History of Antique & Vintage Jewelry

History of Antique & Vintage Jewelry

At Jessop’s you will find an array of vintage & antique jewelry from a late Georgian (1820 – 1830) piece to moderne. While we define vintage jewelry by period, it is more accurate to classify the jewelry by design and construction because styles stayed current for longer periods and did not evolve as quickly then as now. Let us offer you a brief overview of the estate styles you can find at Jessop’s:

Victorian – There are three loose time divisions for Victorian jewelry.

The early Victorian period (1837-1859) is typified by romantic motifs. Rare examples are rings that spell regard or dearest in gemstones. Hair jewelry was popular during this time, both for mourning and as a love token. Bracelets were worn in pairs. Scottish agate jewelry was a favorite, especially in the 1840s. And because hairstyles covered the ears, earrings were not in fashion.

The mid-Victorian period (1860-1879) introduced hairstyles that showed earlobes and subsequently, pierced earrings. Ladies loved to wear necklaces and bracelets with gold tassels and fringe, cameos, and pins and brooches with mosaic or inlay. Queen Victoria's beloved Prince Albert died in 1861 and the U.S. Civil War took its toll. Mid-Victorian period jewelry reflected the tone of the time - black jewelry of every kind, often accented with seed pearls to represent tears, mourning hair jewelry and lockets with compartments to keep a loved one's hair.

Discovery of the electric light during the late Victorian period (1880-1900), in conjunction with South African diamond discoveries in 1867, put the spotlight on diamonds. The diamond solitaire ring was introduced in 1886. And beginning around 1890, jewelry makers started to use platinum. Early platinum pieces were backed in gold.

The Edwardian period (1900-1918), or Belle Epoque as it was referred to in France, is noted for lacy, feminine looks, such as very delicate filigree patterns in necklaces and brooches, crafted in platinum and accented with diamonds. The result was a glittering all-white look.

Life began to speed up during the Edwardian period. As cars and planes took off and movies and phones were introduced, another major style movement developed. The hand-crafted jewelry of the Aesthetic, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau movements were statements of anti-mechanism and often the jewelry showed influences of more than one movement. Gold and silver were the metals of choice; moonstones and turquoise were the preferred stones; and the styles were greatly influenced by natural subjects, such as the female form, flowers, leaves and insects, especially the dragonfly.

Vintage jewelry, after the Edwardian period, became a style rather than a defined historical time. Moderne or Modernistic designs were introduced during the 1920s and 1930s with signature touches like straight-line diamond bracelets, long earrings to offset short hairstyles, half-moon and bullet-shaped diamond accents, and a vastly improved cut of diamond - the modern round brilliant. Much of this jewelry is what we today call Art Deco.

The decade between 1935 and 1945 brought many jewelry changes. Platinum was banned from jewelry making because the metal was vital to the war effort. The look was bold in gold rings and brooches set with large, but less expensive, gemstones like citrine and amethyst; the padded-shoulder fashion for women needed larger jewelry for balance. Buckle bracelets were big, dress clips were popular, and gold in rose, bi- or tri-colors was tied into bows and knots for pins and brooches. The look referred to as Retro describes much of the 1940's style.

Platinum returned to jewelry making after the war and by the 1950s, ear clips, pins and charm bracelets were popular, along with twisted-chain necklaces.

Jessop's buys entire estates from modern treasures to antique heirlooms

Jessop's buys entire estates, as well as individual pieces. We are interested in jewelry from all periods - antique to modern. See Jim Jessop directly, call (619) 234-4137, for a private appointment with him to discuss liquidating estate jewelry.

Jim will review your jewelry, discuss the values with you, and once everything has been finalized, he will pay you immediately. Generally, Jim will offer outright purchase for jewelry, although consignment may be an option.

Welcome to Jessop Jeweler
Stay Informed About Specials & Events
Sign up for our email newsletter