An Introduction to Pre-Owned Jewelry

Author Long's Jewelers
Date Feb 15, 2021

One of the fun things about previously owned jewelry is that every piece tells a story and is a piece of history. Previously jewelry can usually be repaired and polished back to its original state and, when purchased from a reputable jeweler, comes with a commitment of quality and longevity.

The best part is that the price of pre-owned piece of jewelry can be 20 to 40% less than a similar new piece. Use this guide to help you learn about the different major historical eras of jewelry, identify categories that resonate with your style and speak to you!

Georgian Period 1700’S – 1830’S

Named after the four successive British kings George I - George IV, it spans most of the 18th into the 19th century. Handmade jewelry which predates the Industrial Revolution. Very few of these delicate pieces survived. Diamonds are Rose cut (flat backs) or Mine cut (non- symmetric, irregular).Historically features the American Revolution, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Eye miniatures are one of the more unusual trends to emerge during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. These pendants and brooches are highly collectible. With the serpents coiled around (for eternal love) they can be viewed as a love token or mourning piece. Mourning pieces are easier to identify either by the position of the eye or the black enameled tear drop setting.

Victorian Period 1837–1901

Early Victorian, Romantic Jewelry 1837-1855

The Victorian period follows the reign of Queen Victoria in Great Britain. While the Industrial Revolution was creating a new middle class who used jewelry to flaunt new found wealth, Queen Victoria’s love for her husband inspired jewelry that reflected a more human, sentimental outlook.Evolving from the Georgian era, early Victorian jewelry features nature-inspired designs. Early Victorian jewelry features foliage designs which were delicately & intricately created in silver and gold. Diamonds discovered in South Africa in 1867, became popular during this period as a symbol of status. Opals were increasingly popular as Queen Victoria adored them. Lockets & brooches were popular. Colored gemstones and diamonds were mostly worn in the evenings.

Mid-Victorian, Grand Jewelry 1856–1880

Mid-Victorian era corresponded with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert. Jewelry pieces become dark and solemn to express the queen’s grief. The black enamel gold bangle bracelet is indicative of this period.

Late Victorian, Aesthetic Jewelry 1885–1901

Jewelry returned to feminine imagery in this period. Star and crescent designs plus renaissance revival lockets set with seed pearls of flowers, hearts, and animals; elaborate cameos, shell and stone were also popular. This era led to the introduction of symmetric European diamond cut. With the growth of travel, standardized timekeeping became an important factor in ordering society. “Railway time” being the standard which clocks were set throughout Britain. Elaborate pocket watches became functional pieces of jewelry.

Edwardian Jewelry 1901–1915

The Edwardian era began with the death of Queen Victoria when her son Edward became king Edward VII. Characterized by its own unique architectural style and fashion, during this period jewelry featured a return to elegance. Light and airy designs became hallmarks of Edwardian jewelry. Motifs included garlands, bows, bar pins, tiaras, and multiple strands of seed pearls chokers. In the early 1900's Louis Cartier successfully claimed that he created jewelry out of platinum to enhance the beauty of diamonds. Jewelers used platinum and diamonds to create intricate and delicate filigree patterns that resembled lace.

Art Nouveau Jewelry 1895–1915

The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art“ and ran counter culture to the somber Victorian movement. Artists desired to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects. The movement actually began around 1875 in Paris and remained popular from roughly 1895 until World War I. Jewelry of the Art Nouveau period revitalized the jeweler’s art, with nature as the principal source of inspiration, complemented by new levels of technique in enameling and the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones. Exotic flowers, mythical beasts, dragon flies, and enchanted women with long flowing hair, set in a midst of sinuous, vine-like designs were all common motifs.

Art Deco 1920 - 1935

Art Deco evolved from relatively delicate designs to more geometric and angular patterns. Stones were cut in strict, geometrical shapes, typified extensive use of elongated baguettes, French cuts, and Single cuts. Art Deco featured symmetric balanced designs and utilized more expensive gems such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires incorporated in complex designs. Expanded the use of platinum, due to its strength, making possible elaborate and intricate filigree work hand-cut into the metal. Colored and opaque stones such as jade, onyx and coral were set in geometric shapes. Sleek animals such as Cartier’s panthers and falcons were popular became iconic of the period.

Arts and Crafts Jewelry 1894–1923

The Arts and Crafts style started as a search for aesthetic design and a reaction against the styles that were developed by machine-production of the industrial Revolution. Arts and Crafts objects were simple in form, without excessive decoration, and how they were constructed was often still visible, featured hammered metals and handcrafted techniques. Designs were simple in pattern, made of colorful, uncut stones: common lapis, turquoise, moonstone, carnelian, blister pearls, amethyst, peridot, malachite.

Retro Modern Jewelry 1945–1960

Retro Modern is a culturally aged style, trend, or fashion, from the overall post-modern past that generally implies a vintage of at least 15 or 20 years. Inspired by Hollywood, early Retro jewelry is colorful, bold and flamboyant, including large cocktail rings, bracelets, necklaces, pins, and charm bracelets. Gold became the metal of choice because platinum was not available to the jewelry industry during World War II. Designers were designing multi-colored gold jewelry into unusual combinations of rose, yellow and green.

Modern Jewelry

This category covers everything from the past 50 years and includes contemporary styles such as silver designer David Yurman as well as gold and platinum styles from Cartier, Tiffany and many more.

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