Estate jewelry: The 60s and 70s

The 60s and 70s miniskirts and hot pants signaled the rebellious mood of the time and the use of unconventional materials. Color contrasts and bright opaque materials like turquoise and coral echoed fashion, while jagged contours, such as marquise-cut diamonds and prominent claw settings, challenged the flow of traditional lines. Uncut crystals appeared in jewels in organic sprawling forms.

In the 1970s attention turned East. Designs of the major houses had a distinct Indian flavor. Gold was very popular, particularly in the intricate designs of Buccellati.

Estate jewelry: The Retro era

Much of the jewelry from the Retro era was made of gold or sterling silver. For the first time in the 20th century, yellow (also rose and green) gold overtook production of white gold and platinum in the fine jewelry industry. It wasn’t because society fell out of love with white precious metals. The war effort superseded the public’s craving for them. Platinum and the alloys used to create white gold (nickel, copper, and zinc) were needed to make weapons

Retro jewelry was large and futuristic. In some ways, Retro pieces resembled the geometric jewelry of 1920’s Art Deco era. But Retro pieces were three-dimensional, not flat. Also, due to wartime scarcity, they weren’t adorned from top to bottom with glittering jewels like Deco jewelry. These bold, modern pieces went well with the masculine wartime fashions of famous designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

Estate jewelry: Art Deco

This was an era of seduction!

In the Age of Speed and Speakeasies, social and political elements blended together to create an air of restlessness and recklessness. Women bobbed their hair, wore dresses up to their knees -- and did not wear corsets! In the Roaring Twenties women wore long gold necklaces, which swung with their every movement. Long multiple strands of pearls were also a must for the new flapper dress.

Clear, bold, symmetrical geometric lines with contrasting stone colors echoed the feeling and lines of the new skyscrapers. And there was also a revival of Egyptian styles.

Luxury was the key word in Deco jewelry. Many fine jewelry houses, Cartier, Boucheron, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, Marcus & Co. became famous for their opulent designs. The sleek and sexy jewelry from this period satisfied the needs of a new class, the Nouveau Riche, who desired to display their glamorous and fashionable lifestyle.

The Art Deco style emerged after World War I and dominated the decorative
arts and jewelry from 1920 through the 1930s. Art Deco jewelry suggests post-war practicality through its strong geometric patterns in bold contrasting colors.

Art Deco features include:

• Bold, contrasting colors
• Strong, geometric patterns
• Sleek, streamlined look, emphasizing the vertical line
• Gemstones including diamonds, black onyx, lapis lazuli, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, jade, turquoise, and topaz
• Carved or cabochon-cut colored gemstones
• Primary colors in rich combinations and strong contrast

Estate jewelry: The Edwardian era

King Edward VII and his graceful wife Queen Alexandra led English society to new taste levels during the early 1900s. Edwardian jewels reflected gracious delicacy with ribbons, bows, swags, and tassels. Abundant quantities of diamonds and platinum had recently been discovered in South Africa -- these materials became the hallmark of the Edwardian era.

The strength of platinum made it possible to create pieces that resembled intricate embroidery and diamond-encrusted lace.  Millegraining was a new decorative technique that was born in this era and is a hallmark of Edwardian jewelry.

You might also hear jewelry from this period in time called Belle Epoque, which referred more generally to jewelry movements in the rest of Europe.

Estate jewelry: Art Nouveau

A very important period aesthetically and artistically, this era begins in 1890 and ends with the onset of the first world war. Art Nouveau evokes images of sensuousness, the Gaiety of Paris, Toulouse Lautrec, and silent film star Sarah Bernhardt who had an impressive collection of Art Nouveau jewelry, particularly in enamel by the Art Nouveau master, Rene Lalique.

Jewelry was often three-dimensional and sculptural -- and softened by the use of precious stones, particularly opal and moonstone. Plique-a-jour and other intricate enameling techniques gave the appearance of stained glass windows or softly shimmering waters. Nature was a major theme: trees, flowers of all species, dragonflies, swans, peacocks and snakes were some of the many natural forms reinterpreted and exaggerated. The female figure was exalted and depicted with long, flowing hair -- dreamy and exotic. Art Nouveau's design roots can be traced to a blending of Gothic arts, Celtic linear interlaces and spirals, asymmetrical Rococo curves, and other exotic influences coming from Africa and Japan.

Estate jewelry: The Victorian era

Victorian jewelry encompasses a variety of styles that were popular during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria (1837 to 1901). Here are some common identifying characteristics of jewelry from the Victorian era:

• Ornate matching sets of gemstone jewelry
• Precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, coral, amethyst, garnet, turquoise, and tortoise shell
• Sentimental or romantic symbols
• Ornamental locks of human hair
• Mourning jewelry made of jet and other black materials
• Cameos


Some Victorian jewelry idealized past cultures by reviving Greek, Roman, and Egyptian jewelry styles. Other revival themes included Gothic, Renaissance, and Archeological (inspired by ancient
Assyrian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian styles).

Buried treasure: The Cheapside Hoard

The Cheapside Hoard is a collection of jewelry dating from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras that was discovered by a workman in 1912 while he was excavating a dark antique cellar on Cheapside Street in London. Inside a decayed wooden box a treasure was revealed consisting of more than 400 pieces of jewelry, including rings, brooches, chains, toadstones, cameos, scent bottles, fan holders, crystal tankards, and a salt cellar.

Read More