A Brief History of Georgian Jewellery

Georgian Jewellery was crafted between 1714 and 1830 during the reigns of four separate monarchs all named George, although it is often extended to 1837 to account for the short reign of William IV, who took the throne for 7 years between George IV and Queen Victoria. Although Georgian jewellery was made in Britain it took inspiration from French, German, Italian and even Egyptian influences.

King George


The creation of jewellery during the Georgian period was an incredibly involved and labour intensive process. Without the benefit of later innovations in machinery and metallurgy each piece had to be painstakingly hand crafted by extremely skilled individuals. This rarity, coupled with the amount of time that has passed since their crafting, makes Georgian jewellery extremely rare and valuable today.

Interestingly the jewellers of the Georgian era, whose work is now meticulously preserved by collectors and historians, were largely unconcerned with preserving the works of the past. Many Georgian pieces were crafted from metals which had been melted down from older pieces no longer deemed fashionable.

Georgian Jewellery

At this time there was no universally accepted standard for the hallmarking of pieces, a practise that later became standardised and enforced through the law. Whilst some pieces bear makers marks these can vary hugely, and many pieces have no markings whatsoever, which can make it difficult to identify a genuine Georgian piece.


Silver was commonly used during this period, particularly in the setting of gems, and its value was higher than it is today. Georgian jewellers also utilised less precious metals which are no longer common in the craft, such as steel and iron. These elements were suitable for the time, but were more susceptible to degradation over the years, and many pieces were lost to the this lack of durability.

Georgian Silver Necklace

Many of the gold alloys which are common in modern jewellery had not yet been perfected. Whilst pure, 24 carat gold was rarely used due to its softness most pieces were crafted in 18 carat gold. This also contributed to the dearth of pieces today as this alloy was less durable than 15 carat or 9 carat gold, which is more prevalent today.

During the 1700s a London clock maker named Christopher Pinchbeck pioneered a new alloy which is relatively uncommon today. This metal, a combination of zinc and copper, was intended to provide a gold-coloured metal which would be affordable to more of the population. Whilst this new metal, named Pinchbeck for its creator, was relatively popular at the time the invention of later, lower carat gold alloys eventually rendered it obsolete, although it is still highly valued by some collectors today.

Pinchbeck Bracelets

Motifs and Fashions

The jewellers of the time took much inspiration from the natural world, and their work contained a variety of floral and animal motifs. The early Georgian period was dominated by the Baroque style, which emphasised flowing lines, extravagance, and the clever working of gold to produce designs with a sensual richness and exuberance.

Georgian Jewellery Motifs

In the 1750s these styles began to morph into the later Rococo style, which further emphasised grandeur and a sense of dynamism, and led to the creation of some incredible pieces of art, architecture and jewellery. It was during the Rococo period that the first lower carat gold alloys were legalised, and their greater strength allowed for the creation of more delicate and intricate metalwork that was strong enough to be worn on a daily basis.

This period also marked the beginning of the excavation of Pompeii, leading to classical motifs working their way into the designs of the day. Laurels, grape vines and leaves became more common and were incorporated into many pieces. Today these more classically inspired pieces are described as “Neo-Classical”, yet they also retained many of the identifying characteristics particular to the Georgian period.

Lavastone Ring

Gem Stones

Due to the use of soft, high carat gold throughout most of this period the setting of gemstones had to be accomplished by surrounding the stones back and sides with either silver or gold. This meant that light could not pass through stones as easily as it could with later designs. To make sure that the gems could still shine as much as possible the stones were often foil-backed. A thin piece of highly polished metal was pressed to the back of the stone to provide a mirrored surface which would reflect incoming light back out towards the observer.

Foil back Diamond Ring

Until the 1750s diamonds were by far the most commonly used gemstones in jewellery, but the Baroque and Rococo styles lent themselves to greater variety of colours and forms. Emerald and ruby became more prevalent, as did garnet and the many and varied colours of different forms of topaz.

Emerald Garnet Rings

Less precious materials were also worked into many pieces, and some had remarkable arrangements of enamel and glass, including the faux gemstone known as paste, a leaden glass substance that mimicked the sparkle and lustre of true gems

Paste Necklace

If you want to find out more about jewellery from the Georgian period and other antiques why not take a look at our other blog articles.

If you have any questions about the pieces which we sell feel free to get in touch on England: 0333 700 4500 or send us an email via enquiries@antiquejewellerygroup.com. Our team is always happy to help!