All about antique and vintage jewellery

Here’s a lovely blog from George Tarratt all about the ins and outs of antique and vintage jewellery, a fab little read (especially before xmas if you’re planning on an extra special pressie!)


There’s no denying that pieces of period jewellery, whether they’re vintage, retro or antique, are works of art and are a far cry from the fashion jewellery we see in shops today. If you’re a lover of vintage, then you’ll no doubt be well aware of which style of jewellery relates to which period, but if you’re new to the vintage scene, then here are a few helpful hints and tips on how to identify jewellery and what to look for when you’re hunting for that special piece. (Yes, men take note!)

First Things First…I’m certain you’ve all heard people talk about vintage, retro and antique when your friends talk about the latest treasures they’ve found, but what is the real difference between each of these terms?

Antique –
100 years old or above. These pieces are rare, hand crafted and you rarely find more than one of the same piece due to their age. Think stunning broaches and elaborate diamond and pearl studded bracelets.

Vintage – Between 20 and 100 years old, this currently means that 90’s jewellery is not considered to be vintage – no matter how much you love that ying-yang charm choker! Think strings of pearls with cameo clasps, art deco earrings and oversized rings.

Retro – Usually brightly coloured designs. Anything really from the 1950’s onwards fits into this category, but the designs that are considered retro are not as fine as those that are classed as vintage as they are more shouty and elaborate. Think brightly coloured gem stones, gold and charm bracelets.

So lets talk Antiques…


Anne Hathaway shows how antique pieces can be brought back to life!

Fashions have certainly altered an incredible amount over the years and of course the jewellery has too. Here are a few characteristics of jewellery from each period.

The Georgian Period
It is very rare that you will come across jewellery from this period but if you do it is typically made from either gold or silver. A tell tale sign of Georgian jewellery is the shape of the stones – look for Rose and Table cut stones including diamonds and sapphires.

The Victorian Period
Birthstones were very fashionable in the Victorian era and were even used in place of diamonds in engagement rings – though that’s not to say that diamonds weren’t popular too! The solitaire cut was created in this period.


Some typical Victorian jewels!

The Edwardian Period
Platinum was used a lot throughout the Edwardian period and jewellers were becoming more advanced in their work, so jewellery became much more elegant and feminine. Garnets and diamonds were the stones of choice.

And now for the Vintage…

20s jewellery

20 jewellery as modelled by Grace Kelly and Marion Davies

Art Deco
An extremely decadent and lavish period, where straight lines were favoured. Diamonds and platinum were a typical feature of Art Deco jewellery and rubies and emeralds were inserted for colour. Pearls were becoming increasingly popular and White Gold was often used in place of Platinum.

The Roaring Twenties to Fun Fifties


It was all about the pearls in the 20s!

Jewellery became more glamourous thanks to the Hollywood years. World War II saw gold replacing platinum in jewellery making. Emerald cut stones were ever popular and semi-precious stones became more widely used due to rationing and the availability of other more precious stones. Jewellery was often more modest, but still intricate in design. This era saw pearls become high in demand – (did you know that in 1917 Pierre Cartier bought his mansion on 5th Avenue – now the New York Cartier store – in exchange for a double strand of natural pearls he had been collecting and were valued an estimated $1million at the time! WOW!)

It’s time for Retro…


It was all about the colour come the 60s!

60s onwards…
Diamonds again became popular following the war and designs became more extravagant. Platinum became popular again and engraved jewellery came into fashion. Through the sixties and seventies, pieces were more colourful so as to complement the fashions of the times.

Where to Buy

It can often be hard knowing just where to buy vintage, retro and antique jewellery. Scouring charity shops and vintage fairs can be a lot of fun (as Britain Does Vintage know well!) and you’re bound to find an abundance of vintage and retro treasures, but when it comes to sourcing antique pieces the likelihood is that you’re going to have to give up a little more time and money in order to find a piece you’ll love.

For vintage and retro, spend some time wandering around any Britain Does Vintage fair and you’ll come across plenty of pearls and brooches and lovely vintage treasures too, but you’ll be pushed to find anything that would be classed as antique or art deco. Car boot sales and house clearances are also worth a look. Websites such as Etsy are fantastic if you want one off pieces and you have something specific in mind. The sellers tend to be honest in their descriptions as they rely on good feedback for future sales.

IMG_9911 as Smart Object-1

Some vintage jewellery found at the BDV fairs!

It’s worth paying a visit to a specialist jeweller or antiques centre who will specialise in these areas, whether it’s vintage or antique you’re looking for. When visiting these types of places, be prepared to spend a large amount of money, as the pieces they sell are frequently of extremely high quality and in fantastic vintage or antique condition.

At George Tarratt we stock a stunning collection of both Period and Antique jewellery. The Tarratt website has an incredible catalogue of the pieces we stock with plenty of photographs too.

Hopefully this will help you find the perfect piece for you! Happy hunting!

Thanks George Tarratt – what a lovely little blog on antique and vintage jewellery! We sure do love the 20s pearls!

We’ll be back soon with more pre-loved inspiration and humbling stories! Alex and Sam x
(and of course Gina) 

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