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Late 17th century: The Brilliant Cut
Baroque jewellery focused on maximising brilliance. Developments in gem cutting in the diamond workshops of Paris, Amsterdam and Antwerp produced the precursor of the contemporary brilliant, today the cut of choice for 75 per cent of diamonds.
Gold and silver electroplating became a mainstay of affordable jewellery production after the Birmingham surgeon John Wright developed electroplating baths using potassium cyanide (as toxic as it sounds). Wright and his associates George and Henry Elkington patented the electroplating process in 1840.
1886: Tiffany Setting
The Tiffany Setting for a solitaire elevates the single brilliant cut diamond above the band of the ring, where it is held in place by a circle of prongs. Raising the stone allows light to flow in through the sides, providing extra sparkle. A design now synonymous with engagement rings, it has become the standard setting for a solitaire.
Strong and rigid, platinum came into jewellery followed the development of a means to melt it on an industrial scale in the 1860s. Its particular properties allowed for fine, lace-like settings exemplified by Cartier’s ‘garland’ designs.
1905: Cultured Pearls
Kokichi Mikimoto produced the first hemispheric cultured pearls from Akoya oysters in 1893. It took another 12 years to create spherical pearls, by inserting beads into carefully farmed and controlled oysters.
Early 1930s: Clip-on Earrings
A conservative backlash against the “barbaric” practice of piercing in the early 20th century led to the development first of the screw-backed earring and then the less fiddly clip. The clips encouraged designers to attend to the lobe, rather than create a hanging pendant.
1933: Serti Mystérieux
The invisible setting developed by Van Cleef & Arpels allowed for the creation of flowing surfaces of gemstones uninterrupted by a metal setting. The effect was achieved by sliding calibré-cut stones along thin metal rails that ran through tiny channels cut into the back section of the gems.
The strength and lightness of titanium has allowed for the creation of large, sinuous and very wearable jewels. Since the mid-1980s JAR has used blackened titanium alloys of secret formulation to enhance the colours of pavé set gems that appear to ripple over his work’s naturalistic forms.
1990s: 3D Computer-Aided Design
CAD has made the commissioning of bespoke work more affordable and has reinvigorated the field for small design and production studios. The ability to visualise and calibrate a design in three dimensions down to the tiniest detail makes CAD invaluable for work with fragile materials.
2000s: 3D Printing
This is commonly used with the ancient technique of lost wax casting. Pieces designed using CAD software can be 3D printed in wax and then cast in metal. Designer Jo Haynes Ward praises the amount of detail that transfers to the final piece from the computer visualisation.