The Intricate Lacy Lightness Of Edwardian And Belle Epoque Jewelry

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The Intricate Openwork Of Lacy Edwardian And Belle Epoque Jewelry

It was the English King Edward VII who gave his name to the brief style period between the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign and the First World War. Edward’s lighthearted nature was well known before he took the throne – he was infamous as the prince of Wales, for his escapades as a playboy and his love of luxury. Quite the antithesis of both his mother and his father.

In France and most of Europe, this period was known as the Belle Epoque. Those who were not interested in Art Nouveau or the Arts and Crafts styles, looked to the 18th century, the Court of Versailles, and 17th and 18th century architecture for inspiration. The industrial technology that characterised 19th century jewelry making was no longer of  such great import in making jewelry, and hand crafted pieces were highly valued.

Edwardian Moonstone and Diamond Bracelet by Black, Starr & Frost
The Edwardian bangle bracelet below from Lang Antiques, dates back to the earliest years of the 20th century. It epitomises the lighter touch of the period and is hand crafted in platinum over gold. A high-cabochon moonstone is framed by an open foliate design set with bright white old mine-cut diamonds. This feminine Edwardian period jewel is stamped BS&F for the historic American jeweler, Black, Starr & Frost. The piece is still for sale at the time of writing, at a price of $5,750 USD at Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry.

The platinum over gold of this piece replaced the earlier use of silver, which oxidised and left marks on skin and fabric. Silver over gold had previously been used despite the oxifisation, because it was thought to work better colourwise with diamonds than yellow gold, allowing diamonds to remain bright and white.

So there was a new lightness in jewelry design. Wreaths, bows, tassels, swags, flowers and lace motifs took on this lightness of character, especially as platinum was able to be worked by itself and lent its strength to ever more lacy and delicate open work.

“In 1903 the invention of the oxyacetylene torch, that could reach the temperatures necessary to work with platinum, allowed jewelry to be made solely from platinum. The strength of platinum was fully exploited and it became possible to create jewels that resembled “petit point” embroidery and fine, delicate, sophisticated jewels resembling diamond encrusted lace.”

(Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry ‘Jewelry University’)

An Edwardian Platinum and Diamond Bow Brooch

Above is an Edwardian period brooch that examplifies the intricate lacy work made possible by the use of platinum, and incorporating the use of the bow motif so popular at the time. Rose-cut and old mine-cut diamonds feature, with ribbons of calibre-cut onyx to accent the diamonds. 
(Photograph by Cole Bybee. Image courtesy Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry)

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