Professional Jeweler Archive: Selling Antique-Inspired Jewelry

May 2004

For Your Staff/Selling Jewelry Styles


Selling Antique-Inspired Jewelry

Heirloom styling is everlasting, but knowing how to guide customers through the time periods and design movements inspiring the piece will help your future


Victorian (1837-1901)

This era encompasses three periods. Early Victorian design, during the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, often incorporated Gothic and Renaissance styles in 18k-22k gold. The mid-Victorian era coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which also enabled mechanized gem mining and mass-production of jewelry embraced by the growing middle class. Jewelry of this period was more decorated, because increased supplies of colored gems, pearls and South African diamonds made it more economically feasible. Following the death of Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, styles changed as the Queen adopted somber mourning jewelry that typically included black onyx, tortoise shell and hair – often horse hair – set in heavy goldwork.

14k gold reproduction pin features two 4mm cultured pearls, 0.40 carat of diamonds and black enamel accents. K. Goldschmidt Jewelers Inc., New York City; (212) 819-0950.

Art Nouveau (1890-1915)

Coming out of the dour period of late Victoriana, Art Nouveau was typified by the interplay of light, color and flowing lines throughout the decorative arts. The emblematic jewelers of this period – Louis Comfort Tiffany, René Lalique and Georges Fouquet – were inspired by nature and classical mythology. Flowers, dragonflies and goddess-like women were often surrounded by ethereal vines or wings. These jewels also used new materials – including shell, horn and moonstones – and enameling techniques. Art Nouveau jewelry gained value more from its beauty and design than from the worth of its materials.

Reproduction pliqué à jour enamel Heda Fairy pendant brooch is by Nouveau 1910, Princeton Junction, NJ; (609) 936-0064.

Edwardian (1901-1914)

Concurrent with Art Nouveau, the Edwardian period in jewelry reflected the establishment tastes of the English aristocracy and wealthy U.S. industrialists. Designs were light and elegant yet formal. Platinum was the favored metal, and its strength allowed setting diamonds, colored gemstones and pearls so they appear to float in the lacy, delicate designs of the period.

This antique pin is platinum on gold and features natural pearls and diamonds. Courtesy of Delores de Iruretagoyena-Humphrey.

Art Deco (1920-1939)

A reaction to the more natural Art Nouveau movement, Art Deco jewelry features high contrasts in color and streamlined, angular designs. Black and white – in metals and gems – was the preferred combination, though deeply saturated ruby, emerald, sapphire, coral, onyx and lapis lazuli were popular also.

Art Deco-inspired earrings feature Australian pearls, diamonds, onyx and coral. Ellagem, New York City; (212) 398-0101.

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