Brocade, silk, satin, gold, diamonds, enamel…the combination of vintage clothing and jewelry can be intoxicating! We collaborated with photographer Kylene Cleaver of Leave It To Me Photography to pull together an epic styled photoshoot, with a vibrant color story, feminine details, and a modern edge.
Like any good photoshoot, hair and makeup were key to bring the story to life. We were lucky enough to partner with Leisa Kanienberg of iMakeupArtistry for vintage inspired makeup, and Lauren Thrailkill from the Velvet Hair Studio for beautiful hair. It was amazing to see them match the hair and makeup so perfectly to the outfits!
Once the hair, makeup, and outfits were ready, it was time for us to style the jewelry. We created jewelry sets for each look, with jewelry spanning Victorian times through the 1980’s. Our goal was not one set time period, but rather to compliment the colors of the vintage clothing and the personalities of each of the ladies.
Then the time came! Kylene worked her magic behind the lens, taking incredible photos of each of the models.
Cynthia’s look was all about soft lines and draping, and a classic style reminiscent of decades past. Cascading waves finished the look, and her cat eye was on point!
Gina had a Mafia-meets-Peaky Blinds vibe – so fierce! We just can’t get over the gorgeous combination of that green and peach. Her jewelry matched her look, bold.
Vintage green strapless dress
Retro 1960’s orange suede and fur collar coat
Gold filled bib necklace (email for inquiries), 1940’s Chinese enamel bird pin, a funky and amazing gold filled watch ring (Stacey’s personal collection), a H. Stern domed sputnik ring, and Italian micro mosaic bracelet (sold).
Kate’s look was classic meets modern, and a focus on texture and movement. This woman knows how to strike a pose!
Last but certainly not least is the ethereal and romantic look of Kathleen. You can’t get much more feminine and beautiful!
See-through vintage lace top, with an Edwardian feel
Coral tiered tulle skirt, which Kylene repurposed from a vintage dress
Earrings were doubled up, with tourmaline scarab drops paired with vintage opal gold filled studs (not yet listed – email for inquiries). Bracelets were stacked, with costume jewelry paired with fine jewelry – a half carat gold diamond hinged bangle, antique hinged opal bangle, and brass and purple glass bracelet. One lone ring made it into the mix – a stunning Victorian garnet ring (Stacey’s personal collection).
What a day! Thank you to our gorgeous models – strong, amazing and real women – Gina, Diana, Kate, Cynthia and Kathleen. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Stay tuned on the blog for upcoming styled shoots.
Perhaps your thrill is Saturday morning yard sales in warmer weather. Or maybe you’re the Ebay aficionado, always looking for that opportunity to get a treasure at a low price. Or perhaps you’re just a lover of vintage jewelry, but too intimidated to get your feet wet.
I was all of these things, and often still am – I will always go out of my way, with excitement, to find the treasure in the rough at a yard sale, estate sale, or on Ebay. Like everyone, I started with an interest in this but very little knowledge, and had to build up over time to be able to source and offer what you now see in my Etsy shop.
Keep in mind, buying vintage jewelry is much like a puzzle – you need to piece together several bits of information to understand the bigger picture of what you are buying. With just a few tips in mind, you can acquire beautiful vintage jewelry with confidence.
1. Invest in a loupe!
A loupe, that special magnifying tool you often see jewelers pull out and place on or near their eye, is a must if you hope to make a habit of buying vintage jewelry, whether in person or virtually. Here’s why: the closer you examine a piece of jewelry, the more you notice, both good and bad. You can use a loupe when considering an in-person purchase, to notice details that help you make your decision, or, if you purchase jewelry online, you can examine it after purchase to ensure it matches the seller’s description. Not thrilled with the idea of spending money on a loupe? Any jeweler worth his/her weight will have a loupe on hand for you to use if you are purchasing jewelry from a brick and mortar store. Simply ask them.
2. Look closely & pay attention to details
So now you’ve got your loupe, or even if not, it’s time to look closely at your piece, in hand or through photos from an online seller.
First – look for hallmarks of any kind.
There are usually two types of hallmarks, although for European-made jewelry there may be more. One type of hallmark is for the metal itself, called a purity mark, such as “sterling” or “14k” (gold) stamps. While a metal mark isn’t 100% dependable – sometimes items were stamped as solid gold, for instance, and they may just be gold plated – a metal mark is at least a starting place to begin to uncover the story of your piece. Next, look for a maker’s mark; maker’s marks tell you who made the piece of jewelry.
This too isn’t a perfect clue, as many times American made jewelry wasn’t hallmarked in any way. European jewelry, however, has had a required hallmarking system for centuries, and some European pieces will even have date marks to tell you exactly when the piece was made. There are many books out there to help you decipher your maker’s mark, and of course there are also famous jewelry designers’ marks to keep on the lookout for when purchasing pieces – Belais of the 1920’s or Ostby & Barton of Titanic fame, for instance – which will not only immediately date a piece of jewelry, but often can make it more valuable as well.
Secondly – look at the condition of the vintage jewelry.
Remember that all vintage jewelry has years, decades, perhaps even centuries’ of wear. So don’t expect a perfect piece; in fact, too perfect of a piece may indicate it’s reproduction jewelry. The wear to a piece is its story, its imprint of memories. However, it’s important, particularly if you are making a bigger investment, to look closely at the condition of the jewelry, and/or the condition report and photos which a seller provides.
When it comes to jewelry, some of the usual suspects in terms of condition issues which are easily visible with the naked eye (or a loupe) include chipped, cracked or badly scratched stones (diamonds can withstand quite a bit more of wear, so colored stones and white sapphires, etc, are those that most exhibit surface wear), loose stones (tip: shake the ring next to your ear and listen for the stone jostling around!), missing stones, very thin or broken prongs around a stone, chips or cracks in enamel, an overly thin band, or broken filigree. Many condition issues can be fixed by a reputable jeweler.
3. Know your eras
You don’t have to know everything about jewelry to buy jewelry – it takes more than a lifetime to learn it all! Like everything, however, some knowledge can go a long way. In the case of jewelry, you’ll want to do just a bit of research to understand the different jewelry eras – Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco, etc. – as that information will not only help you understand what you like most, but it will also help you pick out those hidden treasures, and to know if the information you’re being given on an item from a seller is accurate.
For instance, if you find a platinum ring and it’s being sold as a Georgian ring, that dating is inaccurate, as the Georgian period was from 1714-1837, and platinum wasn’t in widespread use until the early 1900’s. Silver was a more common setting material for the Georgian period. Or, you may find jewelry that, upon close inspection, has a piece of cloth, or even hair, within it, a common bit of artistry from the Victorian period. You can work backwards as well – that’s often how I learn jewelry best! – by Googling a particular feature, hallmark or other characteristic you’ve found on your mystery jewelry.
4. Purchase from a reputable seller
Particularly when purchasing online, but even when purchasing in person, know as much as you can about the person selling the item. Reviews on sites like Etsy or Ebay – you’ll see our shop has a 5 star review status! – or well established jewelers or shows in your area, give you a good idea of the customer experience, and whether or not that seller can be depended upon to sell good, accurately described jewelry. Never hesitate to ask the seller questions as another source of information; reputable sellers will be happy to answer your questions and even send you additional pictures or videos if they sell online. When purchasing higher-end jewelry with stones, you should look for sellers who are certified gemologists with GIA, or are on that path (such as myself), or who have their jewelry examined and assessed by those who are GIA certified. Without this knowledge, it can be impossible to accurately identify some jewelry, particularly the stones, as some differing stones can look exactly the same to the untrained eye.
Buy from stores that have a good return policy, and clear communication around purchases, so that you can feel secure in your purchase. Lastly, the best part about a reputable seller is that s/he is usually a font of wisdom about jewelry! Ask lots of questions, and learn as much as you can.
5. Most importantly – buy what you love!
Even as a vintage seller myself, one of my biggest rules is that I buy what I love, not just what will sell or is a good deal. I recommend the same for you. When you go to make your purchase ask yourself – do you love it? Will you wear it often, or, is it a special occasion piece that will make you smile each time you wear it? Does it fit well and comfortably? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so find what you like and adorn yourself with those treasures.
Good luck with your vintage shopping! Always reach out to me if you have any questions on your vintage journey!
A stone for the masses – amethyst has adorned many a royal crown, and yet has remained affordable enough to make its way into everyday jewelry in recent centuries. The birthstone for February, the 6th wedding anniversary and the sign of Pieces, amethyst holds significant symbolism and history.
Amethyst was found and used as far back as 2000 BC, and was once as expensive and as revered as rubies and emeralds. It was not only set into royal jewelry, but was often incorporated into rings for clergy and religious leaders.
Like many stones, when a larger mining deposit is discovered it changes everything. For amethyst, it was a Brazilian deposit in the 19th century that made the stone at once plentiful and more affordable.
Despite its plentiful reserves, it has remained a beloved stone even at the highest echelons. One example is the famed Cartier amethyst and turquoise bib necklace, with a heart shaped amethyst centerpiece, that was commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor. It ultimately sold at auction in the 1980’s for close to $700,000. Another is the gorgeous Edwardian Morris Amethyst brooch, with a bewildering 96 carat heart shaped amethyst surrounded by diamonds.
In spite of its intoxicating color, amethyst was believed by the Greeks to ward off intoxication – the word comes from the ancient Greek word Amethystos, meaning “remedy against drunkeness.” Its wine-like color is associated with Bacchus, the God of wine, and was thought by many cultures over the centuries to bring the opposite effect – clearheadedness, and quick wit. Leonardo DeVinci concurred, saying the stone heightened intelligence and warded off evil thoughts.
It also has romantic connotations – St. Valentine is fabled to have worn an amethyst intaglio ring with the image of cupid – and it is known as the “lovers gemstone,” signifying true love and fidelity.
Amethyst was linked by early Christians to Christ, and the purification of spirit. In fact, its color was likened to the wounds and suffering of Christ and therefore associated with the healing of wounds, and in many cultures, used as protective amulets. To this day it is a spiritual stone, used in the balancing of chakras.
Amethyst is actually a type of quartz, and the most desired one with its color. It can come in a variety of hues, from a very faint purple to a vibrant raspberry, and can be muddier or vivid. Many amethysts consist of what’s known as “color zoning” or sections of lighter and darker color within them. The most valuable amethysts are those of a deep purple and no zoning, or a reddish purple, and the most valuable of all is the exceptionally rare Russian or Siberian amethyst.
Amethysts can, and often are, cut in a variety of shapes, including even novelty animal shapes, and come in a wide variety of carat sizes as well. The price does not dramatically increase with the size and carat weight of the stone.
Amethyst is fairly hardy and can be used in rings and other every day pieces, but with a Mohs hardness of 7 it will show some wear over time and may need repolishing after many years of wear. You can clean your amethyst jewelry with warm, soapy water.
Valentine’s Day is rooted in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture, and Roman founders Remus and Romulus. The ins and outs of the festival are quite weird – animal sacrifice, slapping woman with the animal hides which was believed to make them more fertile, etc, etc – but the connotation with love and fertility stuck. The celebration of Valentine’s Day didn’t begin until much later, with Valentine greetings beginning in the Middle Ages, and the first written valentine happening in 1415 when Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote a poem to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Somewhere along the way the holiday was linked to St. Valentine, who married lovers in secret at a time when it was outlawed.
Of course we now have today’s traditions of Hallmark cards, chocolates, and often jewelry. While we think love should be bestowed everyday, it can be quite fun to give gifts to lovers, partners and friends on Valentine’s Day -or of course, give yourself a little love. Here is the roundup of our best gift ideas for 2017.
Lockets are always a great gift, especially if you add personal photos. We’ve been stocking the Etsy shop with new lockets each day – and they’ve been selling out quickly. Here’s a sampling:
A retro 1960’s locket with “mom” in high relief is about as sentimental as it gets. Lockets also come in other form – here is a stunning early 1900’s gold filled sweetheart bracelet with a heart locket on the front that holds a single rose cut diamond.
Symbols of Love
Two lovely symbols of adoration which anyone would swoon over this Valentine’s Day – a 14k gold “key to my heart” charm necklace, and a sweet lover’s knot charm with an inset diamond. Knots have been symbols of love since antiquity, since their threads overlap and are stronger the closer together they are pulled.
Nearly every woman loves a pair of diamond studs, as they can be worn with almost any outfit. These beautiful studs come in at a hefty half carat. Not looking to spend so much? A vintage gold filled bangle bracelet is sure to do the trick.
A rare 1940’s floating opal necklace – the opal chips float in liquid in a glass globe – is a dainty and beautiful piece. For more of a statement but an equally delicate necklace, the 1920’s gold lavalier with white sapphire and pearl is elegant and intricate.
Red rubies have long been associated with love, and we have several in the shop. Here is themama of all ruby rings, with 11 rubies totaling close to half a carat, set into individual flowers on a thick cigar band gold ring. No less beautiful is this more modern and simple ruby ring.
Over the centuries, starting even with Posy rings in the middle ages, rings have been given as tokens of affection. However, despite what many modern brides may think, the styles, materials, symbols, and stones that were used varied widely throughout history, and it wasn’t until the 20th century when diamond engagement rings became a norm. Let’s look to history and imagination to suggest five engagement ring options for the vintage, discerning bride:
Use a Wedding Band as an Engagement Ring
Yes, you read that right – a wedding band. My own engagement ring is a wedding band, my husband’s grandmother’s. As a woman who didn’t need a big ring, the wedding band with its small row of diamonds was absolutely perfect. Once we did get married, the original engagement ring that went with the band was what we used – reversing the norm! I’m proud of our unique and one-of-a-kind “engagement ring”, which allowed us to make a family heirloom all our own.
From deep rosy gold Victorian rings, to plain bands in warm, buttery high karat gold, our shop has a variety of rings to choose from. What wedding band could you see using as your engagement ring?
A Cluster Vintage Engagement Ring
While a solitaire diamond ring is one of the most common engagement ring styles, a cluster ring is a unique take that allows you to get more sparkle for your money. When stones are clustered together in a setting, smaller carat stones can be used to the same visual effect as a large stone – and is a lot lighter on the pocket book. Cluster designs are also an eternal classic, and have been used as a design element in rings for centuries.
Colored Stone Vintage Engagement Ring
A diamond is forever…or is it? While diamonds have been used in rings for hundreds of years, the diamond engagement ring craze is a newer phenomenon, made popular in the 1930’s and 40’s by DeBeers jewelry company. At the time, diamonds were neither scarce nor particularly valuable, so DeBeers coined the famous phrase and did targeted marketing (as well as controlled the supply!) to create a desire for diamonds and a belief in their value.
So…don’t believe the hype! Other stones can make marvelous engagement rings, as we saw firsthand with Princess Kate Middleton’s gorgeous sapphire ring. To help in choosing your stone, consider the meaning and symbolism behind each:
Agate: truth, protection, strength
Aquamarine: courage to overcome fears, protection on journeys
Blue topaz: fidelity, friendship, gentleness, and integrity
Emerald: fertility and calm
Garnet: fertility, protection and healing
Onyx: thought to deflect the negativity of others — associated with determination and perseverance
Pearl: harmony, humility, purity, worth
Ruby: fire, passion, the opening of the heart
Turquoise: friendship, associations with nature
A Family Heirloom Makes a Wonderful Vintage Engagement Ring
Which brings me to my fourth point – as you and your love are talking together about marriage and engagement, consider whether a family member may have a suitable ring. Too many family heirlooms are sold off or melted down over the generations, so your breathing new life into one can be extraordinarily meaningful. You can of course keep the ring intact as I did with my own, or, many brides are choosing to get their heirloom stones reset into modern settings.
Choose an Engagement Ring with a Symbolic Number of Stones
While people often think about the symbolism in the stones themselves, the design or number of stones in a ring can speak to your commitment and future together. Toi et moi rings – French for “me and you” – are highly sentimental, yet with two stones are simple enough not to overwhelm. Trinity rings, with three stones – one for the past, present, and future – also offer a highly symbolic ring which doesn’t fit the solitaire norm. What number of stones is significant for your life?
At the start of the New Year is one of our favorite stones in antique jewelry – garnet. Garnet is the gemstone of January birthdays, the Zodiac sign Aquarius, and the second wedding anniversary. In modern times, many people view garnet as ruby’s less attractive cousin – you may imagine dark, even muddy stones which are a dime a dozen. We hope this article dispels this myth, helping you understand garnet’s deep history, and the characteristics which make this gemstone unique, quite special, and in some cases, rare.
Garnet Colors and Characteristics
While many people think of red when garnet comes to mind, they can be found in a spectrum of colors, including pink, orange, purple red, orange red, and even green and blue. Garnets can even exhibit a rare color changing phenomenon. While all garnets have the same crystalline structure, different chemical compositions result in the rainbow of colors.
Dark red garnets are in fact the most common and plentiful color. Conversely, green demantoid garnets, first sourced in Russia, are rare and often sought after, particularly those demantoids with inclusions. Garnets can be found in all sizes, small and large, and are mined from metamorphic rocks on every continent.
Garnet Myths and Symbolism
The root of the word garnet is “granatus”, or “seed” in Latin, believed to refer to the red Pomegranate seed. In Greek mythology, Persephone, the Greek goddess of the underworld and harvest, was made to eat pomegranate seeds by Hades, the god of the underworld. The fruit was sacred to Hades, and Persephone’s eating of it ensured she would come back to him several times a year – Fall and winter – at which time the green of the Earth went dormant. In spring and summer, when Persephone was above ground again, the Earth was fertile and fecund. It’s for this reason that pomegranates, and therefore garnets, are often associated with fecundity, fertility and resurrection.
A long-held talisman for protection, garnet was historically worn by warriors going into battle, and was thought to ward of plague. Some healers even believed the stone brought healing powers, and it would be used in medicinal practices.
The history of the gemstone is ancient; Garnet was thought to be one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God. Garnet jewelry dates as far back as the Bronze Age, was popular with the Romans in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and has been found in Egyptian tombs, some dated at over 5,000 years old. In the course of history, garnets have adorned the crowns of royalty time and again, and at one point represented the most widely traded gem. In the middle ages, they were the preferred stone of clergy.
Garnets were not always so plentiful; it wasn’t until the 1500’s, with the discovery of a bohemian garnet deposit in Europe, that they gained popularity. This mining peaked in the 1800’s, which is why you’ll often find bohemian garnets in Victorian jewelry, particularly jewelry of European descent.
Garnets are a tough stone – a 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale – making them great for all kinds of jewelry, and a perfect everyday stone. However, unlike diamonds, you want to be sure to avoid blows to your garnets which could damage them. You can clean your garnets easily with warm, soapy water.