The most wonderful thing about vintage jewelry is not the timeless style and gorgeous design. When you look at those dazzling pieces of vintage gemstones and precious metals, you can imagine the changing world the piece has lived through. Each piece of antique jewelry has a past and a story all its own. Did that ring you just bought belong to a Prohibition-era flapper girl, or a turn-of-the-century robber baron? And that’s one of the most wonderful things about vintage jewelry. Imagining is half the fun.
When it comes to antique and heirloom jewelry, the time period in which the piece was made is a crucial part of its story. Most antique and heirloom jewelry can be separated into four distinct time periods. Each time period has very clear-cut styles that show distinct influences from the time they were made. Knowing the trends of each time period can help you make the right choices when buying or selling antique jewelry.
Victorian-style jewelry is both incredibly unique and hard to find. A signature Victorian piece is the cameo, a silver and pink brooch with a white carved woman at the center. The lady adorning the pin was typically carved from shell, agate, onyx or sardonyx. Cameos were commonly strung on velvet and tied.
Femininity and “purity” were very idealized notions during this time period, and the jewelry from this time makes that very clear. Ornate, feminine metalwork, lots of crystals and understated colors are all signatures of Victorian pieces. The materials and tools jewelry makers had to work with were much more limited, making styles somewhat simpler, and cut from less precious materials. More shell — and other natural and easy-to-work-with mediums — were often used. Gem cuts common to the Victorian era were rose cut, old European cut, miner cutand antique cushion cut.
Jewelry from the Edwardian period is second to none. Edwardian-style jewelry is some of the most beautiful — and valuable — in modern history.
A lot of Edwardian jewelry was influenced by Art Nouveau style, which was very popular during this time. Another large influencing factor for Edwardian style jewelry was U.S. mining. Gemstones were being discovered all over the U.S., and the Klondike Gold Rush was in effect. Platinum also became available for jewelry making for the first time during this period. Access to all of these materials, and metal fabrication technology finally catching up to the artistry of jewelry designers, made for some delightful and timeless Edwardian jewelry.
Complex metalwork, light-colored metals and gemstones and a lacy appearance are all signatures of this era. Production of Edwardian-style jewelry came to an abrupt and undisputed halt in 1914, when World War I began.
Art Deco (1918–1935)
After the end of World War I, a brand-new style burst onto the scene. The war had just ended, women were working and becoming increasingly independent, and the Roaring Twenties were about to begin. As a result, the jewelry from this time period is bold and daring, and features different, geometric designs.
The geometric designs borrowed from Eastern and Native American art, along with the contrast between bright and dark gemstones, made many Art Deco pieces absolutely stunning. Art Deco engagement rings often feature unorthodox colored gemstones, such as black onyx. It was also the first period in which white gold became available for use.
Filigree is the word commonly used to describe the gorgeously complex metal detailing used in Art Deco–style jewelry. The level of craftsmanship needed to create these pieces is unmatched in modern jewelry making. Common gem cuts for Art Deco engagement rings were old European cut, round brilliant and round transitional.
Mid Century (1935–1960)
The simplistic design of jewelry from the Mid Century era almost seem as if it’s a direct response to the intricate designs of the Art Deco and Edwardian eras. This time period’s jewelry features simple metal settings, with “fancy-cut” stones.
The solitaire cut diamond became the signature cut for rings, specifically engagement rings, during this time period. Many “fancy-cut” diamond styles also gained popularity during this time, including heart-shaped, emerald-cut, marquise and pear-shaped diamonds. The basic shift came from a focus not on overall design, but on the centerpiece gems, their cut, and much simpler settings. Perhaps this style represents a post-WWII America that appreciated the simple things in life.
Bellevue Rare Coins specializes in gold buying and dealing in rare coins. We are a family-owned business located in Bellevue and Lynnwood. We also buy and sell silver, diamonds, currency and jewelry. Visit us for a free evaluation.