Once worn by the English aristocracy, Edwardian jewelry is a look that’s popular with today’s brides-to-be. Antique Edwardian engagement rings might be out of reach, but you can still create a beautiful engagement ring rich in period motifs.
The Edwardian era is named for England’s King Edward VII who, with his consort Alexandra, led societal fashion late in the reign of his mother, Queen Victoria, and through his own reign (1901-1910). The era ended dramatically with the onset of World War I in 1914. The twilight of the aristocracy, the Edwardian era was a time when affluent women wore jewelry to show their wealth and rank. As they indulged in card parties, masquerade balls, lavish dinners and weekend hunts, they favored platinum, diamonds and pearls in their jewelry. The gems and accompanying designs were meant to convey power, majesty and social position. The look was elegant and delicate. Yet because the gems were typically set in platinum, the pieces were extremely strong. So it’s not surprising that many couples today have an eye for antique engagement rings from this period.
Finding authentic Edwardian engagement rings, however, can be a little challenging and prohibitively expensive. It may be more practical to design your own antique engagement ring using motifs from the period. Here we present some of the more notable ones.
A historical footnote: antique jewelry of this time also goes by other names. These include Fin de Siècle (“end of the century” in French), Belle Époque (French for “the beautiful age”) and the garland style.
The Elements of Edwardian Style
Triumphal laurel wreaths, scrolls, feathers, tassels, ribbons tied in bowknots and garlands of flowers were some of the most important motifs. Jewelers like Cartier, Tiffany, Boucheron and Fabergé used them in their work. The light and lacy look was meant to convey majesty and good taste. The popular show Downton Abbey often showcased the style in pieces worn by the aristocratic Crawley family.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: Marquise Cut Diamonds
The marquise cut diamond was a favorite of the Edwardian era. Its elongated lines were said to resemble a racing yacht; sailing was a favorite hobby of King Edward VII and his wealthy contemporaries. Not surprisingly, the shape was quite fashionable at the time.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: White on White
Edwardian jewelry designers loved the monochromatic look and often paired diamonds and pearls. Combining these two rare – and expensive – gems created a sense of majesty and showed the wealth of the wearer. When set in platinum, they were a signature style of imperial jewels. The monochromatic look was also popular because it complemented dresses of any color.
Pearls are fragile gems, so we don’t recommend them for an engagement ring destined to see a lifetime of daily wear. But as you can see from the engagement rings featured in this blog, the “white on white” look is easily attainable with diamonds and platinum or white gold.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: Scroll Work
Scroll work was a characteristic of rococo art (an ornate style that started in the early 18th century). The look was soft, curvy and intricate. It was used widely by Edwardian jewelry designers – and is commonly seen in contemporary designs. Using scroll work can help you create a vintage-style engagement ring.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: Floral Motifs
Flowers have been a part of wedding ceremonies for centuries. Their meaning has changed over time, eventually coming to symbolize fertility and love. They found a welcome home in Edwardian engagement rings and are a popular motif in contemporary engagement rings.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: Lace
Lace work was another popular motif during the Edwardian era. The intricate style showcased the craftsmanship of the jeweler. It also was seen as flattering to women, and imitated the fine petit point embroidery they often wore.
The Edwardian era was relatively brief. Yet 100 years later it is again having a strong influence on jewelry designers, and that means an Edwardian-style engagement ring is within the reach of your bride-to-be.
Still searching for a vintage look for your engagement ring? Art Deco engagement rings might be your style.