100 Years of Inspiration
“ I create contemporary jewelry with an old soul.” – Martin Katz
Downton Abbey, which concluded after six seasons on PBS, was as beloved for its fashion and jewelry as for the characters themselves. As the series progressed, both the characters and the clothes they wore captured the essence of a rapidly changing world. Opening with the 1912 sinking of the Titanic and concluding in the mid 1920s, the series had one foot in each of my two favorite periods of jewelry design: the Edwardian and Art Deco periods.
The Edwardian era (also called the Gilded Age and Belle Epoque) began in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria and the ascension of King Edward VII. Though he ruled only until his own death in 1910, Edwardian design influences continued until about 1919, gradually giving way to the angles of Art Deco.
What I like most about Edwardian jewelry is that it signifies a happier time period than that of Victorian jewelry. Victorian – a very dark period marked by mourning jewelry and somber designs in jet and other muted stones. Edwardian jewelry, by contrast, was light, airy, soft, and delicate, with an emphasis on diamonds and platinum. Rapid technological advancements during the period meant jewelers learned to fabricate platinum into pieces that were as intricately detailed as fine lace, while diamond-cutting techniques steadily improved, culminating with the development of the modern round brilliant cut in 1919.
Art Deco, meanwhile, first appeared in France before World War I, and grew to prominence internationally in the 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco design reflected the evolution from agrarian to industrial society, as it combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age industrial angles. The primary characteristic of Art Deco jewelry is bold, linear, and geometric design. In addition to pearls, Art Deco jewelry was predominantly diamond, with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, black onyx, and red coral adding splashes of color. Another advancement of the age was the calibre cut, allowing colored gems to be set tightly together with no gaps in between.
Women, who had begun working outside the home during World War I and gained the right to vote shortly after, ditched the restrictive corsets of Edwardian and Victorian fashion and embraced modern sportswear and flapper dresses. They added jeweled headbands, brooches, pins, stacked on bracelets, and long ropes of pearls and other beaded necklaces. We also saw a brief period of Egyptian revival style in the 1920s after King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922.
I began my career as a collector and dealer of vintage jewelry, and I still get excited when a great piece comes across my desk. But ever since I began creating my own jewels, the Edwardian and Art Deco periods have influenced my designs more than any other.