Jewellery in Costume and Fashion History
Fine and Fake Jewellery
In the ancient world gold was the preferred metal for making
jewellery. It was rare, did not tarnish and best of all it was malleable, so it
could be worked fairly easily.
Magnificent bracelets, pendants, necklaces, rings,
armlets, earrings, diadems, head ornaments, pectoral ornaments and collars of
gold were all produced in ancient Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs.
by Howard Carter in 1922 led to the great discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb
and many gold funerary artefacts, all showing the art work of ancient Egypt.
Left - Gold funeral mask of King Tutankhamun.
In ancient Greece, beads shaped as natural forms like shells,
flowers and beetles were manufactured on a large scale. Beautiful and delicate
necklaces and earrings were found in burial sites in Northern Greece. By 300 BC
the Greeks were making multi coloured jewellery and used emeralds, garnets,
amethysts and pearls. Right - Greek earrings.
They also used coloured stones, glass and enamel. Carved
cameos of Indian Sardonyx (a striped brown pink and cream agate stone) along
with filigree gold work were widely made. Beads were made by joining two flat
pieces of gold and filling them with sand.
Eight centuries BC the Italian Etruscans in the Tuscany region
produced granulated textured gold work. They made large fibulae or clasps,
necklaces, bracelets and earrings. They also made pendants that were hollow and
could be filled with perfume. The Italians are still renowned for high quality
stylish trend making gold work today.
In coinage the Romans used 18 and 24 carat gold. Being fairly
easily available the coinage was the craftsman's raw material for decorative
jewel work. 2000 years ago the Romans were using sapphires from Sri Lanka,
cloudy emeralds, garnets, amber and Indian diamond crystals, in effect they they
controlled the wholesale jewlery
of the ancient world. When England was
under Roman rule, fossilized wood called jet from the North of England was
carved into interesting pieces.
Sumptuary Laws in C13th Medieval Europe came into force
and capped luxury in dress and jewellery. Townspeople in France, were not
allowed to wear girdles or coronals made of pearls, gemstones, gold or silver.
Similar laws existed in England. The fact that these laws forbade yeomen
and artisans from wearing gold and silver indicates how the status of jewellery
and sumptuous dress had become widespread beyond just the nobility.
Jewels have always been used as love tokens and whilst many
pieces were fine gems and precious metals, good fake jewellery intended to
deceive existed. True gemstones and pearls originated from the east and were
bought chiefly by the Italians. The Italian merchants then sold the goods on in
Europe. Good glass imitations were often used and sometimes with intent as in
royal funerary robes and children's jewellery.
Flawless, round, natural, large white pearls were prized more
than precious gemstones. The finest of pearls were provided by South India and
the Persian Gulf, see good examples of
pearl jewellery. The Italians, particularly the Venetians and people from Murano, could make imitation glass gems and pearls that were very good
likenesses of the real jewels. Recipes for false pearls existed in 1300 when
white powdered glass mixed with albumen (egg white) and snail slime, produced
beads that were used as imitation pearls.
In the C17th a woman always donned her earrings whether
dressed or undressed. By day fake pearl earrings and paste earrings to
coordinate with clothing were acceptable. Fine diamond jewellery was kept for
evening and embroidered stomachers which formed part of the
dress frontage, could be decorated by jewels.
Suites of left and right coordinating jewelled pieces
called dress ornaments decreased in size as they were placed down the stomacher. Sometimes the sleeves or skirts were decorated with smaller matching brooches.
Dress ornaments in the form of diamond bows
and shuttles. As many as 42 shuttles could be used to decorate a dress.
In the 1630s large quantities of pearls were used as clothing
accessories. To be truly fashionable pearls needed to be worn in abundance. In
the C17th, Jaquin of Paris patented a method of making fake pearls. He
coated blown glass hollow balls with varnish mixed with iridescent ground fish
scales. The hollow balls were then filled with wax to strengthen them. This
method made Paris the main producer of fake pearls for over 200 years.
Paste is a compound of glass containing white lead oxide and
potash. Paste jewellery was usual in the 1670s and was worn at court. The best
and most long lasting paste jewellery was produced after 1734 by Georges Strass. Most fake jewellery was Paris led. Just about any kind of fake gem could be
made, including fake opals. Many pieces of fake jewellery have survived in their
original setting, but fine estate pieces of real gems were often broken up for
resetting into more fashionable styles of the era.
After 1760 the production of fake jewellery spread to London
and to Birmingham. Steel which was produced easily during the industrial
revolution was used for settings for marcasite and jasper ware cameos. Glass and
Wedgwood porcelain paste cameos were made in English factories and were very
Ornate shoe buckles of paste, steel and tin were part of
fashionable dress. A similar fad at this time were elaborate paste jewelled
buttons, fashionable in British society. As well as fake jewellery gaining
popularity, semi precious jewels such as uncut garnets became usual as part of
less formal day dress.
You are reading an original article about the History of Jewellery by Pauline
Weston Thomas only for publication on
When Napoleon eventually emerged as Emperor of France in 1804
he revived jewellery and fashion as a new court of pomp and ostentatious
'Joailliers' worked fine jewellery and 'bijoutiers' used less
The members of the new French imperial family had the former
French royal family gems re-set in the latest neo-classical style. These new
trends in jewellery were copied in Europe and particularly England. Greek and
Roman architecture were the main influence for designs as famous discoveries of
ancient treasure had not yet happened.
Parures were a matching suite of coordinating precious gems
which could include a necklace, a comb, a tiara, a diadem, a bandeau, a pair of
bracelets, pins, rings, drop earrings or and cluster stud earrings and possibly a belt clasp. Both
and later Napoleon's second wife had magnificent sets of Parures.
Right - Parure consisting of bracelet, necklace,
ring and earrings.
Napoleon's cameo decorated coronation crown was seen, cameos were the rage.
Sometimes cameos were carved from hardstone, but more often from substitutes
like conch shells and set pieces of Wedgwood porcelain.
When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 jewellery was
romantic and nationalistic. It gave attention to the pressure of European folk
art, which later influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement. Until mid century most
western jewellery came from Europe, but soon jewellery began to be made in
America and Australia.
Although jewellery had been made by multiple methods of
production for centuries, mid Victorian mass production in Birmingham (England),
Germany and Providence, Rhode Island meant that standards were lowered.
Victorian women rebelled when they saw some of the machine made jewellery on
offer, although much of what has survived is of good quality. Many wore no
jewellery at all, or bought from the artist craftsman jewellers who emerged at
much the same time.
Some jewellers like Tiffany began to make fine
jewellery of such high standard that they soon opened shops in main cities of Europe.
Right - Victorian garnet necklace.
There was a huge fashion for mourning jewellery which
highlights how sentimental the Victorian age was. The initial months of
mourning were unadorned by jewellery of any kind. As the mourning rituals
increased, mourning jewellery developed as a fashion item. Jet jewellery was worn
a great deal by Queen Victoria after Prince Albert's death.
Jet from Whitby, North of England was set into mourning
pieces. All types of material that were black were used and almost all included
a lock of the dead loved one's hair. Hair was also plaited, braided or twisted
very tightly until it became hard and thread like. To many of us living in the
twenty first century the use of hair is an unattractive side of some antique
The new design philosophy of Arts and Crafts that sprang up
after 1870 was a reaction to mass produced goods and inferior machine made
products. It was a reaction to the shoddy interior and ornamental products of
the industrial revolution. Leaders of the movement in England included William
Morris and John Ruskin and they promoted simple Arts and Crafts of designs based
on floral, primitive or Celtic forms worked as wallpapers, furniture and
The polished stones used in Arts and Crafts jewellery gave a
medieval, simpler, gentler, tooled hand made look and feel to items. People
inspired by the movement to produce work of a more individual nature included
Liberty of London and Renee Mackintosh of Glasgow. By 1900, Arts and Crafts as a
movement declined, so Art Nouveau, a more ostentatious version started in France took root.
Art Nouveau jewellery follows curving sinuous organic lines of
romantic and imaginary dreaminess, with long limbed ethereal beauties sometimes
turning into winged bird and flower forms. The movement began in Paris and its
influence went throughout the Western world.
The Frenchman René Lalique was the master goldsmith of the
era of Art Nouveau producing exquisite one off pieces. As an art movement today,
the style is still admired and still copied.
Magnificent floral and botanical forms often worked in enamel
were inexpensive and became so popular once mass-produced, that the Art Nouveau
style declined. You are reading an original article about the History of
Jewellery by Pauline Weston Thomas only for publication on
Most fine jewellery in the 1900s was white and made from
either diamonds or pearls. Queen Alexandra initially wore dog collar chokers,
called a 'collier de chien' to cover a small scar on her neck.
Left - Queen Alexandra who wore pearls from neck to
occasions and formal events she plastered herself in arrangements of pearl
necklaces. The rarity value of real pearls then was such that an American skyscraper
exchanged hands for the price of a pearl necklace.
This is not so ridiculous as
it seems, as fine south sea pearls still command a high price.
TO TOP OF PAGE
Pearls were very fashionable, but still very, very costly. After the 1890s Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan produced highly acceptable cultured
pearls by placing a small bead into an oyster shell. The bead coated itself with
nacre (mother of pearl) and so good looking pearl jewels became more affordable.
When I see Mikimoto pearls today I always think their lustre
far surpasses any other pearl made this way.
Various combinations of pearl necklaces come in and out of
fashion with regularity so pearls too are a must. Both fake and real
freshwater or cultured pearls are very affordable today. Many are now
bought from China since trade opened up in the nineties. The price of
pearls has dropped by about a fifth in the past 10 years and the Chinese are
making waves in the pearl world with their cheaper prices. The Japanese
have suffered disease in their pearl beds as well as facing competition and are
finding it hard to compete with China's prices.
Pearl necklaces and pearl earrings can lift a
complexion and bring light and radiance to the face taking years off a woman
whatever her age. If you can afford it, invest in a pair of Mabe pearl
earrings. They have a wonderful white glow with a size about one centimetre
across and look expensive. Expect to pay about £300 for a pair trimmed with 9ct
gold. Look after them by rubbing gently with a pure silk scarf, store in their
original box and always put them on after applying perfume and hair products. A
matching real pearl necklace freshwater or cultured, will enhance them and you.
Pearls are currently back in fashion again and with the
modern twist of being interspaced on gold wire or floating on special synthetic
cord they are essential
to the millennium look. Look out for variations too on drop pearl earrings in
the next year or so. PP
In the 1920s Lalique designed good mass produced quality
glass jewellery. Fake, or costume jewellery was sometimes then called cocktail
jewellery. It was greatly influenced by Coco Chanel (1883-1971) and Elsa
Schiaparelli (1890-1973). They both encouraged clients to use costume jewellery
and to mix it with genuine gem pieces they already owned. Both designers offered
imagination and fun and both often sported fabulous fakes.
In the late 1930s Napier of the USA was at the forefront of
manufacturing fake cocktail jewels, which offered glamour and escapism. Napier
still produces excellent contemporary costume pieces.
By the 1940s and 1950s
American culture was very dominant in Europe. The influence of movie films and
the prominence of film stars set the fashion in manners, make-up, hair and
clothes. People wanted look alike copies of outfits and jewellery worn by screen idols. It was widely believed
that Hollywood glamour would rub off on you if you had the clothes and developed
The Second World War in Europe halted production of fine
jewellery when metals were rationed. New estate type, fine precious metal and gem
jewellery was simply not available. Quality costume jewellery which was
flourishing in America, became much more acceptable and was a real alternative
to fine jewellery.
Because of technical advances in production methods, a huge range of styles was available
from America, and since it was so popular the market became dynamic and
inventive and affordable.
In the 1980s there was a huge revival of costume jewellery after the glitzy scenes
from the television soap operas Dynasty and Dallas
were watched by 250 million
viewers in the consumer boon of the 1980s. Diamante by day became the norm in
reality and earrings reached such huge proportions that the 1990s saw a
reaction which quickly dated lavish dress jewellery as the fashion for tiny real
diamond studs or a fine stud pearls became the only earring to wear. As soon as
the fashion was declared dead by everyone, including grandmothers, it was
revived again in 2000AD by the fashion cognoscenti. Now fabulous fakes,
especially brooches have gained ground once more. You are reading an original
article about the History of Jewellery by Pauline Weston Thomas only for
jewellery can enliven a fashion wardrobe and bring a dash of panache especially
for one off special occasions. Costume jewellery can be superb. The superb is
usually plated at least seven times with 18 or 22 ct gold.
For example Joan Rivers does a range of good costume jewellery
modelled on original fine gem pieces. One of her trademarks is to make jewellery
doubly useful and she produces sets of interchangeable earrings, pendants and
tennis bracelets. For example you might be able to slip a range of up to 10
different coloured stones, pearls or Swarovski crystals into an 18ct
gold plated earring to vary the look. Her jewellery is exclusive to the QVC
shopping channel in the UK and she is constantly working on new ideas such is
Highest grade Cubic
Zirconium man made imitation diamonds often set in precious metals is of such a
good standard that almost everyone can afford to have attractive jewellery.
crystals used in costume jewellery are the first grade crystals that the top Austrian firm Swarovski
can offer. Butler and Wilson costume brooch.
the costume jewellery I have come to love, comes from companies like Ciro, Adrian
Buckley, Butler and Wilson, Swarovski Crystal Jewelry Napier, Joan Rivers, Joan
Collins, Christian Dior, California Crystal, Property of A Lady and of course Kenneth J Lane.
TO TOP OF PAGE
pictures of costume jewellery go to these pages
All women who want to be groomed should aim to have one set of fine quality
estate type gold jewellery of necklace or torque, and matching earrings, perhaps
bracelet, cuff or bangle and a similar set in either silver, white gold or
Perhaps the best advice I can give any woman is to invest in some
interchangeable jewellery. Several designers craft such pieces. Anna Tabakhova is one of the
Parisian designers who
specialises in CliClasp© jewellery and I
have written about it
here. I love all the CliClasp©
jewellery. Get a piece on your shopping list for Christmas now, so you will see
in 2013 with new neckwear.
Finally new young designers take modern approaches. Another jewellery
designer of very contemporary pieces is Claire Scawn. Claire is a ceramics
designer. Not only does she make lovely ceramic art works, but she also designs
beautiful handcrafted ceramic jewellery at her studio in Wales.
The nearby environment stirs her creative spirit, enabling her to take
inspiration from nature and her rural surroundings. Claire Scawn's handmade
porcelain pieces are combined with other carefully selected materials such as
glass, mirror, silk, glass and hallmarked silver. Modern authentic women with an
eye for contemporary design work will love these handcrafted pieces made with
What ever jewellery you ultimately do buy, always remember to wipe your
jewellery after wearing, and
store your jewellery in
protective purses, boxes or rolls. But most of all wear your jewellery each
and every day, with the same pleasure as the day it was purchased. Ring the
changes according to the occasion and hear the compliments about your finishing
touch - the jewellery accessory.
Happy jewellery shopping.
You have been reading an original article about the History of Jewellery by
Pauline Weston Thomas only for publication on
This Page Was Originally Written In 2001. Latest Update
TO TOP OF PAGE
Birmingham link to the
For more information on Jewellery go to:-
Sitemap TO TOP OF PAGE
To Next Page