What Types of Jewelry Was Worn During the Steamboat Era?

The development of the steamboat era in the United States of America started taking place in 1705 when the first few projects were designed and made. Next was the patenting stage which started after years of work. In 1729, the patenting of steamboats began.

Soon after the patenting, steamboats became standard practice for travel and shipment of cargo. This system continued till the early 1860s and stopped by the advent of trains because they proved to be faster and safer than steamboats.

In that time frame, the evolution of fashion, style, and jewelry saw multiple phases. Diamonds were the most popular, usually set in silver, to enhance their shine. Different grades of silver, alloys, and pure alike were used for making diamond jewelry.

What Caused the Jewelry Evolution?

The change in the jewelry styles was mainly due to the drastic change in the mindset. People started a rebel movement, and the most precise depiction of rebels came forward in more open and liberal clothing styles. The dress styles went from tight, tucked, and heavy to light, airy, and opened.

Women’s clothing started sporting open necklines and soft materials in lighter colours. Open sleeves gave more canvas for the jewelers to work on and make bracelets and arm cuffs to enhance the beauty. It was the ultimate glamorous statement in the steamboat era.

Creating the Demand for Jewelry

Before the 18th century, clothing articles and jewelry were important features defining an individual’s social class. The government made and implemented multiple rules and regulations to ensure the proper classification of people based on their money. However, this discrimination ended in the mid-1800.

The change in the mindset meant that jewelry started becoming more common amongst the masses. With the rise in social gatherings, ornamentation started becoming familiar and entertaining.

Material spoke Money

During the steamboat era, using 18 karats and above the gold’s quality was common for gold jewelry. Goldsmith would make all the jewelry by hand by hammering and tinkering large chunks of gold. The development of the rolling mill made their task easy and fast in 1750.

Apart from gold, silver, steel, and other alloys, combined with multiple stones, were materials of choice for many. Their selection was mainly because of the price, fashion value, and comfort level of the material.

Another critical factor in jewelry designing was the time of the day it was for: Ladies would wear different jewelry day and night.

Day time ornaments:

During the daytime, minimalistic jewelry was fashionable. Women would select a watch, lace pin, necklace, pair of bracelets, and rings. For ears, long or short earrings were routine. A chatelaine was a piece of valuable jewelry to have all the household things bound with a chain.

As for men, their daily life jewels were decorative buttons with expensive stones like diamonds and shoe buckles.

Gemstones used for daytime jewelry were emerald, ruby, topaz, etc., for making necklaces, earrings, bead strands, cameos, and other vintage jewelry. Imitation jewelry was also in trend. The jewelers would use different alloys combined with pearls, fake beads, and glass to make inexpensive and beautiful jewelry.

In that era, the trend for long chains came forward. The deeper necklines of the ladies’ outfits allowed the chain to accentuate the bosom fashionably. To date, women love long chains with low necks and even turtle necks to be uniquely stylish.

The Evening Shimmers:

The jewelry preference for the evenings was in contrast to the daytime attire. The main focus was on diamonds. The most popular diamond articles were necklaces. The jewelers did the placement of the diamonds to make a chain glimmer around the neck. This style got so in the trend that such beaded necklaces of artificial gemstones and glass also came in demand. In some cases, a pendant was also a part of the diamond chain to enhance its beauty.

The jewelers formed backing silver and gold to prevent any tarnish or skin damage to the jewelry.

Glitz and Glimmer Everywhere

The jewelry designed for that era was not limited to one piece being the centre of attention—the jewelers and goldsmiths designed all kinds of components known for their work. Rings, bracelets, armlets, and necklaces were standard. Every type of jewelry has its unique design and making.

Fitting the Finger-Rings


The rings made in the steamboat era were unique in their making. The classic design would consist of a large head in a typical oval or polygon. The star of the show would be the center stone. The outer rim was always minimal in its look, but its décor was expensive.

Diamonds and pearls were in the costly edges, but cut steel was for more reasonable options. The unique feature of these antique rings was inlaying. The inlay of the rim would be hair, paper, and even other gems. Mineralogical rings became a fashion in that era, with inlays made of multiple gemstones.

Holding the Hands-Bracelets


The bracelets of the steamboat era were very different from today’s trends. Firstly, the bracelets were to match the rings. Using the same inlays as rings for the bracelet was the most common practice. Also, the bracelets would be rigid and always in pairs. If the bracelet is flexible, it would be of multiple centrepieces connected by chains.

Bracing the Arms- Armlets

Armlets were common in the 1800s. The cut of the women’s clothes was new and would feature sleeveless arms. The garment-free arm was a canvas for more jewelry, which would be bracelets. The design of the bracelets would be cuff-like, and they were always in pairs. The best place to wear one was above the elbow and below the shoulder.

Beautifying the Ears-Earrings


In the late 18th century, earrings were mainly containing expensive jewels like diamonds t pearls. The early 19th century was different. Flat, geometrical earrings were getting common. Also, some earrings had multicolored stones and foil support.

Moreover, the classic pear drops were a fashion statement in that era. The beginning of the ear cuff was also in that era. An ear support wire was a part of heavier earrings.

Embracing the Neck- Necklaces


The most common necklaces of the steamboat era were either short, highlighting the neck, or inter-linked style long chains, typical for wearing on shoulders.

Bedazzling Impression- Brooch

The designs of the brooches in the steamboat era were very much like rings. The inlays of paper, hair and mini-ivory pieces were standard in brooch designs. Brooches were not very costly because of the artificial stones in their making.

Final Word

The steamboat era came with timeless fashion trends. Jewelry which was common in those days, is still a part of today’s fashion. The 18th and 19th-century jewelry were statement pieces, a sign of freedom, and an indication of love for fashion and art.

The trends of that time are a part of the fashion industry today. The style they invented is timeless. The sense of style today would be completely different if it were not for the trends of the steamboat era.