Georgian Era Motifs

There were many popular motifs during the Georgian era (1714-1837) , many of which were traditional from prior to the Georgian era and also continued to be popular through subsequent eras and are still worn today. However, there were certain jewelry motifs during the Georgian era which were particularly recurring. It may be that I have missed one or more, in which case I will be returning to this post to update. Also, as I find representative pictures for more of the common motifs, I will add them.

Here are some of the major motifs:

CRESCENTS AND STAR-BURSTS

With the new interest in astronomy, these cosmic themed motifs became popular.

  An early 19th century diamond locket brooch   Of old brilliant-cut diamond starburst design, the central locket compartment enclosing a later fishing fly, circa 1820Christie’s Sale 5642

An early 19th century diamond locket brooch
Of old brilliant-cut diamond starburst design, the central locket compartment enclosing a later fishing fly, circa 1820Christie’s Sale 5642

NATURALISTIC

(included flowers, acorns, wheat, birds, fruit, leaves and feathers)

Naturalistic jewellery, decorated with realistic flowers, fruit, leaves, plants or feathers, appeared in the early 19th century along with the ‘Romantic’ movement. Particular meaning was often attached to specific plants.

  A Georgian topaz flower brooch (note the ribbon)    circa 1820,    Christie’s Sale 5383   Jewels at South Kensington   7 October 2008

A Georgian topaz flower brooch (note the ribbon)
 circa 1820, 
Christie’s Sale 5383
Jewels at South Kensington
7 October 2008

BOWS AND GARLANDS AND RIBBONS AND SCROLLS AND ‘GIRANDOLE’

Bows, garlands, ribbons and scrolls were a regularly repeated motif.

This example below with the three drop gems is called a ‘girandole’
which was very popular in the Georgian era.

  Girandole bow bodice ornament and pair of earrings set with topazes,backed with foil, and sapphires. All the stones are set in gold.   Circa 1760, France   V&A Museum

Girandole bow bodice ornament and pair of earrings set with topazes,backed with foil, and sapphires. All the stones are set in gold.
Circa 1760, France
V&A Museum

MOURNING / MEMENTO MORI

There is a great deal of surviving mourning jewelry from the era.  Many of the motifs were urns, Neo-classical plinths and obelisks, weeping willows, angels, cherubs, names and dates of the dead and portraits of the dead.  Often these motifs were incorporated into locks and medallions.  Hair work was often incorporated in a variety of forms. ‘Memento Mori’ means ‘remember you will die’ in Latin and people of the era would wear skulls and coffins to remind themselves.

  c. 1775-1800    V&A England    Gold set with seed pearls, watercolour on ivory and hair

c. 1775-1800
V&A England
Gold set with seed pearls, watercolour on ivory and hair

LOVE TOKENS

Motifs used in love tokens included cupids, doves, the ‘altar of love’, butterflies, romantic messages, initials and names.

Also the ‘crowned heart’ was popular, signifying a lover’s rule over the heart.

  V& A Italy    Date:   ca. 1810-20 (made)   Shell and gold bracelet with cupids, doves and the altar of love

V& A Italy
Date:
ca. 1810-20 (made)
Shell and gold bracelet with cupids, doves and the altar of love

CROSSES / RELIGIOUS

  Gold, Turquoise and diamond cross ca. 1830 England, Britain    V&A Museum

Gold, Turquoise and diamond cross ca. 1830 England, Britain
V&A Museum

 

ACROSTIC – THE LANGUAGE OF STONES

Sentimental message were also conveyed using the initial letter of each stone in the design. This is referred to as ‘acrostic’. This particular pendant below has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.

  V&A MuseumEngland, Britain    Date: ca. 1830    Materials and Techniques:   Gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold

V&A MuseumEngland, Britain
Date: ca. 1830
Materials and Techniques:
Gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold

GIARDINETTI (‘Little Garden’)

‘Giardinetti’ (from the Italian, meaning ‘little garden’) was another popular theme. A giardinetti piece had tiny flowers arranged in a vase, pot or basket, usually made from precious stones. Also stylized flowers without vases or pots or baskets were often seen.

  England,   c. 1730-60    Materials and Techniques:   Gold and silver set with rubies and diamonds   V&A Museum

England,
c. 1730-60
Materials and Techniques:
Gold and silver set with rubies and diamonds
V&A Museum

NEO-CLASSICAL

Popular neo-classical motifs included arrows, quivers, lyres, Greek keys, laurel leaves, eagles, Greek arches, the phoenix and scenes and characters from Roman and Greek mythology.

HANDS

Hands, singular or clasped, were another recurring motif.

The hand motif has long symbolized a multitude of things, including affection, loyalty, solidarity, family and love.

  Europe    c. 1800-50    Gold gimmel fede ring with three pivoted hoops, joined by a small pin. V&A Museum

Europe
c. 1800-50
Gold gimmel fede ring with three pivoted hoops, joined by a small pin. V&A Museum

SNAKES

Symbolizing eternal love

  England   c. 1800-30    Gold ring set with rubies   This ring may once have been owned by George IV (1762-1830). He may be wearing it in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection (559).   V&A Museum

England
c. 1800-30
Gold ring set with rubies
This ring may once have been owned by George IV (1762-1830). He may be wearing it in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection (559).
V&A Museum

LOVERS’ EYE AND MINIATURES

Popular from the late 1700s, Lovers’ eyes were miniatures, normally watercolour on ivory.  They depicted the eye or eyes of a loved one or family member. They were worn as bracelets, brooches, pendants or rings. Miniature portraits were also popular. Miniature portraits were often worn as brooches orinside lockets.

  George Engleheart – Portrait of Unknown Woman – circa 1780 – Victoria & Albert Museum

George Engleheart – Portrait of Unknown Woman – circa 1780 – Victoria & Albert Museum

  Archaeological   revival gold head ornament, by Castellani   Christie’s Sale 6968

Archaeological revival gold head ornament, by Castellani
Christie’s Sale 6968

 

Between the years of 1800 to 1889, there were a number of important archaeological findings which greatly influenced jewelry design. These included Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek (Hellenistic) and Roman.

Sources / further reading: (please also look at my list of sources you will find in the drop down menu at the top of this page)

http://gemgossip.wordpress.com/jewelry-history/

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/costume-jewelry/egyptian

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Engleheart

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_miniature

http://www.webring.org/l/rd?ring=hairworkwebring2;id=3;url=http%3A%2F%2Fsentimentaljewelry.blogspot.de%2F2006%2F06%2Feye-miniatures.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Girandole

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Crescent  

 

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Pippa Bear