The History Of Rings: From Ancient Times To Modern Trends
Rings and jewelry are a universal form of adornment and they have been a part of mankind since before history was written. It is likely that from an early date, it was worn as a protection from the dangers of life or as a status symbol. However, the jewelry worn in the old days was not made as we make it today.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get back into our history, and let me take you through a ride of evolution jewelry.
Ancient Era Rings
The possibility of tracing jewelry’s historic itinerary derives primarily from the custom, beginning with the most remote civilizations, of burying the dead with their richest garments and ornaments. The history of jewelry dates back to prehistoric times when early humans wore shells, bone, wood, pebbles, animal skin, and feathers as adornments for bodily decoration for thousands of years.
In the ancient world, the discovery of how to work metals was an important stage in the development of the art of jewelry. Over time, metalworking techniques became more sophisticated and decoration more intricate. Gold, a rare and highly valued material, was buried with the dead to accompany its owner into the afterlife. Much archaeological jewelry comes from tombs and hoards.
The different eras of ancient jewelry were Sumerian jewelry, Egyptian jewelry, Phoenician jewelry, greek jewelry, Etruscan jewelry, Celtic jewelry, and roman jewelry.
Medieval Period: 5th-15th Century Rings
This was a time of extreme deprivation and suffering for most of western Europe’s population because of the effects of famine, wars, and the plague. Many people had to fight for their lives daily and the advancement of knowledge, technology, and art came almost to a standstill. The jewelry worn in this period reflected an intensely hierarchical and status-conscious society. Royalty and the nobility wore gold, silver, and precious gems. Lower ranks of society wore base metals, such as copper.
The Features Of The Jewelry During This Era Are:
- Personal adornments, decorations for weapons necklaces, bracelets, and brooches. The rich made small embellishments of jewelry sewn into their garments.
- Gold was the main material used with different techniques used to decorate metal such as enameling, plating, gilding, soldering, inlay, and casting.
- Gemstones commonly used were freshwater pearls, amber, jet, and coral, which were found within Europe, whereas other gemstones like emeralds and rubies had to be imported.
- Gems were cut and polished into cabochons with rounded edges because facet-cut gems were difficult to create.
Renaissance Era: Half-Way Through The 15th Century Rings
The term “renaissance” means “rebirth” and quite aptly sums up this period, for it was an important time of social and cultural change. The renaissance itself started after the middle ages in 14th-century Italy and in the centuries following, it spread throughout Europe. New continents were discovered during this period and along with them came the expansion of trade and ultimately an increase in wealth also known for great developments in art and culture.
In terms of the history of jewelry, the Renaissance played an important part in its transformation.
The Features Of The Rings During This Era Are:
- Items of jewelry gradually evolved from the brooches and shoulder clasps of the medieval ages to more modern items like necklaces, chandeliers, earrings, and bejeweled headdresses.
- Probably the most iconic item of jewelry from the renaissance period was the pendant, worn on a necklace. Pendants were often enameled on the front and back.
- A range of gemstones like emeralds, rubies, diamonds, topaz, amazonite, garnet, amethyst, and many more was available. Pearls, especially baroque pearls were very popular and featured in many jewelry designs.
The baroque Jewelry Era started in The 17th Century
Renaissance jewelry evolved gradually into a new style. The rigid and contorted dresses that had been worn by the ladies of the renaissance were less preferred over soft flowing dresses, and new jewelry was created to go with the new fashion.
The Georgian Era (1714 – 1837)
Starting with the 18th century, we go through history’s most important periods of jewelry styles. This era lasted for over 100 years and spanned four English kings: king George I, king george ii, king george iii, and king george iv. Jewellery was to be worn only by the aristocracy as part of the laws, however, as the era developed it became acceptable for the emerging middle class to were items of elegance as well.
The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)
The Victorian era is a reference to queen victoria of England, she reigned during this time and was responsible for much of the great changes in jewelry. Jewellery from the victorian era is far more prevalent than during the Georgian era and easier to find.
The Romantic Victorian Period: 1837-1860.
This period was one of joy, new beginnings, and positive growth for victoria. The floral motifs, brightly colored gemstones, and glistening gold filigree mirrored the love and good fortune shared between Victoria and Albert, and the economic growth of the British empire. Soon after, snake motifs began popping up in necklaces, pins, and other jewelry.
The Grand Victorian Period (1861-1880)
However, following prince Albert’s death in 1861 and the queen’s adoption of mourning garb, all-black mourning jewelry became popular. Jewellery from the grand period was made of jet, onyx, and black glass. Human hair was also incorporated into designs; as a sentimental tribute. But darker and foreboding motifs like skulls and skeletons were frequently added to jewelry designs. During this time, cameos grew in popularity as a way to remember or honor a loved one.
The Aesthetic Victorian Period (1880-1901).
Social changes also influenced the jewelry of this age. Victoria’s son, Edward’s wife, Alexandra, popularized the iconic victorian choker necklace. The huge boom in wealth meant that even workers had leisure time, and fashion for entertainment became an important trademark of the Victorian style. Women enjoyed unprecedented levels of independence. Victorian jewelry was replaced by smaller pieces to accommodate the changing times, jewellery was overall smaller and lighter. Common motifs of the aesthetic movement included peacocks, flowers, insects, and Japanese-inspired forms.
The Edwardian Era (1901-1915)
The Edwardian era follows the reign of England’s king Edward, he was the last monarch to serve as a namesake in jewelry history.
The features of the Rings during this era are:
This period, also known as the “la belle epoque era”, is the first-time platinum was officially a part of the jewelry scene. Although platinum was first crafted together with gold, it very quickly grew in popularity and was later an item of its own.
Art Nouveau Rings (1890 – 1910)
Now moving on to the art nouveau period, which was named after the 1895 opening of Siegfried bing’s Parisian gallery “Maison de l’art nouveau”. The natural aspect of art nouveau was very appealing to a society that was becoming more aware of decorative quality. By the end of the 19th century, the style had begun to spread globally and became one of the most important style periods in history.
The Features Of The Rings During This Era Are:
- Art nouveau jewelry is a celebration of free form, it contains an organic structure with no symmetry.
- Various themes and motifs were recurrent in art nouveau jewelry such as insects, especially dragonflies, and butterflies.
- Enamel was one specialty that became characteristic of art nouveau jewelry, plique-à-jour enamel was particularly suited to provide color, light, and life to the gossamer wings of these fascinating creatures.
- Champlevé enamel was masterfully applied in new ways to add depth and mystery.
- Pâte de verre, a kind of glass that could be manipulated to a gem-like appearance, could be shaped and polished into all manner of objects and was used extensively throughout this period.
One of the most influential designers working in the art nouveau style was rené Lalique (1860-1945), he sold designs to the great jewelry houses of the period.
By the end of the 19th century, the style had begun to spread globally and became one of the most important style periods in history. The art nouveau movement drew to a close with the onset of war in Europe. The style was not picked up again until after the war, genuine art nouveau jewelry from the early 1900s is very difficult to find.
Art Deco Rings (1920 – 1945)
Art deco pieces are known for being geometrical, angular, and clean. The art deco style inspired many architects to design landmarks using these concepts.
The art deco period emerged after the conclusion of world war I, it took its name, short for arts décoratifs, from the exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes (international exhibition of modern decorative and industrial arts) held in Paris in 1925. It combined modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, art deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.
After the war years, the world was ready for flamboyant displays of gems and jewelry.
The world of haute couture sought to celebrate the feminine figure, and with the jewelry the phrase “the more the merrier” seemed popular. Debeers diamond corporation launched its marketing campaign an ‘a diamond is forever’ to promote diamonds to every income level, especially the rapidly growing middle class.
As post-war incomes increased and women desired more choice in their accessories, in the 1950s, costume jewelry enjoyed a global boom, perfectly facilitating the trend for women to look well-groomed with clean, colorful, ornate jewelry complimenting their outfits.
History has no end and it only keeps getting interesting as we delve deeper