Antique Periods


The word antique is derived from the Latin word Antiquus meaning old.

The true definition of the term antique in Australia is an object that is over 100 years of age.

The word antique can be used to describe any object whether it be, furniture, a decorative item or jewellery from a former period of time which is valued because of its beauty, rarity, condition and age.

Antiques usually have special values associated with them because of their age and their rarity- the fact not many of them would have survived the test of time.

Antiques are usually artifacts left over from bygone eras or ancient times. They are an insight into the past, a way to look at society's ever changing styles and technologies.

Antiques usually have higher financial values associated with them. Their values are based on what someone is prepared to pay for them and how collectable they are. What deems something to be collectable and therefore worth money is the number of people that collect that item, how it was made, and the material it was made with, its date, the condition and how scarce it is.

Different markets around the world will have different prices associated with certain goods. The antique market in Australia is different to other markets such as the American and English market. The market is what sets the true value for something. Antiques like anything usually have different degrees of craftsmanship and quality connected with them. However unlike today's pieces, antiques were usually made to last a person's lifetime and are to be passed on to future generations.

With antiques, facts to considered are not only the financial benefits from collecting them but they are to be admired and enjoyed for their beauty. Any financial gains from antiques should be considered a bonus not a reason for collecting them.

The antique market is a hard one to predict as there are many outside factors involved when it comes to determining their worth. These factors are fashion, economics, trends in the current market, attitudes, opinions & responses to this all results in the principal of supply and demand which is how a price is determined. Nobody in the antiques industry will be able to give with certainty a prediction of how the market will rise and fall. That is why someone should never take up collecting for financial gains. People often have high hopes that an item they have purchased will double or triple in value in there life time. This is very rarely the case. Quality antiques generally as a rule have never dropped in value unless an over inflated amount of money was paid for the item at the time of its purchase. The joy and pleasure in collecting antique jewellery should always take precedence over financial gains & value when buying antique jewellery. Antique jewellery needs to be cared for and preserved for the many generations to come.


The primary purpose of jewellery was to accessorise an outfit and to make a women or a man appear more attractive and to draw attention to oneself. The display of a person's wealth and status in society could be represented by how they dressed and by how they accessorised. Perfect examples of this include men's cufflinks and necklaces to match any dress.

The Victorian period is one of the most significant periods of history especially when focusing on antique jewellery. It was the period of time that also coincided with the height of the industrial revolution, which made more goods especially jewellery, much more accessible to the masses rather than just restricted to the upper classes of society. This also saw a rise in the disposable income of the middle and working class due to wage increases. This extra income allowed for expenditure on items such as rings and earrings.

Dating Jewellery:

The main periods of time that you will come across with antique jewellery are Georgian, Victorian & Edwardian. Each period of antique & vintage jewellery will have its own unique definite style from Art Deco, Retro, Art Nouveau, Arts n Craft through to Modern.

One of the great advantages of antique & vintage jewellery is that it generally appreciates in value and most pieces have an interesting history or story behind them.

People often ask, "How can I date a piece when it isn't hallmarked or stamped with a year of manufacture?" This is done through acquired knowledge, with "years of experience".

Being an antique dealer means having a very strong knowledge of history and design of certain items over the last few hundred years. With certain periods of time, come styles and designs and by looking at these designs an item's age can be ascertained. Each era and period had a very structured design, for example you would never get Victorian jewellery confused with Retro jewellery as their designs and structures are completely different so are the materials used. We can also look at the types of stones used in the jewellery piece and the way they have been cut.

Each era also brings an insight into what major events occurred within that time. These influences impacted on the fashion of that period.




Antique jewellery, georgian period 1714-1830s

In the Georgian period we saw the reign of the four Kings of England who were named George. George I, George II, George III and George IV. In this time pinchbeck was a gold substitute invented as a cheaper hardier gold alternative.

The fashions of the Georgian era were endless. The Georgian society saw that a strict code of fashions was to be adhered to. Suitable attire for the time of day was required. In this period there was undress (at home attire), half dress (late afternoon) and evening dress (full dress).

A lady, in Georgian society, would have in her collection suitable day and night time jewellery. For the day time jewellery a brooches maybe a cameo, dainty feminie rings where worn sometimes on each finger, a necklace made of agate, coral, turquoise, pearls, ivory, different coloured pastes, carnelian and amber was suitable, a gold chain. Bangles and bracelets where worn in pairs, or as multiples. Earrings usually consisted of a small single drop that could be converted to a larger torpedo style pair by adding a separate drop bottom instantly turning them into a very versatile accessory for either day or night wear. In the evening diamond jewellery for those who could afford it. Diamond rings were set in flat closed in backed settings that had gold bands and silver claw and bezel set tops. If diamonds were too costly a diamond alternative had to be found so, paste (glass) jewellery was used. This proved to be immensely popular with middle to lower classes as it was inexpensive and looked very enticing. Also considered suitable attire where necklaces set with small pearls from India. These tiny seed pearl necklaces where in a fringe lace design, the pearls were drilled then the necklaces design was laid out and a drilled mother of pearl backings were designed for all the small tiny pearls sewn on it by hand creating the most exquisite designs. These small half pearls grew on the sides of the oysters and are usually natural. Other popular necklaces where pastel coloured stones, parure sets of amethysts and topaz, precious gems such as rubies and emeralds set with diamonds, marcasites, cut steel, hair ornaments- combs & tiaras, royal blue enamel jewellery and gold Cannetille jewellery.

In the Georgian period chains where highly elaborate and textured with designs. Slave chains where very popular which was a design that consisted of many different length of chain draping in multiple rows. Ribbons were often tied at the back of necklaces and used a clasps these where known as ribbon ties. In Georgian times their feelings and sentiments where expressed through the jewellery that were worn and given. People of the time wore tokens of love, tokens of sadness and love and tokens of mystery such as eye jewellery. Eye jewellery was also very fashionable, as well as portrait miniatures and hair jewellery.

During this period, Hair was often used in Jewellery. Locks or Curls of hair was placed in rings, lockets, brooches or pictures frames under domed glass, with a  love note message engraved, such as "when this you see remember me", with a meaningful date or initials. These were not only for memoriam in death, but they where also given for sentimental reasons as well in times of happiness.

In Georgian times the jewellery was more subtle and stylised in design. Settings were less ornate and enamel was often used to highlight gems. Diamonds also tended to be rose cut, European cut and later old mine cut. Diamonds & paste stones alike were foiled from behind to enhance their brilliance. The styles in this era were the Rococo style- a filigree wire worked design that was highly elaborate, also the neoclassical style and the gothic revival.

Gemstones where usually mounted in silver but backed with gold to prevent tarnishing and the marking of fine fabrics. Ladies had to clean their jewellery regularly. Closed back settings were a Georgian jewellery design this was done so foil could be used to conceal poor gem cutting. So a majority of the closed back settings will date from 1700's to the earlier 1800's. In the 19th century open backed settings with the claw and mille grain setting became more popular with the introduction of improved cutting techniques with the brilliant cuts.

Georgian jewellery was also in this time very rarely Hallmarked or Signed. Georgian jewellery is also copied in large numbers. There is a lot of good quality reproduction jewellery around so it is imperative that you seek a reputable antique jewellery specialist.

In Georgian society there was a section of the population that became known as 'Macaronis" or the "Incroyables". This circle of men where known for their outlandish style of effeminate dressing and their flamboyant taste in jewellery. They wore large hats and carried quizzers, and walking canes, had diamante shoe buckles and where all slender young men of France. The equivalent being known as the 'Emo's' of society today the young punk pop style cultured followed by some young groups of men.


Antique jewellery, victorian period 1837-1901

In this era the reigning monarch of the day was the very young Queen Victoria who at the tender age of 18 became Queen. Victoria became the longest serving monarch ruling for 63 years. She also saw England through many periods of change.

This was an age of elaborate and ornate unrestrained design. In this period large drop earrings were fashionable along with seed pearls and multi tiered necklaces. Highly ornate jewellery was the fashion of the day. In this era the revival period of Etruscan style was seen. This was inspired by ancient Roman archaeological digs. The Victorian era is often divided into three periods: The Romantic Period 1837-1860, The Grand Period 1860-1888 and The End of An Era 1888-1901.

During the Victorian time the second revival of the mourning jewellery took place. This lasted from 1870-1890's. Then finally towards the end of the Victorian era we saw the popularity of the Art Nouveau style. This style became fashionable between1890-1910.

It was a very organic artistic style with a natural feel.

Late Victorian jewellery felt the impact of the industrial revolution that made jewellery more affordable to the masses. This period witnessed many changes, from the epic romance of Victoria and Albert to great tragedies and the unprecedented prosperity.


Antique jewellery, edwardian period 1901-1910

The turn of the century saw a King take control of England. In this time jewellery from the Edwardian period went through a phase of reform. Styles tended to be simpler and relatively ornate compared to Victorian times. We see far more classical lines and simple design. This era was very modern in its simplicity but the designs always had an air of lightness and delicacy to them.

Rings were immensely popular and women wore several on each hand. These rings were very fragile and light and were not intended for hard working women but for the leisured classes.

A great number of floral designs were seen in this period, so too were birds, flower baskets, hearts, bows and ribbons.

Platinum was the metal of choice and it was fashioned into very delicate lace like creations that were set with a dazzling array of sparkling diamonds. Often also favoured in this period were Australian black opals.

Historical Data

English Monarchies

James I 1603-1625
Charles I 1625-1649
(Oliver Cromwell 1649-1658)
(Richard Cromwell 1658-1659)
Charles II 1660-1685
James II 1685-1689
William & Mary 1689-1694
William III 1694-1702
Anne 1702-1714
George I 1714-1727
George II 1727-1760
George III 1760-1820
George IV 1820-1830
William IV 1830- 1836
Victoria 1837-1901
Edward VII 1901-1910
George V 1910-1936
Edward VIII 1936 abdicated
George VI 1936-1952
Third Republic 1870-1940
Elizabeth (Current) 1952-

French Monarchies

Louis XIII 1610-1643
Louis XIV 1643-1715
(Regence 1715-1723)
Louis XV 1723-1774
Louis XVI 1774-1789
French Revolution July 1789
Convention 1792-1795
Directory 1795-1799
Consulate 1799-1804
Napoleon I 1804-1814
Louis XVIII 1814
Napoleon I (100 days) 1815
Louis XVIII 1815-1824
Charles X 1824-1830
Louis Philippe 830-1848
Second Republic 1848-1852
Napoleon III 1852-1870

England's Decorative Arts periods

Tudor 1500-1550
Elizabethan 1550-1600
Jacobean 1600-1685
William & Mary 1685-1700
Queen Anne 1700-1720
George I 1714-1727
George II 1727-1760
George III 1760-1805
Regency 1805-1820
George IV 1820-1830
William IV 1830-1840
Victorian 1840- 1900
Arts & Craft 1880-1930
Edwardian 1880-1910
Liberty 1890-1910
Art Nouveau 1890-1910
Art Deco 1920-1940
Post War -Retro 1950-1960
Modern 1960-1990