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- Art Deco, Estate Jewelry, Great Estate, platinum, Rolex watches, rose gold, white gold, yellow gold
With spring in the air comes the return of Scheherazade Jewelers’ Great Estate jewelry event. Going on its fourth year, the Galleria-based jewelry store and its estate jewelry partners Geolat Mondial will host the biannual event from Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3.
Estate Jewelry Essentials
A common misconception of estate jewelry is that it’s simply “old jewelry.” That’s true to a point, but the actual definition of estate jewelry is any jewelry that is previously owned, or as Scheherazade Jewelers’ staff likes to say “previously loved.”
Previously owned jewelry as a definition covers a great deal of time. A more practical timeline for estate jewelry is any previously owned jewelry that is roughly 20 to 150 years old. That definition, however, spans 130 years. Jewelry that is a century or more old is called “antique jewelry.”
A Look Back on Precious Metals
The use of alternative metals in jewelry such as titanium, tungsten and carbide was a trend that started in the 1990’s. Prior to that, precious metals dominated the jewelry industry. For many early centuries, silver reigned supreme as the precious metal of choice. Its intrinsic flexible nature made it durable for daily wear but malleable enough so that jewelry designers could set a variety of gemstones in the precious white metal. As gold and platinum production became more mainstream silver was relegated to costume or fashion jewelry.
By the 1890’s platinum was used in the commercial production of jewelry. During World War II, it was deemed a “strategic metal,” and platinum was dedicated to the war effort. (Even in the post-World War II decades, platinum jewelry was very rare.)
The 1920’s was a key period for gold. White gold was produced as an inexpensive alternative to platinum. When platinum all but disappeared as a consumer option, white gold dominated major sectors of the jewelry market, leading with bridal jewelry. During the 1920’s rose gold was introduced to the US market as well. Available since the 19th century, rose gold was popular with Russians back in the mid- to late-1800’s. It became the darling precious metal of the Victorian period, along with its yellow cousin.
Often referred to as “Russian Gold,” rose gold was introduced to the US market commercially when Cartier introduced its “Trinity” ring. Luminary and noted writer of the period John Cocteau endorsed the crossover style ring from Cartier that featured intertwining bands of white, yellow and rose gold. With that celebrity backing rose gold’s popularity started its trajectory.
A Brief History of Gemstones and Gem Cutting
Up until 1900, most diamonds were cut into Old European or Old Mine shapes based on the only diamond cutting technology available. As diamond cutting technology advanced, diamond manufacturers were looking to produce a diamond with more uniform shape and features as well as improved fire and brilliance. In 1919 Marcel Tolkowsky developed ideal diamond cutting proportions, making the round brilliant diamond the most popular diamond shape in the world.
The 1920’s was also a pivotal period for pearls. The production of natural pearls started to drop precipitously in the 1900’s and stopped completely after World War II. During the first two decades of the 20th century the Japanese were able to eventually mass-produce cultured pearls. By the 1950’s, cultured Japanese Akoya pearls became highly sought after. Later, South Sea pearl production introduced fine black (Tahitian) pearls, white pearls (Australia) and golden pearls (The Philippines and Indonesia). And, in more recent decades, the Chinese have been producing cultured freshwater pearls.
From Cleopatra wearing lapis lazuli, coral and turquoise to the crown jewels of Great Britain’s monarchs, colored gemstones have been worn for centuries. Like diamonds, technology – be it mining, production and treatments – has made a large number of colored gemstones more widely available to the masses in the last 50 years. A notable exception is Pyrope garnet, a deep red garnet variety mined extensively in what is now the Czech Republic through most of the 1800’s. Fast-forward to recent decades and new discoveries have brought more modern colored gemstones to market, such as tanzanite (discovered in the late 1960’s), Tsavorite garnet and Paraiba Tourmaline.
Today’s Tastes and Trends in Estate Jewelry
Over the last five to ten years, the interest in estate jewelry has grown; much of the popularity is linked to the price of gold. When the housing market crash occurred in 2008, gold reached historic highs.
This took gold buying away from sources such as pawnshops and other unsavory venues to family-owned retail jewelry stores. A majority of the items sold for scrap, but retail jewelers and their staff knew a strong portion of the jewelry purchased from the public had historic and intrinsic values, giving independent jewelers an incredible opportunity to resell these items.
As the economy began to recover, Baby Boomers began retiring – at a rate of 10,000 people per day. And, as Baby Boomers sold their own jewelry, along with jewelry handed down from previous generations, more estate and antique jewelry brought many desired period pieces to consumers.
Then along came the Millennials, a strong coming-of-age demographic that appreciates the qualities, artistry and unique designs associated with Old World jewelry. “It’s a confluence of many variables,” according to Patti Geolat, owner and president of Geolat Mondial, Scheherazade Jewelers’ estate jewelry partner. Patti added that it’s no longer a stigma to own previously owned luxury goods, such as cars, jewelry and even handbags and leather goods.
Just in time for Scheherazade Jewelers’ Great Estate jewelry event, Patti has identified key estate jewelry trends starting with the comeback of yellow gold. People miss the weighty gold jewelry of the past, when gold hovered around $500 to $600 per ounce. Today’s estate jewelry buyers are seeking these pieces out. Cameos continue to be popular in the estate category. New jewelry production includes modern-made cameos or even old cameos in new settings.
Pins are popular with today’s brides from using estate and antique pins in flower bouquets to pins in wedding dresses and as hairpieces. Detailed filigree rings from the 1920’s to the 1950’s are also popular. And, Art Deco as a period of influence continues to be as strong as ever. Men are also getting into estate jewelry with strong interest in older timepieces.
All of the jewelry discussed here and many more estate and antique pieces will be part of Scheherazade Jewelers’ Great Estate jewelry event, from Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3. (Scheherazade Jewelers would like to thank Geolat Mondial and the Diamond Council of America for their assistance with this blog.)