The Enduring Appeal of Antique Jewelry
Not only is antique jewelry beautiful and fun to wear, but it also demonstrates a real marriage of artistry, craftsmanship, intrinsic value, and context. Part of the beauty of antique jewelry is that it comes with stories, allowing one to touch the past. Some pieces have incredible provenance, and many pieces have an interesting historical context, much of which we’ve been exploring on the blog. For example, nationalism and Berlin iron, Victorian revival styles, romanticism, science and insect jewelry, the rise of leisure and sporting jewelry, and so much more. Antique jewelry is very much a reflection of time, and therefore needs to be appreciated the same way one appreciates works of art and paintings: you have to learn about it. Since people have been adorning themselves since the beginning of time, there is an antique style for everyone!
On a more personal level, there is an intimacy to antique jewelry. In some families, the only surviving heirlooms are jewelry. Jewelry is valuable and portable, making it more easily transferrable to future generations, and therefore carries irreplaceable sentimental value. There is real power in being able to connect with your ancestors by wearing a piece of jewelry that has been in your family for generations. It is a unique feeling when you slip on a ring and realize you have the same ring size as your great grandmother whom you never met.
Greater thought went into designing antique pieces. Unique stones, selected for their beauty, and symbolism inspired well thought out, one-of-a-kind compositions. Today, stones are often selected for their intrinsic value and standardized for mass produced mounts. That is not to say that there are not exceptions, but even people who do not have an academic knowledge of jewelry can visually understand the difference between antique and modern work. A quick quality test is to turn a piece over, a true work of art will be just as lovely on the reverse. While there are a handful of modern jewelers who are master craftsman, mass production has really replaced handcraft in the industry.
Many of our pieces come from a more formal era, a time very different from how we live today. It is fun to imagine how they were worn then, and even more fun to incorporate them into today’s fashions. The constant evolution of fashion breathes new life into antique jewelry. More often than not we find ourselves in jeans as opposed to ballgowns, but a great piece of jewelry and some confidence looks good with anything!