Of course, when Victoria died in 1901, there wasn’t a sudden change in what people were wearing. The late Victorian period merged seamlessly into the Edwardian period. There was a strong middle class, with a young continent of working women with money to spend on fashion and jewellery. They may not have been able to afford diamonds but they could could afford other precious stones. They comprised an important market for jewellers. Of course, the wealthy remained very wealthy. They purchased jewels to go with ball dresses – tiaras, garland necklaces, gorgeous brooches and pins. For those who could not afford diamonds, jewellery set with sparkling crystals and paste was popular.
Many of the jewellery trends that we associate with the early 19th century had already begun in Victorian times. In France, the Belle Epoche period started around the 1880s and led to lighter and less ornate jewellery. Britain around the same time encouraged the Arts and Craft movement, which focused on a return to handmade items of excellent craftsmanship, often influenced by medieval patterns and designs. The Art Nouveau movement which followed complemented the arts and craft movement, producing jewellery based on nature and re-introducing the use of enamels and organic materials such as horn and ivory. Softer coloured gemstones were used, such as opals and moonstones.
Art Nouveau flourished in France, and also later in Germany (Jugendstil), Austria (Sezessionstil) and Spain (Modernismo), and to some extent in the USA.
Art Nouveau in France and the UK was replaced by Art Deco after the first world war. Its style was represented by geometric designs and symmetry. Diamond and gem cutting cutting became revolutionised and platinium was used extensively. The excavations in Egypt were influential to the period, as were India, with its use of carved gems, China and the Orient, particularly in the use of enamel. The process for culturing pearls was perfected. These were exciting times.