pastes were made to imitate precious and semi-precious gems”/>
All that glitters
Most of the pieces in the Hull Grundy Collection at Kenwood can be described as ‘costume jewellery’, as they use semi-precious or replica stones and metal alloys rather than gold and diamonds. However, like all Georgian jewellery, they are meticulously handcrafted. Georgian jewellery makers were highly trained artisans, skilled in all areas of design and craftsmanship.
Silver, gold and Pinchbeck – an alloy of copper and zinc created to resemble gold – were popularly used in Georgian jewellery-making. Cut-steel and iron jewellery also became fashionable after France and Germany appealed for donations of precious jewellery to the national cause during the Seven Years War (1756–63) and the War of Liberation (1813). In return, donors received jewellery made from iron and cut steel.
Diamonds became hugely fashionable around the beginning of the 18th century, particularly for evening wear. Other gemstones like garnets, rubies and emeralds were popular for day wear, together with coral, ivory, pearls, shell and even human hair.
Equally fashionable among all classes were imitation gems. Paste – a compound of glass – was originally developed in France in the 17th century. By the mid 18th century it had become popular throughout Europe, not only as a substitute for diamonds but in its own right. Pastes were often more versatile than the gems they imitated, as they could be more easily cut and fitted. This was especially advantageous for the 18th-century jeweller, as designs of the period favoured close set stones, with little metal visible between. The craftsmanship of these ‘fake’ jewels reached such heights that paste was even worn at the royal court.
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