Read these 11 Vintage Jewelry Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Antique tips and hundreds of other topics.
The turn of the century saw a revolution in jewelry-almost a revolution against jewelry. For decades, people had decked themselves out in the decorative machine made jewelry flooding the market, but the new aesthetic movement attacked the prevailing Victorian taste for opulence. The Aesthetes refined sensibility recoiled at the vulgarity of showy jewels. True believers favored simple strands of beads and rejected anything percieved as ostentation. The schools of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, The Glasgow School and Jugendstil all espoused an aesthetic that emphasized artistic value over the value of the materials. One of the most prominent Art Nouveau designers, Rene Lalique, combined meticulous craftmanship with innovative design in the era's most enduring pieces. Much like the period of the French Revolution, little or no jewelry was produced in Europe during the First World War and the Russian Revolution. People either tucked away their few precious pieces or sold them in order to survive.
Following the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon brought about a rebirth in the jewelry industry; the French leader was something of a voluptuary with a legendary passion for jewels. "Napoleon Classicisms" became the style of the day-one of the longest lived aspects of his rather ephemeral empire. By 1820, however, classicisms had run its course. A more naturalistic style was the order of the day. At the same time, post war Europe's short supply of precious metals and stones lead jewelry makers to turn to semi-precious gems. Amethysts, topazes, aquamarines and chrysobeayls dominated the jewelry designs during these lean years.
It is rare to find an intact piece of jewelry from the 18th century. Materials at this time were scarce, and jewelry was often dismantled to create new pieces. During the French Revolution [1789-99] production slowed and people all over Europe either shipped their jewelry abroad-out of harms way-or sold it to buy food and clothing.
Discoveries of large quantities of gold in the United States and Australia ensured a consistent supply of raw materials for jewelers, while the increasing wealth of the middle class promised a growing demand. To satisfy this demand, manufacturers produced more medium and low priced jewelry, most of it machine made in Birmingham, England. In keeping with this trend, low carat weight gold was introduced, often at prices similar to gilt metal. In France, a new Emperor took the throne and a resurgence of Napoleonic styles soon followed. After years of favoring colored stones, diamonds regained the limelight as jewelers began to use more diamonds-and to a lesser extent, other colorless stones in their designs.
With the end of the First World War, people wanted to put the past behind them and live it up. This new optimism coincided with a dramatic change in women's role in society, resulting in a boom in the jewelry industry. However, when World War Two broke out in the 1940's, production of jewelry came to a virtual halt once again. At the end of the war, designers again responded to peace and prosperity with an outpouring of new [or retro] styles.