For centuries, jewellery has been an important part of human cultures - a symbol of prestige, a means of spiritual protection, and a symbol of the mood and values of the time. Jewellery of any era speaks to the political and social climate it is part of, making each adorning piece a small slice of the bigger picture of the times.
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Vintage Design Guide
(1837 - 1901)
The Victorian era began with horse drawn carriages and candlelight and ended with automobiles and electricity - Queen Victoria's reign, from 1837 to 1901 saw incredible change and progress. Victorian era jewellery speaks to the many moods of her life; from romance and love, signified by brightly coloured gemstones and delicate filigree, to her mourning period which inspired black onyx and seed pearls, which represented tears.
No single period has seen such a diverse group of jewellery attributed to it.
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(1890 - 1910)
A brief moment with a lasting impact; Art Nouveau was most popular from 1890 - 1910 and was an 'art total' that included every art form; architecture, painting, music, literature and jewellery.
The movement was characterised by its use of long, sinuous, organic lines, partly inspired by the linear patterns of Japanese prints. Flower stalks, insect wings and other delicate natural objects were Art Nouveau's muses, and exotic, fragile materials like moulded glass and enamel were commonplace.
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(1920's - 1930's)
Art Deco is a shortened form of the term International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, and it first appeared in France in 1925. Jewellery was fashioned mainly in either white gold or platinum, and featured geometric, symmetrical designs with an industrial feel. Art Deco represented such things as luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress. The economy was booming and jazz blossoming, just as Prohibition heightened the urge to cast aside Victorian restraints.
Featuring African, Oriental, Egyptian, Persian and Islamic influences, Art Deco designs were bold, sharp, and more masculine than those of previous periods.
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(1950's - 1960's)
The Modern period came to life during the 1950s and was largely influenced by societal changes accredited to World War II. As society recovered from the wartime restrictions on raw materials and general austerity, jewellers turned to budget-friendly stones like aquamarine and citrine in lieu of more expensive diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies. In moving towards a period of renewed hope, prosperity and optimism. Designs are filled with large bold colours and typically included large semi-precious stones in conspicuously bold settings with the general aesthetic still embracing simple art deco influences.
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(1960's - 1970's)
Retro jewellery hails from the 1960s and 70s with western society undergoing a revolution in counterculture and the emergence of environmentalism. This manifested in jewellery in the form of abstract, organic shapes and richly textured, yellow gold with organic and naturally shaped gems.
Turquoise and coral were mixed with precious round brilliant cut diamonds to create dynamic and experimental pieces - a new era of individualism.
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Unsurprisingly, the current period of contemporary jewellery is difficult to define. Society is changing rapidly, and today's jewellery reflects this; more pieces of art than symbols of tradition, less function and more fashion, 80s power suits with shoulder pads were in full force and jewellery grew in scale to match the 'more is more' aesthetic.
Contemporary jewellery is seen as a progressive art movement, with new styles appearing all the time. The early 21st century, saw a rise in flashy 'bling' pieces, but more recently the geometric 60s have been referenced in popular styles. A wide range of materials are used today - from precious and non-precious metals, precious and semi-precious gemstones, to plastic, glass, resin, clay, fabric and found objects.
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In the 1860s alluvial gold was discovered in the South Island of New Zealand and this lead to the first wave of large-scale European immigration. The main areas of discovery were the West Coast of the South Island and Central Otago, the City of Dunedin was founded on the wealth created by the Otago goldfields. By coincidence, greenstone (nephrite) long treasured by the indigenous Maori (as Pounamu) was also prevalent in these same areas. The miners looking for gold in the rivers would uncover fine specimens of greenstone. It became popular to take the greenstone and shape it into various pieces of jewellery particularly crosses, hearts, fob chains and brooches and then add gold decoration, particularly of a Maori or New Zealand theme.
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Our Vintage jewellery experts seek out rare and unique treasures from within New Zealand and around the world. Only the finest examples of each era are selected to be part of our ever changing and inspiring Vintage Collection.
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