A guide to: Antique jewellery

Antique jewellery


From delicate antique bracelets sculpted in the 1800s to bold dragonfly brooches designed by world-famous Tiffany & Co., antique jewellery stirs the senses with depth, character, style and craftsmanship. The earrings you find browsing a jewellers window are radically different from the antique earrings for sale at a specialist dealer’s shop. 

The 18th-century Georgian period was high time for cameos and portrait-laden pendants. Enter the Victorian age and less-expensive, mass-market pieces appeared - more common in jewellery antiques collections today. Sapphires and emeralds were swapped for semi-precious gemstones such as aquamarine and malachite, followed by darker mourning jewellery after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. 

As Britain edged ever closer to the 20th century, the country was tired of mourning. That’s why we find antique jewellery for sale from 1890 to 1910 is more lifeful, with flowers and the female forming a trademark of the Art Nouveau movement. Designs grew even more delicate during the Edwardian period: antique jewellery collections in this era heavily featured long strings of pearls and Belle Epoque diamonds set in platinum.

Buying antique jewellery from a reputable dealer, centre or auction house is the best way to find genuine quality pieces. Resales are ever-increasing, as buyers want more for their money - older pieces that hold value better and have a rich history. Time to get clued up - here are the types of jewellery antiques demanding a better precision of knowledge:

Different types of antique jewellery 

Antique earrings

Earrings were at the height of fashion during the early 19th century, when women eschewed large bonnets for upswept hairdos. Antique earrings from Queen Victoria’s reign feature a few different trends. Exposed lobes were first adorned with long, dangly pieces - graduated pears and chandelier drop styles. In the Victorian’s now-antique jewellery boxes, you may have come across motifs of snakes and scarabs, as fresh antique jewellery finds from the Egypt inspired trendsetters of the time. In the decade leading up to 1880, more diamonds from Africa were shipped over - to be set alongside the Queen’s favoured amethysts, garnets, pearls and opal. Many of these precious styles are available from our range of antique earrings for sale.

Antique brooches

Antique brooches are making a revival - pinned to the waists of designer gowns, ricocheting down runways. But they’re as prominent on the catwalks as they are in the minds of collectors - even less ancient Art Deco brooches are estimated around £2,500 in today’s antique jewellery market. Mourning brooches reached peak popularity during the 19th century, depicting sepia scenes of sorrow and often reserving a compartment for hair. Diamond or rose-cut tremblant antique brooches are also well sought-after, most often found in sparkling floral designs. If you’re hunting for cameo antique brooches, the best pieces to watch out for are cut with hard stone. 

Antique bracelets

There are so many different kinds of antique bracelets. Cuffs dating back to the 9th-century, bejewelled slide bracelets from the 1900s, torc armlets dating back to the Egyptians: this form of antique jewellery is far-reaching. Quality antique bracelets and bangles can fetch thousands: an Etruscan-style gold bracelet by Ernesto Pierret, for example, is estimated between £11,000 to £14,000. From heavy silver charms to Victorian garnets, you’ll find a lot of variation in our collection of antique bracelets for sale.

Antique cufflinks

You’ll always find a handsome pair of antique cufflinks lingering in the tabletop cabinet of a fair somewhere. Elaborate cufflinks rose to popularity in the 18th century, as shirts crept out of their undergarment state to something more refined. By the 19th century, they were diversified and simplified in alignment with the burgeoning middle classes. A pair of turquoise antique cufflinks from the 1860s can have price tags of up to £400 today. You can double the price if they’re gold - even if they’re slightly damaged there are lots of jewellers and dealers with in-depth knowledge on how to clean antique gold jewellery properly.

Antique lockets

Among all the wonders of an antique jewellery collection, there’s nothing more sentimental than a locket. With spaces for a portrait, lock of hair, or miniscule love letter - most antique lockets have a story to tell. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I carried one with her at all times, which contained a painted portrait of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Fast-forward a few hundred years and Queen Victoria couldn’t get enough of them. Victorian antique lockets in gold can be estimated around £1,000 to £1,200. 

Antique rings

As repair jobs become increasingly sophisticated, more people are opting to buy old-world engagement rings. Edwardian belle epoque rings in platinum are very popular - and of course, diamonds. A 19th-century 26.27 diamond ring purchased at car boot sale in the 1980s for just £10 made £656,750 at auction in 2017. Keep an eye out for Colombian emeralds, Kashmiri sapphires, and Burmese rubies - the latter should have an even red fluorescent colour with minimal black, grey or brown. Find one of those in a jewellery antiques collection and you’re looking at the hammer coming down at £30,000 minimum.

Where to buy antique jewellery 

Know what you’re looking for and you might just land upon a ‘sleeper’ (unidentified treasure) at a car boot sale, jumble sale, or even a charity shop. But not everyone has the time to hunt. When it comes to knowledge, quality and the confidence antique jewellery is genuine (not a reproduction) there’s no better place to buy jewellery antiques than at auction or an antiques centre. 

From ruby rings to heavy silver antique bracelets for sale, browse our range of antique jewellery in the confidence you’re buying high-quality, genuine craftsmanship from history. If something catches your eye, research it and plan a day out to Hemswell Antique Centre to see it in all its glory. There’s no substitute for appreciating antique jewellery for sale in more depth than visiting the collection itself.

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