Antique and estate jewelry, also known as vantage, changes with era and each era has many designs. When you browse estate sales whether online or physically at stores, auctions, or shows you will find yourself surrounded with the unmistakable air of the past. Those were the times of long and puffy skirts, lacy collars, horses and buggies and ladies, linked arms with gentlemen strolling through the park enticed in social conversations. Ever since the beginning of time, jewelry played an important role in human lives. Starting with twigs, feathers, stones and so on, early people used nature to decorate their bodies with. And it was not much different in the later times of antique jewelry, when metals, gemstones and skill made primitive pieces into most elaborate ones.
Starting with Georgian period from 1714 to 1837 jewelry was definitely inspired by nature with leaves or birds and frequently set with gemstones. Diamonds, faceted with a rose cut, were accessible and worn only by the rich and royalty. A popular jewelry was a snip of hair of a loved one between two pieces of glass or a painted picture hanging from a chain in the neckline. However today Georgian antiques are very rare and therefore very collectible.
Then there were three Victorian segments. Starting with early Victorian estate jewelry, from 1837 to 1850 where again the designs were inspired by nature and romance, with detailed engravings and gemstones. Today estate sales boast with pins, brogues and lockets from that period.
Mid Victorian times from which you find many antique and estate jewelry was called Grand jewelry era. It started in 1860 and lasted to 1880 and was moved by the death of Queen Victoria’s husband. The pieces from this time are gloomy and dark, with solemn looks but very creative. Various dark gemstones like onyx, garnet or amethyst were used.
Late Victorian or Aesthetic (visual) period started around 1885 until the 1900’s. These antiques consist of hat pins, stars and crescents, with diamonds and bright colored gemstones as well as feminine designs which all were implemented into the jewelry.
1901 to 1910 period was called Edwardian, named after prince Edward who took the throne after his mother Queen Victoria died. From those times you’ll find estate jewelry with elaborate designs. Rings for example were made from yellow gold and platinum, often embellished with diamonds and other precious stones like emeralds, sapphires or rubies with delicate filigree resembling lace.
Around 1920’s to 1930’s geometric designs, vivid colors, enamels and sharp lines replaced the romantic curves in antique and estate jewelry from the previous periods. Women showed off wearing many bracelets at a time, glass beads and amber in long necklaces were popular, as well as chokers. This era is called Art Deco and was inspired by Egyptian, African and Japanese cultures.
In 1930’s to 1940’s a ring for example would be made from white and yellow gold with elaborate engravings on the shank sides with various geometric shapes of additional ornaments and enamels. In antique engagement rings you will find that diamonds, which take the center attention, were set in a square white gold box setting, to enhance the size and color of the diamond. Today you can also find many antique and estate charms from that period.
Retro or modern culture jewelry that ranges from 1935 to 1950’s was inspired by Hollywood. Presumably considered as the last part of the antique era, it was also the WWII period. Platinum was not available and yellow gold governed the jewelry market. Synthetic and semi-precious stones were subsidized for genuine gemstones, as the wartime did not allow much luxury. For the first time aluminum and plastic were introduced. Beautiful, daring and complex with large or many stones, would be the description of designs in that period of antique and estate jewelry.