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The Garland Style: Quintessential Belle Epoque/Edwardian Jewelry

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Edwardian garland-style brooch, diamonds in platinum-topped 18K gold, probably English, ca. 1901-05

Edwardian garland-style brooch, diamonds in platinum-topped 18K gold, probably English, ca. 1901-05

--Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry (www.langantiques.com)

Around the turn of the 20th century, the most à la mode jewelry was white - white stones, white metal setting - and designed in the garland style. Delicacy was the hallmark of the garland style. Motifs of ribbons and bows, cobwebs and lace, leaves and flowers predominated - anything that lent itself to a curvy shape, and always with plenty of openwork. The stones would often be in a millegrain setting, to add to the air of intricate frothiness. The graceful designs were highly symmetrical, inspired by 18th-century rococo patterns.

But if the inspiration lay in a historic style, the execution reflected state-of-the-art technology. Diamonds were the stone of choice, thanks to the immense output of South African diamond mines in the late 1800s that greatly increased the availability (and affordability) of the sparklers, according to Clare Phillips in Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present. Advances in the craft of creating cultured pearls helped make pearls omnipresent too. Finally, developments in metallurgy encouraged platinum to become the must-have setting. The strength of this white metal meant that even a large necklace could be made with a relatively small amount of metal. Pieces were ornate, yet lightweight.

The garland style predominated in all sorts of jewelry: tiaras, bracelets, necklaces and - that quintessential Edwardian/Belle Époque piece - the dog collar. Its white-on-white color scheme and flowing silhouettes flourished throughout the early 1900s, up until World War I. Towards the end of the first decade, however, more linear shapes emerged, as in the 1907 necklace worn by Helen Mirren at the 2011 Academy Awards (see photo, More Images) - a harbinger of the Art Deco look to come.

The jeweler Cartier was a premier practitioner of the garland style.

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