When someone admires your vintage jewelry and asks what period it comes from, are you stumped? Here is a quick guide to dating pieces that are truly vintage. Basically antique jewelry is any piece over 100 years old and vintage jewelry is considered as that dated between 1940 and 1980, but there are various periods in each of the two classification.
Georgian Jewelry (1714-1837): This jewelry was most often handmade, so that each unique piece varied in quality, depending on the maker. Georgian jewelry often featured shapes from nature, such as birds and flowers. Jewelry from this period included precious and semi precious stones such as garnets, diamonds, coral, and topaz. Georgian jewelry is very rare and highly collectible.
Early Victorian Jewelry (1837-1850):Jewelry from this period, like Georgian, often reflected nature based designs which were commonly etched in intricate gold filigree patterns. Lockets and brooches were very popular during this time period. For evening, one would often wear gemstones or diamonds.
Mid-Victorian Jewelry (1860-1880): This period coincided with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, when she went into a period of mourning for him. Many jewelry pieces from the this Mid Victorian period had a more subdued, austere, and somber design. Mourning pieces made of black jet, onyx and deep red garnets abounded. This period also resulted in different ways of using gems and metals, which resulted in much bolder and more colorful designs. Japanese themes were popular in this period.
Late Victorian Jewelry (1885-1900): This was an aesthetic period of jewelry design, with feminine colors and a big use of gemstones. Hat pins were especially popular as fashion accessories.
Arts and Crafts Jewelry (1894-1923): The industrial Revolution, with the advance of mass technology inspired designers of this period to return to intricate craftsmanship in their designs. The jewelry was colorful with simple patterns.
Art Nouveau Jewelry (1895-1915): The graceful Art Nouveau period started with designers in France and those in America following suit. Look for graceful flower designs with an abundance of dragonflies and other insects.
Edwardian Jewelry (1901-1910): After the death of Queen Victoria, the Edwardian era was ushered in when her son Edward took the throne. This was a lavish period with pearls and diamonds in jewelry with emeralds, rubies and other gemstone accents. Highly decorative and elaborate period.
Art Deco Jewelry (1920-1935): This was a period of bright colors in contrast to each other, as well as a preponderance of geometric shapes and very strong lines. Look for Egyptian, Japanese and African themes. Bakelite and celluloid became very popular too.
Retro Jewelry (1940s - about 1980): The jewelry from this period was elaborate and colorful with an array of gold and gemstones. It had Hollywood for its inspiration, so the retro jewelry was somewhat larger than life in style. This was a period when charm bracelets became a favorite jewelry item.
I will cover these periods in greater detail, with photographs, in later blog entries, but this should give you a general idea of the various time periods.