The Edwardian style of jewelry and fashion was not particularly long, but it did make its mark in a lasting way that still influences designers and collectors today. The period lasted for roughly a decade—from 1901 until 1910. Some jewelry experts date it until the beginning of World War I. Just as the Victorian style was greatly influenced by Queen Victoria of England, the Edwardian style took its fashion cues from Queen Alexandra, the wife of English King Edward.
Known in England as the Edwardian style, this opulent and elegant era also coincided with the Belle Époque, the name of the era as it was known in France as well as the rest of Europe. While the Edwardian style had its roots in the Art Nouveau period of the 1890s, it is marked by a decided shift to more modern materials and motifs. New alloys were created at this time even though designers refined their jewels to show less metal and more gem. Diamonds and pearls were considered hallmark gems of this era just as white on white designs were regarded as supremely elegant. Amethysts, favorite gems of the queen, were also widely showcased in designs.
Platinum was immensely popular during the Edwardian period. Although it was expensive, it was preferred for its strength; its strength also meant that less of it was needed than other metals to hold a gem in place. People who couldn’t afford platinum favored white gold, a popular alloy developed during this period. These metals complemented the monochromatic designs that jewelers began to produce. Jewels that dazzled the eye with their brilliance and glamour were all the rage in England, Continental Europe, and America.
While monochromatic design schemes often symbolized the luxury associated with this era, garlands and bows were also popular jewelry motifs. Influenced by the Rococo art period, Edwardian jewelry pieces also frequently featured floral swags, wreaths, ribbons, and filigree work. Moreover, some designers favored a decidedly Indian influence to mark Queen Alexandra’s fascination with India and its styles. For this reason, hair jewelry often showcased fancy feathers of exotic birds like peacocks and ostriches.
Necklaces such as long ropes of pearls, lariats, and chokers were widely worn during the Edwardian years. The dog-collar necklace appeared initially in France during the middle of the nineteenth century, but it became popular in England during the Edwardian period, in particular. Brooches and pendants were often prominently displayed atop the low necklines of Edwardian evening wear and chatelaines enjoyed a resurgence of popularity under the influence of Queen Alexandra.
The necklace known as the lavaliere was one of the Edwardian period’s most popular types of jewels. Typically seen as a pendant displayed from a long chain, the lavaliere was designed in many different styles; some were adapted to the lariat form while still others might showcase very ornate pendants with sliding parts. Lockets continued in popularity during the Edwardian age, but were markedly smaller than their Victorian predecessors. Other popular Edwardian jewelry pieces included chatelettes, festoon necklaces, and bangle bracelets.
Revered for its opulent and sophisticated style, Edwardian jewelry is prized by collectors today. Edward died in 1910 and the subsequent war years ushered in dramatic shifts in fashion styles as well as materials. Even so, today’s designers often feature elements of Edwardian style in their modern designs to pay homage to the era’s glamour and beauty.