Bridgerton: A Glimpse Into Regency-Era Jewelry

Bridgerton: A Glimpse Into Regency-Era Jewelry

If you're a fan of Netflix's Bridgerton, the period drama that has us all yearning for high society balls, you've likely found yourself mesmerized by more than just the romantic entanglements and scandal. The show's wardrobe transports us to the Regency era, offering a dazzling insight into its world of fashion. But have you ever paused to admire the jewelry?

While the show's wardrobe and jewelry are undoubtedly fabulous, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, intentionally incorporated contemporary elements, making them more vibrant and extravagant than what was typical of the time. Bridgerton is brimming with lavish balls and parties, presenting Mirojnick with the challenge of creating unique looks for each cast member.


The cast of 'Bridgerton'. PHOTO: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

The Regency Era: A Brief Overview

Before we delve into the details, let's set the stage with a quick history lesson. The Regency period, spanning from 1811 to 1820, was a time of great societal, political, and cultural change. It began with the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, serving as Regent after his father, King George III, was deemed unfit to rule. This period is renowned for its unique aesthetic in architecture, fashion, and design.

Jewelry played a significant role in this societal tableau, not only in terms of wealth and status but also as a medium of personal expression. Unlike some of the heavy and elaborate pieces of the previous century, Regency jewelry was marked by its lightness and simplicity. Often the designs drew on classical influences, reflecting the era's interest after the ancient discoveries in Greece and Rome. This classical revival was blended with the elegance of French influences, mirroring the fascination of the art and culture of Napoleon's empire by the Regency elite.

Joséphine - Empress of the French, 1808, Source - Wikimedia Commons

From Lockets to Elaborate Drops

In Bridgerton, you'll notice a lot of emphasis on necklaces and earrings, and rightly so. The Regency period favored gowns with low necklines, making necklaces a focal point of a lady's ensemble. The dangling earrings you see on characters like Daphne and the Featherington sisters were designed to complement the elaborate updos that were also in vogue. The show also features some stunning lavaliers—these were pieces designed with colored gemstones that were often set in gold or silver. While Bridgerton takes some creative liberties, the essence is beautifully captured.

Lady Caroline Gordon, Lady Chesham (1785-1866), Source - Wikimedia Commons

Gemstones Galore

Diamonds and pearls were undoubtedly popular, but colored gemstones held a special place in Regency jewelry. Garnet, amethyst, coral, and turquoise were often used to create vibrant and eye-catching jewelry. Gemstones were often chosen for their supposed mystical properties, believed to bring good fortune, health, or protection to the wearer. The craze for colored gemstones during the time gained momentum from a combination of increased accessibility, classical influence, technological advancements, and symbolic meanings. These vibrant designs continue to be admired and replicated in contemporary jewelry today.

Regency Sentiment

During this period, jewelry often carried personal and emotional significance, worn as a way to keep the memory of someone close. Mourning jewelry illustrates how people have historically coped with loss and honored their loved ones. At this time, mourning jewelry played a significant role—some including hair from the deceased, woven into designs within rings, brooches, or pendants. Jewelry often bore inscriptions of love and remembrance, like "Mizpah" (meaning "watchtower" and signifying a special bond) or "Dearest."

Portrait of Lady Anne Hamilton, Source - Wikimedia Commons

Certain motifs were laden with symbolic meanings. For example, snakes, hearts, anchors, and doves appeared frequently, each carrying specific meanings related to love, hope, and peace.

The sentimental nature of Regency jewelry had a lasting impact on subsequent design periods, particularly the Victorian era, and remained an underlying theme for centuries. Jewelry became more elaborate and intricate, yet still often retained personal touches like engraved messages and symbolic motifs.

 

Bridgerton's success reminds us that history and style are intimately connected, and through its visual splendor, it invites us to appreciate design that continues to influence today's artisans. For those inspired by the romance of Regency jewelry, consider exploring antique pieces from the Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Edwardian eras that echo the same beauty and elegance. Jewelry, much like history, has a way of repeating itself, always with a fresh twist for each new generation.