Have you ever wondered whether there is a difference between antique and vintage jewelry? There is. The key difference is the time period of manufacture. Vintage jewelry falls between 20-100 years old while antique jewelry is usually defined as jewelry crafted more than 100 years ago.
There is another term, estate jewelry. It is used to describe previously owned jewelry. This kind of jewelry is usually acquired from estates or jewelry that has been sold. It can be antique or vintage in nature. Read more about estate jewelry here.
Since antique jewelry is defined as older than 100 years you can imagine a wide range of styles, values and manufacturers of the pieces (like Cartier, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpel). It is usually identified with a particular era. Antique jewelry includes the historic Georgian and Victorian, Art Nouveau and Edwardian design periods. Here is a short description of antique jewelry from each period.
The most popular metals used in this period were yellow gold and silver. White gold was not used in jewelry and platinum had not yet been discovered. All jewelry was created by hand and this resulted in highly intricate and ornate pieces. Popular themes included bows, crowns, leaves, crosses, and feathers. This was the time when hair jewelry, portrait miniatures, girandole earrings, riviere necklaces, and cameos were in demand.
The Victorian era was named after Queen Victoria. The queen was an avid jewelry fan and she would set jewelry fashion trends to mark particular events of her life. This era was divided into the following three sub-periods such as: The Romantic Period, The Grand Period and The Aesthetic Period. The romantic period was characterized by sentimental pieces with motifs including love knots, hearts, crosses, serpents. It was a time when Victoria's husband, Albert, was still alive. After his death, Victoria favored black jewelry made of fossilized coal which set the trend for a mourning jewelry. It was also the time when ancient jewelry styles with ancient Egyptian and Greek motifs were all the rage. The Aesthetic period however, favoured small earrings, brooches and diamond fringe necklaces on delicate chains. It was a time when emeralds, amethysts and opals were used for every day wear.
Art Nouveau Era
During this period, jewelers focused on the setting, not on the gemstone. Horns and ivory played first fiddle, while diamonds were used as accent stones. Brooches often featuding insects, animals and fantasy creatures were prominent. The most opular themes in Art Nouveau jewelry were feminine curves, free flowing lines and abstract concepts.
This elegant and sophisticated period of time was characterized by highly detailed, feminine pieces. Drawing inspiration from 18th century designs, ribbons, garlands, lace and bows were popular motifs. Technological advances allowed for the use of delicate filigree patterns and platinum. Also, milgraining grew in popularity as it added a soft, graceful look to jewelry.
The most common way to come across antique and vintage jewelry is through inheritance. However, only some are privileged to receive family heirlooms, so it could be hard to come by. If you're interested in authentic vintage jewelry, you can check out trusted pawnshops or consignment stores. Many will carry timeless jewelry, including antique statement necklaces and estate engagement rings or bands. Just be sure to find a store with certifications to prove their pieces are authentic and certified.