Below is a brief history of jewelry and explanation of jewelry design styles. All times are approximate, many styles overlap and combine, and there are many sub-genres not mentioned here.
Archeologists have found shells in Morocco that date this far back that have been painted with red ochre and had holes drilled in one end so that they could be strung on a necklace.
Date given for oldest known example of gold jewelry. Over 3000 pieces of gold jewelry found buried with a priest in Varna, Bulgaria.
Written history begins in Mesopotamia. Jewelry making techniques such as granulation are developed and quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean.
Over these millennia many distinctive jewelry styles develop in the Ancient world. Notably in the West and Near East: Egyptian, Byzantine, Etruscan, Greek, Persian, Roman and, Celtic. Elements from these various cultures are employed in jewelry making to the present day. Many of my pieces are inspired by the art forms of ancient Empires that flourished over 1000 years ago.
The middle ages were a difficult time in the west and almost all artistic endeavors had to be made in service to the Catholic Church. Still some inspiring forms were created. Coats of Arms and wax seal ring were staples of the jeweler’s craft.
Italian for rebirth, this is a time of great artistic development in Europe, where beauty was once again celebrated for its own sake. Jewelry features cabochon cut stones, bezel settings, pearls, and dangling gems.
Perhaps one of the most important periods for the development of techniques and craftsmanship in the decorative arts, the design style is too ornate and busy for most modern tastes (including my own.) It celebrates abundance, and is characterized by cornucopias, Turduckens, and jewels overflowing.
An aesthetic sensibility led by a revival of Greco-Roman Architecture throughout Europe and America. Examples can be seen on the National Mall and Statehouses across the country. It also features prominently in the golden era of World Fairs and Expos. Architectural elements are incorporated into jewelry designs in the form of columns, scrolls, domes, and acanthus leaves.
A period of time defined by the rule of Queen Victoria of England, it is an important period for US art as it coincided with western expansion and was therefore the defining style for much of the infrastructure west of the Mississippi. It is also important because it coincides with the industrial revolution and the advent of mass production. The result is an intriguing blend of Old World craftsmanship and modern production techniques that is the inspiration for the Steampunk and Neo-Victorian styles popular today. Visually it combines the extensive decoration of the Baroque period with the formal stately structure of the Neoclassical. It uses many natural elements but nature is tamed, controlled, civilized, and in service to mankind.
All too short, this period swept across Europe, The U.S. and parts of Asia in reaction to the formal stiffness of the previous periods. This organic aesthetic embraced the fantastic and mysterious and visualized nature entwining itself languorously like smoke or vines through every aspect of our lives. Like the Renaissance artists that preceded them artists such as Alphonse Mucha , René Lalique and Maurice Duerene worked in multiple artistic disciplines with various media. Objects made in the Art Nouveau style often look as though they were grown rather than manufactured.
Incorporating elements from the periods that bracket this one, rings from this time also incorporate more classical elements. They are usually made from platinum or white gold and are often lacy, airy in style with saw-pierced galleries, under-galleries, and grills. Diamonds and blue sapphires are the most common stones used in these rings. These rings have a distinctive timeless style that has been enjoying resurgence in popularity for the last decade.
This period was very forward leaning and utilized geometric elements and structured layers. It was fascinated by new materials like Bakelite and aluminum. In the jewelry world Cartier dominated and defined the Art Deco style. Pieces tend to be wider and bolder, but still favor the white metals.
The war years made precious metals difficult to come by. Jewelry tended to be patriotic and military inspired costume jewelry.
This includes a broad assortment of styles most of which are dictated by the ease and cost of mass production which means lots of plain high polished surfaces or lots of small diamonds that can be set cheaply in South Asia. Although it should be said that there are some outstanding exceptions of beautiful contemporary jewelry design.