Start free trial

Home > News, Articles & Multimedia > Articles > Antique Jewelry Stands Test of Time

Antique Jewelry Stands Test of Time

by Sandra Lee Stuart (02/13/09).

“Love is all around, no need to waste it . . .”

Wait a second, Mary Richards of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” was not particularly romance adept. Maybe it wasn’t her fault. Perhaps potential beaux should have showered her with, let’s say, antique jewelry. Then the nerdy IRS auditor played by Paul Sand might have made an inroad into Mary’s affection.

Jewelry, we are asked to believe, is a human phenomenon. The desire and need to adorn the body is not a consideration of bird, fish and even other primates. (Though, one might wonder if blessed with a credit card, Tarzan’s Cheetah might have given a spectacular set of earrings to his chimpy love.)

There is evidence that cave guys and gals wore stag teeth on a twine necklace as adornment. The Egyptians? All you have to do is check out their tombs. We’re talking magnificent rings, pendants, bracelets, earrings, necklaces. Amulets and certain types of stones were believed to have mystical powers. Wear them and be blessed.

Ancient Egyptian amulet

Ancient Egyptian amulet

(Photo courtesy of the Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)

And so it went through the decades and centuries. There were times when religious and secular leaders sought to restrict what was kosher to wear. For instance, in the 13th century, sumptuary laws were passed in Europe that frowned upon showiness. If you were a simple townsperson who lived in France or England, you had to forget about wearing clothes with gemstones, gold, silver or pearls.

Antique jewelry we find today is often from the Victorian era. Queen Victoria, who ascended to the throne in 1837, may not have a great beauty, but many beautiful, romantic pieces were created during her reign.

1880 double heart moonstone pendant

1880 double heart moonstone pendant

Victorian sapphire-and-pearl ring

Victorian sapphire-and-pearl ring

If you’d love to have the exquisite pendant, click here. Has the ring captured your fancy? Click here.

This period also gave rise to machine-made jewelry with centers in Germany, Birmingham (England) and Providence, Rhode Island. Though disparaged by some in the upper class, fine- quality items were produced.

In the mid-19th century, Charles Lewis Tiffany bought up diamonds from European royalty strapped for cash. He reset them and sold them in his New York City store. Wealthy American women so loved the sparklies that they wore them in brooches, chokers, pins, hair adornments—all at the same time. Europeans took this as proof that their cousins across the Atlantic had no taste.

Belle Époque diamond-and platinum ring

Belle Époque diamond-and platinum ring

Edwardian brooch

Edwardian brooch

1910 diamond-and-platinum ring

1910 diamond-and-platinum ring

Marie E. Betteley is offering these three magnificent items. To learn more about the Belle Époque ring, click here; the brooch, here; and the diamond-and-platinum ring, here.

Queen Victoria popularized a peculiar tradition, that of mourning jewelry. After her beloved consort, Prince Albert, died in 1861, the Queen went into intense bereavement that lasted until her own death in 1901. Following her example, mourning was a rigid ritual. For instance, following the death of a husband, the widow had to wear all black and weeping veils for at least two years. Clothes right down to petticoats had to be made from certain types of fabric. She had to carry mourning handkerchiefs. And when jewelry could be worn, it had to be, of course, black.

Queen Victoria favored black amber, or Jet. Often pieces of the deceased’s hair were incorporated into rings, necklaces, earrings and watch fobs. Such items today are prized—if a little creepy.

Victorian mourning brooch with braided hair

Victorian mourning brooch with braided hair

For more information on this brooch, visit GoAntiques.

The end of the 19th and early 20th century gave way to lighter styles. The Art Nouveau period (1890-1910) produced exuberant, fanciful pieces with images of flowers, animals and humans. Many of the baubles were enameled using a technique called plique a’jour in which gold and silver filigrees run through transparent glass enamel.

Art Nouveau enamel pendant

Art Nouveau enamel pendant

Learn more about this delightful piece at GoAntiques.

Cocktail jewelry became the height of fashion in the 1920s. So what if the “gems” were glass? If it was good enough for Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, it was good enough to be flaunted. And when World War II rationing of metals stopped fine-jewelry production, costume jewelry became even more acceptable.

1920 Galalith plastic bracelet

1920 Galalith plastic bracelet

Add this fun piece to your costume by visiting GoAntiques.

Need a romantic little hideaway for some of your trinkets? Check out this sweet Limoges box and this one, too.

Hand-painted Limoges box

Hand-painted Limoges box

Hand-painted Limoges trinket box

Hand-painted Limoges trinket box

If you want to score some serious “smooch” points on Valentine’s, consider what has worked through the ages—beautiful jewelry.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

Want a picture icon with your comment? Sign up with Gravatar to get one.

Leave a Reply