Vintage Jewelry – Types, Eras and Maintenance

Posted by on Dec 3, 2016 in Jewelry |

vintage pearl earringsIf you are a fan of vintage jewelry or want to become one, you have a wide scope for shopping extremely stylish pieces. Believe me, you can get styles for your every mood and for whatever liking. Vintage jewelry items also vary tremendously in value as well as significance. Therefore, if you want to be a vintage jewelry savvy, it’s a good idea to gain deeper knowledge about it and then look forward to getting just the right piece for you.

Types of Pieces

You can get any type of piece amongst vintage jewelry, including brooches, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, hat pins, cameos and more. In short, any piece you name and you can get it. Vintage and antique jewelry is classified based on the eras they belong to, such as Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian, Retro, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. You should also have knowledge about its maintenance so that you can wear and flaunt it for long.

Antique and Vintage – What’s the Difference?

You may get confused when particular jewelry is referred to as vintage and other as antique. While the two terms have been used overly or wrongly, you can easily understand the difference between them.

Antique: Antique jewelry is the one which is typically at least a century old.

Vintage: Vintage jewelry is the one that is typically at least 20 years old.

vintage enamel flower brooch

Eras of Vintage and Antique Jewelry

Both these types of jewelry belong to different time spans each of which features a great range of patterns and designs that are based on popular themes of those times. The knowledge about these eras will help you narrow down the choices and understand motifs and materials of the jewelry popular among those eras.

Late Georgian (c. 1760-1837): This is handmade and each piece is unique in style and quality. They are typically light and small pieces featuring classical motifs. Shorter necklaces, miniature portrait jewelry and designs inspired from nature were quite popular in this era. Gemstones like rose diamonds, garnets, topaz and coral were popular. Georgian jewelry is considered to be very rare.

Early Victorian (c. 1837-1850): Similar to Georgian era, early Victorian jewelry featured nature-inspired designs. The pieces are often engraved in elaborate gold filigree creation. Brooches and lockets were popular pieces of this era, while popular gemstones were diamonds and colored gemstones.

Mid-Victorian (c. 1860-1880): This was a mourning period for Queen Victoria due to her husband, Albert’s death. So, this jewelry is known as ‘mourning jewelry’ too and features dark, heavy stones, like jet, amethyst, onyx and deep red garnet, and subdued solemn designs. However, this era also introduced new uses of metals and gems in jewelry and inspired more colorful and bolder designs.

Late Victorian (c. 1885-1900): This era was of diamonds and gemstones having feminine colors like peridot, sapphires and spinel. Hat pins became popular in this era. Crescent and star motifs on brooches and lace pins were also popular.

Arts and Crafts (c. 1894-1923): The industrial revolution and mass technology made designers of this period react to return to the craftsmanship of earlier days. This jewelry was normally handcrafted in simple, clean patterns featuring uncut, colorful stones.

Art Nouveau (c. 1890-1915): The elegant Art Nouveau style was led in France by Rene Jules Lalique and in America by others and featured designs inspired from birds, plants and insects. This jewelry also shows an Asian influence in designs.

Edwardian (c. 1901-1915): This is the period of reign of Queen Victoria’s son, Edward. It was a lavish period and gave rise to diamond and pearl jewelry embellished further by rubies, emeralds and other radiant gemstones set in intricate designs.

Art Deco (c. 1920-1935): This jewelry features strong lines, geometric shapes and vivid color contrasts. Designs were influenced by Japanese, African and Egyptian themes. Popular materials were celluloid, Bakelite and enamel. The most popular piece of this time was bracelets. Necklaces used to be very long and featured Venetian beads and amber. Glass beads and imitation pearls were also popular.

Retro (c. 1940): Retro jewelry is colorful and intricate and has unique shades of gold and brilliant gemstones like aquamarine and citrine. Inspired mainly by Hollywood, retro jewelry was glamorous. Bracelets, big cocktail rings, necklaces and watches were popular types.

vintage snake necklace

Popular Vintage Jewelry

While vintage jewelry includes an extensive range of styles from across the world, certain pieces are especially popular among collectors.

Bakelite Jewelry: Also called Catalin, Bakelite is a synthetic dense resin and can be carved and molded into jewelry and other things.

Book Chains: Book chain jewelry of Victorian-era was made from rectangular engraved links that resemble miniature books.

Cameos: A cameo features an elevated relief image on a stone or shell. Mostly portraits of women were the commonest cameos.

Celluloid Jewelry: Made from one of the oldest types of plastic, celluloid jewelry was developed first in the late 1800s. Celluloid was produced from a plant fiber and was used to make numerous objects such as hair accessories commonly studded with rhinestones.

Doublets: These are two pieces of cheap jewelry (normally a garnet and a colored glass) tied together to produce an illusion of an emerald, ruby or some other precious gemstone.

Filigree Jewelry: This is an ornate handiwork of silver or gold wire twisted to make intricate patterns and fused in place.

vintage cameo

Maintenance of Vintage Jewelry

Vintage jewelry should be handled and stored with care so as to preserve its beauty and value. You have to remember only a few tips.

  • Wear it carefully, as vintage jewelry is hard to repair
  • Remove vintage jewelry while handling household cleaners or being engaged in physical activities.
  • Store pieces separately in soft pouches that can be zipped up. This will protect jewelry from dust and weather elements.
  • Use soft cloth, baby wipes or glass cleaner to remove dirt from stones.
  • Don’t place vintage and antique jewelry under running water.
  • If you are uncomfortable cleaning your vintage jewelry, you can take it to jewelers that offer professional cleaning for vintage jewelry.
  • Cameos need special care because they can discolor and even crack with age and dryness. Store them in a dry and clean place and clean them once or twice a year with a soft toothbrush and a mild soap solution.

Visit the Etsy vintage jewelry shop of VicioVintageGoods to see fabulous pieces of vintage jewelry. Some of them have been shown in this article too.

vintage pearl earrings