The resurrection of antique jewelry — from simple, Victorian-style gold pieces to multicolor, gem-adorned brooches — has been years in the making. Vintage accessories have charm, as well as intrinsic value, that sets them apart from contemporary works and make their owners stand out.
Culture and industry have shaped jewelry design over the last several centuries. Victorian jewelry, for example, was produced through much of the 19th century, and its his- tory is marked by a few distinct periods, author and jewelry historian Beth Bernstein says. The first period, the Roman- tic Period, was noted for its sentimental themes — hearts, bows, flowers, moons and more — in conjunction with Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert. Another, the Grand Period, encompassed the proliferation of fine jewelry among the social classes as a result of the Industrial Revolution. It was also during this time that darker jewels became popular as the Queen mourned the passing of her Prince.
What to look for
Buying and collecting antiques can seem like a daunting task, but luckily, a little research can go a long way. The first step in your vintage ventures should be to familiarize yourself with designs and styles popularized in different eras. This knowledge will be especially handy for differentiating between real and reproduction pieces.
Jeanette Mayhugh, co-owner of A Touch of Class Antique Mall in downtown Sherman, also recommends checking a few of the piece’s physical characteristics to spot fakes on the fly.
“Generally, looking at a piece of antique jewelry or custom jewelry, you will notice that it has prongs, (and) the stones are set in very well. You can look at the back ... in most cases they’ll be intricate. And weight is really important,” she says, as it should indicate the quality of materials used.
Because antique jewelry is an investment, one that Mayhugh says continues to hold steadily rising value despite eBay and reproduction culture, buyers should seek out an expert dealer who they can trust. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and expose yourself to as many authentic pieces as possible until you feel confident picking the winners on your own.
“A good piece is not going to lose value,” Mayhugh says.
Another important decision that comes with purchasing antique jewelry is whether or not it can safely be worn on a daily basis. When the right pieces come along, the next step is to resolve how they should be worn. The biggest looks on the runway this year can be easily replicated with local finds.
“Any turquoise jewelry, Navajo and other Indian (tribal) jewelry is very popular,” Mayhugh says, because it is accessorizes well with both casual and dressy looks.
Layering varying lengths of necklaces can be another simple way to dress down antique pieces, especially when a variety of textures and colors are at play. To really stand out, pair layered neck pieces with a dangling statement earring a la Chanel.
Don’t forget the brooches
Mayhugh says brooches and cameos are always a hot ticket item, and with so many different styles and settings to choose from, they can bring glamour — and a little bit of drama — to almost any look. Ladylike florals and elegant, yet colorful gemstones add character to business and evening wear, while lively shapes like birds and leaves pair well with solid colors. And don’t be afraid to leave the lapel; designers like Versace and Alexander McQueen are placing brooches everywhere from headwraps to handbags.