What is estate jewelry? Simply put, estate means previously owned. With respect to jewelry, the term references not only vintage or antique (older than one hundred years) designs but modern as well as contemporary creations. Estate jewelry is a very broad category that appeals to a wide variety of people. Rarity, craftsmanship, materials and condition affect its value.
Why is estate jewelry so popular? Many people appreciate the unique, one-of-a-kind styles displaying craftsmanship difficult to find today. The attention to detail related to finish, structure and texture is especially appreciated. The subtle faceting and cut of vintage and antique gemstones also draw admirers. Few manufactures still create new pieces of jewelry using the original designs and techniques commonly reflected in estate jewelry. One company inCincinnati,Ohio, Whitehouse Brothers produces die-struck, hand-engraved engagement rings and wedding bands honoring this dedication to quality.
Highly collectible for its historical context, estate jewelry connects us to the past. The untold stories of estate pieces capture the imagination. During the Christmas season at Weber jewelers, a father and son were in search of a locket. In our Estate case, a beautiful Art Nouveau locket featured a female figure whose gaze symbolized his mother’s unconditional love and support. We placed a picture of the young man opposite a message dear to them both. Sometimes the stories associated with estate jewelry are well known and carry provenance related to the former owner. The tremendously successful auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection attests to the value the famous actress added.
Great buys. Last but not least, estate jewelry offers great values. Compared to new jewelry composed of the same metals and precious stones, estate jewelry can be more affordable. The bargains are often irresistible.
Estate jewelry styles and trends vary according to the time of manufacture. Preferred materials, subject matter, form and function often reference specific periods. Jewelry from the 1930’s often favors strong geometric shapes. Pieces from the late 1940’s are usually of a gold variety be it white gold, yellow gold, green gold, pink gold or red gold, as platinum was reserved for the war effort and not available to the jewelry industry. Curves inspired by nature replaced straight lines, and form and functionality were equally important. Estate jewelry from the 1950’s reflects renewed opulence, bolder designs and larger scale gemstones. Going further back in history, we can reference the Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Edwardian movements significant to estate jewelry collectors.
Georgian Jewelry (1714-1835)
This period spanned the lives of four kings, King George I, II, III, and IV. Gold and silver set with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds define the opulent designs of this era. Near the period’s end, jewelers began to incorporate semi-precious gemstones and geometric shapes to appeal to the post-revolution middle class seeking to separate its identity from the aristocracy.
Victorian Jewelry (1837-1901)
Jewelry made during this time was heavily influenced by the fashionable taste of QueenVictoria ofEngland. Amethysts, pearls and garnets set in gold were abundant. Black jewelry came about in the latter half of this period to reflect the Queen’s mourning over the death ofPrince Albert. Favoring bold designs on necklaces and brooches, jewelers also revived gothic and renaissance styles. Common themes include love, feminism, and death.
Art Nouveau Jewelry (1895-1910)
Art Nouveau jewelry was born as jewelers rebelled from the formulaic designs of the Victorian era and the growing enthusiasm for mass production introduced by the burgeoning industrial revolution. This period emphasized the value of handmade work and incorporated organic forms and materials like moonstones and enamels. Flora and fauna were important subject matter as well as insects. Likewise, metamorphosis was a theme often addressed.
Edwardian Jewelry (1900-1915)
Jewelry from the Edwardian period is characterized by masterful craftsmanship and the use of platinum, pearls and diamonds. Referred to inFrance as La Belle Époque, “the beautiful era”, styles from the Georgian era were reinvented with a more feminine twist. Platinum was not a popular metal in jewelry prior to this time, so most platinum estate jewelry can be traced to the Edwardian period or later.
At Weber Jewelers, our fastest growing and quickest turning product category is estate jewelry. Our expertise as gemologists and appraisers teamed with our trusted reputation make Webers an important estate jewelry destination whether selling or buying or both. Part of the fun of our estate jewelry department is in the hunt for a piece that speaks to you, regardless of where and when it was made. Gifted to a new generation, the heirloom continues to bring to life sentiments otherwise difficult to express. Wow, the power of jewelry!
Jacquelyn Ullmer, FGA
Possibly Related Posts:
- NEWS: “A welcome windfall,” Columbus Dispatch editorial
- National Chamber of Commerce Survey
- Fiscal Responsibility Leads to BWC Rebates for Ohio Employers
- New Hazardous Chemicals Guidelines
- Relay For Life of Centerville