There is something undeniably appealing about a piece of pretty Edwardian jewellery. Typically smaller and with more delicate settings than the bold earlier Victorian equivalents, jewellery from the early 20th century attracts much attention at auction today, not least because the delicacy and fine work suit today’s fashions and lifestyles.
An Edwardian Peridot and Split Pearl Pendant, Sold for £550
The Edwardian era overlapped with Art Nouveau and was a pre-cursor to Art Deco, and both influences can be felt in Edwardian jewellery design. White metal was in favour, and platinum soared in popularity. The innovative techniques, which began in the Cartier workshops in the late 19th century, allow platinum to be used in jewellery settings, replaced the chunkier silver settings synonymous with Victorian diamond settings. This revolutionised jewellery design. Platinum offers strength and hardness which allow a delicacy of workmanship, and it retains its strength even when pulled into very fine wires, giving great integrity to jewellery settings. This allowed the most intricate of designs to be executed with greater finesse.
A Pair of Edwardian Pearl and Diamond Drop Earrings, Sold for £2,500
An Edwardian Diamond and Pearl Brooch, Sold for £1,000
Around this time, gemstone cutting techniques were developing at pace. A pronounced shift in precision and uniformity meant that by 1900 ‘lumpy’ diamond cuts were being replaced with round brilliant cuts. As a rudimentary date, jewellers talk of 1910 being the year the round brilliant cut diamond really took over commercially – this cut now being the most used and appreciated of all. As well as the improvement in precision of cutting, there was a trend to use better colour and clarity diamonds, which is another factor in the popularity of this period in today’s open market.
An Edwardian Pearl and Diamond Bow Brooch, Estimate: £700-1,000 plus buyer’s premium, To be sold in the Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver Sale on 16th March
Some would argue that, in the Edwardian era, coloured stones were less fashionable that the clear and white stones, and undoubtedly one of the most favoured combinations was diamond and pearl, as can be seen in the example above. However, it was not purely a monochrome palette in the jewellery world, as demonstrated by the beautiful example of ruby and diamond drop earrings below, which showcase the use of colour in these fine and elegant designs wonderfully. Indeed, Burmese rubies, Colombian emeralds and Kashmir sapphires were much sought after and were used to elevate objects to the highest and most aspirational level.
A Pair of Early 20th Century Ruby and Diamond Drop Earrings, Estimate: £500-700 plus buyer’s premium, To be sold in the Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver Sale on 16th March
Designs often incorporated swags and tassels (see example below), with bow and heart motifs also commonly used. Articulated sections and fine wire work details, either as parallel rows, columns, or criss-crossing in a lattice effect, look as stylish now as they did when first made. The influence of nature is often seen in early 20th century objects, too, with perfectly formed flowerheads and trailing vines seen in some of the finest examples of this period.
An Early 20th Century Pearl and Diamond Tassel on Chain, Estimate: £1,500-2,000 plus buyer’s premium, To be sold in the Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver Sale on 16th March
Whilst there were master jewellers working in this style, many Edwardian jewels seen at auction today are unsigned and unattributed, and have value based on style alone without added brand appeal.
An Edwardian Diamond Brooch, Sold for £550
England was booming with prosperity in the first decade of the twentieth century, and more jewellery was purchased in that period than ever before. Despite that, the supply of good quality period pieces in good wearable condition does not match demand, and so Edwardian jewels are extremely popular at auction with such a strong following that it can be hard to predict a hammer price.
View the forthcoming Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver Sale