If you’re new to collecting vintage jewelry, you might think that pieces fall into two categories – new and used. For many people, that’s enough, and they buy second hand jewelry because it either appeals to their sense of style or because it’s simply more affordable than new pieces.
If that’s you, great. It’s not my place to tell anyone what they should collect or what they should buy. After all, it’s really about buying what you like.
For the hard core among us, there are several different eras of antique or vintage jewelry, as described in a recent article I found online. They’re all distinctly different, and each has their fans. Of course, you might like several of them, or all of them, or none of them. Such is taste.
The Georgian era is the first era that’s widely sought out (though less widely collected due to rarity) by collectors. This period covered most of the 18th century and consisted of ornate pieces that were heavily laden with gemstones. There were lots of diamonds and little else, and for that reason, a lot of pieces from the Georgian era have been disassembled for the stones. You might see the occasional ring or earring, but bigger pieces like necklaces are either in private collections or in museums.
The Victorian era covered most of the 19th century and corresponded with the rule of Queen Victoria of England. This era is divided into two sections, defined by Prince Albert’s life. When he was alive, popular fashion included pieces with hearts and birds, but later, after his death, jewelry of the period began to feature dark stones, such as onyx.
The Art Deco period was a short lived but well-remembered one. Art Deco is hard to define; it’s one of those “I know it when I see it” sort of things. Popular in the 1920s and 1930s, the style made use of bold lines, symmetry, and rectangular or triangular patterns. Pieces from this period often included diamonds along with jade, coral or lapis.
The Retro and Mid-Century periods overlap, and cover the time from just before World War II to the 1960s. These pieces are sometimes referred to as cocktail jewelry and offered big, bold pieces that were designed to grab your attention. Pieces were designed to look glamorous and colorful, even if they used fake stones, rather than the real ones used in previous eras. Pieces from this era are quite popular today, due to the influence of retro-themed movies and TV shows. Plus, the pieces are far more affordable than those from earlier eras that may have included lots of gold or real diamonds.
Your preference is your own, and most women own clothes that will work well with a variety of jewelry from various eras. While you likely won’t want to mix and match pieces from different eras with the same outfit, it helps to have a wide variety of pieces in your jewelry case, as you just never know what is going to look best with whatever it is you’re going to wear today.