Antique Jewellery - History

The tradition of wearing jewellery has been around for thousands of years. Archaeologists have been collecting jewellery found in ancient tombs, and historical sites for hundreds of years.

In Europe, during Medieval Times, the less well-off used copper and pewter to make rings and brooches whilst the rich had jewellery made from gold and silver.

During the 15th century and into the 16th century pendants became fashionable and enamel was used to depict biblical scenes. Dragons, mermaids and nymphs also became popular. Woman wore jewellery in their hair and often strings of pearls were used to wrap around their chignons and braids. Earrings also became popular as hair was worn up and off the face.

 During the Tudor period it became fashionable for ladies to have jewellery which matched their clothes. High necklines were once again worn by women and so necklaces became larger and longer, to drop over the neckline and down towards the waist. Bracelets were also popular, and women would wear more than one on their wrists.

Tudor and Jacobean men wore as much jewellery as women, it was said to show off their power and status. Hats and shoes were adorned with silver and gold and they wore heavy necklaces and thick gold rings.

In the Georgian period mourning jewellery was popular and people would have jewellery pieces made out of strands of the deceased's hair. Brooches and lockets with pearls representing tears were made and skulls and skeletons were depicted.

By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 jewellery had become more delicate and romantic. Flowers and hearts were made from gems such as garnets, turquoise and pearls. After the romantic period heavier jewellery was again popular made from gold and enamel.

Queen Victoria loved jewellery and her choices influenced the popularity of certain pieces. When King Albert died she started to wear dark jewellery, mostly made out of Jet and many British women followed suit.

During the 19th century Flowers, fruit and birds were popular and the wealthy wore diamond bracelets and matching diamond earrings. Gemstones were used for colour and jewellery was worn less and less by men.

20th century jewellery is known as vintage, and there is a healthy market for more modern pieces. Antique and vintage jewellery is extremely popular with both amateur and professional collectors alike. Search through the jewellery cabinets in the Centres, at fairs, auctions and shops and you might just come accross a hidden gem!