The Edwardian era coincided with the start of a new century and heralded a time that would be marked by significant changes in technology, society, and politics. While technically only nine years long, marked by the reign of King Edward VII, innovations in the craft of jewelry flourished. New styles and materials entered the scene and have been impacting the trends of engagement rings ever since.
Guide to Edwardian Engagement Rings
What Was the Edwardian Era?
Known as “la belle époque” – the beautiful era in French – The Edwardian era spanned from 1901 to 1910, and gets its name from the reign of King Edward VII. Edward ascended to the throne after the death of his mother, Queen Victoria. The Victorian era was over five decades longer than the Edwardian era, but both had similarly substantial and long-lasting effects on style and culture.
The jewelry design of the era is heavily influenced by Edward’s love of prestige and a lifetime spent growing up amongst the fashionable elite. The abundance of wealth and prosperity in Britain was the onset for platinum being the metal of choice alongside larger diamonds, colored gemstones, and elegant metalwork. The intricate and elaborate jewelry design was meant to convey power and majesty since jewelry was often worn to show rank and wealth.
Cushion cut petal halo engagement ring
Features of Edwardian Engagement Rings
Famed jewelry house Cartier became the official jewelry supplier to King Edward, popularizing an approach to jewelry that was innovative and fashion-led. In a move against industrialization throughout society, hand-crafted jewelry was back as the height of fashion, and the style became detailed and ethereal with the help of the Art Nouveau movement.
Platinum is King
Edwardian era jewelry is characterized by the lustrous, cool metal platinum. The discovery of extensive platinum mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1880 meant the metal was new and plentiful. However, it wasn’t until 1900 that platinum could be melted down for use in jewelry with the invention of the oxy-acetylene torch. With this, platinum quickly became the favored choice for delicate designs that would retain their strength.
During this time, a monochromatic look became very popular. Using platinum, diamonds, and pearls together created a clean, royal white look. While pearls were sometimes used in rings, they were most often kept for earrings and necklaces because of their softness. Aside from the monochromatic look, Edwardians found the stark contrast between rich, colored gemstones very appealing.
The gorgeous look of platinum metal accentuating bright diamonds was a hallmark of the Edwardian era. Fiona exhibits this perfectly with a stunning pear-cut diamond surrounded in a diamond halo, split shank and delicate, wave-like milgrain. Kimberly is the epitome of an Edwardian engagement ring with a round cut center diamond surrounded with a detailed platinum design that is accentuated with diamonds and milgrain.
Graceful Lines, Filigree & Milgrain
Curvy and soft designs where the elements wind around and in upon themselves, added a grace and elegance to the rings. Since platinum was so easily manipulated and shaped, creating bows, ribbons, and loops, these embellishments showcased a jeweler’s skill. Two decorative elements were elevated to new levels by the use of platinum: filigree and milgrain.
Filigree is derived from an Italian word meaning thread. This is an intricate design technique wherein thin strips of metal are woven and twisted to form texture and detail from delicate manipulation. This can be done as an accent or to create an extensive latticework of metal. Milgrain is another decorative feature that was reinvigorated with platinum. For this look, tiny dots of metal are applied to a ring to create a raised border.
The craftsmanship inherent in creating these design elements sets these rings apart from other vintage styles. Our Aurelia is a showpiece with an intricate band featuring filigree and milgrain for incredible sparkle. Our Ginnie features a round brilliant cut center stone with leaf-like prongs, a hidden halo, and detailed engraving work on the band on all three sides.
Favorite Diamond Cuts
Diamonds were an absolute favorite of the Edwardian era and a few cuts were highly desired. Marquise cut diamonds were typically used in ring designs. Sailing was one of Edward's favorite hobbies, and while some claim that’s why this boat-shaped cut was so popular, it’s more just a fun story. The marquise is a beautiful cut for many different setting styles and was a drastic difference from the other favored cuts.
Old European cut, old mine cut, and rose cut diamonds maintained their popularity in the Edwardian era. Cutters used new diamond saws and jewelry lathes to refine the old European cut – a cut similar to the modern-day round brilliant cut. Refining techniques were also applied to the old mine cut – a precursor to today’s cushion cut – and the rose cut diamond for stones that were designed to sparkle in the light from candles and gas lamps.
Classic diamond cuts never go out of style, and in the case of the marquise cut, they just get more popular. Lucci is a modern Edwardian-inspired engagement ring with a stunning marquise diamond secured with leaf-like prongs, a peek-a-boo halo, and a molded band with diamonds and milgrain throughout. Paulina features a beautiful cushion cut diamond, bezel set with a multitude of diamond clusters and extravagant milgrain for infinite sparkle.
Ornate Styles & Opulent Stones
The draw of intricate and ornate styles combined with opulent stones – whether sparkly diamonds or bold colored gemstones – was to reflect the belief that the complexity of jewelry denoted one’s wealth in the Edwardian era. The tone of the period added traditional romanticism and hints of an Art Nouveau aesthetic that created an overall gorgeous ring.
Invisible settings, where the diamonds appeared to float on the surface of the skin, and filigree settings that were so thin as to appear lace-like, denoted a mastery level of craftsmanship and a notable status of the wearer. These elements elevated the feminine qualities of Art Nouveau style and when paired with stunning and larger stones, the jewelry became showpieces.
When all these elements of an Edwardian engagement ring come together, they create a ring of quality and elegance. Our Cordelia showcases many of these features from beautiful filigree and milgrain to brilliant white pavé-set diamonds on the band and a bezel-set center diamond. And in Vanessa, old world charm exudes from the intricate hand-engraved scrolls, milgrain surrounding graduated diamonds on the band, and a stunning cushion cut sapphire in the center.
Flowing & Floral Garland Motifs
Nature was a major theme explored in the Art Nouveau movement and met the particular tastes of Queen Alexandra, King Edward’s wife. Flowing and floral garland motifs became so popular that the Edwardian period is sometimes referred to as the “garland era” in art, design, and jewelry history.
Cluster settings were the perfect place to add elaborate garlands and wreaths achieved through the use of filigree. Prongs would be arranged to resemble a rosebud blooming to life. And patterns of leaves could weave around the band connecting the sides of the shank. Feminine and elegant, these designs were a lovely fit to popular settings of the time like pavé, bezel, and three-stone rings.
Traditional charm and delicate, feminine design make for a stunning combination. Our Venetia embodies that with an exquisite emerald cut center stone surrounded by an ornate diamond halo and a floral petal design in the basket. Our Marigold has royal appeal with a 4 carat cushion cut center diamond surrounded with countless small diamonds, hand-engraved details and metal-shaped bows set with diamonds to prop up the basket.
Edwardian engagement rings are a wonderful vintage style if glamor, elegance, and sophistication are appealing for your ring. You can choose to source a true antique ring directly from the era or explore modern inspirations of Edwardian-style engagement rings. Whichever way you go, the unique artistry of the time and feminine charm are sure to shine through.