Loudest among the many whispered clues jewelry gives us about bygone centuries, is the jeweler's choice of metal. The selection of precious metals serves as an eloquent narrator, recounting the chapters of history from the opulence of the late Georgian and Victorian periods to today.
Distinguishing the history of a piece of jewelry can be difficult without proper expertise — especially when you consider how many eras of jewelry overlap.
But with a sharp eye for details and a little background, you can gain a better understanding of your family heirlooms and favorite pieces from the past.
In the late Georgian and Victorian periods, spanning the latter half of the 1700s and throughout the 1800s, jewelry experienced a golden era with yellow gold making up the vast majority of all fine jewelry metal. Typically of high karat, antique gold often has a vibrant saturation and strikingly warm appearance.
Gem setting and engraving were common design elements at this time and silver was occasionally used as an accent metal. The mid-1700s witnessed the invention of the distinctive silver-topped gold method, expanding artistic horizons and marking the beginnings of mixed metal jewelry.
Though invented in the early 19th century, rose gold was relatively exclusive to European royalty. Its use became widespread in the 1920s and was a beloved staple of the Art Deco period when color exploration soared. Variations in the hue of antique rose gold are common and desirable as the standard ratios of copper added to yellow gold used today had not yet been developed.
Around the early 1900s, platinum was being introduced into the jewelry market. Its strength and durability offered nuanced complexity and new opportunities in filagree and other fine detail work that was distinctive of the Edwardian period and later the Art Deco era where its ability to form bold and clean lines was unmatched.
Platinum was always at a premium and became all the more so with ramping war efforts and metal buyback programs. Though silver was still common, the rising expense of platinum caused a demand for a cool-toned precious metal alternative, and thus white gold was invented at the turn of the century and later popularized. It has remained a top choice for jewelry collectors throughout the Art Deco and Retro eras to this day.
The trajectory of precious metals is not a linear tale, and there are many overlaps between different design periods as well as trends that come back around.
Browsing our collection allows you to explore history in all its elegance, familiarize yourself with the various elements you connect with, and develop a timeless jewelry style that's all your own.
Whether you're looking to acquire a new-to-you piece or have an heirloom you'd like repaired, restored, or re-imagined...
Yours in timeless style,
Julie and the Walton's Team