Antique Diamond Jewelry
The lure of antique diamond jewelry can attract an investment minded consumer for any number of reasons. It might be the history of the piece that intrigues them, or they may have a preference for the design esthetics of a particular time in history. Whether that preference leans toward the Victorian era, the Edwardian era, the Georgian era, or perhaps is more inclined toward an art nouveau or art deco style, vintage ornamentation has a unique appeal. Some consumers find a romantic connection with antique jewelry rings. Engagement and wedding rings from days past give some consumers a sense of connection with another place and time. For others, the idea of purchasing vintage pieces as an investment is the top priority and quality items can certainly increase in value as the years go by. Estate sales can often be good sources of pre-owned pieces of a more recent vintage. Some consumers simply prefer the trends and fashions of past decades to contemporary choices.
Searching for antique diamond jewelry is easier than some might think. There are many businesses that specialize in this type of one of a kind merchandise. When searching for a unique engagement ring, for instance, the choices in the area of antique jewelry rings expand far beyond just the traditional diamond. In times past, wedding and engagement rings did not just feature the diamond, but many other precious stones as well including the sapphire, the aquamarine, the topaz, the emerald, the ceylon and others. Some of these pieces included diamonds along with the other precious stones and some did not. Whether contemplating vintage or contemporary pieces, it is important to remember to consider the four C's of quality when making any diamond purchase. These C's stand for color, clarity, cut, and carat. Color is measured on a letter scale with the letter D meaning colorless, the letter Z meaning yellow or brown, with several grades in between. Clarity measures the stone's level of flawlessness. Stones with no flaws are represented by the letter F. From there, the scale measures whether a stone is very, very slightly included or flawed, all the way to the included grade which means that the stone has a flaw that is visible to the naked eye. Cut has less to do with the shape of the diamond as the proportion and faceting of the stone. Finally, carat represents the weight of the stone.
There are a wide variety of styles that are available within the antique diamond jewelry category. The Victorian style is characterized by ornate miniatures and cameos, or even snakes, worn by Queen Victoria herself, which were considered to bring good luck and denote eternity. The Edwardian period saw a preference for more delicate pieces and intricate filigree work. The city of Paris gave birth to the art deco style in 1925 at the Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Manufactures. Bold colors, geometric shapes and strong symmetry were some of the hallmarks of this style. The art nouveau period is believed to have originated as a response to the industrial revolution. Nature was a major theme in fashion during the art nouveau period with the use of birds, flying insects, flowers, and curved lines. Whatever the style, the price of antique jewelry rings can run as high as several thousand dollars.
Vintage items are pieces that were created in the 1930's, and 40's. While not antiques, some vintage pieces carry price tags that are considerably smaller than antique diamond jewelry while others can sell for prices in the same ball park as their more historic counterparts. World War II caused jewelry production to greatly decrease; nevertheless, the items that were produced were marked by large stones and a lavish style. Ironically, this magnificence on the outside masked a very different condition on the inside. Many of the settings were not solid gold or silver but were hollow since metal had to be conserved during the war years. Social conditions also seemed to influence the styles of necklaces, rings, bracelets, and pins during this time. In the war years, women had taken over the jobs traditionally held by men in the business world. Tailored jackets and pencil skirts called for a bolder, chunkier kind of jewelry, which became the calling card for the pieces created during this time.
Another alternative to antique jewelry rings might be estate pieces. In the 1950's, combining style with function became a popular trend. Precious stones were very popular along with curved lines and a sleek and aerodynamic design. The Bible talks about using precious stones for adornment and how King Solomon decorated the temple with valuable gemstones. "And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim." (2 Chronicles 3:6)
Another difference between contemporary and antique jewelry rings might be the cut of the stone. The hand cutting of antique diamonds created a very different look than their modern counterparts. Today's stones are geared toward maximum refraction and the types of cuts that are used reflect that. Older stones were cut to make them weigh more with less concern about refraction and tend to have four major differences from contemporary stones: slighter tables, deeper pavilions, taller crowns, and wider girdles. These characteristics gave the stones a softer glow and less fire. Many consumers find this look very desirable. This difference has increased the demand for classic stones in recent years.
Fine Antique JewelryFinding fine antique jewelry is a real treasure for many people who value wearable or collectible decorations. Vintage pieces from the Victorian, Edwardian, Colonial or other era can prove to be a real find for collectors. Antique reproductions can also be found among fine art jewelry as well that has been handmade by specialty designers that include all the elements of retro wear. Many of the fine art designs, however, are authentic pieces that are one of kind and will rival antique pieces of the past in quality and value for years to come.
Collectible pieces of fine antique jewelry can be found at estate sales, collector's auctions, and in personal, collector displays. Many pieces are hard to find, especially from the Georgian era which included the British monarchs and the reign of Napoleon. Perhaps owing to the many wars fought during this period including the French and American Revolution, many pieces were lost or destroyed during the upheavals. A revival of the finer things ensued after this period, but the style and distinct appearance of this type of design has not been reproduced. Very few pieces from this era are available from either private or commercial collections which make any piece very rare and very expensive to purchase. "Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us; for thou also hast wrought all our works in us." (Isaiah 26:12)
There were many sub periods associate with Victorian decorations and were influenced by the many moods of Queen Victoria who married, suffered the death of her husband, mourned and finally came out of that dark period before her death. Her influence on the cultural undertones of fine art jewelry is apparent by the obvious showcasing of these moods. Everything from bright, shiny gold jewelry to the subsequent dark, plainer designs evidenced her influence over her country. This period is marked by romance and its end is punctuated by the sparkle of new diamonds discovered in South Africa toward the conclusion of her reign. Many pieces survived that era and can more easily be found on the collector's market than some other pieces from bygone eras.
The Victorian era was a very popular time in history that produced many selections that have proved to be timeless designs. Reproductions of this age can be purchased in modern stores and can be worn as adornment on contemporary styles. An important era for fine art jewelry was among the Native American Indians who were expert in developing their own styles reflective of their culture even before the discovery of America by the Spaniards. Stunning pieces of originality can still be seen made from silver and turquoise as well as other materials. The trend for Native American jewelry has continued to this day and many tribes such as the Navajo of the Southwest continue to produce dazzling, ornamental jewelry that can be purchased by anyone who appreciates this special type of artistry.
Southeastern tribes such as the Cherokee also continue to contribute to the flow of fine art jewelry that is offered through tribal shops as well as through online commerce. America has always been a rich source of development, entrepreneurship and unique design when it comes to fine antique jewelry as well as contemporary creativity. Costume decorations for personal wear became very popular in the early 1900's and many American designers have continued to develop their own unique branding through style, design and artistic flair from New York City to the boondocks of Louisiana. Some jewelry that is very costly or of moderate value can be found online through many establishments. Unusual pieces can be found by customers who have a taste for unique items that are not manufactured from cookie cutter designs. Items such as bracelets, earrings, rings, watches, necklaces, bolo ties, and belt buckles can be purchased that have a one and only design.
Many famous designers of fine jewelry sign their pieces with their own signature which can elevate the worth of the item. Of course, there are reproductions of many products that are not as expensive and are accessible by consumers are not able to pay a king's ransom for earrings or a watch. There are many ecommerce sites that offer wholesale or discount prices for designer quality products and make it possible for just about anyone to own a valuable item. For those who love the mystique of fine antique jewelry but can't afford a collector's price, keep an eye out for auctions, estate sales and yes, flea markets. A treasure can be found among many discarded items on a roadside stand or at a yard sale. Part of the fun can be the search for a beautiful piece of antique jewelry and who knows, a profit might be gained from its resale. The beauty of various styles of jewelry is always in the eye of the beholder and the worth is always more than the asking price.
Unique heirlooms such as antique ivory jewelry and antique cameo jewelry can be easily bought and sold over the internet. One person may want to purchase a very special one-of-a-kind item as a present for a milestone anniversary. Another may need to sell the contents of a matronly aunt's jewelry box as part of liquidating her estate. Whether buying or selling antique pieces, especially online, it's always a good idea to find out as much as possible about the market, the differing styles of various eras, and how to determine the quality, and even the authenticity, of different pieces. The buyer will need this kind of information to avoid paying top dollar for an ivory bracelet that turns out to be made of bone. The seller will need similar information so that the items being sold are accurately described to potential buyers. An amateur seller will want to be especially careful that he doesn't sell a rare pendant for just a few bucks; neither is it good for one's reputation to advertise a Victorian-era cameo brooch that turns out to be a factory-made reproduction.
The Victorian Era, the years between 1837 and 1901, were an exciting time of growth, exploration, and prosperity for England. The popular Queen Victoria, who adored her husband and children, set the standard for style and fashion throughout her long reign. Much of the antique cameo jewelry prized by collectors today was carved during the fashionable days of Queen Victoria. A cameo is a portrait, profile, or scene in raised relief that is set against a contrasting background. Italian craftsmen used shells, which were inexpensive and easy to carve, to create cameos as early as the beginning years of the nineteenth century. Other natural materials, such as lava and coral, were also used. In time, craftsmen began using stones to create more valuable cameos. Popular choices were agates with their stunning array of colors, black onyx, and the red and black banded sardonyx. Women of fashion (and wealth) often commissioned carvers to create their likeness on a cameo which could be worn as either a brooch or a pendant. A black velvet ribbon, or perhaps a pastel satin one, would hold the pendant in place at the base of the lady's throat. In time, the idealized or anonymous woman came to be carved on numerous cameos which could be purchased by those unable to afford a commissioned profile. Motifs honoring Queen Victoria's love for family included flowers, bows, and hearts. Landscape scenes were popular and so were the gods and goddesses of classical Greek mythology. Catherine the Great of Russia was another royal who loved wearing cameos. Women wearing antique cameo jewelry in modern times can imagine a royal connection to these long-ago sovereigns.
In the Old Testament, we read these words about the wealth and riches of Solomon: "Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. . . . For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks" (1 Kings 10:18, 22). Andre Lemaire, a French paleographer, found a carved ivory pomegranate in 1979 that was, for a time, thought to have been on top of the Hebraic high priest's staff in Old Testament times and a tangible artifact from King Solomon's temple. A few years ago, however, experts agreed that the pomegranate was a forgery. Little, if anything, seems to remain of all of Solomon's vast riches from those long-ago days of peace and prosperity during his reign of wisdom.
Ivory was a popular commodity before the invention of plastic in the late nineteenth century. The hard, organic material was used for such disparate items as billiard balls, buttons, and combs. Here again, much antique ivory jewelry comes from the popularity of such pieces during the reign of Queen Victoria. At that time, a great deal of the precious material came from the tusks of African elephants, though other sources were Asian elephants, hippos, and boars. Fossilized ivory came from mammoths. At one time, the tusks of walruses were used, still in one piece, for the handles of swords. Of course, different animal species produce different kinds of ivories. But the quality and coloring varies according to other factors, too. For example, ivory that comes from elephants will differ according to the type of elephant, the region the elephant is from, and the age of the ivory. It may range in color from very white to a creamy yellow to shades of brown. Fossilized tusks produce darker ivories. A world-wide ban on the elephant ivory trade occurred in 1989 as a result of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Unfortunately, this has had the unintended consequence of raising the value of elephant tusks on the black market.
A necklace that is believed to be antique ivory jewelry may actually be made of bone. In determining authenticity, experts look for an ivory's grain (like miniature tree rings) or cross-hatching, though this can be difficult depending on the angle of the cut. However, bone is a rougher, more splintery material and often experts can see the tell-tale signs of blood vessels or nerves. A very strong light, shining from below the piece, and powerful magnification may be needed for authentication. The light and magnification should show the translucent layers characteristic of ivory or the microscopic blood and nerve channels of bone. Mild soap and water can be used to clean antique ivory jewelry, but the item should never be left to soak because of the porous nature of ivory. Though it can be bleached to remove stained, the item also can be dyed to give it an aged appearance. Special care also needs to be given to antique cameo jewelry. Instructions for the proper care and storage of antique jewelry can be found on several websites.