The 'Belle epoque' is the original french name for the period in the western history between 1880 and 1913. Freely translated it means: beautiful century, western society profited enormously from the industrial revolution, and although the first world war was looming, people did not notice much of it in daily life. The discovery of diamonds in Africa, in 1870, caused a great increase of formerly very rare mineral. This resulted in the most beautiful diamond rings, earrings, necklace and others embellishments.
The Industrial Revolution had a strong influence on western prosperity. A new layer developed in society: the super rich. Unlike the previous nobles, the new upper class did not own any family jewels. After all, they formed a new generation and their wealth came from technological developments, rather than from parents and ancestors! Therefore, the new rich sought out the best goldsmiths and jewellery designers, who made the most lavish creations for them. Both the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship were of great importance. Jewellery had to look beautiful and stay beautiful for as long as possible. It is therefore no coincidence that the world's most famous jewellery houses - such as Cartier, Tiffany and van Cleef & Arpels - were founded in the early twentieth century.
Although the jewellery was bought from so-called 'new money', it was fashionable to own jewellery that looked as if it had been made for generations. Designs were therefore often inspired by the asymmetrical Rococo style, popular at the court of Louis VX. The designs referred to bows and boughs, garlands of flowers or delicate lace ribbons. Worldwide, this charming design is now known as the "Garland" style. Often, jewellery was richly inlaid with diamonds, which became available worldwide at the time due to new discoveries in Africa. Pearls, which were valued for their exclusivity and rarity, were not spared either. The belle époque lived up to its name, especially in the field of jewellery.
The relatively new material platinum proved to be a perfect match for belle époque fashion. Not only did its light silver colour go beautifully with diamonds and pearls, but its exceptional strength made it a very fine material to work with. With platinum, the illusion of lace decoration was created, something which was much more difficult, if not impossible, with gold. Jewellery from this period is therefore often incredibly fine and delicate. The whitish works of art were also a perfect match for the pastel-coloured dresses of the belle époque.
In short, belle époque jewellery is characterised by its opulence and luxury, to remind us of a time when the (Western) world was at its height. These jewels are primarily an ode to the past, but in the course of the twentieth century, jewellery would increasingly reflect the developments of their own time.