The terms antique and vintage are often used interchangeably in the trade. There are no clearly demarcated lines in time that differentiate antiques from vintage or vice versa. To begin with we must know what the meaning of the word vintage is. The dictionary meaning of vintage is "of old, recognized and enduring interest, importance or quality." Originally the word was used to describe a year's wine harvest, in time, it has come to be used to describe almost everything that is old-fashioned including clothes, jewelry, cars or even comics. Vintage jewelry is commonly recognized to be that which was manufactured between the years 1920 to 1930. However, this definition is shaped exclusively on a short time period alone, stripped of any meaningful context. For the purpose of establishing a common definition with which serves to provide a point of reference, we will use the term "vintage" with respect to its dictionary definition as stated above, revised, to "of (at least 20 years) old recognized and enduring interest, importance or quality," that is distinguished with a specific style that was created between 1930 and 1980.
Given the increasing rarity and cost of items designed by leading artisans and designers, it is more important than ever to be able to effectively evaluate the item or items of interest. As the demand and value (cost) for vintage and antique jewelry has increased dramatically over the last 50 years, so too has the number of forgeries and imitations of fine pieces, thus increasing the need for accurate appraisals and the means of accurate identification in forming an “Opinion of Value,” and in determining authenticity.
All of the costume jewelry included here was chosen because in some way it constitutes a paradigm, some important aspect of the infinite variety of patterns, subjects, and themes that distinguish these modern-age “objects of desire,” with their grace, beauty, eccentricity, and sense of humor.
Archeological excavations reveal that ancient people not only placed food and weapons in the tombs of the dead, but jewelry as well, reflecting that, for thousands of years, mankind has attached almost as much importance to objects of adornment and desire, as he or she has to sustenance, nourishment, and self-defense. Mankind, in its natural state, is surrounded by a seemingly endless abundance of natural beauty, a plethora of flora and fauna, a symphony of exotic sounds, the regal adornment and colorful plumage adorned by the wild in the animal kingdom displayed in an infinite range of splendid and vibrant colors, textures, shapes and sounds. Since the beginning of civilization, it is clearly evident of man’s desire and need to imitate and to be surrounded with such beauty. One could call such vibrant, magnificent and wonderful gifts of nature, luxury.
Art Deco is an influential visual arts design style which first appeared in France in the 1920s, flourishing internationally in the 1930s and 1940s before its popularity waned after World War II. It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials, and had a multi-cultural and ethnic (Japanese, Egyptian, and African, etc…) influence on the jewelry at this time. The style is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and lavish ornamentation.
The Victorian period began in 1837 with the coronation of England’s Queen Victoria at the age of 18, and ended with her death in 1901. Victoria was an individual with such presence and charisma; she was clearly the most influential person of her time: “what she loved, her country loved. What Victoria loved was Albert, sentiment, and jewelry, in that order.” Victoria was also a deeply religious monarch, with jewelry crafted under her reign exhibiting religious significance and themes: crosses for faith, anchors for hope, hearts for charity, and serpents for eternity. Victoria also possessed a deep love of nature and the Scottish landscape. Jewelry and objects of adornment would come to reflect her passion, as naturalistic themes abounded.
Plastic comes from the Greek word plasticos, which means to mold, and it applies to substances that can be molded and shaped. The earliest plastics were natural-amber, tortoise shell, horn, bone, and shellac. Today, the word has come to signify a synthetic substance that can be molded and shaped under pressure and heat. The three major categories of collectible plastic jewelry are pyroxylin (Celluloid), casein (Galalith), and cast phenolic (Bakelite).
The termination of centuries and the influence of reigns of important leaders very rarely provide exact lines of demarcation. This is most evident when it comes to considering matters in a continual state of flux, such as the tides of fashion and taste. Given that jewelry is especially subject to the movements of fashion, one cannot consider the course and trend of jewelry during the 19th century without taking at least a cursory look at the preceding century.
The 18th century in terms of jewelry has been called the “Age of the Faceted Stone”, where the technical achievements of the 18th century lapidary and stone cutter reflected a revolution in taste and fashion, and placed the emphasis on the gemstone.
After the revolution of 1910, a time of great cultural and political upheaval, an explosion of creativity took place in Mexico, initiated by a community of North American and international intellectuals who recognized the greatness of Mexican artistry. This artistic renaissance reflects a fusion of twentieth century ideals with a culture and aesthetic which had evolved long before the arrival of the Spanish. In the eye of artists and scholars, the revolution was the cataclysm which finally severed Mexico from European (Spanish) dominance, thus heralding indigenous Indian culture as the most valid expression of “what it is to be Mexican.”
On the surface, it may seem that locating and identifying old marks can be a formidable challenge. Furthermore, few records of older maker's marks have been located and many important archives have been lost forever. The "Golden Era," or the generation of important 20th century silver artisans in Mexico is dwindling rapidly, and the role of the individual artisan/silversmith has been greatly diminished. Unfortunately, the new registration number system currently in place is impersonal and bears no artistic or cultural relevance to the past.
Around 1530, the silversmith guild determined that a trademark, a castle on water (the symbol of Mexico City) should be stamped on all silver pieces. The practice changed in 1542 with the addition of the silversmith's personal mark. These changes were designed to keep Mexico's silver trade under Spanish control. In 1559, the mint (Casa de Moneda) was established and all articles manufactured of gold or silver were to be stamped and taxes paid before use or resale.