Identifying vintage Jewelry

by Erum

Estate jewelry or vintage jewelry is often known as period jewelry too. Jewelry thus classified may belong to many eras such as Georgian, Victorian and Art Nouveau. What do all these terms mean? How do you identify which era a particular piece of jewelry belongs to? We search for answers for all these questions and come up with some interesting insights in the process.

Introduction:

Estate jewelry or vintage jewelry is often known as period jewelry too. Jewelry thus classified may belong to many eras such as Georgian, Victorian and Art Nouveau. What do all these terms mean? How do you identify which era a particular piece of jewelry belongs to? We search for answers for all these questions and come up with some interesting insights in the process.

Historians and jewelry professionals are divided as to the exact time period each era lasted. But for clarity's sake we will skip rigid timelines and dates adhering instead to general periods. Another important thing to be aware of is that not even an expert who has been dealing in antiques and vintage jewelry for years can say with perfect assurance what era a piece may belong to unless it comes with provenance and/or is signed. This is due to the fact that many of the eras overlap, many jewelry manufacturers have copied vintage pieces convincingly and also many a times a piece may be a mix of two styles or eras. So what is a jewelry lover to do? The first step is read up! Knowing as much as you can about these pieces and seeing as many examples of the work you can will help you in understanding the jewelry even if you may not be able to identify it conclusively. And when you do decide you buy after research and taking expert advice, you can always go in for a second opinion to be sure. So, let's get started!

Georgian jewelry

The earliest style recognized as period jewelry is Georgian jewelry. Named after the English monarch King George and subsequent heirs this period of specific jewelry design lasted from sometime in the early 1700 till mid 1800s. This style of jewelry was defined by hand-made ornate and intricate pieces and has left behind such legacies as the chandelier earrings and three strand concentric necklace. In keeping with the opulence of the times, diamonds were the choice of gemstones in this period. Filigree (using thin wires to create lacy, openwork designs) and repousse (working at the back of the metal to create a raised pattern at the face) techniques were used extensively.

Victorian jewelry (Romantic Period)

The Georgian Era was followed by the Victorian era- thus named after Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837. The early Victorian years were also referred to as the 'Romantic Period'. The designs in this era combined many different styles to fit the idea of purity, innocence and romanticism. The motifs used were floral, avian, or other nature-inspired themes like fruit and creatures. By the end of the Romantic period agate (a type of banded quartz) and Celtic motifs were being used abundantly in lockets and pendants. Cameo brooches carved from agate, sardonyx or conch shells were popular items of this time. This era was not high on precious stones and diamonds, instead Wedgewood ceramic, Limoges enamel painting and glass gemstones were used in jewelry.

Victorian jewelry (Grand Period)

A new period of mourning known as the mid-Victorian or Grand period followed the Romantic period. This period coincides with the death of the Queen's husband and so the jewelry is more of a mourning jewelry type. It consisted of dark, melancholy shades of red, purple and black set with stones such as black onyx, garnet, amethyst and jet.

Victorian jewelry (Aesthetic Period)

After the mid-Victorian period it was the "late Victorian" period (also known as the Aesthetic Period) that lasted till 1900. In this era, the design which was burdened by dark mourning jewelry escaped to a brighter and more fun place. Diamonds came back in a big way as new mines were discovered in Africa. Multi-colored gemstones such as spinel, sapphire and peridot were used in heavenly body-inspired designs such as stars and crescents.

Arts and Crafts jewelry

From the late 1800 till the beginning of the 1900 the Industrial revolution inspired jewelry known as arts and crafts jewelry flourished. Jewelry during this era was simple, nature inspired and not very extravagant-either in choice of metals or gemstones. Copper, brass and silver was used, rather than gold and gemstones were used more for their bright colors and aesthetic appeal rather than monetary value. Pearls, moonstones, opals and turquoise were popular during this time.

 
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