My mind has been on gems and jewelry since it’s February, time of the annual Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show. It’s the largest gem show in the world. I happen to love the shiny, so much so that my friends are positive I must be a dragon hoarding gems and jewels. Perhaps, Mr. Darcy’s dragon?
I naturally turned my mind to the Regency era, what was jewelry like in the time of Pride and Prejudice? What were the gemstone cuts in that era?
The Georgian era was from 1714 to 1837 which encompasses the time of Pride and Prejudice and when Jane Austen lived.
The modern cuts of stones had not been developed yet. The rose cut was developed in the 16th century. It has a round, cabbed flat base and a faceted top. This cut created gems with more brilliance than previously seen but still does not show much fire, unlike the modern brilliant cut.
Another antique or vintage gemstone cut is the briolette. It is a faceted teardrop resembling the modern pear cut. Many briolettes were used in tiaras and crowns.
One of the well-known cuts developed in the 19th century is a rounded cut, which showed off the brilliance of the diamond. It is known as the Old European cut.
The most popular cut in the Regency era would be the old miners or old mine cut. It is a square cut. These are commonly found now at estate sales of antique or vintage jewelry. They stand out because they are not as brilliant as the modern cuts. But this would be the gemstone cut that Elizabeth Bennet would have worn. Gemstones with the mine cut look beautiful as solitaires or surrounded by other gems in the Old European cut.
The jewelry in the Georgian time was all made by hand, which was very labor-intensive. Gold assaying was not enforced until much later, so you will not find metal purity markings on any jewelry from this era. However, the gold used would be 18k or higher. Stones were often set with closed backs and foil behind the stone to make it shimmer more. Jewelry of this time was ornate with no surface pitting. Surface pitting is a sign of modern cast metal. Common motifs in the jewelry of this time are from nature such as flowers, leaves, feathers.
Cannetille is a type of metalworking from the Georgian era that is very ornate and resembles embroidery. The labor-intensive, handcrafted pieces fetch high prices these days.
Other motifs common were due to discoveries by English explorers. Pompeii was discovered and excavated in the Georgian era, therefore Roman and Greek motifs such as Greek keys and laurels were popular.
Gems used in jewelry of this time were diamond, ruby, sapphire, garnet, topaz, coral, shell, agate, chrysoberyl and pearl. However, paste and glass started being used in 1780 to mimic gemstones.
A type of jewelry popular in the Regency era was cameos. These are images, usually of women, carved from a seashell, coral, and agate so that the white color made the image against the darker shell background.
There is much more to tell about Regency jewelry, but I will leave that for another post.