As your personal jeweler, we are committed to sharing the knowledge we believe is essential before you commit to such a purchase. It is our aim to help you better understand and so, more fully enjoy, estate and antique jewelry.
Estate Jewelry is jewelry that has been previously owned. It can be as new as yesterday or span the decades as far back as the late Victorian and Art Nouveau periods.
Antique Jewelry, although also previously owned, must be authenticated as at least 100 years old, according to the US Customs Bureau. Early Victorian plus Art Nouveau period jewelry qualify as true antique.
Period Jewelry can be estate or antique vintage. This is jewelry featuring characteristics that can be recognized as belonging to a definite design period.
The design periods most likely to be seen span the present through the Victorian. Many overlap but each has a definitive design attitude that separates it from the other.
This was not only a time when America’s stars reigned, it was the period when United States’ jewelry producers came to the forefront. The deep depression and then the war in Europe caused many European jewelry firms to close. At the same time, the US was enjoying an economic recovery, attracting some top European designers to immigrate, adding their talent to America’s rising jewelry market.
The larger than life attitude of the World War II era was followed in the 1950’s and 1960’s by a return to traditional and understated jewelry designs. Now, more tailored styles replaced the bold Retro look and platinum regained popularity while rose gold diminished.
Art Deco Period Jewelry
On Jewelry, Art Deco was strongly influenced by the two preceding periods: Art Nouveau and Edwardian. Responding to the graceful, highly stylized designs of Art Nouveau, Art Deco reinterpreted the naturalistic motifs and free flowing curves with bluntly geometric, symmetrical renderings. New techniques allowed the jewelers of the Art Deco period to borrow the use of platinum and diamonds from the Edwardian period while employing these materials in never-before-used ways. With new precision, Art Deco craftsmen fabricated platinum into intricate shapes and outlines. Then, they cut diamonds into previously unseen shapes including marquises and emerald cuts. This further enhanced their ability to create jewelry highlighting bold, fresh symmetry of design.
A colorful era of "speak easys" and flappers dancing the charleston into dawn, jewelry designers took their cue from this time of vitality. Gone were the pastel colors that marked Art Nouveau. Now dramatic juxtaposition of materials and vivid display of intense colors allowed Art Deco to bold state its fresh design attitude. Diamond or crystal was combined with the stark whiteness of platinum. Black and white resigned as the prime color choice followed by emerald, ruby, sapphire, plus turquoise and coral.
Constraints were put aside in favor of artistic expression; the precious was combined with the not-so-precious – platinum and crystal or diamond and coral were often mingled.
Jewelry designers included the era’s hallmark accessories in their offerings. Jeweled compacts, cigarette cases and cigarette holders were part of the era’s glamour. Cocktail rings, long pendants and bangle bracelets were the popular jewelry choices along with Art Deco’s most notable adornment, the double-clip brooch. Ingeniously designed, this could be worn as a single brooch or broken apart into two, mirror image brooches that reflected the movement’s emphasis on symmetry, offering ornament for right and left lapel.
Edwardian Period Jewelry
This short period, also known as the Belle Epoque, encompassed the reign of King Edward VIII, 1901-1910, the son of Queen Victoria, who was already 56 when he succeeded to the throne. In contrast to Victoria’s era of restraint, Edward VIII is known for ruling during a time of extravagance and sophistication. And, much like recent times when Diana, Princess of Wales, captured the public imagination and prevailed as a style-setter, Edward’s wife, Alexandra, Princess of Wales, defined style for her era.
Total femininity was the era’s ideal and handmade lace, silk, embroidery and feathers were the fashion choice of high society. Complimenting the look, the jewelry emphasized diamonds made to appear as fine and delicate as possible. These exquisite pieces are considered to be among the finest jewelry ever made.
Improved setting and diamond cutting techniques, spearheaded by firms such as Cartier and Tiffany, were initiated during the Art Nouveau period which immediately preceded and overlapped the Edwardian period. Although this was just the beginning of the gemstone cutting progress that would be made during the Art Deco period, Edwardian jewelry capitalized on the design opportunities offered by such dramatic new cuts as the pear shape as well as the technology that allowed for invisible diamond settings.
Platinum was the choice for these settings which extended and enhanced the brilliance and whiteness of the diamonds. Actually, extensive use of platinum characterized the Edwardian period. Skilled designers, understanding and taking advantage of the unique strength of platinum, were able to fabricate jewelry that was extremely thin and lightweight. These masterpieces of engineering included the era’s famous lace-look pieces which showcased open work designs and scalloped patterned edges. Also popular was the millgrained setting, which gained its name from the tiny grains or beads that were created when the thin bead of metal that secured the stone was ridged and textured. This setting technique resulted in an almost invisible rim around a diamond. Another Edwardian setting technique utilized knife edge wires, thin blades of metal with the sharp edge facing upwards, so that the metal was barely visible. Edwardian jewelers reinterpreted the Victorian era bow, creating theirs in platinum with a honeycomb pattern of fine mesh. The era’s distinctive delicate style was also reflected in rings, pendants and brooches. Dress necklines dictated neck ornaments of varying lengths with the "Sautior" necklace and the "Negligee" pendant uniquely Edwardian choices. The Negligee pendant featured two drops of unequal pearls or a firm hanging from either another stone or a thin chain.
Although this was a time when wealth was openly displayed and grand jewelry was in demand, less expensive pieces of great beauty were also enjoyed. Gypsy rings were in demand by both men and women. Bar pins were also popular. Other favorite jewelry items included gold chains, bracelets set with turquoise and pearls as well as half hoop bangles set with pearls, diamonds or other stones and snake rings.