Once a year at Grant Laughter Jewelry, in our great mountain town of Asheville, we host a one day only Estate Jewelry Event. This year we are featuring the Maddison Estate Collection, which has fine vintage and antique jewelry from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, Retro and Cocktail periods plus contemporary treasure, exotic gems and signed pieces like Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpel, Buccellati, Cartier and more. Since many of our clients like to browse, see the pieces and shop, we bring in some delicious adult beverages and tasty snacks for your viewing and eating pleasure.
Each year we have some very special pieces, and it’s always exciting to bring these out of the safety deposit boxes, safes, and collections from around the world. My personal favorite from two years ago was a diamond tiara from the 1600's which had over 100 carats of diamonds, hand crafted in sterling silver, it just oozed royalty. Although I would have felt a bit odd wearing a diamond tiara, I might have been able to manage it. I showcase hundreds of pieces from under $100 to over $250,000 so even if you are not in a shopping mood, just treat it like a trip to the museum. Not so much the Ben Stiller version of "Night at the Museum", but more like a trip to the MET.
If any of you reading this article are like myself, with a very short attention span, I have written a brief "cliff notes" description of some of the most popular era specific jewelry. There are dozens of websites out there with more information on the historical and designer aspects of each period so if you see some details that interest you, I encourage you to step out and read more about it yourself!
The Edwardian Era is one of my person favorites. This period's name derives from King Edward the VII and it’s the last period to date to be defined by British royalty. The king had a fancy for the ladies and gambling and actively sought social activities and causes. Jewelry was a very important part of society during this time, and the wealthy upper class flourished with fine gems and jewelry. Lace, airiness, and lightness are what come to my mind when I think of Edwardian jewelry. It’s known for ribbon, wreaths, bows, tassels, and the dominance of platinum in the works. A breakthrough in jewelry technology at the time allowed the melting, soldering, and forming of Platinum jewelry, which prior to was crafted out of gold and silver. The density and rigidity of platinum allowed for much more delicacy in a crafted piece and very fine detail work, piercing and carving is common within this period.
The Georgian Era, believe it or not, gets its name from four English monarchs named George, and one King William IV. George I, II, III, IV were the 4 Kings, and the period date is known from 1714 to 1837. Although the name is derived from British monarchy, other countries like Italy, France and Germany were major influencers in the art and culture of jewelry design during this period. In my humble jeweler’s opinion, some of the finest home ornamental pieces can be found from the Georgian period, thanks to a crafting style known as Repoussé, in which malleable metals are hammered into ornate decorations in very thin sheets.
Since this is one of the earliest periods of jewelry that we consider today as fashionable wearable jewelry, it can be quite hard to source, date, and originate pieces from this era. Many countries did not enforce maker’s marks, quality or hallmarks. Quality or hallmarks being the quality of metals used in the piece, where a maker’s mark is the artist or group of artists who created the piece. Many pieces from this era will not feature either of those two sets of marks. What you will find with jewelry from this era is superbly crafted ornate metal work. These pieces were only crafted by hand and most of the pieces that are around today are from master level craftsman.
The Victorian Era, which is very popular in today’s jewelry collectible market, is defined by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Society as a whole made a great leap into the future during this era, from candles to the light bulb and from horses to gasoline vehicles and the artistry, science, and culture led the way. This era is one of the harder eras to keep track of as it is divided into three different periods; the Romantic Period or the Early Victorian, The Grand Period or the Middle Victorian, and the Aesthetic Period or the Late Victorian.
The early Victorian or romantic period has designs featured with natural styles in sterling and gold and also set the course for changing ones jewelry throughout the day. The early parts of the day were clear and translucent gems and glass while styles became brighter and more provocative with bright colors in the evening. Many people associate this period of jewelry with Queen Victoria's relationship with her husband Prince Albert.
The middle Victorian, grand, or mourning period is often associated with the death of Prince Albert, and many of the jewelry from this time period can be seen as reflecting that loss. Dark colored gemstones like Mozambique garnets, jet and black onyx, also amethysts were used in this period. Heavier less bright pieces were crafted in this era and is often called "mourning jewelry" lockets of hair from a loved one were common during this period.
The later Victorian, or Aesthetic period is what most people think of when it comes to Victorian jewelry. Heavenly, floral, natural, and delicate pieces were crafted during this time and featured much brighter stones like sapphire, ruby, and diamonds. Art Nouveau and Egyptian styles became very prominent in this time period and created many of the multi-generational family pieces that we see today. Many of the popular styles that are visible on social media platforms get their style, design and inspiration from this period of jewelry designs. Pieces designed during this time were still crafted by hand, and technology brought the ability to work in finer detail and a lower cost.
I am more than excited to have this event and feature some of the most unique pieces available in the estate jewelry market today. September 14th from 10:00 to 4:00 Grant Laughter Jewelry will host this event. I will be available along with other period experts and advisors to show you the special pieces that are here for your buying pleasure. If you want to schedule an appointment, you can do so below.