Most people who know me, know that I make jewelry. Nothing fancy, but I have done it for many years. My father made jewelry as a hobby, and I guess I inherited his love of working with stones to make the jewelry.
I have done several different forms of jewelry making, including making the molds and hand preparations for rings. Now, I mainly make necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. I love working with stones, as they all have different energies.
So, I did a little research at some of the jewelry that was used in Jane Austen’s time. It was quite interesting to learn that the ring Jane wore, gold and turquoise, the gold was only 9 carat. A very low amount of gold in the band, yet, for the time, was relatively high. Gold was difficult to come by in the late 1700’s, due to the war with the former colonies (otherwise known as the USA), and the shipments from South America had difficulties getting past the US and French ships. There were a few mines in the UK, but they produced a minimum of the gold.
A substitute for gold, at that time, was called pinchbeck. It was a method of using copper and zinc to make an alloy that resembled gold. It is a form of brass, which was invented by Christopher Pinchbeck, who was a London clockmaker in the 18th century.
Because of the threat of robbery, it was common to wear paste stones in pinchbeck. The paste stones were made of leaded glass, giving the luster to the “stone”, to make it more realistic. Cobalt blue, black and white enamel were commonly used.
In the 1750’s, colored stones made a comeback in popularity. That was when you began seeing stones such as Imperial topaz, pink topaz, amethyst (one of my favorites), chrysoberyl (in the tourmaline family), coral, and garnet. Later, lava, onyx, carnelian, and shell were used to carve pieces for jewelry. Scotland was good location for stones such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies, beryl, topaz, tourmaline, aquamarine, garnet, agate, and amber. In England, you can find axinite, Celestine, chalcedony, fluorite (especially Blue John), chrysocolla, jet, dolomite, pyrite (fool’s gold), hematite, malachite, serpentine (in jade family), gypsum, and emeralds.
Another form of metal which became popular in 1806 was Berlin Iron. It was cheaper to make jewelry, instead of gold.
To know if the piece is from the era, one of the ways to tell is to look at the setting. Our modern styles usually set the stones out further, where in late 1700’s to 1800’s, it was common for the stone to be set back in the design.
Men wore more jewelry in that time frame than they do now. A man’s locket with a secret compartment were common. Another form of jewelry that was common was memorial pieces. Pieces made with some hair from a loved one who had died became quite popular, and the pieces were handed down through the family.
Some of the people claimed that the jewelry was simple and understated. Others claim the pieces were large, elaborate pieces. From what I have been able to learn, the simple pieces were the lower class people, those with limited incomes. The more elaborate pieces were the wealthy, and many of those pieces were locked away, while the owners wore paste copies. Cameos were still common, and from what I have read, Napoleon was a fan of them. Other items that were frequently seen on jewelry of the period were doves, phoenix, wheat, plumage, acorns, and mosaic.
To be honest, I am a simple style jewelry person. I have a simple ring I never take off (left hand, not married), wear simple earrings and necklaces (usually ones I make). But everyone is different, and if you like larger pieces, wear what you like.
Oh, and most people did not have pierced ears in that period, so earrings (or ear bobs), were a clip on or screw on style (screw in the back that you screw until it is comfortable and not pinching your earlobe). Having worn both of those types of earrings (out of my grandmother’s jewelry box when I was a kid), I like the screw on version, as you can adjust it to the tightness you like.