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How to tell which period your Estate Jewelry is from

Apr 7, 2021

Selling Your Estate Jewelry

Estate jewelry is a term used for any jewelry given to you or passed on through generations. More often than not, we’ve found that estate jewelry holds sentimental meaning but isn’t quite right for your personal style. The beauty of estate jewelry is that it can be given a second (or third or seventh) chance at life. 

At Samuelson’s, we specialize in evaluating and purchasing estate, vintage, and heirloom jewelry. Some of our favorite designers are Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Bvlgari, David Webb, and more. However, we also love finding those special creations that are one-of-a-kind, such as this vintage art deco Old European Brilliant diamond and platinum engagement ring

Here’s how to tell which period your estate jewelry is from:

Georgian (circa 1714-1837)

Named for the series of King Georges of Great Britain, these were pieces only royalty and nobles could afford to wear. Significant motifs that appeared in Georgian estate jewels included bows, floral sprays, and feather brooches, and there was an explosion of diamonds and gemstones. Fun fact: diamonds were preferred for evening dress whereas colored stones were preferred for daywear. 

Victorian (1837-1901)

Jewelry from this period reflects the romanticism of the Victorian era, along with technological advances, new discoveries in an increasingly global world, and a rising middle class. Queen Victoria and her husband, King Albert, were both interested in jewelry and preferred to wear pieces that held personal meaning. They were deeply influenced by their surroundings and all things romantic, and saw jewelry as a way to showcase one’s personal style. 

Edwardian (1901-1910)

Named for King Edward VII of Great Britain, jewelry from this period reflects the creation of an extremely wealthy upper class. Designs were incredibly intricate and pieces often contained fine pearls or diamonds set in platinum. The overall look was meant to be light, lacy, and majestic simultaneously to reflect one’s good taste and wealth. 

Art Nouveau (1880-1910)

In contrast to the more conservative styles produced during Victorian and Edwardian times, a counter-movement rose up to embrace curves, mysticism, and nature. Jewelry was often sinuous and organic, meant to take on a free flowing, dreamy tone. 

Art Deco (1920-1930s) 

Art deco reflected a period in between wars where business was booming, fashion was rapidly changing, and people were feeling optimistic about the future. Pops of color, geometric shapes, and straight, concise lines are classic markers of jewelry from the art deco period. The period also introduced cubism, new architectural styles such as the Chrysler building, and more. Art deco is perhaps the most immediately recognizable style because of its distinctive lines. 

Retro (1930s-1940s) 

In the wake of World War II and a post-Depression economy, jewelers had to get creative. Their supply of gemstones from Asia was diminished by the war, so semi-precious stones became the centerpiece of jewelry designs. Similarly, precious metals were needed for the war effort, so there was an increase in pieces set in 14k yellow and rose gold. Designs were bold and audacious, doing more with less, so one could make a statement while also reflecting the seriousness of the times. 

That’s just a snapshot of what there is to know about estate jewelry! To learn more or see which era your valuable family heirlooms stems from prior to selling, make an appointment with our experts! We love seeing the craftsmanship from different eras and hearing the personal stories that led the pieces to you. Most importantly, we love giving estate pieces renewed life where they can be cherished for generations to come. 


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