Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a strong middle class began to emerge in society. More women began to work. They might not have the money to spend on diamonds and other previous stones but they could afford beautiful jewellery set with seed pearls, garnets, amethysts, opals, moonstones and aquamarines, turquoise and maybe a single diamond or two. Jewellery became lighter and smaller.

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Edwardian turquoise bar brooch, 15ct (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

Women were also more involved in sporting activities such as walking, tennis, and bicycle riding. Clothing styles were changing as the heavy mourning styles led by the Queen were abandoned and brighter colours became popular. The silhouette became slimmer. The bustle shrunk and converted into pleats down the back of the dress. Fitted military style jackets became popular, an early form of power dressing. Hairstyles were worn up, exposing the ears so earrings were worn more often – studs and small dangle earrings during the day, long dangle earrings at night.

Tiny Victorian lava brooch

Brooches were also smaller and a number were often worn at the same time. Designs included clusters, stars, swallow, roses, lily of the valley, entwined hearts and little insects. Many were in the form of a bar brooch, a single or double gold bar with a harp, bow, heart, shamrock, horseshoe or flower in the middle. A lot of less expensive jewellery around this time was mass produced and was usually 9ct gold, leaving more expensive gem set pieces to be made in 15ct or 18ct.

Antique 15ct pearl and enamel bar brooch (at Camberwell Antique Centre)