Period pieces have a special
appeal to nostalgia buffs and as well as cutting edge
consumers. Owning and wearing a piece of jewelry from
a bygone era is a way of honoring and appreciating the
past. The popularity of antique jewelry continues to grow
as more people discover the timeless beauty and remarkable
craftsmanship of each period. Flowers, hearts, bows and
birds inspired beautiful pieces which showed the craftsmanship
of the Victorian age. Jewelry which was created during
the Art Nouveau period embodied art for the sake of art,
as well as a dramatic trend in fashion. Light and airy
designs became hallmarks of Edwardian jewelry. During
the Art Deco period, the emphasis shifted from soft colors
and flowing lines to bold, bright colors and straight
Georgian Period - 1714 to 1830
The Georgian Period is the earliest that
we have information on. Until modern times gemstones,
diamonds and precious metals were very rare and these
materials were recycled into later styles of jewelry.
For this reason very little early Georgian jewelry survived.
Most Georgian jewelry available is from the later dates
characterized by highly dimensional repouse. Floral and
scroll motifs are typical of the period. Garnets, precious
topaz, coral and early fully faceted diamonds set in silver
Period - 1835 to 1890
The Victorian Period is named for the reigning
monarch who was reputedly an incurable romantic. Victorian
Jewelry virtually drips with sentimentality (she wore
a bracelet worn from her children's teeth!) and symbolism.
Of all the periods Victorian incorporates the most varied
and eclectic motifs. Influences include Egyptian, Renaissance
and Etruscan. It is composed almost exclusively of yellow
gold , often with contrasting black and cobalt blue enamel.
Diamonds were set in silver topped gold. About
Victorian Mourning Jewelry. About
Antique Bohemian Garnet Jewelery.
Nouveau Period - 1890 to 1910
Natural forms inspired Art Nouveau Jewelry.
Female forms, dancers, nymphs, mermaids, water lilies,
flowers, dragonflies, and flowing lines are recurrent
motifs. Colors were applied with fired enamels and quite
often with plique azure, translucent enamel evoking stained
/ Belle Epoch Period - 1890 to 1915
Edwardian jewels are delicate, romantic,
feminine and lacy. Edwardian and Belle Epoch jewels were
usually composed of platinum and diamonds an often with
natural pearls. The workmanship is highly detailed, open
and airy. Bows and garlands were a popular theme.
Deco Period - 1915 to 1935
Art Deco Jewelry depicts the modern age.
Designs are streamlined, geometric, symmetric, and highly
stylized. Think Empire State Building and Golden Gate
Bridge. This was also the time when the gemiest gemstones
were being mined: Kashmir sapphires, Burmese Rubies, Old
Mine Muzo Emeralds, and Lightning Ridge Opals.
Period - 1940 to 1945
Retro Jewelry, we are back to gold and
notably rose gold, due to the short supply of platinum
that was required for the war. I think of retro as the
golden age of Hollywood glamour jewelry: Joan Crawford,
Marlena Detrich, Greta Garbo. There is nothing subtle
or demure about it. Over-sized, dramatic, deco-inspired
designs, but very often asymmetrical and whimsical. Rubies
were all the rage but also many semi-precious stones were
used: Citrine, Aqua, Amethyst and Moonstones in large
Mid-Century (as in 1950's). The fabulous
Fifties! Mamie Eisenhower! We are back to platinum and
diamonds but seemingly in direct opposition to prewar
Art Deco style. Lots of abstract, free-form, linear and
floral designs with overlapping and pavé diamonds.
More flash that finesse.
Many styles overlap decorative
periods and there are no precise beginnings and endings
to style trends. Aurora
Borealis stones were first created in the early to
mid 1950s by the
During the mid 18th century,
there was an increased interest in faux jewelry as a result
of a surge of highway robberies as well as a trend in
European societies to avoid wearing precious jewels, especially
after the French Revolution. As a result, a new type of
stone was invented, called "Paste", which in
essence was a special lead glass that could be hand cut
and hand faceted to create an exact diamond look-alike.
These stones would then be foiled (with a type of aluminum)
and set in silver to bring out the brilliance of each
stone, before being backed in gold (a process similar
to their more expensive counterparts).
Often paste jewelry was an exact replica of a diamond
piece that was worn, and if so, it was usually made by
the same jeweler. It is important to realize that the
paste pieces were made of equal craftsmanship as the precious
jewels, and was so sought after at this time, even by
Short History of Pinback Buttons
pinbacks were printed on paper and mounted under a protective
layer of transparent celluloid. By 1920, pinback manufacturers
had started sing lithographed tin. Pins called "cellos"
made since the 1950s are actually coated with acetate,
not celluloid. Today you can find new buttons of either
In the late 19th Century,
cigarette and gum companies began to include pinback buttons
in their packs of cigarettes to help spur the sale of
their products. Among the first pins issued around 1896
were R.F. Outcault's famous character, The Yellow Kid.
These pins were issued with both open backs and closed
backs. In the open backs a paper advertisement was inserted,
to remind customers of the product. Yellow Kid pins are
generally found with High Admiral Cigarette paper inserts
and the closed backs are considered to be much scarcer.
Around 1910, cigarette companies
revived the practice, started in the late 19th Century,
and began to issue pinback buttons in their cigarette
packs. To accomplish this -- through the manufacturer
of the pins, Whitehead and Hoag -- several famous comic
artists of the time were hired to create a series of comic
pins. Among those hired were Ham Fisher, creator of Mutt
and Jeff; R. Dirks, creator of The Katzenjammer Kids;
and Rube Goldberg, whose creative talents were so recognized
that his name is now part of the English language. These
celluloid pins are all signed in the pin by the artist
and were produced in colour, black line on a white background
and white line on a dark blue background. The colour pins
are the most commonly found followed by the black and
white pins. The white line pins were produced in much
lesser quantities than their predecessors and therefore
are much more difficult to find.
Pinback buttons became a
popular feature in the late '20s and early '30s for political
campaigns, and collectors prize many of these highly.
Pure (24K) gold is too soft to be appropriate
for everyday wear; therefore, gold jewelry is made of
a mixture of gold and other metals (such as silver, copper,
nickel and zinc). The K (karat) number tells us what fraction
of 24 parts of the alloy are pure gold; ie., 14K is 14/24,
or 58.33%, pure gold. The metals used in the alloy also
determine the color of the gold; a greater percentage
of nickel gives white gold its color, while a high percentage
of copper lends a reddish tone to rose gold. While gold
itself does not tarnish, these alloying metals can sometimes
cause a piece to darken with time, or leave a dark residue
on the skin. In Europe, gold is marked with a number indicating
the gold content as parts per thousand; ie., 18K gold,
which is 75% pure gold, is stamped 750.
Platinum is rarer, and therefore more expensive,
than gold. It is grayish-white in color, non-tarnishing,
and very strong.Very high temperatures are necessary to
melt platinum; therefore, it did not become a viable jewelry
metal until advancements in jewelers' tools were made
in the late 1800s. It became the most popular jewelry
metal in America in the 1920s; its durability made it
the ideal choice for the lacy filigree styles of the period.
Jewelry platinum is an alloy, usually 90% platinum and
10% iridium. Platinum jewelry is typically stamped "Plat."
Because silver tarnishes easily and is
less durable than gold or platinum, it is not considered
an ideal metal for setting precious stones. However, until
the introduction of platinum and white gold alloys in
the late 1800s and early 1900s, silver was the only white
precious metal available. It remains popular as a jewelry
metal because it is more plentiful, and therefore much
less expensive, than gold and platinum. Sterling silver
is 92.5% pure silver; such pieces are often marked "SS,"
"Sterling," or "925." Coin silver
is 90% silver and is sometimes marked "900."
German silver and nickel silver are misnomers for alloys
of other metals that contain no silver at all.
Palladium is a member of the platinum metals
group. It is harder, lighter and less expensive than platinum.
It was used in jewelry manufacturing during WWII as a
substitute for platinum (which was restricted, being considered
a strategic metal).
Popular in eighteenth century France, vermeil
pieces were made of sterling silver and coated with gold
("silver gilt"). Production was banned in the
early 1800s, however, when it was discovered that the
mercury used in the process caused the craftsmen to go
Pinchbeck is an alloy of copper and zinc,
discovered by Christopher Pinchbeck (1670-1732). It was
popular in the eighteenth century as a gold look-alike;
ladies often had their favorite gold pieces reproduced
in pinchbeck to take with them on their travels. Its popularity
waned in the mid-1800s with the legalization of 9K gold
and the invention of the electrogilding process. Pinchbeck
is rarely seen today