Friday, March 8, 2013

Observations on Mid-19th Century Jewelry

As I look at early and mid 19th century jewelry, I easily recognize the stark and subtle differences in common jewelry practices as they compare to modern jewelry. Below is listed but a few main differences.

The most stark difference in earrings is that mid century jewelers didn't use jump ring to attach components.

Ear wires were the most dominant type. There was either a mounted jewel or metal design soldered in the front. If the wearer so chose, she could add a component, or not, by way of a hidden hook. Components hung from an attached ring at the top and could also have a hidden hook at the bottom to hang the next component.

Floral and filigree motifs were very common.

The bracelets that I have studied so far are the type that have bezel mounted gems. Each bezel is attached to the next with two chains. These use predominately box style or hidden clasps.

The necklaces that I am concentrating on are also the bezel mounted gemstone type. These predominately use box or hidden clasps. The bezels are connected by either one or two chains. Some examples display a filigree alternating with the bezels. Enameling is also common. A coordinating pendent may hang from one of the bezels but not from the chain.

From the front, brooches display simple or complex but symmetrical arrangements. There is a center focal point with an optional surround. The back however is were the "tell" lies. Tube hinges prevail. I have not found an example yet that displayed any other hinge.

Gemstone Settings:
There are several ways that gemstones were cut but my two favorites are en Cabochon and the Rose cut. Cabochons are still set today in the same way they were 150 years ago; in a smooth bezel. The Rose cut gem has fallen out of favor with modern jewelers. The faceted gemstones that I have studies were predominately set in crimped collets. Certain gems were set in certain materials such as diamonds and sapphires in silver and rubies in gold.