Smart Jewelry Shopper

How to Buy Jewelry & Gemstones With Confidence


Guide to Buying Antique Jewelry

Becoming an antique collector, especially of jewelry requires knowledge of value and time reflected in a particular piece of history. This is an exciting adventure and having a guide to buying antique jewelry will help you make those determinations appropriately.

Antique Eras

An “antique” is deemed as anything that is over 100 years old. This means it has experienced a historical timeframe and can be noted by its unmistakable craftsmanship for that particular period of time. Antique jewelry includes eras such as the Victorian, Georgian, Art Nuveau, Edwardian, Art Deco and so forth. There is a big difference between “antique” and “vintage” jewelry. Vintage jewelry is considered anything made between the 1920’s to 1980’s.

Knowing a bit about the design styles of some of these periods can help you evaluate whether a piece of jewelry has value or is truly “antique”. The condition and original nature of the piece will also add or diminish its value.

Georgian Era Jewelry

During the period of the early 1700’s to around the middle of the 1800’s jewelry was mostly handmade and very rare. Many design elements associated with this time period in jewelry would be birds, leaves and precious stones.

Industrial Era Jewelry

This jewelry is also known as “arts and crafts” era jewelry as it was a particularly creative period. The jewelry of this time was handcrafted with intricate detail and impressive yet simple patterns.

Art Nouveau Era Jewelry

Around the late 1800’s famous French jeweler Rene Jules Lalique began the trend of this era which was also picked up in the American culture of the time. The designs were often natural including butterflies and flowers and suggested free flowing, curving lines. Floral and botanical themes were popularly used in pendants, necklaces and hair ornaments.

Edwardian Era Jewelry

During the reign of King Edward, these jewels became popular though only for a short time. You can note the era of this jewelry by the thin settings used in tiaras, necklaces and earrings. They are often heavily laden with gemstones and diamonds.

As a guide to buying antique jewelry it is also very helpful to request an appraisal and certification of authenticity for any piece before purchase. Note the condition and originality of the piece. If you notice any repairs which are obvious and don’t match the original design, the value will be lessened so be sure to check the item carefully. As with any antique, the value increases based on the overall condition of the piece as well as the uniqueness.

Victorian Era Jewelry

The Victorian era began around the 1850’s and began with the romantic and solemn designs. The features were heavy, dark stones such as Jet, Onyx, Gamet and Amethyst and also colorful designs such as shells and mosaics.

Later in the era more diamonds and brighter gemstones were introduced as well as the star, crescent and hat pins which can be found in this jewelry. Pieces made included, brooches, gold and decorated enamel bracelets, coral, tortoise shell ivory and seed pearls were also popular materials found. Many fans, hair jewelry and other sentimental items were created in this era.