Tudor jewelry can mean a couple of things – jewelry made in the style of that worn by the famous British royal dynasty the Tudors or the centuries-old antiques themselves.
More often than not, however, when we talk about Tudor jewelry, we’re talking about contemporary replicas, made in the style of the jewelry worn by the Tudor royal family and the nobility around them.
But what is Tudor jewelry and what are its defining features? Let’s find out.
History of Tudor Jewelry
The Tudor period of British history lasted for over a century between 1485 and 1603. That was the time of the Royal House of Tudor – a royal house of mostly Welsh origin that was descendent from Penmynydd and Catherine of France.
The Tudor royal house included some of the most famous British monarchs, including the “Bloody” Mary I, King Henry VIII, and the final ruler of the Tudor family, the famous Queen Elizabeth I. As such, the Tudor period also coincided with the well-known Elizabethan Era, itself lasting between November 17, 1558, and March 24, 1603.
Both the Tudor Period as a whole and the Elizabethan Era are considered to be England’s Golden Age and that was very much reflected in the type and value of the jewelry worn by the royal family and wider nobility.
Characteristics of Tudor Jewelry
When we look at Tudor jewelry from today’s perspective, we can almost say that it looks rich but recognizable. And that makes sense, considering that a lot of modern jewelry trends and styles are inspired by the jewelry of the Tudor period – jewelry with big and colorful precious stones, lavishing settings made of lots of yellow gold, and additional stones, all usually in as big a size as possible.
Gold, silver, ivory, copper, and gilded metals were most commonly used for Tudor jewelry, and the pieces made out of them were adorned with any precious and semi-precious stone available at the time. Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, agate, topaz, opals, bloodstone, onyx, pearls, turquoise, carnelian, crystal, amber, coral, and many other stones were used. Even glass “stones” were worn by nobility and royals on occasion, as long as they were made extravagant and gorgeous enough.
Types of Tudor Jewelry
You can find almost all the same types of jewelry pieces that we have today during the Tudor era too. Again, that’s hardly surprising as many types of jewelry were invented or made popular during the Tudor period. Some of the most famous types include:
Typically gold and symbolizing a high office, they were the mark of nobility and fealty and were often exceptionally large and bulky.
Pocket watches were one of the many big inventions during the Tudor period and many were worn as a type of jewelry and not just a utility item. As such, they were often made of solid gold and adorned with precious gemstones.
Also called ear-picks at the time, earrings were equally popular among men and women and could come in various designs, from large golden hoops to jeweled earring pendants.
Also popular among men and women alike, necklaces – or carcanets as they were called at the time – could be either long and heavy gold or silver chains with large pendants or they could be tighter and wider chockers, also adorned with lots of jewels and pearls throughout. Men’s chains were usually much heavier and bulkier while women either wore lighter and thinner chains or wide chockers.
Much more than just a clothing utility item, buttons are jewelry pieces in their own right during the Tudor period. They were made of various precious metals and could be adorned with all manner of precious and semi-precious gemstones. They could also bear the emblem of a particular noble house and would often serve no practical purpose at all but were just jewelry instead.
They could either be worn at the end of a neck chain or ribbon, or they could be worn on other parts of the clothing such as hats, sleeves, and girdles. By the end of the Tudor period, pendants had started to replace the brooch.
Still popular, especially in the first half of the 16th century, brooches were delicate jewelry pieces attached to clothes and garments via small pins. They could have practical purposes such as fastening a cloak but we’re usually just adorned with colorful gemstones or metal emblems and served as jewelry.
10. Rosary Beads
Made of either colored glass or precious stones, they were often worn by the clergy and were used for praying.
Used for shoes as well as belts, buckles served a major practical purpose but were also an ideal item to adorn with precious jewels.
Essentially small decorative cases and pomanders were used to house anything such as perfumes, herbs, or precious items. Interestingly enough, they were often worn as jewelry too. Men and women alike would hang pomanders covered with precious stones from their girdles, belts, or chains.
Tudor clothing was often covered with countless series of jewels and gold called billiments.
Where Can I Find Tudor Jewelry?
Obviously, authentic Tudor jewelry today can only be found in the royal palaces and estates of British mobility as well as in some museums. Modern-style replica Tudor jewelry, however, can be found in many places, both online and on-location.
While there are many stores where you can find Tudor jewelry, we recommend searching on Etsy for an overview of Tudor designs and styles.
Obviously, the quality can vary as does the price – you can find Tudor jewelry for anywhere between several hundred and tens of thousands of dollars. But that variation applies to all other types of jewelry as it’s up to the buyer to choose exactly what quality and value they want.
The Tudor period changed Britain, Europe, and the world in many ways, including in terms of jewelry styles and designs. To this day, many types of jewelry follow the styles of the Tudor period, while other types and designs from other periods have been left behind in history. Regardless, it’s undeniable that wearing a huge Tudor-style golden ring, necklace, or brooch is an easy way to feel like Elizabethan-era royalty for a while.