Jewelry

The A-Z of Jewelry: G is for... Girandole Earrings

By Sarah Jordan
Continuing our series exploring the history of jewelry trends, Sarah Jordan explores the history of elaborate girandole style earrings.

T he 18th century was a time of fascinating figures and fabulous fashions. It’s the century when Jane Austen began writing about the social complexities of Georgian society; when Marie Antoinette rose to become queen of France; and Napoleon Bonaparte first revealed his talent for military leadership. At the same time, high society had a passion for evening soirees lit by expensive candlelight. This wash of warm, amber light was the perfect accompaniment to the fashions of the day, which dictated lower necklines and romantic swept-up hair styles that left ample space for decorative earrings.

The most popular earrings of the day were in the girandole style, named after a type of candelabra. Girandole earrings typically feature an elaborate stud and a decorative (often bow-shaped) central design, suspended with three pear-shaped motifs. Although girandole earrings were the most popular choice, the style also carried over into brooches, pendants and chatelaines – the latter being a type of waist adornment that worked like an 18th century handbag to carry items a woman may need, such as thimbles, sewing needles, a small clock, pencil or coin purse.

Wealthy Georgian women had girandole earrings for both daytime and evening occasions, in pierced and clip-on styles. The sheer heft of these magnificent earrings led to ingenious methods to relieve the weight on the ear, including ribbons wrapped into the hair or wires that looped over the top of the ear. Sadly, the impracticality and grandiose style of girandoles meant many of the finest examples were broken down in the 19th century to create smaller earring and pendant sets. Discovering a pair intact is as exciting as stepping into a grand party, like the ones described in Austen’s novels.

Wealthy Georgian women had girandole earrings for both daytime and evening occasions, in pierced and clip-on styles. The sheer heft of these magnificent earrings led to ingenious methods to relieve the weight on the ear, including ribbons wrapped into the hair or wires that looped over the top of the ear. Sadly, the impracticality and grandiose style of girandoles meant many of the finest examples were broken down in the 19th century to create smaller earring and pendant sets. Discovering a pair intact is as exciting as stepping into a grand party, like the ones described in Austen’s novels.

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