Iconic jewelry trends through the decades – from Victorian times to Art Nouveau

What is often “new” in fashion is often not really. Like new as you are led to believe. Bygone eras can inspire what is in stores right now. But, as consumers increasingly turn to the second-hand market, whether for bags or engagement rings, more of the past is being celebrated at the same time. This intersection of style and history is especially celebrated when examining iconic jewelry trends across the decades that are back. “All types of jewelry are available today, from Antiquity to Medieval and Renaissance periods through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to contemporary times. ” 1stDibs Fine Arts Director and Editorial Director Anthony Freund told TZR. “There aren’t many other collection categories to match this impressive period and scope.”

It’s still possible to find (and buy) jewelry that is centuries old, which is both exhilarating and confusing. For starters, how do you know if it’s genuine? “There are telltale signs to confirm the authenticity of a piece when looking at a diamond or a piece of jewelry from another era” Jewelers of Greenwich St. Says co-owner Christina Gandia Gambale. “The piece is examined by the level of workmanship, the prints or the condition of the stones. Replicas can never mimic these characteristics. Freund also recommends researching the time period you are looking for and asking the seller questions. “You should have no reservations about asking the seller to share any accompanying documents or information about past provenance,” he says. “The extent to which you want (and have to) go to verify authenticity is ultimately related to the price of the coin. If the jewelry is a serious investment, you should continue your research as far as necessary to have peace of mind. He adds that it might even involve taking the piece for approval and showing it to another respected dealer, jewelry historian or museum curator.

The purpose of buying an old or vintage piece of jewelry can be linked to a few occasions. The first that comes to mind is a commitment. Both Freund and Gambale saw their popularity increase with engagement rings from the Art Deco era. “Geometric designs from this period remain important in the minds of buyers when looking for an antique design,” Gambale explains. However, if your purchase is not about a proposition but just a desire to invest in something sentimental, continue with a guide to the different periods of jewelry in the western world that you can still buy now.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of the sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Georgian (1714 – 1835)

National Galleries of Scotland / Hulton Fine Art Collection / Getty Images

This period covered the reigns of five English kings, four of whom were named George. Distinctive factors, Freund explains, include intricate and labor intensive work, stones set in closed frames, and numerous enamels with ribbon and foliage patterns. “Chandelier earrings, River Necklaces, and old cameos were popular in those days, ”he adds. “The price of a Georgian-era coin is expected to exceed $ 1,000 and can go up very high depending on the provenance and materials.” Gambale also says to keep an eye out for bow patterns and teardrop shapes. “They were common elements in this jewelry, which was often over-sized,” she says. “They featured everything from diamonds, sapphires and emeralds to topaz, citrine and amethysts.”

Victorian (1837 – 1901)

Imagno / Hulton Fine Art Collection / Getty Images

The long reign of Queen Victoria strongly influenced the style of jewelry of this era. “He initially embodied romantic jewelry with floral designs and themes symbolizing love, later shifting to black enamel details to represent the period of mourning after Prince Albert. [passing]”Says Gambale. Freund breaks this vast era down into a few main periods. Romantic (1837-1860), with” influences from that era including Classical, Gothic, Renaissance and Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, “Freund says.” He Interestingly, snakes became a popular motif after Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake-shaped engagement ring. ”Then there was the Great Period (1861-1880), after the death from Prince Albert. “Black mourning jewelry became the trend and featured darker designs like skulls and skeletons using onyx or black glass,” he says. “Cameos also grew in popularity. “And finally, the Aesthetic Period (1881-1901), which is punctuated by jewelry motifs like peacocks, flowers, insects and Japanese-inspired shapes.” Diamonds have gone from ultra-luxurious jewelry to a style that can be worn everyday for r a more modest approach to jewelry, ”notes Freund.

Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)

Heritage Images / Hulton Archives / Getty Images

The Art Nouveau period was influenced, Gambale explains, by organic forms and nature. “The designs of this era were inspired by nature (birds, flowers and the female form) and gave off a soft, whimsical feel,” Freund adds. “New materials such as enamel, cast glass and ivory as well as precious stones were common. “

Edwardian (1901 – 1915)

Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Gambale explains that you can spot Edwardian jewelry by its platinum, pearls, and diamonds. “The designs were airy and feminine with exquisite craftsmanship and intricate details,” she says. Freund also explains that Cartier was a new company during this period. “The company has gained popularity because of its elaborate and delicate designs,” he says. “Popular designs included bows, ribbons, and flowers.”

Art Deco (1920 – 1935)

Culture Club / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

“Jewelry made in the 1920s and 1930s combined glamor and luxury and featured geometric patterns and abstract designs using diamonds and gemstones in contrasting colors,” says Freund. He also adds that the jewelry designs of the time reflected relevant artistic movements such as Cubism (with its geometric patterns) and Fauvism (with strong colors). “Ornate architectural and design influences from Asia and the Middle East were also popular during this period,” he says.

Retro (40’s – 50’s)

Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Jewelry considered to be from the retro era features “bold, voluminous gold showcasing larger, less expensive gems like citrine, aquamarine, topaz and tourmaline,” Gambale explains. Freund says jewelry from this era was designed to offset the understated style of the WWII era, so designs like flowers, bows, and butterflies were prevalent. “Cheaper stones and materials were often used because resources were limited in wartime,” he says. “Typically, large semi-precious stones were presented for an impressive and daring look. “


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