When you choose a vintage or antique engagement ring, you tell a rich story that declares something wonderful about your romance. Each jewelry era has its own distinctive look that combines with a vibrant history to evoke a one-of-a-kind style. So... what do you want to tell the world about your love? Here’s everything you need to know about the most popular jewelry eras so you can make the right choice.
Victorian Era Jewelry Characteristics
18-year-old Queen Victoria ushered in a new era in history when she took the throne in 1837. Numerous pieces of authentic Victorian Era jewelry survive today and remain as beautiful and beloved as their namesake monarch. The availability of these treasures is in part due to the emergence of technological innovations that reduced the time necessary for jewelers of the period to create their masterpieces—they were able to make more jewelry than ever before.
Jewelry from the Victorian Era is prized by collectors and highly sought after. Design and materials of engagement rings and other jewelry from this era reflect the momentous events and cultural significance of the period. The most notable characteristics include:
- Elaborate gold designs
- Diamonds, in large cuts
- Birthstone engagement rings
- Serpent motifs
- Etruscan, Egyptian and native designs
- “Mystical” gemstones, including amethyst, bloodstone, onyx, coral, and agate
With the discovery of diamonds in South Africa toward the end of the Victorian Era, the diamond solitaire engagement ring arose as the enduring symbol of matrimonial love. Authentic diamond wedding and engagement rings from this period are treasured antiques and in high demand as totems that infuse modern romance with traditional ideals of love and fidelity. Featuring exquisite and timeless designs with distinctive character difficult to find in contemporary pieces, it's impossible not to be seduced by the grandeur and epic history contained in these wonderful treasures.
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Edwardian Era Jewelry Characteristics
In 1901, Queen Victoria's son Edward VII rose to the throne, thereby ushering in the Edwardian Era. The Edwardian Period is somewhat fluid, however, and may include prior years from 1890 on, when the aesthetic influences of the “Belle Epoch” first emerged from high society lifestyles. This period also continues past Edward’s death in 1910, into the middle part of the decade and the onset of World War I.
Sultry lines, delicate curves and explicitly feminine glamour are the characteristics of this magnificent era. The gorgeous and delicate style of the times is credited to King Edward & Queen Alexandra, along with the fine French jewelry houses that were able to distill their elegance into an aesthetic that highlighted delicacy, grace, and a fine attention to detail. Some of the more distinctive Edwardian jewelry characteristics include:
- Platinum and finely worked alloys
- Diamonds and pearls in abundance
- Marquise, emerald, baguette, and briolette cut gemstones
- Feminine motifs, including stars, hearts, garlands, and horses
- Extensive filigree details
Platinum and diamonds are the major hallmark of a vintage Edwardian Era engagement ring. Jewelers finally mastered the ability to work platinum into delicate designs, many with an alluring lacework appearance. Innovative new cuts also resulted in renewed interest in diamonds as the centerpiece stone for all types of jewelry in the period.
While Edwardian jewelry clearly has its roots in Victorian ideals of beauty, the newer designs are distinctive for their almost ethereal appearance. The Edwardian Era was still largely a time of innocence, and enthusiasts are often drawn to the historical tension of the Belle Epoch—the last hurrah of a kinder, simpler time when beauty was still hailed above modernity.
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Art Deco Jewelry Characteristics
The term “Art Deco” is used to describe the period between 1915 and 1935. The period includes World War I, the Jazz Age, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and the upheaval leading to World War II. The jewelry of the era is as dynamic, unique, and varied as you might expect.
“Iconic” is the adjective most often used to describe the Art Deco look. The distinctive beauty of vintage Art Deco jewelry is immediately recognizable and instantly transports you back in time to the jazz of the Roaring 20s and the bright lights of the big cities that tantalized newcomers with entertainment and adventure. The iconic Art Deco look for jewelry and engagement rings is most embodied in the following characteristics:
- Audacious & innovative geometric designs
- Large caliber cut gemstones
- Diamond centerpiece stones
- Vividly colored accent gemstones, including sapphires, rubies and emeralds
- Platinum and white gold
The Art Deco period never slept. Engagement rings from this time are likewise exuberant and flamboyant, demanding attention. Full of unique looks and styles, you’re sure to find the perfect design to tell your romantic story.
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Retro Jewelry Styles & Characteristics
The Retro jewelry period encompasses the years just before and after World War II, roughly 1935-1950. The peril and upheaval of those relatively brief years was met by an urgency to celebrate luxury, triumphant creativity, and the indomitable human spirit.
Retro period jewelry styles reflect traditional motifs and elements familiar from past exemplars of style, infused with a new vision of modernity that embraced glamour and spotlighted elegance. Retro jewelry is charged with a vibrant and heady air of history that matches the seductive extravagance of its design. Telltale characteristics of this period include:
- Large, bold looks
- Glamorous & expressive design
- Generously sized gemstones in geometric cuts
- Bows, ribbons, flowers and feminine embellishments
- Playful & creative aesthetic
- Gold and silver, including vividly hued alloys
The privations of the war years impacted many design aspects of Retro period jewelry. Gold and silver were the favored precious metals, as they were less in demand in war industries than platinum. Simultaneously, the fraught times awakened an urge to innovate, to depart from tradition and embrace newfound modernity. The development of new alloys allowed for a range of evocative colors to be produced, including rose gold and green gold hues. These wonderful designs appear plucked from nature and are a popular choice to express individual tastes in beauty and elegance.
The breadth of styles within Retro period jewelry is amazing. From romantic and curvy to dramatic and geometric, the huge selection is a happy blessing to contemporary shoppers. You’re certain to find an engagement ring that suits your individual style like no other.
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Find the Ultimate Symbol of Your Love Today!
The perfect ring is waiting for you. Explore our collections of antique and vintage engagement rings from each of these incredible eras, and make your romance part of a grand tradition.
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