelers tried in vain to emulate the fine work of the unparalleled civilization. The techniques they used for accomplishing such incredible granulated designs frustrated generations of jewelers who strove tirelessly to recreate the magic.

Classical Greek necklaces linked together repoussé motifs sometimes decorated with filigree and granulation and suspending hollow forms such as amphorae, flower buds, beads, flowers and human heads. Medallions with elaborate designs were suspended from chains featuring these incredible repoussé motifs along with swags of chain.

Discussing jewelry from the Hellenistic period under the rule of Alexander the Great, J. Anderson Black explains in A History of Jewelry: Five Thousand Years:

”Rather than imposing their old designs on the newly-conquered territories, the Greeks absorbed what was best from the art of each nation and evolved a hybrid. This was undoubted the richest period for jewelry and gold work in the history of the Aegean world. For one thing gold was more readily available both from deposits in Asia and Egypt, and from looted treasures which could be broken up and the metal re-used.”

Their interpretation of Etruscan design adapted the strap necklace but replaced the pendants with more geometric forms abandoning the Etruscan figurative motifs. More gemstones were being used and chains included finials and gold, glass and gemstone beads.

Roman Amethyst, Emerald, Blue Glass and Gold Necklace c.3rd Century.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

Roman jewelry design was of Hellenistic origin until the 2nd century A.D. when Roman jewelers began to use the technique of opus interrasile resulting in an open work pattern in metal. They also took the art of niello and applied it to jewelry. Romans were responsible for adding a good deal of color to jewelry using colored stones polished en cabochon. Chains suspended coins and medallions and included colored stones and segments pierced with the opus interrasile technique.

Early celtic necklaces included torcs of twisted rod or ribbon held in place by a simple clasp. Trade with other parts of the world brought them beads made from faience and amber that they fashioned into necklaces. Similar to a pectoral was the Irish gorget, designed as a broad crescent cut from sheet metal and enhanced by repoussé work and finished with large disk-shaped terminals.

Scandanavian Jewelry c. 6th century featured elaborate and intricate abstract themes which included their use of a technique called "chip cutting" which involved chiseling glimmering facets onto gold surfaces. Combining this with filigree and repoussé resulted in a heretofore-unseen style. With the passing of time, simpler geometric designs emerged.

• Neoclassicism

The North façade of The White House, Washington D.C. is an illustration of American Neoclassicism.

The neoclassicism period spanned from roughly 1760 to 1830. The English Neoclassical movement, established upon both classical and contemporary French models personified a group of attitudes toward art and human existence — ideals of order, logic, restraint, accurateness, limitation, decorum, etc. which would enable the practitioners of several arts to duplicate the arrangements and themes of Greek or Roman originals. Though its origins were much earlier, Neoclassicism dominated English literature from the Restoration in 1660 until the end of the eighteenth century, when the publication of Lyrical Ballads (1798) by Wordsworth and Coleridge marked the full emergence of Romanticism. For the sake of convenience the Neoclassic period can be divided into three relatively coherent parts: the Restoration Age (1660-1700), in which Milton, Bunyan, and Dryden were the dominant influences; the Augustan Age (1700-1750)

• Paline Glass

Opaline glass was a gem replication with a milky white or blue appearance cut en cabochon a popular daytime "gem" in the Georgian era. Foilbacked with metallic colored foils helped give the glass a pinkish cast.

• Poissardes

A poissarde is a term meaning "fishwife" in French. It was a type of earring worn from 1790-1810 and was in an elongated geometrical design, with 2 or 3 ornaments below each other and sometimes set with gemstones. The ear wires had a typical s-shaped fish-hook style cross over and threaded through the ear back to front.

The name is derived from the fishwives of Paris who were the first to wear them and who played a significant role during the French Revolution.

• Posy Ring

Posy Ring Inscribed Neuer(sic) look but remember A S c.17th-18th century.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

A Knot Motif Posy Ring Inscribed "Vertue. Rule. Affection" (Post-Medieval).
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

A posy ring from the 17th and 18th centuries, is a simple golden hoop ring usually rounded on the outside and engraved poesy phrases on the inside such as "forget not who loveth thee" or "A loveing wife a happy life". These were given as expressions of love, regards or other such sentiment. Given as love tokens from the 15th century, they progressed into plain gold wedding bands often stocked a customer's choice of posy.

According to Diana Scarisbrick in her book Rings:

“These mottoes, known as posies, or little poems were usually in French, for centuries the universal language of love, at first in Lombardic script followed by black letter in the 15th century. Typical posies translate as 'You have my heart'; 'My heart belongs to you'; 'Fortune wishes it'; 'None so good'; and 'Wear this for me'. The words, as in a garden of love, are somethimes interspersed with enamelled leaves, pansies, or roses warmed by rays of the sun. Whereas most posy rings conform to standard patterns and repeat the same inscriptions, occasionally a more individual design survives, such as a hoop ring designed as three books open at pages inscribed with the letters PO YR EC alternating with beaded panels between inscribed cest mon decir (It is my wish), from Kirby, Lancashire. Presumably these posies were intended for those aware of the literature of the time, and who could not only read the Lombardic and black letter script but also knew French. ”

—Scarisbrick, Diana. Rings: Jewelry of Power, Love and Loyalty

• Rebus

A rebus (puzzle composed of pictures) was engraved in precious metals or gemstones set in the bezel of signet rings. The solved rebus exposed the name of the owner; the name rebus is also used for complicated monograms.

• Regard Ring

A regard ring encompassed a band decorated with a gemstone acrostic. The first letters of the gemstones correspond with the word "regard" - Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond - and are set in that sequence. The antiquated word for garnet, vermeil was used for the letter "v "and "j" as in the gemstone jacinth, was used to stand in for the letter" i ". First introduced by the French jeweler Mellerio in 1809, acrostic rings became extremely popular tokens of sentimental love. Previously, Georgian acrostic jewelry was shaped like padlocks with keys or hearts that were decorated with gemstone acrostics as an open declaration of love.

The fad swept Europe and Empress Marie Louise had three acrostic bracelets commissioned to acknowledge the love between Napoleon and herself.

Victorian Regard Ring. Image Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Commonly Spelled Out Gemstone Acrostics:







Love Me:



Fire Opal

• Restauration

The French restauration is a period following the first French empire. After the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, the monarchy of the Bourbons was restored. This period lasted until 1830 but in the history of the arts the dates (1814-1830) are to be taken loosely. The influence of the French empire style lasted until approximately 1820.

• Robert Adam

Robert Adam (1728-1792) was a Scottish architect and designer who shaped the neoclassicism in 18th century Britain with his typical Adam style.

Drawings by Robert Adam

• Roman Vincent

Roman-Vincent Jeuffroy (1749-1826) was a famous gem carver who led the school initiated by Napoleon Bonapart as a means to inspire the art of glyptography.

• Saint Esprit

Several Examples of "Saint Esprit" c.1790.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Saint Esprit in a term which mean “Holy Ghost” containing a dove-shaped religious symbol. Saint esprit jewelry was made in either silver or gold and set with gemstones, both real and paste. The jewels accumulated popularity in France during the late eighteenth century.

• Snaps

Snaps were an 18th century earring fitting (1773) that made it easier for women without pierced ears to enjoy earrings. Snaps were clip-on earrings but the style was so weighty that ear snaps usually featured a hook that looped over the top of the ear in order to provide support.

• Spanish Jewelry

Spain coordinated the gold and emerald mines of Colombia and Peru during the 18th century resulting in exquisitely fine gem-set gold jewelry. Parures of emeralds, necklaces, stomachers, rings, earrings etc. were plentiful at the court of Spain. A long gold earring style called Catalan was distinguished by a multitude of emeralds or hessonite garnet.

• Strass

Strass was a form of glass with high lead content invented in the 18th century by the French goldsmith George Frederic Strass (1701-1773). The lead amplified the refractive index, specific gravity and dispersion but lowered the hardness.

• Tassie

Oval Tassie Intaglio Depicting Bearded Priam, King of Troy, in Phrygian Cap. c. Late 18th Century. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A Tassie is a paste or glass copy of a cameo or intaglio brought into popularity by James Tassie (1735-1799), a Scottish gem engraver, who created replicas of ancient engraved agates and gemstones following his career as a glyptographer. Testing with enamels and working with Dr. Quin of Dublin eventually created an opaque glass that could replicate any color or pattern. Tassie took his business to London and established himself as a serious craftsman creating his replicas using his own very high and exacting standards.

Tassies were created using a molding process by fine artists of the day and included classical subjects, proverbs and portraits of royals and other noted personalities. The contemporary portraits were modeled from life whenever possible and cast in white enamel then mounted upon a darker color background. The wide variety of subject matter and detailed execution made tassies popular with collectors. Various other companies copied the idea and literally hundreds of thousands of these glass replica cameos and intaglios were made. Some of those made by James carry a mark 'T' or 'Tassie F', the ones made by William are marked 'W Tassie F'. Additionally, Tassie made casting models for Josiah Wedgwood to use in generating his jasperware cameos.

• Turnau

Stunning multi-dimensional Victorian Bohemian Garnet Earrings in gilt metal from the mid-19th century.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Turnau is the German name for the town Turnov in the Czech Republic (Bohemia). It has traditionally been the trade and cutting center for bohemian garnets that were very popular during the 19th century.

• Vauxhall Glass

Vauxhall glass was a popular gem substitute during the 18th century and on into the middle of the 19th century. Strong hues of highly reflective purple, orange, red, green and blue were set into butterfly, snowflake and flower motifs on necklaces, bracelets, earrings, brooches and hair combs. Created in the Vauxhall Glassworks in London, this jewelry was probably sold as souvenirs in the Vauxhall Gardens.