Many of the jewellery trends that we associate with the early 20th century had already begun in Victorian times. In France, the Belle Epoque period started around the 1880s and led to lighter jewellery using garlands and foliate designs with delicate openwork. The pendant in the photo below is set with paste rather than diamonds but does capture the essence of the Belle Epoque, the beautiful era. It was to continue until the start of WWI. 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 Belle Epoque period included the Art Nouveau period, 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.

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Belle Epoque French paste and silver pendant

Art Nouveau flourished in France, and also later in Germany (Jugendstil), Austria (Sezessionstil) and Spain (Modernismo), and to some extent in the USA.

The Edwardian era in the United Kingdom generally covers the reign of King Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s son, from 1901 to 1910, although the years leading up to the First World War are also included in the era. It was a very prosperous time, and the wealthy spent money on diamond jewellery and beautiful clothes. Dresses were light and jewellery styles for the daytime were elegant and simple. Pearls of all sizes were popular as in the case of the lovely seed pearl festoon necklace below. It is so typical of the Edwardian period.

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As is the negligee necklace below, with its asymmetrical drops of aquamarines from a centrally set moonstone.

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Edwardian moonstone and aquamarine negligee necklace (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

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.  The Art Deco watch below is a perfect example of Art Deco jewellery.


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Art Deco onyx and chrysophase watch