By Ashley Davis
A Georgian-era ring from antiques dealer The Moonstoned
Recently, a hashtag on my Instagram feed caught my eye: #GeorgianJanuary.

It was popping up underneath posts of rings and brooches from some of my favorite antique jewelry accounts, like @TheMoonstoned, @MaeJeanVintage, @lady_lovelies_curio and @elizabethroseantiques.

The hashtag was coined by @dames_a_la_mode—IRL, Taylor Shelby—owner of Washington D.C.-based Dames a la Mode, a company that creates Georgian-style costume jewelry for “historical costumers, re-enactors, museums, movies and film,” Shelby said.

Shelby is an excellent historical costumer herself, and created her Instagram in 2015 to share not only her costume jewelry, but also her historical costuming projects and inspiration images from different periods.

In 2016 she launched #GeorgianJanuary, a daily challenge in which she asked her Instagram community to post images pertaining to the Georgian era that fit a different theme, one for each day of the month.

“They can be really specific,” Shelby explained, “like ‘necklace’ or really broad like ‘inside.’”

The themes are open to any aspect of Georgian life but many are a particularly good fit for jewelry, such as “blues” and “pastels,” and are embraced by antique aficionados and dealers.

Currently in its third year, the #GeorgianJanuary hashtag currently is linked to more than 7,500 posts.

“I love the Georgian Era and spend a lot of time doing research on the jewelry, costumes and general history from that time period,” said Shelby of her initial inclination to start the hashtag and challenge. “I wanted a way to find others out there in Instagram-land who felt the same. January is always such a bleak time for me because all of the fun of the holidays are over, so I thought it would be a great time of year to spend looking at pretty things.”

Elizabeth Potts, creator of online and New York City by-private-appointment antique jewelry company The Moonstoned, appreciates the camaraderie of the hashtag.

“We are all nerds, critics, historians, preservers and torch-bearers to bring awareness to the beauty of heirlooms,” she said of the antique jewelry community. “In a time where so much jewelry is mass-produced and bought without thought, I hope that #GeorgianJanuary makes people think a little more about their jewelry and what it means to hold onto something that could generate feelings and memories for another 300-plus years.”

Potts counts the Georgian era as one of her favorites for jewelry because of its “sentimentality and incredible level of detail,” noting the prevalence of mourning jewelry, which often features enamel, symbols and the hair of the deceased.

Elizabeth Rose of Elizabeth Rose Antiques, which sells both online on and at a stand at the Grays Antiques Market in London, also remarked on the emotional aspect of jewelry that exemplifies the Georgian period.

Beyond mourning jewelry, she said that themes centered on love and jewelry that functioned as keepsakes and love tokens were extremely popular. These include cameos and portrait rings and brooches, as well as acrostic jewelry, jewelry that spells out messages according to the first letter of a particular gemstone (the most famous example of this is a “Dear” ring, featuring a diamond, emerald, amethyst and ruby.)

Potts said that the use of closed-back settings for diamonds and gemstones is a technical hallmark of the period. “Diamonds, garnets, agates and other gemstones were often placed in their settings with a thin piece of metal or ‘foil’ backing it to help the light reflect through the stone,” she said. “Open settings weren’t really used quite yet. Over time, the backings have mostly oxidized to create this really breathtaking, moody look to the diamonds.”

Rose added that "paste diamonds" (hand-cut glass) and gemstones, particularly in rivière necklaces and girandole earrings, old-cut and rose-cut diamonds, flat-cut garnets, pearls, imperial and pink topaz, and coral were all frequently utilized.

“We see absolutely top-of-the-top craftsmanship with very finely handmade pieces of art,” she said.

Several dealers with whom I spoke via phone and e-mail referenced the quality of Georgian jewelry, particularly the pieces in fine condition today.

Potts explained, “These pieces were all painstakingly made by expert hands without power tools, without electricity, without stores where you can order bits and pieces. Just think about that for a second before you look Georgian jewelry up. They are absolutely achingly beautiful works of art.”

The #GeorgianJanuary hashtag succeeded in converting this Instagram-user to a devotee of the era, at least in terms of jewelry. As February tends to rival January in dullness, might I suggest @Dames_a_la_Mode make #VictorianFebruary a thing?

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