Jewellery Periods of History

Jewellery has been a symbol of human expression and adornment for thousands of years. The study of jewellery periods provides insight into the evolution of design and reflects the societal, cultural, and artistic values of the time.

Martin & Stein. Jewellery Auction. Leonard Joel
A Georgian handpainted miniature. Sold for $744


The Georgian period, which spanned from 1714 to 1837, was named after and defined by the Hanoverian Monarchs of the United Kingdom. It was a time of Mozart, Gainsborough, and the decorative aesthetics of Rococo, Neoclassicism, and Romanticism. Gold alloys used during the Georgian era were typically 18 carat and higher. Every piece of sumptuous jewellery was meticulously handcrafted. Jewellery styles were designated based on the time of day they were worn. Evenings called for diamond rivière, made up of rose-cut and old mine-cut diamonds.

Martin & Stein. Jewellery Auction. Leonard Joel
Victorian diamond pendant/brooch
Estimate $30,000-50,000


Named after Queen Victoria, this period can be divided into three eras: the Romantic Period (1837-1860), the Grand Period (1861-1880), and the Aesthetic Period (1880-1901). Victorian jewellery boasts a diverse range of motifs, yet it remains identifiable through the endless variations of romantic shapes and elaborate details. Pieces were often adorned with old mine-cut diamonds that were faceted by candlelight and set into silver-topped gold to enhance their brilliance. Transformable creations were popular, such as brooches that could convert to pendants, or tiaras that could be disassembled and worn as necklaces. Lot 647 from our forthcoming Martin & Stein Fine Jewellery Collection is an exquisite example of the Victorian period’s elaborate style.


An Edwardian diamond pendant
Sold for $6,750


The Edwardian era was a period of unprecedented luxury and prosperity in England from 1901 to 1910. This lavish lifestyle was reflected in the ornate and opulent style of jewellery, heavily influenced by the Louis XVI style of the 18th century. Ribbon bows, hearts, and flowers were popular motifs, intricately woven into garlands and wreaths that draped across the neck or adorned the hair. Louis Cartier was a famous proponent of the Garland Style, which featured delicate and lightweight designs inspired by 18th century pattern books and the streets of Paris. The introduction of platinum was crucial in allowing jewellers to create intricate fretwork and lace-like patterns that were impossible to achieve with other metals, enhancing the beauty of diamonds and pearls, the preferred gemstones of the Edwardian era.


Martin & Stein. Jewellery Auction. Leonard Joel
Diamond and sapphire brooch, circa 1910
Estimate $8,000-12,000

Art Deco  

The end of World War I brought about a reaction to the years of suffering in the form of exaltation, creativity, and celebration. Pre-war traditions, fashions, and values were set aside and replaced with a new rule of freedom of expression, particularly in fashion. Jewellery designs changed to follow these revolutionary ideas, featuring more geometric and linear designs and bursts of primary colours taking the form of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires (Lot 530 from the Martin & Stein Collection) that triumphed over the all-white jewels popular in the Edwardian era. Interestingly, despite the change to simplicity in dress style, women of the 1920s loved to cover themselves in jewellery, with several bracelets stacked together and sautoirs draped over daring low backs. Art Deco jewellery was also influenced by the Far East and Middle East, using exotic designs, motifs, and materials such as jade and lapis lazuli. 

Martin & Stein. Jewellery Auction. Leonard Joel
Gold, diamond and ruby ring, circa 1940
Estimate $4,000-6,000


During the outbreak of war in Europe, jewellery production was again hindered as precious metals and stones became scarce. Jewellery designs during the 1940s featured large scrolls (Lot 518 is a prominent example), straps, and buckles made mainly of gold, smaller diamonds, synthetic rubies and sapphires, or multiples of smaller stones. Large precious stones were substituted for semi-precious ones such as citrine, aquamarine, amethyst, and topaz. Despite the scarcity of gold, the size of the jewels remained large and voluminous, but were made of thin sheets of metal and were highly decorative and innovative in their design. New alloys were developed to increase the percentage of copper used, resulting in the characteristic reddish tinge of the gold of
the period.

LAUREN BOUSTRIDGE / Senior Jewels Specialist, Sydney 

Banner Image: An Edwardian diamond pendant. Sold for $6,750

May 2023