1901 - 1914
The term adopted to embrace the lighter more intricate designs of this period in France was La Belle Époque - the beautiful era. Gone were the heavy designs of Victorian jewellery, and instead more elegant pieces were created, inspired by French rococo decoration from the end of the 18th century.
The ability to shift to these more detailed designs lay in the invention of a super hot oxy-acetylene torch in the early 1900s. Platinum, an exceptionally strong white metal, could now be melted and worked more quickly and efficiently. This meant that silver was out, and diamonds could now be set in unobtrusive claws or griped in beaded lines and clusters known as millegrain. Thus beautiful lattice motifs, bows, swags and hearts were combined with naturalistic symbols such as sprays of leaves, flower-heads and trails of tendrils.
Diamonds were essential to Edwardian jewellery, but diamond jewellery was now made to look as fine and delicate as possible, to match the profusion of silk and feathers of the Edwardian lady. The Edwardian lady was not without her boldness though, and striking colour contrasts with bold outlines began to appear during this period.
This shift in jewellery, as always, followed a shift in the social changes of the time. Queen Victoria's reign had been sobering, but now, with Edward VII's coronation, court was one of extravagance and sophistication. High society sought luxury and enjoyment, and in fact, the beginnings of the Edwardian jewellery style were apparent at the end of Victoria's reign, when the Princess of Wales (Alexandra, Edward's wife - pictured) had become a leader of fashion. She wore pearl dog collars, diamond star and crescent brooches and coloured gem-set pendants.
Several specific forms of jewels emerged at this time, and one of these was the negligee pendant necklace. This necklace features two drops of equal lengths hanging from another singe stone. The 'sautoir' or long necklace, usually of pearls, was another frequently worn Edwardian necklace.
Apart from this grand and expensive jewellery, many more every day jewels were available and remained popular: gold bar brooches, gold bangles set with pearls or coloured stones, gypsy rings with stones set into the band and snake rings.
Edwardian prosperity was brought to an abrupt end by outbreak of the First World War. And it is here, at the end of the fighting, that we move into Art Deco jewellery.