Everyone loves a story, and antique and estate jewelry offer just that. Antique refers to estate jewelry that is more than 100 years old. Estate jewelry falls under the 100-year mark and is generally from the collection of someone who is deceased. Jewelry by well-known contemporary designers also can be considered estate jewelry if previously owned.
Years of history give antique and estate jewelry a unique appeal. Not only is each piece of estate jewelry one of a kind, but it also offers old-world craftsmanship for a great price. The top-quality craftsmanship exhibited in these pieces is truly an art that is hard to find today.
Victorian, 1837-1901: Colored stones in organic motifs such as snakes, leaves, and feathers were very popular during this period, which spanned the reign of Queen Victoria. Mourning jewelry exhibiting black materials, such as onyx, also is characteristic of the Victorian Era.
Edwardian, 1901-1910: Pearls and diamonds in ornate and delicate designs can be seen in jewelry of this era. The aesthetic was made popular by Princess Alexandria, the wife of Prince Edward.
Art Nouveau, 1880's-1910: Beginning in France, this era yielded jewelry with graceful floral and vine-like motifs.
Art Deco, 1918-1938: Also originating in France, this era produced mostly platinum pieces housing colored stones and diamonds, the latter being more prevalent. Due to the influence of rapid industrialization, Art Deco jewelry exhibits geometric designs of clean lines and symmetry.
Retro, 1940s & 50s: Influenced by Hollywood, the jewelry of this era is vibrant and bold. Gold, particularly rose gold, is seen often in Retro pieces. Cocktail rings are a prolific silhouette for this time.
Mid-Century, 1950s & 60s: Jewelry during these two decades was more delicate in nature. Reminiscent of Art Nouveau, Mid-Century jewelry often uses nature-inspired motifs such as flowers and animals. Diamonds and platinum became popular again after World War II, as did parures.
Modern, mid-1960s to present: Jewelry in this category is more organic in nature. Designers drew inspiration for their abstract designs from other cultures and previous eras. As a result, jewelry styles tended to be Bohemian-esque. As the 1980s arrived, however, no amount was too much or too big. Today, jewelry continues to be varied in style and material, pulling on trends from the past.
Carter Lee Johnson, a native of South Carolina, has a Graduate Gemologist degree from GIA and a background in luxury product development. As head of Smithworks’ Antique and Estate Jewelry Department, she has every piece authenticated and inspected to ensure that it is in wearable condition.