Glossory of Vintage Jewelry Terms and Eras

Glossory of Vintage Jewelry Terms and Eras

I hope this glossary will help you understand and appreciate the terminology associated with vintage jewelry and its various styles and designs.
  1. Antique: Jewelry that is at least 100 years old. An item that is at least 20 years old is considered 'vintage'
  2. Antiqued Finish: A layer of black or dark enamel added to a piece of jewelry and wiped off so the dark sits in the crevices of the item giving it an old look.
  3. Art Deco: A design style popular during the 1920s and 1930s characterized by geometric shapes, symmetry, and bold, often colorful, designs.
  4. Art Nouveau: An artistic movement from the late 19th and early 20th centuries known for its flowing, organic, and nature-inspired designs in jewelry.

  5. Austrian Crystals: A type of glass made in Austria known for its high quality and clarity. This term is used to distinquish it from other types of glassware and crystal, such as lead crystal which is made with a higher lead content.
  6. Bakelite: An early plastic material, popular in vintage jewelry, known for its colorful and sometimes translucent appearance.

  7. Cameo: A type of jewelry or ornament carved in relief with a design or portrait, typically in a contrasting color, often featuring a woman's profile.

  8. Chatelaine: A decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with chains that attach to items such as watches, keys, or other accessories.

  9. Choker: A short, closely fitting necklace typically worn high on the neck, popular in the Victorian era.

  10. Cubic Zirconia: A synthesized material usually colorless and with a close likeness to a diamond. Because of its low cost, durability and close likeness to the diamond the cubic ziconia has remained the most important competitor for diamonds since its commercial production began in 1976.
  11. Edwardian Era: (1901-1909) Jewelry pieces of this era are very ornate, intricate, and flowery.  You see lots of open work filigree in the rings of this era.
  12. Enamel: Colored glass or powdered glass that is fused to metal, creating colorful and decorative designs on vintage jewelry.

  13. Electroplate: A thick layer of gold added to a metal surface such as brass for jewelry making the surface more resistant to dings, scratches and normal wear and tear.
  14. Estate: Like antique and vintage, estate is another word often used to describe old jewelry. However "estate" has a different meaning to the previous two words.  Estate jewelry simply refers to a piece of jewelry that has had a previous owner.
  15. Filigree: Delicate, intricate metalwork in which fine wires are twisted and soldered together to create lace-like patterns in jewelry.

  16. Hallmarks: Stamps or markings on jewelry that indicate its authenticity, origin, and sometimes the date of manufacture.

  17. Lavalier: A pendant necklace with a drop or decorative element that dangles from the chain, often featuring gemstones or pearls.

  18. Marcasite: Small, faceted stones that resemble the appearance of diamonds and were commonly used in vintage jewelry for their sparkle.

  19. Mid-Century Jewelry: (1940s-70s) Modernism is ;marked by clean lines and bold, abstract geometric shapes.
  20. Mourning Jewelry: Jewelry created to commemorate a loved one who has passed away, often made from materials like black onyx, jet, or hair.

  21. Pavé: A setting technique where small gemstones are closely set together, often with minimal visibility of the metal base.

  22. Pendant Watch: A small, decorative timepiece that hangs from a chain, often worn as a necklace pendant.

  23. Repoussé: A metalworking technique involving the hammering of designs or patterns into the reverse side of metal to create a raised relief on the front.

  24. Rhinestones: Imitation diamonds or other gemstones, often made from glass or crystal and used as a more affordable alternative in vintage jewelry.

  25. Seed Pearls: Very small, round pearls often used in Victorian and Edwardian jewelry to create delicate and intricate designs.

  26. Torsade: A necklace or bracelet composed of multiple strands of beads or pearls twisted or braided together.

  27. Victorian: Refers to the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 1837 to 1901 and is known for its diverse and elaborate jewelry designs.

  28. Watch Fob: A decorative and functional item attached to a pocket watch, often used to secure the watch to clothing or as a decorative accessory.

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