Eras of Vintage & Antique Jewelry Through the 1970s

Every passionate jewelry collector seems to have a particular style or era that is the focus their collection.  Below, I've outlined some of the most common eras and/or design styles in jewelry leading up to the 1970s.   There are multiple, separate and distinct eras in jewelry that have spanned from the 1700s to the 1970s.  Although some periods overlap, this is a basic breakdown of some of the more widely-known historical jewelry eras.

•Georgian Era (1714 – 1837)
•The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)
•Edwardian Era (1901 – 1915)
•Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)
•Art Deco Era (1920 – 1945)
•Retro Era (1939 – 1950)
•Modernist Era (1960-1970)

The Georgian Era (1714 – 1837)
The Georgian Era lasted for more than 120 years and spanned four English Kings: George I, George II, George III and George IV.  This era is impressive not only because of the number of years it lasted but also because advances in jewelry design and construction advanced much more slowly than in other eras.  High-quality Georgian Era jewelry can be very difficult to find.  The prime examples from the era which have survived are often times housed in museum collections.  Most jewelry pieces from the Georgian Era consisted of yellow gold and silver.  Some of the common stones found in Georgian jewelry consist of foil-backed diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies, glass, paste, topaz and garnet.  Due to the primitive stone cutting and handcrafted techniques that were used; it is often very easy to date Georgian Jewelry.  The diamond cuts are point cuts, table cuts, old mine cuts, antique cushion cuts, single cuts and rose cuts.

These stunning examples of Georgian heart pendants from Ancienne Bijoux are simply incredible & definitely something that should be on every collector's Jewelry Bucket List.  I know they are certainly on mine!

The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)
The Victorian Era is a reference to Queen Victoria of England.  She reigned during the 1800s and was directly responsible for many of the important changes in jewelry styles.  The era itself is split into three periods which each correlating to the different periods of Queen Victoria’s life:  Romantic Victorian Era, Grand Victorian Era and Aesthetic Victorian Era.  Jewelry from the Victorian Era is far more prevalent than jewelry from the Georgian Era and can be easier to find.  Gold and silver remained the most popular metals in Victorian Era Jewelry. Stones popular during this time were garnets, amethyst, turquoise, sapphires, pearls, and diamonds. Motifs involving animals, especially snakes were very popular.

The garnet solitaire was made during the late Victorian period, circa 1880, & is available through Lost Owl Jewelry.

Edwardian Era (1901 – 1915)
The Edwardian Era follows the reign of England’s King Edward VII. King Edward VII reigned from 1901-1910 and was the last monarch to serve as a namesake in jewelry history.  This very important jewelry period, also known as the Belle Époque Era, is the first time platinum became commonly used in jewelry.  Although platinum was first crafted together with gold, it very quickly grew in popularity.  Compared to engagement rings from the Victorian Era, Edwardian engagement rings (and other pieces) are ornate, intricate and flowery.  Design techniques of the era included the prevalence of openwork filigree and fine milgrain detailing that was introduced during Edwardian times.  Diamonds and pearls retained their prestigious status during this period.

This Edwardian pendant from Park Avenue Antiques is a superb example of the openwork commonly seen during the period.

Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)
The Art Nouveau period, derived from the French for “New Art,” was named after the 1895 opening of Siegfried Bing’s Parisian gallery “Maison de l’Art Nouveau.”  This era’s aesthetics also include design styles such as: Arts and Crafts, Jugendstil, Liberty Style and Secession – just to name a few.  Designs of this era are organic, flowery and draping.  While the timeframe of the period overlaps with the Edwardian Era, the styles were entirely different.  While Edwardian Era jewelry is full of detail, symmetrical and delicate; Art Nouveau jewelry follows an organic structure with no symmetry.  Genuine Art Nouveau jewelry from the early 1900s is very difficult to find.  

A perfect example of Art Nouveau organic inspiration from Lace Jewels!

Art Deco Era (1920 – 1945)
The Art Deco period, emerging after the conclusion of World War I, took its name from the French architect Le Corbusier.  He headlined the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925.  More simply known as the “1925 Expo: Art Deco.”  A far cry from Georgian and Victorian Era jewelry, Art Deco Jewelry is known for being geometrical and angular with a clean look.  Platinum was the primary metal of the Art Deco Era with the preferred stones being diamonds, sapphire, rubies, onyx and emeralds.  These stones coupled with the bold geometric designs are indicative of the prominent aesthetics of the era.

A stunning collection of Art Deco rings from Sarah Loves Jewelry.  The sapphire & emerald combo is to die for!

Retro Era (1939 – 1950)
The Retro Era was heavily inspired by World War II and the victory that followed.  The symmetrical elements of the Art Deco Era were not disregarded with the shift into the Retro Era, but rather interpreted into an even bolder, stronger design.  Retro Era jewelry was large.  Gemstones were large and colorful, set in the popular metals of the period: platinum and yellow gold.  White gold began to gather traction due to shortages of platinum as a result of the war effort but still remained the secondary choice.  

The Retro Era featured brightly colored gemstones such as this Blue Spinel & White Gold Ring from Midwest Art Objects.

Modernist / Brutalism Era (1960 – 1970)
An offshoot of the early-20th century Modernist movement, Brutalism originally began as an architectural style in the late 1950s.  Brutalist buildings are characterized by their massive, monolithic and almost 'blocky' appearances with a rigid geometric style and were often constructed of poured concrete.  For more information specifically about Brutalist jewelry, click here to read an entire blog post on the subject.

A perfect example of Brutalist design, this 18k gold bracelet from Lisa Kramer Vintage ticks all the boxes!

Do you find yourself gravitating towards a particular jewelry era?  Does a certain style grab your attention every time?  Let me know in the comments!

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