In the late Victorian period, women were emerging from an extended mourning for Prince Albert, and were looking for brighter, lighter jewellery. They had spent years wearing large jet bracelets and black jewellery over dark clothing. Clothing was becoming slimmer in profile and was made of softer fabrics. Drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, an American illustrator, which appeared during this period, showed his version of the modern women. The Gibson Girl was tall and slim, with a large bust, wide hips and an impossibly tiny waist. She was a member of the upper middle class, had money to spend and was keen on active pursuits like cycling and tennis. She dressed well and wore her hair piled on top of her head. She loved to wear jewellery and for daywear, this comprised thin gold bracelets, lockets, cameos, gold chains, and lots of hair pins and hair combs.
Thin graduated gemstone bracelets became popular, particularly as they were often relatively inexpensive. Gemstones used during this period included opals, moonstones, peridots, garnets, topaz, pearls, amber, amethysts and the newly discovered alexandite. The bracelets could comprise gemstones of the same types, like the moonstones in the picture featured at the top of the blog or like the zircon bracelet below. More expensive versions contained diamonds or rubies.
Alternatively, bracelets could be made up of mixed coloured gemstones. Different coloured garnets were used a lot, but to get a bigger palate of colours, a mixture of gemstones were used. The bracelet below has nine graduated gemstones comprising citrine, smokey quartz, garnets, tourmalines and topaz, with a mixture of oval and cushion cuts. The colors are lovely, ranging from dark orange, yellows, olive green, light blues and a green brown.
This style of bracelet continued to be popular until the 1920s. Due to the structure of them, particularly those with fragile chain links between the stones, many have not survived. Also, they have a tendency to be quite short and a bit tight for us today, without alteration.