It’s about status, power and class.
Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton is getting as much attention for its sumptuous costumes as it is for its lovelorn and gossipy storylines. Set in Regency England, the eight-part period drama based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling romance novels features a cast of aristocratic characters in various states of love, lust and chicanery. Throughout the series, they dance away their evenings at endless lavish balls decked out in magnificent gowns and glittering jewels.
But beyond just sparkle (And that it most certainly did!) the jewelry also revealed the hierarchy of its characters. Naturally, the brazen queen bore the most extravagant jewels—big chokers, layers of jeweled necklaces and gem-encrusted tiaras; the aristocratic Bridgerton women donned elegant diamond and pearl jewels; and the brassy, social-climbing Featherington family wore flashy, colorful baubles.
The show’s central character, the painfully innocent Lady Daphne Bridgerton, began the series wearing delicate diamond necklaces and earrings, but once she gained the stature of duchess, her jewelry became more prominent. After all, a lofty title pays off.
Diamond Jewelry: A Must-Have at Every Ball
“Jewelry added a layer of sumptuousness to our characters,” said the show’s award-winning costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick. “The sparkle of diamonds lit up the scenes and added an element of magic and illusion, they transported you to another time and place.”
Mirojnick and a costume crew that numbered 232 people assembled a staggering 7,500 items of clothing and accessories for the series, including more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry. “There were at least 100 women at each ball, and each needed different jewelry, which always included a necklace and earrings (not necessarily matching), and a tiara or headpiece,” she explains. Lady Daphne Bridgerton alone had an astonishing 104 costume changes in just eight episodes.
Unsurprisingly, the jewels on set were mainly costume pieces, as it would have cost many millions of dollars to outfit the cast in real period diamonds and gems.
In Pursuit of Period Jewels
Outfitting the cast of Bridgerton required an army of people to research and, in most cases, recreate period clothing and accessories. In the case of jewelry, Mirojnick didn’t stay true to the Georgian jewelry of the era but opted to reimagine pieces that spanned different periods. “Most of the jewelry we used looked like it came from the 18th century, but truthfully, it didn’t matter if it came from the 16th or 19th or 18th centuries, as long has it had the right feel and look,” she said.
“We scoured the world for jewelry, and we had an amazing artist and jeweler who was able to recreate a lot of the jewelry that we used on the principal characters,” Mirojnick said.
Jewelry played an essential role in establishing each character’s persona, be it demure, loud or outright obnoxious. The silk gowns, both Regency style and Rococo, ranged from the Bridgertons’ elegant icy pastel and cream hues, to the Featheringtons’ loud and bright floral prints. The style and color of jewels were aligned with the spirit of each character and her clothes.
The jewelry highlights included Lady Daphne Bridgerton’s delicate diamond necklaces, especially one with a diamond cluster at the nape of her neck which was reproduced from an antique necklace. “It was precious and beautiful and felt like Daphne,” explains Mirojnick. “All Daphne’s things had to be tiny because she is so tiny, and her character is so refined and simple.”
While Lady Daphne shined in graceful diamonds, the Featheringtons represented new money and they were far splashier, which led to bigger, bolder, and more colorful gemstone necklaces. The family’s signature symbol is a butterfly, so the crew created a butterfly necklace for Penelope in bright colored stones and enamel, while her mother’s bold jewelry styles were deliberately overpowering.
A Central Character: The Royal Diamond Necklace
In one frustrating scene, a confused Lady Daphne leaves a ball and rips off her diamond necklace, which was given to her by the Austrian Prince who was seeking her hand in marriage. She leaves the extravagant necklace—a piece copied from an original royal necklace, using crystals and tiny pale stones instead of diamonds—in the garden, and never returns; we never learn who finds the royal treasure.
The Queen’s Jewels
Like in any court, the biggest jewels belong to the queen. A big, bold character in the series, the queen appears layered in color-coordinated fabrics, accessories, jewels and wigs. In some scenes, the jewels were heavy in rubies, but more often diamonds and pearls were the most prominent. “The large amounts of diamonds and pearls we used on her would be similar to what the late Karl Lagerfeld would have used in his Chanel shows,” says Mirojnick.
The costume designer says the jewels added an intangible quality to the scenes, something that could only come from big diamonds and gems. “The jewelry inspires your imagination to wonder, to think about who wore these, and what their story was.”