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Costume Jewelry History
And Jewelry Marks

August 23, 2014

The Definitive Guide To Antique Jewelry...Courtesy of Adolf Jewelers

Collectors and fashionistas alike rejoice in finding a truly special, one-of-a-kind piece of antique or vintage jewelry. Whether you run across an ornate Victorian treasure, a spare Colonial item, or a funky art-deco piece, this wearable art brings individuality to any outfit. As a gift, vintage and antique jewelry is incomparable, as it shows thought and personality. Or, if you simply collect beautiful items, antique jewelry has a value beyond mass-produced modern pieces, thanks to both the rarity of such pieces, and the craftsmanship involved in the design and construction. The value of antique jewelry has only to appreciate over time.
There are plenty of places to go if you're hunting for antique jewelry. Estate sales are definitely your best bet, although auctions, antique malls, yard sales, and vintage clothing boutiques can also be good places to look. If you are looking for a particular style, then you might have more luck looking online at auction and sales sites like e-bay and Etsy give you the ability to really narrow and refine your search.
Of course, if you are an avid collector, and have a predilection for harder to find pieces, such as those from the Georgian period, then you know what a tough thing it can be to search for new items. The volume of wars (primarily the French Revolution and American Revolution), and invasions during this time had the result of massive destruction and loss of property. That said, if you happen to find a piece from this period, hold on to it or put it in a museum, for it is an artifact, and something special indeed.
Not since the end of the Georgian era have craftsmen designed and constructed such ornate pieces. The ornate cameos, and filigree, and the finely cut gemstones cannot be imitated. Victorian era jewelry is somewhat easier to find. This period is marked by many distinctive design styles, as Queen Victoria had a widespread influence on culture and the arts. The reign of Victoria was marked by long periods of somberness, bookended by romance and celebration, as she was married during her dominion, and spent years in mourning after her husband's death. Victorian jewelry can range from radiant gold, which marks the beginning of the era, to rather austere pieces common during the Queen's mourning, to dazzling diamonds popularized during the colonization of South Africa.
Much jewelry from the Victorian era still survives, but there is also a proliferation of reproductions, so be sure what you find is authentic by having it appraised by a professional. Check for things like signatures or maker's marks on the back of pendants or on the insides of bracelets and rings. Or, if you simply enjoy the appearance of this era's wearable art, look to reproductions as an affordable alternative. Additionally, with reproductions, you won't have the fear of losing or damaging a piece by wearing it to a special event. These affordable and beautiful pieces give you the option of wearing a stunning piece on any occasion at all.