The History of Jewellery Making

Jewellery has been a part of life and our culture for thousands of years. Its fascinating history shapes the jewellery we wear today, and still inspires jewellery making in all its modern forms, too. How has jewellery making evolved over the years? Here’s a brief history of jewellery making.

Early Jewellery (1100 – 1400)

Jewellery has always had status and wealth attached to it, even in early modern times. Precious gems and metals were worn exclusively by royalty and nobility and were thought to have supernatural properties. Some stones were even set in metal with the back of the jewel remaining open and in contact with the skin, so as to allow the magic to pass through to the wearer.

In terms of jewellery making, at this time jewellers were not yet able to cut and shape gemstones. This meant that the stones would have been larger and with a duller exterior, but much closer to their natural shape and colour.

Medieval Era (1200 – 1500)

Brooches were big in the Medieval era, mostly because they were used to pin cloaks. At this time, they became rather lavish and more embellished, featuring family coats of arms, geometric shapes and religious iconography, often reflecting their social status and any land they owned.

Renaissance (1400 – 1700)

At this time of rapid change in technology, knowledge and exploration, it’s no wonder that the Renaissance period also had a big effect on jewellery making. Jewellery cutting ability improved, and as such more elaborate designs were created. Spirituality and religion were still big proponents of jewellery designs, and large chains and pendants became the way that wealthy men expressed their status.

19th Century (1800s – 1900s)

Skipping forward to the 19th century, this is when we see the rise in popularity of the diamond. This was very much influenced by Napoleon, who helped to make the diamond the most desirable gem with the biggest status in society. And the diamond still holds this position today!

The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)

Mass production was key in jewellery making in the Victorian Era, as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Machines were used to create jewellery from sheet metal, including the infamous Victorian mourning jewellery, which often featured human hair which was imported into England ready to be used in lockets!

The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement focussed very much on the beauty of design, and jewellery became more artistic (and less machine made) during this period. Less precious metals and expensive stones were used in jewellery making at this time; instead silver, copper and brass were used to create intricate designs with artistic elements.

20th Century Jewellery (1895 – 1960)

The more recent history of jewellery making has seen many different styles and motifs. For example, Art Nouveau (from 1895 – 1910) used creatures and botany as its main motif, for example the beautiful dragonfly brooches characteristic of this time.

The Edwardian era, from 1901 – 1915, saw more delicate pieces created, including ribbons, wreaths, garlands and bows, which included a lighter touch due to the new techniques of white platinum fabrication.

And Art Deco in the 1920s was characterised by geometric shapes and clean lines. With gem cutters now available, angular edges were much easier to achieve, and cut diamonds were featured in all sorts of pieces, from rings to watches.

Finally, the modernist era takes us to contemporary times, from the 1930s – 1950s. Gold became popular, as well as pink gold, which was used to create softer lines than that of the Art Deco period which came before it.

Contemporary Jewellery (1950s Onwards)

Jewellery since the 1950s has seen a mixture of trends gone by. It has constantly been redefined and takes its inspiration from a variety of eras. Non-metals are often used in today’s costume jewellery, such as plastics and textiles, to give a completely different look to traditional pieces we would have seen historically. It’s why local jewellers are able to stock such a huge range of jewellery in all styles today!

Ready to Make your Mark on the History of Jewellery Making? Visit E.K. Jewellers.

Of course, if you’re ready to create a piece of history in terms of jewellery making, get in contact with your local jeweller in Ilford. Here at E.K. Jewellers, Ilford and Hainault based jewellery lovers can have custom pieces created just for them. These unique pieces will make their mark in your own history, and who knows? May become part of the history of jewellery making in years to come!

Posted on by Ian Tubby.