At the turn of the 20th Century, people were excited for what the new century would bring. From technological advancement to the beginning of globalization, people felt generally anxious to approach the 1900’s. Mass production made manufacturing easier than before, but many resisted as it offended the true artisanship of creating things by hand. People were interested in trying to experiment with accessory trends, such as stacking bracelets and layering necklaces. There was one thing people agreed on – it was time to break the Victorian uptightness following Queen Victoria’s death.


Important Events of the Decade:

  • 1901: Queen Victoria’s Death & President William McKinley’s Assassination
  • 1903: Ford Motor Company Formed & Wright Brothers’ First Flight
  • 1907: Coal Mine Explodes (worst American industrial accident to date)
  • 1910: King Edward VII’s Death


Jewelry and the 1900’s

During the 1900’s, jewelry still signified wealth, social standing and status. Unmarried women were socially prohibited from wearing grand jewelry as they did not have any social standing yet, and older single women were discouraged from wearing diamonds.

However, as traditions were challenged and jewelry became cheaper to produce, 1900’s saw a convergence of three different artisanship era overlapping one another.


Victorian Era (1830’s – 1900’s)

Unlike the Romantic Era, Victorian Era was marked by the suppression of emotions. In fact, King Albert’s death caused a rise in popularity in somber art. The dark, eerie, gothic mood became more popular as gothic literature was the first signs of popular art. As a result, black jewelry became extremely popular during the Victorian Era. The black crystal was made from materials such as jets (fossilized coal), French jet & vulcanite (hardened rubber), big oak, black onyx and black enamel. Monochromatic jewelry also rose in popularity as its simplistic color scheme made it easier to match outfits with. Large American jewelers started using precious gemstones such as sapphires, diamonds, and opals in their designs.

Victorian-style black gemstone ring.

A modern twist on the Victorian black jewelry

During the era, the middle class emerged as the largest socioeconomic class in developed nations. This caused a rise in demand for more affordable jewelry. This was accomplished in the Industrial Revolution, as mass production of jewelry caused a decrease in jewelry. Manufacturers found ways to make precious meals affordable, as techniques such as “gold filling” became popular practices.

After the European traveled all across the world searching for the next trend, the Arts & Crafts phenomenon was born and was inspired by the Japanese. Many housewives wanted personalized jewelry without the hefty price-tag. This started the DIY movement that is still in trend today.

Popular motifs of Victorian Jewelry are insects, animals, stars, crescents, dragons, and flowers.

Contemporary interpretation of a dragon necklace

Contemporary interpretation of a dragon necklace


Art Nouveau (1890 – 1914)

As mass production dominated manufacturing, many artisans began to protest the industrialization of art. Though short-lived, the Art Nouveau era started the dialogue of “What makes Art, art?”

The focus of the era was on creativity and on the artisan’s process of creating a jewelry. The insistence on respecting the craftsmanship and the jewelry designer was cemented in this era. The movement in preserving art started in French, hence Art Nouveau translating into “New Art” in French.

Popular Art Nouveau motifs included soft curls, feminine nature elements (nude women with long flowing hair, dragonflies, butterflies, flowers), pastel colors

Dragonfly Pearl Necklace

Modern pearl necklace with Art Nouveau touches

Edwardian Era (1901 – 1910)

After Queen Victoria passed in 1901, King Edward VII arose to the throne. The Edwardian Era was known to mix all the styles together rather than having a distinctive style (meaning the Victorian Era, Art Nouveau, and the Arts & Crafts).

The focus of Edwardian jewelers was to focus on the delicateness of jewelry and gemstones instead. Due to technological advancement in jewelry manufacturing, delicate gemstone cutting was made possible and created a variety of gemstone cuts still popular today.

Inspired by laces, making jewelry as lightweight as possible was key to Edwardian jewelry. Since the jewelry was so delicate, many people began to stack bracelets and layer necklaces to create the illusion of a bolder jewelry without taking away its delicateness.

Popular Edwardian gemstones included garnets, black opals, Montana sapphires. The most popular Edwardian motif is lace!

Edwardian-style opal ring with black gemstone accents

Contemporary Twist on the Edwardian Ring

Overall, 1900’s saw both tragic deaths and exciting innovations. The 20th Century was all about transition and experimentation of different jewelry styles. Thanks to the jewelry from all eras, jewelry has now transformed from a symbol of status to a way to accessorize affordably.

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