When Edward VII took the throne in 1901, he was seen by many as a welcome successor to his serious, dour mum, Queen Victoria. Having spent much of his youth gambling and in the company of attractive women, he represented everything that the Victorian era hated - decadence, glamour and fun. Perhaps a product of his conservative childhood, he liked to surround himself with pretty, sparkly things, and jewellery became an integral part of his luxurious lifestyle.
Delicate & Feminine
Victoria’s death also came at a time when the ostentatious, machine made jewellery of the industrial revolution was shunned in favour of more intricate, dainty items. Inspired by the fashions of the Court of Versailles, Edwardian socialites chose to adorn themselves with delicate, almost ethereal pieces that looked as though they could have been crafted from spider silk. From twinkling hair adornments and chokers to filigree necklaces and earrings, society’s best dressed were all desperate to show off the latest, ultra ladylike fashions.
White on White
Edwardian jewellery is all about celebrating femininity, with lots of white to suggest purity and innocence. Diamonds and pearls were the most wanted gems of the day, with the odd sapphire thrown in for a touch of colour, while yellow gold made way for more delicate looking silver, platinum and white gold.
The Edwardians were obsessed with tiaras, many of which used clever loops and hinges which transformed them into bracelets and necklaces, while coats and dresses were decorated with pretty brooches crafted in the shapes of garlands, bows and laurel wreaths.
The period also saw lots of advancements in jewellery making, including the invention of a torch that made it easier for craftsmen to create intricate designs from platinum. This led to the introduction of “petit point” embroidery style jewellery, which looked like it was formed from delicate lace encrusted with diamonds. Another technique commonly used in Edwardian jewellery is millegraining where gemstones are surrounded by dainty ridges and balls of platinum.
Queen Alexandra of Denmark
Edward’s wife, Queen Alexandra (originally Princess of Denmark), was the ultimate model of the era’s jewellery. She was a particular fan of chokers and dog collars, often sporting as many as 16 rows of pearls at a time. These pretty neck ornaments were the perfect way to show off the lower necklines of the time and represented a further move from the covered up, modest look of the Victorian period.
It’s also worth noting that by Edwardian times some of our favourite everyday items had been invented. The typewriter, telephone and vacuum cleaner were all making the lives of the middle and upper classes easier. But perhaps the most relevant to modern life is the fact that people were getting used to having their pictures taken. This means we have some great photographic evidence of Edwardian women showing off their jewellery in all its glory, from actress and singer Lily Elsie in her elaborate strings of pearls to Minnie Brown, the trailblazing African American entertainer who was rarely photographed without a gorgeous jewel or two.
One thing’s for sure - if Instagram had been around in Edwardian times, there would have been some pretty amazing snaps of jewellery being shared. If you’re inspired by these amazing women, there’s no better way to keep their stories alive than by rocking your own bit of Edwardian jewellery.