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Glossary of Vintage Jewelry

Glossary of Vintage Jewelry

   • Early Victorian (Romantic) (1837-1855) - In a time of delicacy and modesty, jewelry was designed to coincide with the fashions. Since clothing did not show the ankle or the ear, dress were fitted at the waist, and full to the ground and hairstyles always covered the ear. To adorn this look, hair ornaments, broaches, lockets and bracelets were very popular.

The jewelry often had nature-inspired motifs that were delicately etched into gold. Other designs that were popular were classical Greek and Roman themes, Gothic and Medieval, grapes, vines and leaves, eyes, hands, knots, serpents and hearts. There was a separation between jewelry worn during the day and what was to be worn at night. Bracelets were the most popular kind of jewelry. Gemstones and diamonds were only to be worn during the evening.

The Victorian Period is obviously named for Queen Victoria and during the Romantic Period, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Jewelry from this time is rather rare.

   • Mid Victorian (Grand) (1856-1885) - In the Grand Period, the modesty from the earlier period was lifted and jewelry was built to reflect wealth and prominence. The Civil war was happening in the United States and the role of women in society was changing. Large hoop skirts and corsets became essential and the neckline of dresses lowered making necklaces extremely popular.

Perhaps inspired by the death of Prince Albert much of the jewelry took on darker designs that included solemn, dark and grave designs in addition to anchors, hearts, crosses, beetles, bells, and monograms. The jewelry often featured heavy, dark stones such as jet, onyx, amethyst and garnet. This jewelry is rare probably because of its delicacy. Pieces were built to be large in scale to give the impression of wealth but without the weight.

   • Late Victorian (Eclectic) (1885-1901) - As the century came to an end, women were more involved in the workplace. Clothing was becoming more form fitting and the jewelry took on a more feminine feel. Diamonds were popular and bright gemstones such as sapphire, periodot and spinel were used more often.

Designs such as stars, crescents, birds, flowers, hearts, horseshoes, moon and owl and insects were very popular. Jewelry from this time fun to collect because of its presence in many estates today. As technology advanced, jewelry began to be mass produced which made it less expensive.

   • The Edwardian Period (1901-1910) – At the turn of the century, Queen Victoria died and her son Edward took the throne. The jewelry from this era is more expensive because it features platinum and diamonds and gems such as emeralds and rubies. American women began to lose interest in royalty and turned to stars of the theatre for fashion trends.

   • Art Nouveau (1880-WWI) – The designs of art nouveau often featured flowers, butterflies and other dreamy feminine motifs. The period began in France and gained popularity throughout the western world. Japan became a popular player during this period because they became trading partners with France.

Mostly made in yellow gold, the pieces are still very collectible. Popular designs used were female heads, serpents, dragonflies, flowers, swans, peacocks and bats. The jewelry in the art nouveau period became an expression as art.

   • Art Deco (WW1-WW2) – The birth of the art deco period brought forth pieces with more structure and cultural influences than the art nouveau period. Jewelry design drew great inspiration from the art of the Native American, ancient Egyptian and oriental regions. It also took inspiration from the cubist movement which characterized the jewelry with square and angular features. These pieces were often detailed because of the improved ability to cut both diamonds and colored stones.

Today this day, jewelry from the art deco period remains to be some of the most popular and sought after vintage jewelry.

   • Retro (1940-1950s) – Retro jewelry took its influence from the glitz and glam of the Hollywood lifestyle. These pieces were always bold and elaborate. This time period was really the birth of celebrities as fashion icons. Multi-colored gold was used and a lot of the jewelry was bright and colorful. Large cocktail rings, bracelets, watches, necklaces and charm bracelets were all immensely popular.

Design themes commonly found in the retro period were stylized flowers, space craft, bows, feathers, cornucopias and birds.

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