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Discovering the Eras of Jewelry

Discovering the Eras of Jewelry

July 19, 2017

era of vintage ringsYou love vintage rings...but you want to know more about these beauties and the eras they come from. Well sister you’ve come to the right place! Verma group is here to help! If you’ve been shopping around the vintage jewelry marketplace on our Etsy page, VermaEstateJewelry, you’ve most likely seen that we have a lot of vintage rings! Here’s hoping you can narrow your search down when you discover these eras and the unique zeitgeist that influenced the rings from these times! Below I have given detailed descriptions of the most prevalent eras we use to describe our rings! TIP: After you read up on the eras try narrowing your search by era and see what wonders you find! Let’s start with the Georgian Era!

Georgian Era:

Time Period: An authentic Georgian ring is considered to be a piece produced during the reigns of Kings George I-IV and (lastly) William the IV. Rings during this period crafted from 1714 to 1830 (sometimes considered up to 1837)

Description of Era: Rings throughout the Georgian era often represented natural themes and intricate shapes. During this time, innovation in the use of gemstones - particularly large old world cut diamonds occurred.

Diamond resources were very limited (and remained so until the late 19th century), it was throughout this era that untried settings and open facets were devised to let more light reflection in lively colorful gemstones and outstanding diamonds. During the Georgian era an interest in amplifying flashy, fire and brilliance of gemstones and diamonds set in jewelry began.

Georgian ring style themes throughout these years included ribbon work, butterflies and flowers. Many Georgian antique wedding bands were created with Grecian inspired designs which were very gracefully shaped with complex metal works including acorns, doves, flowers, scrolls, and wheat stalks.

The Georgian era was also characterized by the preservation memories and the times of the day. As a result, distinct and very unique Georgian rings such as the memorial ring, the locket ring, and the poesy ring were fashioned. The memorial ring, also known as a mourning ring, was intended to preserve the memory of a loved one and included rings with a small portrait, or initials carved into the ring, or sometimes hair from a loved one woven into the back of the ring or preserved on the front of the ring. Locket rings also held the hair of a loved one or a miniature picture. Originally these rings were not intended to be used as wedding rings. However, today they are sometimes purchased as unique wedding rings which symbolize the remembrance of eternal love. The Georgian poesy ring was a wedding ring, usually crafted out of gold band engraved with Old English love sayings.

Georgian rings were usually crafted from 22k and 18k gold. Occasionally, rings from this time made with 15k or 10k karat gold may be found but they are not as common. Rings were also made with silver and pinchbeck, a popular gold imitation of the day made with 83% copper and 17% zinc. Settings and prongs for gemstones and diamonds were made with silver, and sometimes silver plated over gold.

Before the 1750’s all pieces were made with hand-hammered alloys which gave metal rings from the Georgian era a speckled or sometimes rough pitted look. After the 1750's, machines and presses were invented and a rolling machine was used to create more uniform metal for rings and other types of jewelry pieces.

While large diamonds were very popular among the nobel & wealthy, these rings are a very rare find today. Sometimes, diamond Georgian rings may be found with small clusters of diamonds. These diamonds were usually cut with old world rose or table cuts.

Popular colorful gemstones of this era include emeralds, rubies, sapphires, garnet, topaz and black onyx. Additional materials such as coral, mother of pearl, river pearls, and shell were also frequently used in rings.

Whatever materials were used, Georgian rings are often highly colorful and designed to reflect the Romanticism movement of the times. These rings were designed with complex details and are a remembrance of beauty and sentimentality.

Victorian Era:

Time Period: The styles of the Victorian wedding ring and engagement ring were defined by the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 - 1901 and her everlasting affection for her beloved husband Albert. Victoria too had a great influence on the jewelry styles of the time, and it was her great love of diamonds that led to a revolution in diamond rings. The Victorian era is separated into three distinct times - which all have their own unique styles and history. These are the Early Victorian period, the Mid-Victorian period and the Late Victorian period.

Description of Era: Changes to the metals and diamond gemstones used to create wedding rings and engagement rings occurred during the Victorian eras.

The first was the introduction of lower karat gold alloys; before 1854, precious rings were created mainly with 22k or 18k gold (75% pure gold alloyed with copper, silver, nickel, or a mixture of these metals) and silver, but after 1854 the gold standards changed and rings created with 15k gold, 12k gold, and 9k gold became legal on the market.

The second important change was the opening of the South African diamond mines in 1870; before 1870 diamonds were quite rare and most diamond rings contained clusters of small diamonds, but after 1870 when the South African mines opened large diamonds became available for use in wedding rings and engagement rings. 

Early Victorian Wedding Rings: 1837-1860

Early Victorian wedding rings symbolized the heydays of the early reign of Queen Victoria and her marriage to Albert. The Victorian snake ring became extremely popular during Queen Victoria's first years of marriage because Albert had given her a snake and emerald engagement ring. Whatever Queen Victoria wore soon became 'all the rage', and from this time on the Victorian snake ring enjoyed years of popularity.

Gemstones included amethyst, bloodstone, chalcedony, garnet, moss agate, ruby, smoky quartz, and topaz. Many engagement rings included the bride’s birthstone. Rings often included multiple gemstones and other types of materials such as coral, ivory, tortoise shell, and seed pears. In some cases, inlaid images were placed under a gemstone.

Diamond rings often included small clusters of diamonds or small diamonds which framed circular or square shaped gemstones. The most popular diamond cuts of the day were the new "brilliant" cut and the old world rose cut.

Ring metals of the time included 22k and 18k gold, rose gold, pinchbeck (a gold imitation made with copper and zinc) and in later years 9k, 12k and 15k gold.

Popular motifs included natural themes like butterflies, clover, garlands, daisies, doves, Gothic symbols and letters plus snakes.

Mid-Victorian Wedding Rings: 1860 - 1885

During the Mid-Victorian period, rings began to shift in style. Albert passed away in 1861, and memorial rings (also known as mourning rings) became very popular again (they were initially common during the Georgian era). Victorian engagement rings and wedding rings from this middle era are made from silver and various gold karat alloys (18k, 15k, 14k, 12k, and 9k). Rose gold rings created from gold alloyed with copper also became very popular during this time. Popular gemstones and designs during the Mid-Victorian period included opals, crystals, emeralds, diamonds, pearls, black glass, jet, and the ruby. Designs become less ornate and more refined. Rings were made by handcrafting. Popular jewelry design motifs included acorns, hearts, bees, birds, stars, insects, shells, some flowers and geometrical shapes.

It is also during the Mid-Victorian era when the gold strike occurred in California in 1849, when the 1854 gold stamp law was passed in the United States and when the major diamond discovery in South Africa occurred in 1867. Due to advances in rail and transportation, this was also a great time of movement. As a result, many antique wedding rings and engagement rings crafted at this time made their way to different countries from their initial country of origin, and there was a marked increase in the use of gold and diamonds in jewelry - and rings - around the world.

Late Victorian Wedding Rings: 1890 - 1901

Rings from the Late Victorian period are defined in a large part by their use of diamonds, cluster and marquise boat shapes, use of pearls and light airy styles which were an inspiration for rings made in the upcoming Edwardian period.

Victorian engagement rings largely changed with the diamond rush. Platinum was often used for ring settings. There was also a shift from handcrafted rings to rings that were mass produced using machines. This was the era when handcrafted rings went from a mainstay to a mere novelty, and many of the techniques of metal working were lost to history.

The Late Victorian era was also when the solitaire diamond engagement ring made its first debut and quickly became well-liked by the mid-1890s. Platinum became widely used for settings replacing gold and silver in popularity.  Predominant jewelry themes during the Late Victorian period were bows and ribbons, lace-type filigree, stars, feathers, double hearts, crowns, doves, oak leaves, grape clusters and Egyptian designs.

Popular gemstones used in Victorian wedding rings and engagement rings, in addition to diamonds and pearls included aquamarine, peridot, rubies, sapphires, opals, amethyst, chrysoberyl, turquoise and emeralds. Rings were made with metals including 18k, 15k 12k and 9k yellow gold, rose gold, silver and platinum became the preferred metal for diamond and gemstone settings in luxury pieces.

Edwardian Era:

Time Period: Edwardian rings were crafted during the brief reign of King Edward VII which lasted from 1901 to 1910. Edwardian era jewelry is categorized by a delicate elegance and light airy feeling which seemed to capture the carefree attitudes of the day.

Description of Era: It was during this time that the famous filigree ring made its entrance, and today an authentic antique filigree ring is very sought after.

Designs of the Edwardian era were influenced by the styles from the Late-Victorian Age. During this time, jewelry became more refined. Diamonds and colorful gemstones were popular and advancements in setting and cuts of the stones continued. Throughout this era of peacetime the arts thrived and this time became known as "The Beautiful Age" which inspired new jewelry styles.

The introduction of filigree paired with beautiful center stones including diamonds, pearls or colorful gemstones display the elegance and delicacy of the time.

Flower-like themes in jewelry became quite popular too due to Queen Alexandra's love and appreciation of flowers. Pearls were featured prominently in Edwardian jewelry as well, in part from the heavy use of freshwater pearls during the late 1800s by Tiffany & Co.

Some designs and motifs of the Edwardian era reflected the influence of Art Nouveau's circular lines and swirls, and others had more geometric styles. Popular patterns and style effects for jewelry included bows and ribbons, moon and stars, flowers, garlands, leaves, shamrocks, scrolls and hearts.

In this era platinum became widely available not only for gemstone or diamond settings but for the entire piece of jewelry. More unique cuts of diamonds became widely available during the Edwardian era including the baguette, trapeze, and triangular cut. Although platinum was a favorite Edwardian age metal, multicolored gold was quite popular too including rose gold. White gold began to make an appearance and 18k yellow gold was used often in luxury pieces. Silver was also frequently employed for crafting rings as well.

Gemstones and diamonds were frequently set with "claw" prongs and deep bezel settings plus the new "knife edge setting" which created a suspended in the air effect for diamonds.

Art Deco Era:

Time Period: The Art Deco movement is sometimes dated to between 1920 to 1930, but its beginnings started around 1915 and continued into the 30s. While the styles of the time were in full swing between the 1920s and 1930s, and exploded in the mid-1920s thanks to the "Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes" held in 1925 in Paris, Art Deco rings may be found dated from 1915 and up to around the mid-1930s. 

Description of Era: The artistic design styles of the day were heavily eclectic, even daring, and combined geometric patterns and lines with natural themes and shapes. This was an age of travel, exploration, economic booms and discovering new prospects. The world was experiencing a celebration of renewal and happiness post World War I and this awareness of new beginnings is captured in designs from the Art Deco era.

Art Nouveau influences from the early 1900s can be seen in many Art Deco styles too - a few in particular include geometric designs combined with ribbon, swirl and flower shapes. Motifs were also heavily influenced by increased travel, a growing interest in discovering other cultures, and the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Many Art Deco designs contain Egyptian, African, Oriental and American Indian symbols, designs and patterns.

A bright and bold look was accomplished using eye-catching metal work combined with large diamonds and gemstones to create a style of geometric patterns and shapes. During the Art Deco years, yellow gold was not used often. Platinum, 18k and 14k white gold and sterling silver were most common.  Colorful gemstones and gorgeous diamonds were used often in designs. Gemstones featured prominently in rings of the day, in addition to diamonds, included emeralds, sapphires, jade, black onyx and rubies. Crystal and mother-of-pearl were favored in ring designs throughout the Art Deco years as well and the channel setting was the most popular type of gemstone setting at this time. Art Deco diamond rings were generally made with stones cut with large top table facets and newer cuts such as baguettes, triangle cuts and emerald cuts. However, old world traditional diamond cuts are sometimes seen in Art Deco rings as well. 

Art Nouveau Era:

Time Period: Art Nouveau rings were made during an extremely creative era between 1890 - 1915 which began in the Late Victorian Era and lasted through the brief Edwardian Age. This time is heavily defined by an artistic movement which emphasized designs inspired by nature as a creative protest against the Industrial Revolution.

Description of Era:  Art Nouveau styles are characterized by their symmetry, circular swirls and loops, and very feminine designs. A return to nature was a prominent theme of this movement, and the lines and shapes of the rings were designed to reflect symmetry of nature.

Art Nouveau designs, especially styles introduced in the later years of the movement, often experimented with geometric shapes. This is noted to have lead to the inspiration for the Art Deco movement), the styles highlighted an emphasis on nature through creativity.

During this period too, there was a huge interest in returning back to the days of handcraft jewelry pieces which was rapidly disappearing due to the machines of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, many Art Nouveau rings were machine-made or mass produced, although sometimes stunning antique handcraft rings from this time can be found.

Common motifs featured in antique Art Nouveau rings were insect, plant and flower designs, Oriental styles and curvaceous lines. Abstract designs were gradually introduced as well including circular sunburst shapes and whiplash curves. Many pieces were made with the highly sophisticated look of the Edwardian Era.

Many rings from this age are noted for their brightly colored enamels and almost stained glass appearances which were formed from a revival of an age old jewelry technique known as plique á jour.

Platinum and white gold were used prominently in Art Nouveau antique rings. During the early artistic period of the Art Nouveau years, platinum was introduced in jewelry for the public, and the metal quickly became a preferred material particularly for luxury pieces. Silver and white or yellow gold - including 14k and 18k gold - were quite common too.

Pearls were very popular in Art Nouveau jewelry followed by colorful gemstones including tourmaline, garnet, emerald, carnelian, synthetic and natural ruby, opal, moonstone and lapis lazuli. Small diamonds were often used as accents around central gemstones or pearls, or were combined to create a "diamond flower" type look. Crystal was also incorporated into rings to add a little extra flash for an affordable price.

Diamonds were not often the central feature in the Art Nouveau engagement ring and Art Nouveau wedding ring (unless used to create a flower-like or sunburst design); instead, small diamonds were used as accents, and gemstones were usually the main focus of Art Nouveau era rings.

Retro Era:

Time Period: Retro rings were created during a period in history that reflected the upheaval of World War II and dramatic changes in society. Some of the main influences on jewelry at this time were a blend of the War Effort, Hollywood, the post-Depression recovery and women's entry into the workforce. This era was from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s

Description of Era: Retro style rings combine the fixed Art Deco designs and the free flowing styles of the Edwardian and Art Nouveau periods. Rings from this era often show geometry combine with movement. Many different types of shapes are paired together in unsuspecting ways. Much of the metal filigree work is fixed between hard lines. Hollywood had a huge impact on jewelry designs and styles of this era. Rings, brooches and hat pins made with large diamonds and brilliant gemstones were being introduced by the wealthy. Glitzy cocktail jewelry became extremely popular. Motifs being featured prominently in Retro rings included flowers, flags, birds, hearts, ribbons, scrolls, American Indian inspired themes and stars. Platinum was the most commonly used metal to create jewelry pieces that would maximize the flash and fire of diamonds and gemstones throughout the 1920s and 1930s. But after World War II started, platinum resources were directed for the War Effort and could no longer be used for jewelry as of 1941. Jewelers then turned to the use of white gold, but the U.S. government further restricted the use of gold in 1943. Retro rings from the 30s are often made with platinum or white gold, while those in the early 40s were mainly made with palladium. Restrictions on the use of gold and platinum were lifted in September, 1944 - and shortly thereafter platinum and white gold replaced palladium again. Although the use of white metals was prominent in the U.S., in Europe rose gold was used - when available - for Retro jewelry pieces. Solid rose gold Retro rings are uncommon, but it is possible to find rings that have been decorated with rose gold filigree or inlay on white gold or platinum. Diamonds were the most utilized stones during the Retro period.

Sapphires and rubies were also popular in American retro jewelry because they could be combined with diamonds to create patriotic red, white and blue jewelry pieces. Other popular colorful gemstones were amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, golden beryl peridot and tourmaline. Pearls and moonstone - which were popular during the Art Deco era were sometimes added to Retro jewelry as well. Channel settings are often seen in Retro rings and feature multiple gemstones and diamonds. The invented invisible setting was also created in the early 1930s and was used in many retro designer rings of the time.

 

Well ladies, I know its a lot of info to take in all at once but I hope these descriptions helped you narrow down the search for a vintage ring you can not only wear, but now talk about as well! You’re going to be such a history buff when your friends complement your ring and you can give them a little info about the era it came from! Spreading the vintage love and knowledge makes these rings all the more special!! If you have questions about specific rings or specific eras feel free to give us a holler! We’d love to help you find your dream ring!



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