Even after being in existence for over 100,000 years jewellery is still one of the world’s largest industries. The first pieces were made from shells, stones and bones and were worn as a mark of status. They then proceeded to work with different metals, gold being the favourite.
In Medieval times jewellery was worn to reflect different levels of hierarchy. The royals and dignitary would adorn themselves with gold, silver and precious gems whereas lower ranks of society wore copper or pewter. Coloured gems were usually polished as opposed to cut and the size and shininess would determine their value.
The renaissance years saw jewellery displaying this period’s love of grandeur. The approach to cutting the gems altered and diamonds (which were once deemed colourless and so were not a favourable stone) instead of being polished, started to be cut. The rose cut diamond originated from this era.
Changes in fashion in the 17th century meant that lighter coloured stones took over and the previous gold pieces were kept to be shown off on dark clothing. The end of this century saw the development of the brilliant cut diamond which was shaped like a cone so as to provide maximum light through the top, displaying exceptional brilliance.
The 18th century carried on with diamonds dominating jewellery designs. They tended to be mounted onto silver as this enhanced the stones white colour. A distinction between day and night jewellery started to appear as coloured stones were deemed better for the day whereas diamonds glistened better under the night time candle light.
In contrast to previous periods the 19th century saw mainly women wearing the elaborate jewellery. Designers focused on intricate designs with flowers being the most popular. Coloured gem stones were used to replicate the clearly recognisable flowers and jewellers switched from machine made items to hand crafted ones. Uniformity of the settings were replaced by curves and ornate designs.
The art deco period is known as one of the main periods in the history of jewellery design. Sharp, geometric shapes reflected the luxurious patterns of this era. The Far East influenced new trends and gold returned to fashion once more. Still to this day art deco jewellery is popular with new pieces now being made to replicate the styles.