by Dr. Lori Verderame
The Jewelry collecting and buying/selling category is very hot now with buyers and sellers. They trade everything from amethyst earrings to Zuni turquoise cuff bracelets. People collect jewelry by type for instance with earrings, bracelets, brooches, necklaces, anklets, rings, and more. Some collect certain gemstones like diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds or garnets. Others are attracted to metals like sterling silver, gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum, etc. Jewelry in its many forms remains valuable and collectible the world over. So what’s the list of vintage jewelry trends?
Celebrity Jewelry Collectors
While antique and vintage jewelry is very popular with celebrity collectors like Friends actress, Jennifer Aniston or Meaghan Markle Windsor, the Duchess of Sussex, who both have enviable collections. Today, many different types of jewelry are now trending. Antique jewelry is hot with seasoned collectors, millennial buyers, and fashionistas. What’s fascinating is today’s jewelry designs are looking back to historic styles and antique looks. A list of vintage jewelry trends with names like Van Cleef and Arpels, Cartier, and Tiffany are embracing the antique forms and looking very good doing it. Where did these jewelry trends come from? All from antiques and vintage style, of course!
Hanging from a chain, a pendant is a feature of many necklaces. While small scale pendants are the rage now, pendants come in various types, sizes, and designs. Small scale pendants feature gemstone-laden stars, crosses, and hearts. Some pendants are enhanced with tiny diamonds in a pave or pavement like setting or feature a single gemstone simply set in metal where the chain is as interesting as the pendant.
Some of the more popular pendants that are coming into vogue now are those that are associated with the revival of Egyptomania or all things Egyptian. In 1922, about 100 years ago, King Tut’s tomb was exhumed which sparked an international interest in the history of Egypt. The revival of Egyptian jewelry fashion is making a big impact with contemporary jewelry designers. A portrait head pendant featuring an Egyptian woman shown in profile with enamel work and mine cut diamonds to accentuate her hair dates from the 1920s. This is the type of jewelry piece that collectors are searching for. It is also the type of jewelry design that contemporary designers are referencing which inspire new designs.
Another item on the list of vintage jewelry trends is the key pendant that actually came from antique pocket watches. In the 19th Century, wearing a pocket watch key around one’s neck or attached to a watch fob was a common fashion statement. Actually, it was less of a fashion statement and worn more out of necessity. In an effort not to lose a valuable watch key, wearing the tool was a good idea. Today, this idea has inspired pendant designs in the form of keys. The keys were worn for safe keeping but in today’s jewelry designs pocket watch keys are worn by collectors as small scale pendants. These key pendants may hang off of a simple chain with diamonds, sapphires, and other precious stones set in precious metal. Many designers including Tiffany & Company expanded upon the key form to make new pendant, pin, or bracelet styles. Some key pendants are enhanced with individually set gemstones or enamel work while others feature two tone precious metal designs. Keys coupled with a heart-shaped element are popular keepsakes as a key to one’s heart.
Lockets look back to Queen Victoria. Made popular by HRH Queen Victoria in the mid to late 1800s, lockets are back in style. They were worn by members of the Queen’s court. Queen Victoria wore a heart-shaped locket of gold with strands of her parents’ hair inside. It was a baby gift from the Queen’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, circa 1820. Today, the locket which was popular in the 1820s, is on view at historic Windsor Castle with other pieces of Victorian and royal jewelry. The gold locket keepsake inspires today’s designers. Lockets of gold hold photographs are the most common type. These were an American keepsake since the Civil War era. Later, during World War II, wearing a jewelry item with a photograph inside of a loved one was common for necklace pendants and bracelets. Lockets are back in style from the pages of England’s monarchy.
Another jewelry style that harkens back to days of yesteryear is the cameo. Cameos reference ancient Rome. Cameos demonstrate a highlight of vintage and antique style. The ancient Greeks mastered the carving of stones in relief form around the 5th-6th centuries BC. In ancient times, cameos featured images or carvings of gods and goddesses from Mount Olympus such as Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Poseidon, and others. Cameos were also popular for the Romans and continued to be worn during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s, when tourists took the grand tour and traveled the world visiting historic and culturally significant sites, cameos were worn as souvenirs.
In the 1800s, cameos grew in status and popularity with jewelry collectors and travelers in a period called the Classical Revival at the end of the 19th century. Cameos were traded widely. They were worn as wedding brooches and borrowed from family members in the 1950s. While many people don’t realize it but during the Mid Century Modern period (MCM), cameos were very common jewelry additions to any outfit. Today, cameos are back in style. They feature classical figures in carved shells and are also molded into colored glass and worn as pins, rings, or pendants.
Monograms & marks
A word about monograms and markings on vintage and antique jewelry is in order. While some folks don’t like monograms, they can add some style to a vintage object. They help to tell the story of the previous owner and can add style to a vintage piece. When it comes to value, monograms can be a detriment unfortunately. A single monogram, one letter of the alphabet, is better for resale value than a multi-letter monogram. Some intricate cursive monograms can look like scrollwork designs and are somewhat more acceptable with collectors. Inevitably, less is more when it comes to monograms on pieces of antique and vintage jewelry. When it comes to marks on antique jewelry, check out my information about jewelry and gold marks.
Care and Cleaning
Cleaning vintage and antique jewelry can be tricky so if you are not sure about the best method, don’t do it. Ask a professional first. When it comes to antique and vintage jewelry, be careful to review security chains and clasps. You don’t want to lose your antique piece just because you relied on an old security chain or vintage clasp. Have the security elements of your antique and vintage jewelry pieces checked by a professional jewelry repair shop. The jewelers who work with antique and vintage pieces know how to source period security chains, extenders from the same era, and related clasps. These professionals know how to deal with damage. Having a strong security chain or clasp on a vintage and antique piece will help prevent the loss of a valuable jewelry piece. Don’t overlook getting a piece fixed or reviewed if you think the clasp or security chain isn’t working properly or looks weak or damaged.
So much jewelry references the ages of the antique. Vintage pieces borrow from the jewelry designs of the ancient world right up to modern times. Some of today’s trends embrace all that is beautiful about the styles of the past.
Watch videos on my YouTube channel where I show you how to identify the list of vintage jewelry trends. I can appraise your jewelry pieces from photos or you can show me your pieces during a video call.