Do you ever bicker about something relatively irrelevant? Well, what constitutes antique jewelry? There are many opinions on the subject.
Most of us would say that antique jewelry is over 100 years old. Easy-peasy. However, what about the Art Deco period? A lot of incredibly fabulous jewelry was made during that era. Although we have not quite reached 100 years for Deco jewelry, most people would include it in their definition. So, while the consensus is 100 years, we can be flexible and allow common sense to prevail.
What about Ancient Roman and Greek or Egyptian jewelry? Well, we refer to jewelry of this age as antiquities. Exactly where the border lies between antiques and antiquities, is unclear. If I had to hazard an opinion, I’d say let’s count antique from the Queen Anne period (circa 1700). For someone with an English background, antique jewelry runs through the Georgian and Victorian eras and ends after the Edwardian and Belle Epoque eras. In France, the same period would include the Directory, First Empire, Restoration, Charles X, Napoleon III and Art Nouveau era. For most other countries, the semantics may differ, but the period would be roughly the same.
How do we know that jewelry is antique? There are a few guidelines that can help us, but we should always keep an open mind and especially open eyes.
Some metals were rarely or never used in jewelry production before the 20th century (platinum and white gold). Diamonds were often set in silver because it was considered that they looked better in gas light when set in silver. When you see diamonds set in a layer of silver over a base of gold, you can bet that the piece originated in the Victorian era. As for the diamonds, if they are brilliant cut, they were cut after the 1930’s.
There are gemstones that indicate an age. Kunzite was discovered by George Kunz, who worked for Tiffany & Co. around the end of the 19th century. Most demantoid garnets were placed in jewels during the Art Nouveau era. Tsavorite garnets were only discovered in the late 20th century, as were Tanzanites. By definition, a ring with a beautiful blue Tanzanite cannot be antique.
Most jewelry prior to the 20th century was largely hand-made. Findings and techniques prior to the 20th century were limited. If you see an invisibly set brooch with a tubular clasp, well, it’s not Georgian.
To me, nothing made today can compare with antique jewelry. Whereas today, computers and machines are largely responsible for every step of the creative process, in the old days, everything was done by hand. The human mind and personal skills were behind every piece of jewelry. People took tremendous pride in what they created and financial reward was not the supreme goal. Passion shows. Antique jewelry is beautiful.
Antique jewelry is timeless. Most of the pieces of antique jewelry that I see are as attractive and wearable today as they were over 100 years ago. A Georgian necklace in near perfect condition will really set the wearer apart from the pack. It looks as good today as it did 200 years ago and is bound to draw many compliments.
The historical aspect of antique jewelry intrigues me. Not only learning about the period in which it was made, but considering the generations of women (and men?) who wore it before it came into our possession. Who were these women? What did their lives consist of? Where and how did they live? Fascinating stuff.
Now it is our turn to take care of this jewelry for the next generations.
There is a lot to know about antique jewelry. Since you are likely to invest a reasonably significant sum in its purchase, you should be confident that what you are buying is correct and accurately described. You should know that there are no hidden flaws. For this reason, we take a lot of pride in what we do. Firstly, searching out special antique pieces at reasonable costs. Secondly, doing the research and describing the items accurately. Thirdly, answering all of your questions so that you will get exactly what you expected. Our many repeat customers and feedback from happy purchasers encourage us that we are on the right path.