Dating jewellery

Dating jewellery from decade to decade.

Dating and identifying jewellery's guide - Here we have written a short guide for identifying and dating jewellery that was produced from 1700s, Georgian period up to today. Then a brief look at the last two decades and the twenty first century. 

This part of the guide looks at styles of each era and types of jewellery available. This along with the findings used and signatures or company who made it, will give an estimated decade. With the piece identified in adverts, brochures or fully hallmarked will give an exact date.

Georgian (1714 - 1830)

This 114 year period was a celebration of jewellery and of design and craftsmanship. In this period makers of jewellery across the world would exchange their ideas and improve on them. But the for runner was England with Europe not so far behind. It is not however consigned to a museum but this jewellery can still be worn and seen today. Many materials were used including rock crystal, pinch beck, hair, garnets, coral, Berlin Iron, ivory, velvet, cut steel, glass, pearls, enamel, as well as precious diamonds, gold and silver. The fashion was very fickle during this Georgian ere and changes would occur ever few months from wearing a necklaces as fashionable to not wearing one. Earrings, brooches, stomachers and bodice ornaments, hair ornaments such as diadems, wig pins, tiaras, bandeaux and coronets. Nestled along vinaigrette's. Inspired by the royalty and aristocrats of this era and as already said beautifully crafted.

Victorian

Victorian Era (1837 – 1901)With Queen Victoria reign came the industrial revolution and new cheaper designs in jewellery.

Paste – glass mixed with white lead oxide and potash. Long lasting and a substitute for diamonds. Nowadays old clear rhinestones tend to also get called paste, but this is incorrect.

Fake pearl beads were created by coating balls of glass with a mixture of fish scales and varnish. Along with real pearls.

Cut steel was used first in Birmingham to create marcasite (poor man’s diamonds) It was cut and polished and usually set into silver. Cut steel was also used on its own to create all sorts of fashion accessories.

The romantic era came in when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Mizpah or sentimental brooches with their symbolic messages became fashionable. The word Mizpah is on the front of the brooch - not the signature of Mizpah with two hearts and an arrow on the back. This was the symbol of the Ward Brothers & Quarrier ward of a slightly later date.

Many different materials were used to make jewellery including human hair, tortoiseshell, agates, glass, horn, bone, ivory, amber, bog oak, coral, Berlin iron and jet

Scottish pieces made of silver, granite and agate, became popular because Queen Victoria brought the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
antique clasp on the back of a Scottish piece

On Prince Albert’s death mourning jewellery of a black colour, usually of jet became a staple part of every woman’s jewellery box. Jet is a black fossilized wood and one of the richest sources was in the UK at Whitby.

The Arts and Craft movement in the 1870s until the 1900s saw a rebellion against the inferior machine made products and artisans produced beautiful well made jewellery often from glass, enamel and horn

Art Nouveau Era (1895 – 1905)

For a brief few years, the Art Nouveau movement bridged the gap between the nineteenth and twentieth century. As the 1900s dawned the Arts and Craft movement gave way to designers and craftsmen seeking new inspiration and looked back to earlier times and outwards to more exotic cultures

Inspired by medieval cultures, semi precious stones adored metal jewellery and with the designs of flowers and botany inspired by nature. Peacocks, butterflies, entwining leaves and foliage, dragonflies and of course the “femme fatale” images were liberally used in the designs of this period. Liberty & Co, Lalique, Charles Robert Ashbee, Fred Partridge and his wife May Hart were just some of the designers famous in this era.

Twentieth century Jewellery

George V (1910 – 1936) & Art Deco   Many of the manufacturers producing gilt jewellery turned their craft to help the war effort of the First World War. During the post war booming economy, women changed from wearing the restraining bustles, corsets and long dress to becoming sleek stylish short haired, shorter skirted and obtaining a more liberated lifestyle.

Long vintage earrings feminized the short hairstyles. Long beads and multiple bangles accessorized the flapper dresses of the twenties.

From the flowing and nature style of the Art Nouveau period, the jewellery became abstract and linear - Art Deco flourished. Bakelite became popular mixed with metal and celluloid was used to form brooches, bracelets and necklaces never seen in such color before.
1920s flapper jewellery back of a 1920s jewellery piece

The discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 sparked an Egyptian revival using designs of scarab beetles with blue and green enameling.

As the 1930s dawned the Hollywood influence of glamorous film stars and the import of Czech jewellery with its filigree design and bright colorful rhinestone crystals became popular.

Clipped earring mechanisms were patented and produced in this decade. They were a great hit along with the slightly earlier screw back style. No more piercing ears with a needle, held in the fire to sterilize and a cork at the back of the lobe to stop the needle going to far!

World War Two (1937 – 1949) & Retro Era

Rationing and the war effort made jewellery more popular than ever. It boosted women and men’s morale. Patriotic jewellery made of materials that was low cost were used. Bakelite, celluloid, wood, shell, military badges, buttons and coins. Jewellery was hard to find in the 1940s of Europe and the UK. Most of the factories went to making items for use against the Germans and their allies. So people turned to making adornments in their homes. Shell, bone, coins and more natural materials available free and in plenty, became popular in jewellery including wood.

It was during the thirties that jewellery designers started to use enamel again in inexpensive silver and costume pieces. The many pot metal brooches of animals, birds, flowers, circus figures and insects appeared. With pot metal being used for the war effort, silver with a gold plate or wash took over in the forties instead of base metal. Companies such as Coro had almost all of their jewellery of this 1940s era made of sterling silver. Wood, plastic, Bakelite including a greater use of plastic and natural substances.

Both costume and fine jewellery during this period was big, colorful and bold.

Fifties

As the world recovered from the war very slowly. Fashion, music and the cinema became more prominent. Hollywood, Rock & Roll, cars, proms and television influenced the jewellery. Fashion was very smart and tailored. For the more mature, costumes were more elegant and sophisticated. For the younger generation, a more casual and fun attitude soon developed. Rationing was still on in England until the mid 1950s. But demand for jewellery was such. That companies in the UK could not keep up with demand. More was imported from the US and Hong Kong.

Simple prom style with rhinestones and pearls (faux and real) The 1950s twin sets and pearls is a mantra still used today! And in 1955, the appearance of aurora borealis stones set into necklaces, brooches, bracelets, earrings, etc became very popular.

The Swinging Sixties     

The Sixties, remembered for its pop music, art and hippie fashion. Plastic earrings and long love bead necklaces appeared. Bangles, anklets and belts were embellished with little bells, beads and bright fabric. Oriental and Ethnic influence pushed aside the sparkling rhinestone jewellery for beads of seeds, plastic and glass. Very large pendants on chains were popular. The Mod plastic and the black & white Pop Art look mingled with the flower theme of the free love 1960s decade.

The Disco Seventies

Jewellery became less ornate as clothes were created with metallic thread for that disco sparkle. Plain chunky chains and more use of a single color became popular. Molten Metal sculptured and large medallion pendants, chokers and cuffs with jade both real and faux became popular. In the late seventies Punk, disco and Rockers influenced many individual looks. With the less strict attitude to etiquette brought about the 1970s decade of creativity. Experiments with materials of acrylic with precious metals, feathers and titanium to name a few.

With the production of piercing tools - pierced earrings came back into fashion and the clip on type made a steady decline.

Big Bold Eighties

The eighties were influenced by pop stars and TV programs. The Dynasty TV program influenced the big bold flashy 1980s look to this era along with the shoulder pad fashion in clothes. The New Romantic look was also in. Big flashy brooches, earrings and necklaces were produced.  

Jewellery was colorful and experimental - pushing the boundaries. Many mediums were used including wood, feathers, shells, mother of pearl, papermache, etc.

Second Hand

The 1990s

At the beginning of this era that heralded the end of the twentieth century. Contemporary jewellery remained big and bold but started to get less colorful and the sophisticated office style came in. Women dressed to impress and get promotion. Children's and teenager jewellery was more widely available. Goth fashion peaked while designer fashion became the norm. So ranges by Playboy, YSL were hugely popular as well as Mikey. Nylon string necklaces and bracelets became very fashionable for a short period. Body piercing was becoming very popular, T-shirts and tops became shorter in length to show off a belly bar. Acrylic slap bracelets were in as well as 1990s style hoop earrings.

The twenty first century

Now in a new century with the chance to wear what style you like. However many children, teenagers and adults copy pop stars, film and TV stars, reality show winners and also football stars. Older styles are back in fashion and flourish because of the recession - when everyone becomes more conscious of mending and recycling. Charms return for a short period including Links of London, with the change to the Pandora bead bracelets and the many Pandora look a likes. Decoration to handbags in the form of long dangling charms appear. Many large stores and fashion names produce large amounts of jewellery of all kinds. Long chain necklaces with charms are very fashionable at the moment.         

Further information on dating jewellery see our Jewels & Finery blog and also our large and our ever growing jewellery information center. 

Updated December 2018, Copyright Jewels & Finery.