Billowing ballgowns. A shimmering forest of candelabras. Finely cut coattails and even more finely polished boots. The soft swirls of silk and taffeta paired with the swelling strains of a Viennese waltz. And, above all, the celestial twinkle of diamonds, the lustrous sheen of pearls and a glorious kaleidoscope of gemstones shimmering in elegantly appointed rooms. These are the images that spring to mind when we imagine the antique Georgian, Victorian and Gilded Age periods.
Of course, the times of cotillions and courtliness may have passed and we may have replaced soirees with steakhouses but the glistening accessories of these elegant ages remain beautiful and — more importantly — wearable for the modern woman. Whether you are a collector of fine antiques made of precious materials, or you’ve just discovered these alluring artifacts, these timeless treasures are absolutely ideal for gift-giving — and for starting a collection of your own heirlooms.
Here are some of our favorite antique jewels to brighten your jewelry box!
The Georgian Age
From the Beladora Archives: Antique Georgian Spinel and Diamond Cross Pendant
The Georgian era is so named for a succession of King Georges that reigned over the British Empire. Ornate, elegant and incredibly luxurious, items such as this shimmering spinel and diamond cross would not look out of place at Jane Austen’s famed Pemberley House. This beautifully crafted pendant is a truly remarkable antique that pairs diamonds with gloriously red spinel and hints of black enamel.
From the Beladora Archives: Antique Georgian Rose Cut Diamond Ring
Social upheaval and international instability in the decades before modernization and the Industrial Revolution showcased a darker side to the Georgian period. The horrors of the French Revolution and a burgeoning taste for the fanciful and imaginative created a Romantic movement in art and literature that translated beautifully into the jewels of the time. With a dramatic design that would please even famed Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe, this rose cut diamond ring is an antique with a thoroughly modern vibe. Edgy yet elegant, this ring is as suited to an ancient haunted castle as it is to a rock concert.
The Victoria Era
Antique Victorian Sapphire and Diamond Brooch
An era renowned for its superstitious yet grandiose culture, the Victorian age marked the beginning of jewelry as a universally available means of accessory. Where previously jewelry had been reserved for the highest social echelons, industrialization democratized both the production and purchase of jewels. Still, many items — such as the beautiful sapphire and diamond brooch above — featured a heavy emphasis on symbolism. The intertwined circles here represent both infinity and the arcane intersection of the physical and spiritual realms.
Antique Victorian Hair Mourning Brooch
Mourning jewelry, an ancient way of outwardly portraying grief, came to the height of popularity during the Victorian age — especially in the wake of Prince Albert’s death. Circles, representative of infinity, were highly common motifs as well as the use of black enamel such as in the brooch above. What makes this brooch so special as an artifact is that it is also a locket brooch featuring an intricate circlet of braided hair, probably the hair of the original owner’s loved one.
The Arts and Crafts Movement
Antique Arts and Crafts Amethyst and Pearl Necklace
The Arts and Crafts movement was both a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and a precursor to the Art Nouveau period. Marked by an emphasis on artisanship and a distaste of highly precious materials, jewelry from this movement is often beautifully hand-crafted in silver using colorful, semi-precious stones such as the large amethyst cabochons of this necklace. This hand-forged creation utilizes organic motifs and sensually flowing lines for an aesthetic that would become internationally famed in the Nouveau period.
Antique Arts and Crafts Cameo Ring
Even as urbanization led to a mass influx of people to cities, the members of the Arts and Crafts movement, driven by a desire to divest themselves of more worldly and cynical trappings, left major metropolitan areas in favor of quieter country abodes and independent smithies. The very Victorian motif of the cherub in this ring is paired with a hand-carved hardstone profile cameo that creates a sentimental yet unique ring.
The Art Nouveau Period
Antique Art Nouveau Diamond Locket Pendant
Sensuous yet sumptuous, the Art Nouveau era took the naturalistic, curvilinear designs of the Arts and Crafts movement and transmuted them into luxurious and unique items. Beauty reigns in these lovely creations that often feature female profiles, flowers and voluptuously curved lines. The clear, romantic figure in this locket is framed by a golden garland and a shimmering border of old rose cut diamonds.
Art Nouveau Gibson Girl Pendant
An iconic image from the Gilded Age, the Gibson Girl represented the ideal of feminine beauty. Lovely, luminous and toeing the fine line between sweet and sensual, the pair of profiles in this brooch feature luxuriant masses of hair in swirling lines that are typical of the Nouveau aesthetic. Angelic rays around each face lend a romantic aspect to this pendant — a romance that fully expresses the prevailing hopes and desires of the Turn of the Century.
For a different gift-giving guide that features fun products from Beladora, stop by one of our favorite blogs Une Femme D’une Certain Age and see what bright baubles made her Christmas list!