“Estate,” “vintage” and “antique” jewelry have always been popular finds at antique shows, shops and markets but now it’s more than just collectors buying up special pieces from our not-too-distant bejeweled past.
Antique and vintage jewelry is now on trend and in style. Fashion designers, stylists, and fashionistas are looking to mix and match contemporary fashion looks with everything from eye-catching early-to-mid 20th-century brooches to 80s statement pieces, customizing unique looks in the juxtaposition between the past and the present.
“The cyclic nature of jewelry lends itself to antique and vintage pieces witnessing a revival at the same time that similar trends in modern fine jewelry take off,” says Beth Bernstein, a contributor to Forbes, in her June 19, 2023 article. She cites the “modern reimaging of styles from different eras,” as the catalyst and points to recent couture and runway shows that push the trend that makes certain pieces from past eras “fresh and chic rather than staid and old-fashioned…thus spurring a renaissance of the art and soul of jewelry’s wonderful and often magical nature.”
“You can wear a piece from the 1920s all the way up through the 1980s, and it still continues to look unique and head-turning,” cites author Shelby Deering in her June 26, 2023 article in the lifestyle design magazine, Veranda (https://www.veranda.com/luxury-lifestyle/luxury-fashion-jewelry/g44349259/antique-vintage-jewelry-trends-for-2024/).
While much of what is seen and collected was initially made to accessorize a fashion era or represent a design aesthetic, today they are being worn as statement pieces in their own right with clothes as the accessory that completes a look. So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to buying antique and vintage jewelry? We searched the internet to see what dealers, retailers, and fashion influencers have to say on this topic.
Here are some makers, eras, styles, and brands they suggest you look for the next time you are at a show or antiquing at your favorite shop to turn your finds into fashion:
1. Bold Gold – Some examples include oversized gold sautoirs, gold statement bracelets, and choker necklaces, all of which are having a moment on the red carpet and in the auction room, particularly those that are signed by the well-known houses such as Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier.
2. Egyptian Details – Borrowing inspiration from the mythology, history, and rich culture of ancient Egypt, these antique and vintage pieces often feature distinctive hieroglyphics or an Eye of Horus motif for added visual interest. Gold, lapis-lazuli, or other precious stones can add luxuriousness and give these designs their royal feel.
3. Classic Pearls – Layer your grandmother’s pearls with a couple other necklaces and pair it with something edgy to give your look a fresh take.
4. Cartier 1980s and ’90s Pieces – “The 1980s and now the 1990s are considered vintage time periods. The pieces of 30 or 40 years ago tend to be much better quality than the majority of jewelry today. The timeless elegant look of their jewelry from this era is distinct Cartier and dresses up a layered jewelry look.
5. 1980s Pieces – Large pieces like big gold cuff bracelets, bold Cuban link necklaces, oversized hoop earrings, mammoth chain link necklaces, neon and jelly bracelets, and religious beads and crosses (think Madonna) dominated the fashion scene then and today are on-trend accessory musts to decorate any contemporary fashion look.
6. Renaissance Revival – With a focus on luxe ornamentation, seek out jewelry adorned with plenty of gold and gemstones. Keep an eye out for intricate scrollwork designs or cameos, as these will likely feature prominently on jewelry from this era.
7. Eye-Catching brooches – Brooches have been in and out of favor over the ages, and they’re back once again. Brooches are often more affordable than bracelets and earrings, and they are so versatile—wear them in your hair, on a sash or scarf, or at the top of a button-down blouse.
8. Layered Pieces – Stacking bracelets featuring colored gemstones or diamonds with gold will continue to be a popular trend, and it’s becoming increasingly fashionable to layer necklace chains in varied lengths.
9. Energy Stones – Energy stones, or stones believed to carry mental and physical health benefits, have become popular in recent years and are now making their way to vintage jewelry where they’re becoming sought-after for their healing properties. Look for pieces that contain amethysts, rose quartz, or citrine that are thought to contain healing energies.
10. French Art Brut – The Brutalist architectural movement eventually found its way to jewelry in the 1950s through the 1970s. Also known as Raw Art, this design approach through jewelry embraces imperfections and a slightly edgy look. These pieces were often made by hand and can include rough-cut stones or irregular metalwork that gives each piece its own personality and distinguishable appearance.
11. Byzantine – Byzantine jewelry is a favorite for those looking to add a bit of regalness to their looks. The jewelry can come in various ways (chunky chokers, oversized pieces, vintage gold) but it’s mainly known for its extravagance and religious motifs. These spectacular jewelry pieces offer a chic juxtaposition to sleek outfits. Not only do these pieces add more color and flair to minimalist ensembles, but they are stunning pieces of art in their own right.