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Jewellery Fashion Through the Ages

Ancient world jewellery

During the ancient times, jewellery is a universal form of adornment and was made from shells, stone and bones. It is often said that from an early period it was worn as a protection from the dangers of life or as a symbol of status or rank.
In the ancient times, the discovery of how to work metals marked a significant stage in the advancement of the art of jewellery. With time, metalworking techniques became more advanced and decoration more intricate.

Gold was buried with the dead in order to accompany its owner into the afterlife. A lot of archaeological jewellery comes from tombs as well as hoards.

Medieval jewellery 1200–1500

The jewellery worn in medieval Europe mirrored an intense status-conscious society with the chain of command. The royal and noble wore gold, silver as well as precious gems, while the lower ranks of society wore base metals like copper or pewter. Color and protective power were highly valued. Certain jewels had cryptic or magical inscriptions, which were believed to protect the wearer.

Size and lustrous colour determined the values of gems. Enamels like ground glasses were fired at high temperature onto a metal surface, allowing goldsmiths to colour their designs on jewellery. They used a lot of techniques to create effects that are still widely used to this day.

Renaissance jewellery

Renaissance jewels were made for splendour. Enamels became more elaborate and colourful as advances were made in cutting techniques that increased the glitter of stones.
The tremendous significance of religion in everyday life could be seen in jewellery, as could earthly power. This is as many spectacular pieces were worn as a mark of political strength. The designs reflected a new-found interest in the classical world, while mythological figures and scenes became popular. Here, the ancient art of gem engraving was restored and the use of portraits reflected an increased artistic awareness of the individual concerned.

18th-century jewellery

As a result of the giant strides made in the previous century, diamonds sparkled as never before and came to dominate jewellery design. They were firmly fixed in silver to enhance the stone's white colour, while magnificent sets of diamond jewels became necessary for court life. The largest were carried on the bodice, whilst the smaller ornaments could be scattered over an outfit.

19th-century jewellery

The 19th century marked a period of enormous industrial and social change, but in jewellery design, the centre of attention was often in the past. In the earlier periods, classical styles became more popular and evoked the glories of ancient Greece and that of Rome. Interest in antiquities was aroused by fresh archaeological findings. Attempts were made to restore ancient systems in order to make jewellery s in a style reminiscent of archaeological jewellery.

Art Nouveau jewellery and the Garland style

Lasting from 1895-1910, the Art Nouveau style resulted in a dramatic shift in jewellery design.

Followers of this design created sinuous, organic pieces with undercurrents of eroticism and death which were miles away from the floral subjects of earlier generations. Art Nouveau jewellers like René Lalique equally distanced themselves from prevailing precious stones and instead lay greater emphasis on the subtle impacts of materials such as glass, horn and enamel.

Art Deco jewellery

Jewelry designed between the 1920s and 1950s were as innovative as they were glamorous. Sharp, geometric patterns characterized this age, at the same time that exotic creations that were influenced by both the Near- and Far-East signified that jewellery fashions had truly gone international. 

Solid concentrations of gemstones characterized the Art Deco jewellery. Upwards of about 1933 gold was returned to fashion in part because it was cheaper than platinum at the time.

Contemporary jewellery

From the 1960s, the borders of jewellery have been steadily redefined. New technologies and non-precious materials, along with plastics, paper as well as textiles, have reversed the ideas of status traditionally implicit in jewellery.

Interaction of jewellery with the body has been explored, further pushing the borders of scale and wearability to the barest limits. Suffice to say that jewellery has advanced into wearable art.


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