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The Six Eras Of Antique Jewelry

Here are a few terms to become familiar with if you’re in the market for antique jewelry.

The act of collecting antique jewelry has been a favorite amongst collectors for decades. With the love of their unique, one of a kind designs being favored by brides especially in the last 5 years, antique jewelry dealers and jewelry designers have seen an increase in sales with the demand for the perfect antique look. What some may not be aware of though is the fact that there are a variety of antique looks available for buyers.

Before you jump and start treading water, here are a few names to become familiar with if you’re in the market for something used but very special.

Georgian Era (1714-1830)

Of all the antique jewelry, Georgian is considered to be the rarest. Named for Kings George I, II, and III, Georgian era jewelry was almost exclusively worn by regal members of society. Many of the items featured diamonds in rose cuts mounted in closed back settings. Because they were not valued for their overall presentation but mainly for their stones or the precious metals, many Georgian era jewelry have been dismantled and are now extremely rare. Rings and brooches are found more commonly than Georgian earrings and necklaces.

Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Like Georgian era jewelry, Victorian era jewelry is named for a monarch: Queen Victoria. One unique characteristic of the jewelry from this era is how the designs reflect the phases of the Queens life. Over the six decades of her rule, Victorian jewelry mirrors her joyful love and courtship with Prince Albert with hearts, bows, flowers and birds.

Upon the Princes’ death, Victoria entered into an almost 20 year period of mourning. It was during this time that the Queen, and many throughout Europe and eventually the United States, began wearing much darker jewelry featuring black enamel, black onyx, and fossilized coal.

Art Nouveau (1880-1910)

Art Nouveau literally translates to “New Art.” Jewelry from this era overlaps with both the Victorian and Edwardian eras and while short lived, it made a major impact on how jewelry designers began crafting their works of art.

It was during this era that many jewelry makers began looking to nature for inspiration and influence for their designs. Many items from this time period feature soft, flowing designs along with new materials such as shell, copper, horn, etc. Some of the more commonly used precious stones are amethyst, opal, amber, citrine and freshwater pearls.

Edwardian Era (1901-1915)

Diamonds, pearls, and platinum are the key materials used during the Edwardian era. The white-on-white appearance of these combinations were considered to be symbolic of sophistication and class, while the designs reflected the refined sensibility and feminine qualities of the period. Jewelers many times turned to Roman, Napoleonic and Ancient Greek art for inspiration.

Art Deco (1920-1939)

Art Deco is the era of bold, symmetrical designs in not only furniture and skyscrapers but also in jewelry designs. The stones were bigger and brighter and began to incorporate more emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. It was also during this time that diamonds began to be presented alongside stones such as onyx, jade, coral and lapis, often in rectangular or triangular geometric patterns.

Retro (1939-1950)

The final era of the antique collections is the Retro era. Sometimes referred to as “cocktail” jewelry, these pieces were bigger and bolder than ever before. As the motion picture industry was booming, so was the everyday woman's desire for the glamour of Hollywood. The stones, while oversized and playful, still reflected a great deal of femininity. Historians attribute this to the fact that women were beginning to enter the workforce during World War II. They traded in dresses for straight-fitting business attire and manicures for wrenches, so jewelry served as an opportunity to add a feminine falir. Many synthetics were introduced during this time and alloys replaced precious metals that were needed for ships, planes and the like.

Antique jewelry shopping may be a bit more involved than most would expect. Each era has produced game-changing designs and each aesthetic is special unto itself. The jewelry pieces that we seek and wear are nice adornments, but they can also be appreciated as mini works of art that reflect the era that formed them.

Did you enjoy this read? Try Art Deco vs Art Nouveau

Since 1979, Bellevue Rare Coins has been a trusted, family-owned business serving the Greater Seattle Area with locations in Bellevue, Lynnwood, Issaquah, and West Seattle. Specializing in gold, silver, diamond, and jewelry purchasing, in addition to dealing in rare coins. We now offer a vast selection of fine, vintage and custom designed jewelry. Visit anyone of our four friendly locations for the best deals selling or buying.

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