I’ve never really been a Tiffany sort of girl – waiting patiently for my one true love to give me diamond solitaires and bland little metal hearts. I buy my own jewellery, and I prefer things with a bit more age and character, handcrafted with care, not stamped out of a machine.
It’s a tough contest, but I think my favourite era for jewellery is the early 20th Century. There are two competing styles from that period, and try as I might, I can’t decide which is the most beautiful. In the blue corner is the classically inspired garland style – the advent of platinum jewellery (much stronger than gold) led the way to a much lighter and airier style. Garland jewellery is classically Edwardian – symmetrical, graceful and refined. The peridot pendant on the right below is a lovely example – the two pendants together are up for auction on the 15th of March, with an estimate of £70-£100.
In the red corner is the Art Nouveau style – inspired by medieval craftsmen and the orient. It tends to be asymmetrical, heavily inspired by nature – all elegant whiplash curves – and handcrafted from much more offbeat materials. The brooch below is a good example, made by Liberty and Co. from silver, enamel and mother of pearl, it has been a bit bashed over the years but it still looks lovely. It’s up for auction on the 12th of March with an estimate of £60-90.
Luckily for me, a lot of jewellery designers drew inspiration from both styles – these next two examples are light, symmetrical and made of conventional gemstones, but you can see the rebellious art nouveau influence in their whiplash curves…
These are both coming up in an auction on the 15th. The lovely amethyst pendant is estimated at £300-£400, while the diamond and pearl one is up for £700-£900. I do wonder if the diamonds are set in low grade platinum – it was cheaper than gold at the time, and usually not hallmarked.
Images kindly provided by Fellows & Sons.
Have you visited the jewellery section in the V&A? I was in there for two hours! Amazing doesn’t describe it. They even have portraits of the owners of the jewellery wearing the pieces.