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Edwardian Jewelry

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Edwardian jewelry, the last period named after a British monarch, ran from 1901 to 1915 and was characterized by a departure from the somber style of Queen Victoria. Edward VII’s mother mourned for several decades after the death of her husband Prince Albert. But King Edward was a lighthearted and happy monarch, a playboy and darling of the upper class. His attitude affected women’s fashion including the jewelry they wore.

Platinum was used during the Edwardian period because its whiteness and strength facilitated flowing, pierced designs in garlands, wreaths and floral, lacy and open circular pins. Lozenges and threadlike cascades of sparkling diamonds and a continual array of precious gems, such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires, became focal points of larger pieces.

Frequently, a black ribbon served as a necklace with a delicate diamond buckle as center decoration, contrasting with this simple fashion element. Cascades of gems flowed down the throat into a low décolleté, complementing the dramatic-cut gowns of the era. Prior to this innovation, earrings in button motifs served as staples; now, long delicate designs in pierced settings were embellished by free flowing briolette’s as well as diamonds cut into marquise and pear shapes. The jewelry was finished in platinum and accented by mill-grain tiny balls to add visual dimension and interest.

Hair ornaments evolved from mere combs to swags of glittering stones swaying with every movement of the owner. New cuts for colored gems included caliber cuts for emeralds, rubies and sapphires, showing off artistic sophistication with a subtle color contrast to a ground of diamonds.

The fashion trend setter of the day, Queen Alexandra, King Edward’s consort, frequently wore numerous broaches pinned to her bodice and displayed three or even four necklaces of different lengths, all worn together.

The “girdle” became fashionable, and a circular lace broach could be pinned at the shoulder to fasten fresh flowers, with several long strands of gems and pearls trailing down, culminating with a similar smaller broach at the waist. This design of glittering gems was reserved for royalty and the ultra-wealthy, such as the Vanderbilt’s, Morgan’s and Astor’s, all close friends of King Edward and his Queen.

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