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The Evolution of British Jewellery Trends Over Time


British jewellery has woven a rich tapestry over the last two centuries, reflecting a journey of style and sophistication. From the grandeur of the late 1800s to today’s sleek designs, these shifts aren’t just about fashion—they mirror the changing tides of society and culture. 

Delving into this story reveals how trends have evolved and speak to the broader narrative of British aesthetics and craftsmanship throughout the decades.

Victorian & Edwardian Jewellery (1800s – 1900s)

During the Victorian era, British jewellery was marked by its intricate designs featuring hearts, flowers, and motifs like skulls and crosses, often adorned with brightly coloured gemstones such as amethyst, topaz, and garnet. The Edwardian era, meanwhile, favoured light, delicate designs with diamonds and precious gemstones set in lacy settings. 

These historical styles continue to influence modern jewellery, where we see a resurgence of romantic, ornate pieces with colourful gemstones, reflecting Victorian vibrancy. Similarly, the Edwardian love for delicate, airy designs inspires contemporary pieces that use fine filigree and diamond accents, combining past elegance with modern sensibilities.

Art Deco & Interwar Period Jewellery (1920s – 1930s)

The Art Deco and Interwar period, spanning the 1920s and 1930s, ushered in an era of bold geometric shapes, streamlined designs, and a fascination with modernism in jewellery. This era’s jewellery was heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution and societal changes, showcasing sleek lines and symmetry, often with a mix of diamonds and vibrant gemstones like sapphire, emerald, and ruby. 

Today, the Art Deco style remains influential in modern jewellery design, celebrated for its timeless elegance and strong lines. Contemporary designers frequently draw on this period’s aesthetic, blending the old with the new to create pieces that echo the past’s glamour with a modern twist.

Mid-Century Modern Jewellery (1940s – 1960s)

In the mid-20th century, British jewellery mirrored the broader Mid-Century Modern movement, favouring clean lines and minimalistic forms. This period, stretching from the 1940s to the 1960s, saw a shift towards more abstract and asymmetrical designs. Both precious and semi-precious stones were widely used, reflecting a more inclusive approach to style following the war. 

Additionally, the era marked a significant rise in the popularity of costume jewellery, with designers experimenting with innovative, non-traditional materials to create bold, statement pieces. This era in British jewellery history stands out for its embrace of minimalism and creativity in design.

 Paul Costelloe AW23 collection, bespoke fused glass jewellery by Angela Brady Designs 

Jewellery of the 70s & 80s 

In the 1970s and 80s, British jewellery embraced bold and expressive styles. Oversized earrings, chunky bangles, and statement necklaces became fashion essentials, reflecting the era’s love for larger-than-life accessories. This period featured a playful mix of metals and both precious and semi-precious gemstones, adding an eclectic edge to designs. 

Bright, often neon colours were in vogue, mirroring the extravagant and flamboyant spirit of the time. Layering various styles and materials was popular, capturing the freedom and individuality that defined the fashion of these dynamic decades in the UK.

Minimalism & Classicism (1990s – 2000s)

In the 1990s and early 2000s, British jewellery trends shifted towards minimalism and classicism. This era marked a return to simpler, more refined designs, with a focus on dainty and understated pieces. Silver jewellery, in particular, gained popularity due to its versatility and subtle elegance. Delicate necklaces, slim bracelets, and small stud earrings became the hallmarks of this period, embodying a less-is-more aesthetic. 

This understated approach contrasted starkly with the bold styles of the previous decades, reflecting a broader cultural shift towards simplicity and timelessness in fashion. The minimalist trend of this era highlighted the beauty of simplicity in jewellery design.

21st Century Jewellery Trends

In the 21st century, British jewellery trends represent a unique blend of past influences and contemporary innovation. Designers often draw inspiration from various historical eras, incorporating elements from the ornate Victorian styles, the geometric shapes of Art Deco, and the minimalism of the late 20th century. 

This retrospective approach allows for a diverse range of styles, catering to the eclectic tastes of modern consumers. On the runway, these influences are evident in the revival of chunky statement pieces, delicate filigree work, and the resurgence of vintage styles, all adapted with a modern twist.

Today’s jewellery trends also reflect a growing awareness of sustainability and ethical practices, with consumers increasingly favouring eco-friendly and ethically sourced materials. The fusion of cutting-edge design with traditional craftsmanship has led to innovative pieces that are both stylish and socially conscious. 

Additionally, personalisation and customisation have become significant trends, as people seek unique, meaningful pieces that express their individuality. In essence, contemporary British jewellery is a rich tapestry that weaves together historical elegance, modern sensibilities, and a commitment to ethical fashion, shaping the way individuals express themselves through their style choices.

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