Historical Periods of Jewelry

While all of the jewelry we make at Green Lake Jewelry Works are brand new custom pieces, many of our designs are inspired by or draw elements from classic antique styles of jewelry. The phrase “antique-inspired” covers a huge range of history, so we thought it would be fun to briefly visit a few iconic periods in jewelry design, and show you how they have influenced custom designs we’ve created for our clients.

All of the rings pictured below were newly created in our studio! We love helping our clients create these “new antiques” and treasured family heirlooms.

Victorian Era

1837 – 1901

The Victorian era produced a huge variety of jewelry styles, all inspired by the life and times of Queen Victoria. There’s so much more to know and explore, but here’s the short version of the story: Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. Her sweeping romance and marriage to Prince Albert inspired an optimistic time referred to as the Romantic Period. Jewelry from this era is ornate, feminine, and very symbolic. (When they were engaged, Albert gave Victoria a serpent ring, symbolizing eternity, with emerald eyes, which were her birthstone. So fascinating!) When Prince Albert unexpectedly passed away in 1861, Queen Victoria entered a period of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. Jewelry trends followed suit. “Mourning jewelry” heavily features black materials like jet, onyx, and enamel. In 1880, both the Queen and her people were looking toward the future. Women made massive strides forward, joining the workforce and fighting for independence. “Aesthetic Era” jewelry trends followed their lead, becoming daintier and worn more in the evenings, as a practical working gal didn’t have time to worry about adornment on the go. 

-Modern Victorian-Inspired Design-

When a client wants a Victorian-inspired ring, we know we need to pull out all the stops. It needs to be ornate, sophisticated, and eye-catching. This yellow gold wreath halo is everything a romantic Victorian ring should be: ornate, bespoke, and feminine. We particularly love the bead-set diamond bow!

This two-tone scalloped halo is reminiscent of Victorian “silver tops,” which were rings made in yellow gold and topped in malleable silver. This rose gold and platinum version is modern and interesting, and beautifully sets off the hot pink oval sapphire at the center.

Pulling design elements from different Victorian eras can also yield an intriguing result. The black diamond echoes the black gemstones used in “mourning jewelry,” and the intertwined serpents are a symbolic nod to the ring Albert gifted to Victoria when they wed.

Arts and Crafts

1890 – 1940

Design No. 140211

A movement originating out of England at the end of the Victorian period, the Arts and Crafts movement was a critical response to the Industrial Revolution and a rejection of repetitive and soulless mechanical construction. Artists of the movement felt that the work of their craft, when done by hand, would bring them the most fulfillment and afford the greatest creativity.

One of the founders of the A&C movement, William Morris, would have found great company with today’s ‘sparking joy’ philosophy of Marie Kondo.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

Design No. 144729

A great priority was given to creating beautiful objects that could be used every day: so instead of large paintings, you will find Arts and Crafts wall paper! And instead of sculpture, you will find ornate and functional furniture.

-Modern A&C-Inspired Design-

Celebrating hand-crafted goods, the Arts and Crafts’ iconic motifs referred back to medieval, romantic, and folk periods, especially referencing a gothic style (think Notre Dame). Natural elements in designs were a great respite after all of the Victorian mourning jewelry. We see combinations of leaves (acanthas leaves were very popular motifs, inspiring the above ring design), floral, shell, insect, and other patterned motifs take hold: a celebration of life!

Rings of the time were crafted with less expensive materials to greater highlight their creativity and innovation. Gems like moonstone, opal, light color sapphires, amethysts, and garnets were prevalent in cabochon and rounder cuts. Artists also did not shy away from color as they crafted!

This open shouldered rose-cut Montana sapphire ring features a common A&C technique: unusual and whimsical wire work with flowing construction. The sapphire, hand-cut in studio, further celebrates the hand-crafted nature of the movement.

Edwardian Era

1901 – 1910

Design No. 132235

In the Edwardian era, die-struck (machine-made) jewelry had been available for some time, but suddenly went out of fashion as tastes turned to a delicate, ethereal “garland” style of jewelry-making. Technological advances suddenly allowed jewelers the high heat and stability to work with pure platinum, resulting in jewelry with a stunning icy-white appearance. For the first time, jewelers were able to incorporate diamonds and gemstones into this lacy metalwork. Fluid designs like bows, ribbons, and garlands became the desired jewelry fashion. We also see the first examples of milgrain in the Edwardian era, the beautiful beaded edging detail that so immediately evokes antique jewelry. These styles are positively regal!

-Modern Edwardian-Inspired Design- 

Milgrain, milgrain, milgrain! Yes, there’s a lot of gorgeous milgrain detail, but there’s so much more to love about these modern Edwardian interpretations. First, a royal blue oval sapphire is held in pointed NSEW prongs in this elaborate pierced engagement ring. It also features an antique clover engraving pattern.

An Edwardian cigar band features panel after panel of bead-set diamonds on the top and side face, and a hand-engraved geometric pattern down the sides.

This stunning platinum setting which echoes the shape of the pear-cut emerald at the center. Every element, from the lacy pierced details to the knife-edge band with half-wheat engraving, adds up to a truly exceptional piece of jewelry.

Art Nouveau

1890 – 1910

This style period directly coincides with the Edwardian era, and provides a striking contrast to the icy formal jewelry pieces that were trending in certain circles. Art Nouveau is decidedly French in origin and very sensual. The themes are heavily nature-inspired and colorful, focusing on enamels and colored gemstones. Women with long flowing hair, mermaids, and fairies were hugely popular motifs.

Art Nouveau pieces are typically free-form rather than symmetrical, and their fragile, delicate design is such a contrast to the icy, formal pieces of the Edwardian era or the heavily symmetrical and structured period of design that would follow. The Art Nouveau movement was short-lived, but so influential that the world of jewelry design was never quite the same.

Design No. 127466

-Modern Art Nouveau Inspired Design-

While there are several design examples we could point to illustrating the Art Nouveau aesthetic, none so clearly expresses that point of view than this incredible collection. Created by designer Rebecca in a very special collaboration with her clients, this collection contains three distinct pieces all evoking this incredible period of art and design.

The engagement ring features a custom cut pear-shaped opal and an asymmetrical and sweeping gingko leaf design. The bespoke two-tone gents band has an eternity-style Art Nouveau swirl design against a stippled and fossilized texture background. Finally, a stunning Luckenbooth pendant holds a glowing cabochon-cut white pearl. Slightly heart-shaped and composed of intertwining details, leaves with hand-engraved vein detailing match the engraving of the engagement ring. This collection is a beautifully modern expression of the Art Nouveau sensibility.

Referencing the mystical subject matter of the time, these two ring designs include hidden fairies and a mermaids tail.

The organic ‘movement’ of metal as a motif during the Art Nouveau period is especially iconic. Metal work of railings and even the Paris Metro stations illustrate this technique at a grand scale.

As wearable art, these rings capture the organic flow and freedom of form we love from this time. This movement has heavily influenced designs of today- such as modern visualizations of Elvish and Lord Of The Rings inspired jewelry.

Art Deco

1920 – 1935

Design No. 129734

Authentic Art Deco jewelry dates from approximately 1920-1935. Silver metals were all the rage, with the recent invention of white gold as a more affordable alternative to platinum. During this era, yellow gold was out! The predominant diamond cut being used at this time was the Old European cut, which was cut for carat weight over brilliance, and looks most beautiful in twinkling candlelight. Art Deco jewelry tends to be heavily geometric and symmetrical. While it shares some elements with Edwardian jewelry design, like filigree and milgrain, these elements were die-cast during the Art Deco era rather than being fabricated by hand. Styles from this era are generally easy to recognize even if you aren’t a vintage-jewelry buff. Look for clean lines, an architectural or geometric structure, and if color is used, it will be bold and saturated. If it evokes skyscrapers or Gatsby, you are on the right track.

-Modern Art Deco Inspired Design-

Clients who want an Art Deco inspired ring are looking for a bold and unique statement piece. They don’t want a style they’ll see on anyone else’s hand. These four rings have a fantastic combination of modern and Art Deco inspired design elements. First, we have two versions of the popular fan motif. The first, an absolute starburst of sparkle and detail, with alternating tapering baguettes and black diamonds encircling a center diamond halo. The second, a stunning pierced fan-motif ring jacket set with salt-and-pepper diamonds, flanking a bold Montana sapphire and diamond three-stone engagement ring.

Next, another kind of three-stone ring altogether! A trio of Old European cut diamonds are arranged vertically in this stunning Art Deco style ring with tapered-baguette diamond shoulders. The pavé work of this ring is created by milgrain-framed geometric shapes filled with bead-set diamonds.

Finally, this unique platinum wedding set features baguette diamond and emerald accents. Hand-engraving and milgrain detailing finish this timeless ring.

More Art Deco Designs Available Now: