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Jewelry in Jane Austen’s day

Last month, Jane Austen Today posted a short piece on Regency era jewelry, including a link to The Three Graces, a retailer selling vintage jewelry, including an impressive selection of gorgeous Georgian Era jewelry which inspired me to do some digging and see what I could find out about jewelry fashions in Jane Austen’s day.

During Jane Austen’s life there was a significant fashion shift from the very ornate (think Marie Antoinette, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, powdered wigs, huge dresses and big hair) to the more simple classically elegant. Interestingly enough, this shift apparently increased the popularity of earrings as the changes in fashions made them more visible.[1]

Looking at portraits I found that while there certainly were quite a few women who chose to be painted without any jewelry, there were also plenty of others who chose to be painted with it. Beaded necklaces and long earrings appeared particularly popular and several of the portraits I looked at showed jewelry being worn in the hair.[2] Something that is referred to in Emma when Frank Churchill states that he intends to have some of his aunt’s jewelry reset as an “ornament for the head.”[3]

[1]Jewelry,” Austentation Regency Accessories, (accessed April 23, 2009).
[2] Some of the portraits I looked at can be found at these links: We Make History.

[3] Jane Austen, Emma, Chapter 54.

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