What are the Vintage Jewelry Eras?

What are the Vintage Jewelry Eras?
           By: Stephanie Rigg
          August 14, 2023

Welcome!  Glad you have ventured by into my blog.  My name is Stephanie and I own the website Hers and His Treasures. I have a passion for antique and vintage jewelry!  Years ago, when we opened our brick-and-mortar store Hers and His Thrift store in Wilmington Ohio, I didn’t have a clue about vintage jewelry!  All I knew is that I LOVED it!  The quality of the jewelry made years ago and that even decades later it still has all the shimmer and shine like it did when it was first purchased, compared to the fashion jewelry that is made today.  So, I started doing some research and my passion for vintage and antique jewelry just grew from there!  I had no idea of the fashion influences and politics behind creating some of these gorgeous pieces. 

For this blog, I want to start with some basics and build on it from there.  There is just so much to learn, and I keep learning new stuff every day.  Some of my topics will include identifying markings on jewelry, maker hallmark identification and dedicating a page to each popular jewelry designer’s history like Sarah Coventry, Trifari, Boucher and more.  

A great way to start is with the historical background!  There are several eras, and each era has a different influence.


Jewelry Eras ~

Georgian Era     1714-1837

Victorian Era      1837-1901

Edwardian Era   1901-1915

Art Nouveau       1890-1910

Art Deco Era      1920-1945

Retro Era           1939-1950


Historical Background ~

Late Georgian Era: 1714-1837 - Up until about 1789, bodices were worn tight and low cut with a large V-shaped stiff panel in the front to hold the breasts in place.  Jewelry was worn to compliment the cut of the dress more than the style of the dress.  During this period large V-shaped bodice jewelry were called stomachers.

Styles later changed from 1760-1790 in which the impact of the neo-classical style led the fashion industry to copy the look of ancient Greek and Roman clothes.  When the neo-classical dresses became popular, the clothes were light and filmy and instead of the stomachers, long chains, very long dangle earrings and multi-strand chokers were worn to accent the new dress styles. 


Jewelry in the late Georgian era emphasized the gemstones and the metal and how much of the metal shown on each piece was kept to a minimum.  Remembrances of loved ones (mourning brooches) also became popular in the late Georgian era with rings, brooches and lockets that were made using human hair. 


            This picture is from Langs Antiques and is available for purchase.


Victorian Era: 1837-1901 – When Queen Victoria became Queen of England in 1837, the industrial revolution was underway and drastically changed the way jewelry was made.  Mass production was introduced and made jewelry more affordable for the middle class to purchase.  This was the start of the Romantic Period in jewelry design.  Women’s dresses were still made with the bust line and waist tightly corseted.  The skirts began to widen which the jewelry also followed suit getting larger. The Chatelaine was also a necessary piece of jewelry for women with multiple chains suspended from the hook plate.


In the daytime, during the late Victorian period, bonnets were still worn during the day to partially cover their ears.  Evening fashion allowed the women to sweep their hair up exposing their ears and adding clusters of flowers to be worn in their hair resembling hats.  Strands of beads covered large buns worn at the nape of the neck and ribbons woven and worn like small caps were dubbed the “Empire head-dress”. They used cameos attached to the ribbons to form a tiara. 



Victorian Era Empire Head-Dress

Popular gems used during the Victorian Era were topaz, amethyst, emeralds, turquoise and seed pearls.    

Popular jewelry styles and forms were Gothic, Rococo Revival, Renaissance Revival and Archeological and Exotic Themes.


Victorian Gothic Jewelry

                                                     Victorian Gothic Necklace


Victorian Rococo Revival Theme Jewelry

                                            Victorian Rococo Revival Brooch


Victorian Renaissance


Art Nouveau Era: 1890-1910 – The Art Nouveau movement sought to capture the vitality of nature.  Women had wildly flowing hair and wore jewelry representing butterflies, rattlesnakes, bats and exotic flowers.  Although, this style did not have universal approval or taste it was popular for about 15 years. 

All types of translucent enamels were popular. Filigree and wire wrapped jewelry were common, although its popularity dies out around 1910.  White metals like silver and platinum are more popular than gold, but gold jewelry was still made and worn throughout this period. And prong settings were still used at this time. 


Art Nouveau Translucent Enamel Brooch

                                     Art Nouveau Translucent Enamel Brooch

Pavé-set gemstones were also very popular during the Art Nouveau Era along with the invisible settings and the gypsy setting which first appeared in the late 1870’s.  


Art Deco Era: 1920-1945 – By 1925 the stylized arts community had captured the very artsy and decorative enthusiasm in the form streamlined and colorful motifs that today is known as Art Deco.  The term was shortened from the name of the 1925 Paris Exposition Des Arts Dé-Coratifs.  In 1925, Pierre Cartier used this stylized art to create jewelry which made him an icon.


Pierre Cartier and one of his gorgeous pieces below.


Fashion influences after WWI were that the ladies' hemlines began to rise.  And for the first time, ladies' dresses belted at the hips or hung straight from the shoulders with no emphasis on the bust or waistline.  The challenge though became how to get one’s beads to hang straight from the neck to the waist! 


1920's Art Deco Dress Style


                                      1920's Art Deco Dress Style & Jewelry

Popular gems were the newly introduced brilliant cut diamonds.   Zircons and marcasites were a popular substitute for diamonds.  The next gemstones favored were sapphires and emeralds.  Opals, aquamarine, zircon, and topaz were also popular.

Art Deco 10K Yellow Gold Diamond and Black Onyx Ring
Shop this Art Deco gold ring here
Art Deco 14K Yellow and White Gold ring with miners cut diamond.
Find this on our website here.

Jewelers widely promoted the idea of remaking old jewelry into new Art Deco forms and advertised the service in the retail catalogues.  Which explains the frequent occurrence of old European cut diamonds in Art Deco rings and brooches.  To survive the depression, many jewelers added less expensive lines of jewelry.  Gold-filled, silver and enameled jewelry was called “costume jewelry”, though most of it was set with semi-precious gemstones, like garnet, in base-metal settings.


Retro Era: 1939-1950 – This era jewelers and costume jewelers started making abstract styles of jewelry.  Snowflake motif’s, winding strips and folds of polished metal floral sprays brooches.  Patriotic jewelry also became very popular after the war and wire wrapped letters spelling “mother” or “sister” were worn by family and friends of military serving overseas.

Retro Patriotic Necklace
Shop this necklace here.


Whimsical motifs with dancing ballerinas, furred and feathered animals, flowers, butterflies and cute dogs with bobbing heads and birds fluttering. 


Crown Trifari Brooch ~ shop this item here.
Retro Era Sterling Silver Ballerina Brooch
Shop this pin here.


Popular gems were diamonds or anything resembling diamonds.  Rubies, sapphires, aquamarine and pearls were the standard for fashion at the time.  With WWII affecting the metal shortages during this era, steel and copper were used by many jewelers had to learn to create a piece that did not have to be finely cast, buffed and finished.  Most no longer used prong setting for rhinestones and other gem substitutes, choosing instead to glue-set.  Rhinestones were made of lead crystal giving them more brilliance.  Foil backing made less expensive rhinestones look brighter.  Lucite, a new plastic that was clear and did not yellow was widely used in costume jewelry.  

Retro Coro blue moonglow Lucite necklace
Shop this necklace here.


There is such a rich history behind each jewelry era and individualized character for each timeless piece. So, what is your favorite jewelry era?  Love to hear all your answers and why below!


~ Vintage Jewelry ~

Shop all of our vintage and estate jewelry here.


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