Antique & Vintage Jewelry 101: The Journey of Accessories Through the Ages

From bangles to rings and everything in between, the jewelry we wear today is inspired by a long history of beautiful designs and trends. Throughout the ages, although the styles have changed drastically, one thing has remained the same - people love wearing meaningful pieces that hold meaning and reflect their personal style.


If you want to discover the inspiration behind some of your favorite pieces, join us on a journey of accessories through the ages as we unfold the basics of each era of design.


The Georgian era held a 123-year reign from the year of 1714-1837. Named for the four Georges that ruled the United Kingdon during that time, the Georgian period was a time of societal evolution and significant changes. As for the style of the time, one word could be used to describe it - extreme.


Every piece of jewelry was designed explicitly for the person wearing it and for the occasion on which it would be worn. The elite individuals swapped out accessories multiple times per day as it was considered taboo to wear the same jewels morning, noon, and night.


During the day, colorful jewels like amber, topaz, and emeralds dripped from unique steel, copper, and zinc designs. At night, diamonds were the star of the show along with more traditional metals like gold and silver. It was also not uncommon for the elite to design memorial jewelry by weaving the hair and bones of loved ones in among expensive metals and jewels. In any instance, Georgian jewelry could be described as breathtakingly excessive, to say the least.


From 1837-1901 style and society changed rapidly under the reign of Queen Victoria. Although many of the most notable jewelry elements from the Georgian era continued through to the new age, there were also significant changes that took place, marking the period with its own unique style.


The most notable design elements of the Victorian era were timeless jewels such as diamonds, sapphires and emeralds and precious metals including gold and silver. That doesn't mean, however, that the jewelry of the time was not unique. Flowers were often incorporated into the designs as well as shapes of notable animals. All-in-all, the Victorian era of jewelry was marked by timeless elegance that would become a constant element of jewelry design for centuries to come.


Much like the Victorian era that came before it, the Edwardian era was marked by elegance and stately statement pieces fixed with bold, expensive jewels. Unlike the Victorian era, however, the jewelry of the Edwardian era featured more detailed and intricate metal work. Bows, wreaths and other symmetrical designs were often the bold backdrops for sizable diamonds and crystals.


During the Edwardian era, body jewelry also became a trendy accessory worn by both men and women. Earrings were worn in larger designs. Every piece from rings to tiaras was designed with the ultimate intention to compliment the wearer and their beautiful, flowing, stately wardrobe.


Art Nouveau

Following the timeless elegance of the Victorian & Edwardian era came an era of creative freedom known as the Art Nouveau era. In the years leading up to the dramatic outburst that marked the Art Noveau era, manufacturers began producing jewelry in mass quantities using machines and other industrial innovations. People didn't like the fact that the accessories that once marked their individuality were now the same as everyone else's. So, artists began designing their work into wearable pieces to be treasured and worn with pride.


The jewelry of the Art Noveau era was packed with natural elements, bold colors, and bright metals. Many of the most popular pieces incorporated the fine lines and soft watercolor qualities recognized in Japanese art. Other popular design elements included the female figure, animals, and plants created from bright stones and shiny yellow and white gold. Summed up, the era of Art Nouveau jewelry was one of individuality and subtle self-expression.

Art Deco

Out of the Art Nouveau era emerged the "roaring" 1920s and age of style now popularly referred to as Art Deco. Marked by extreme innovation and forward style, the Art Deco era is one that vividly lives on in the styles of jewelry we know and love today. Stylistically, the jewelry can be quickly recognized by the modern lines and intricate details that accompany each piece.


During the Art Deco era, jewelry makers learned new ways to add unique elements to each piece of wearable art. New methods for cutting precious stones were discovered, invisible settings were developed, and manmade jewelry materials were introduced. Overall, it was a time of great excitement in the world of fashion, and how jewelry was made and designed was a big part of that.


Each of these eras brought its own significance to the jewelry we all wear and love today. Each piece crafted throughout the centuries provided a strong foundation for the creativity and timeless design that keeps our styles evolving. With all of the changes that took place in jewelry design throughout these eras, it’s easy to wonder...what comes next?