Estate jewelry is very commonly confused for retro jewelry, and antique jewelry. In fact it is neither AND both. Estate jewelry is jewelry that is previously owned, no matter what era it’s made.
Periods of vintage and estate jewelry
Jewelry which is termed ‘vintage’ includes many decades or eras. Each era has many different designs. These eras include Georgian, Early Victorian, Mid-Victorian, Late Victorian, Arts and Crafts era, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco and Retro. People confuse Retro with estate jewelry. Estate jewelry is NOT for any particular era, it just means it’s previously owned.
Georgian jewelry (1714-1837)
Georgian era jewelry is handmade, making the quality of each piece variable. Needless to say, Georgian jewelry is very rare. Often featuring nature-inspired designs such as leaves and birds, Georgian jewelry frequently includes precious stones. Memento Mori jewelery was also popular at the time (meaning ‘remember you will die’) and was quite morbid, featuring skull motifs and coffins.
Early Victorian, romantic jewelry (1837-1855)
Like jewelry of the Georgian era, early Victorian era jewelry features nature-inspired designs. Frequently, these designs would be delicately and intricately etched into gold. Lockets and brooches were popular everyday jewelry during the early Victorian era whereas colored gemstones and diamonds were worn during the evening.
Mid-Victorian, grand jewelry (1856-1880)
Because the Grand or Mid-Victorian era corresponded with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, many jewelry pieces have solemn, grave designs. Known as mourning jewelry, the pieces feature heavy, dark stones. Jet, onyx, amethyst, and garnet are frequently found in jewelry from this period. The jewelry also became especially creative during this period. More colorful designs were born featuring shells, mosaics and colorful gemstones.
Late Victorian, aesthetic jewelry (1885-1900)
During the Late Victorian or Aesthetic period, jewelers used diamonds and feminine, bright gemstones such as sapphire, peridot, and spinel. Star and crescent designs as well as elaborate hat pins were also popular. Some scholars believe the aesthetic era began sooner, in 1875, and ended as early as 1890.
Arts and crafts jewelry (1894-1923)
Due to the Industrial Revolution, many jewelry designers rebelled during the Arts and Crafts movement, returning to intricate jewelry designs and handmade craftsmanship. It was common for jewelry of this era to be simple in pattern, made of colorful, uncut stones.
Art Nouveau jewelry (1895-1915)
Designed by Rene Jules Lalique in France and other jewelers in America, Art Nouveau jewelry features natural designs such as flowers and butterflies. Louis Comfort Tiffany made archetypal Art Nouveau pieces, and his pieces are highly sought after today.
Art Nouveau was a style popular from roughly 1895 until World War I. The movement actually began around 1875 in Paris and its influence went throughout the Western world. The movement eventually died out by the end of World War I, but has since continued to be revived throughout the contemporary ages. Art Nouveau jewellery follows curves and naturalistic designs, especially depicting long-haired, sensual women sometimes turning into birdlike or flowerlike forms. Overall the Art Nouveau movement was a romantic one, of imaginary dreaminess, with long limbed ethereal beauties.
Magnificent floral and botanical forms often worked in enamel were inexpensive and became so popular once mass-produced, that the Art Nouveau style declined.
As an art movement today, the style is still admired and followed by new young jewellers. Art Nouveau vintage jewellery is also popular amongst many collectors.
Edwardian jewelry (1901-1915)
The Edwardian period was born when Queen Victoria died and her son Edward became king. During this period, expensive gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds and rubies and elaborate designs were the fashion.
Art Deco jewelry (1915-1935)
Influenced by African, Egyptian and Japanese themes, Art Deco jewelry is famous for its geometric designs, sharp lines, and bright colors. Bakelite, celluloid, enamel and doublets were used more frequently than previous eras. Necklaces were long and bracelets were worn many at a time. Amber and murano beads were worn as well as chokers. Highly polished metals were used for accessories, such as the collectible Whiting & Davis handbags. Designers refer to the “Deco” era as the time between the two world wars. Antique jewelry prices have risen greatly over the past year. This surge in price is due to the increase in cost of diamonds which has been almost 40%.
Retro jewelry (1945-1960)
Inspired by Hollywood, Retro jewelry is colorful, bold and elaborate. Commonly worn were large cocktail rings, bracelets, watches, necklaces and charm bracelets.