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History, Information and Identification

Terms, definitions and historical information related to antique and collectible jewelry.
  1. History of Jewelry Making

Antique Jewelry Terms
Much of learning about old jewelry, as with any subject, involves learning the lingo. This article defines several terms and phrases that are common in descriptions of vintage and antique jewelry.

Art Nouveau Jewelry Exhibit at Forbes Gallery New York
International Art Jewelry: 1895-1925, a new Forbes Galleries show, displays 200 pieces of jewelry and related decorative arts objects in the style of Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Jugendstil, Skonvirke, comparing and contrasting these turn-of-the-20th-century design movements.

Bullet Cabochon
Example of a bullet cabochon stone set in vintage costume jewelry.

Cabochon Definition
The definition of the jewelry-related term cabochon.

"Cat's Eye" Foiled Cabochon
View an example of "cat's eye" foiled glass cabochon stones used in vintage costume jewelry of the late 1950s & early '60s.

Classifying Antique Jewelry: Estate vs. Vintage

There are a number of synonyms for old jewelry, and while the terms overlap somewhat, they do mean specific things to professionals, collectors and authorities in the field. Understanding them can be a significant help in gauging a dealer's specialty - or just in educating yourself about jewelry from another era.

Cuff Bracelet
A cuff bracelet derives its name - and often its appearance - from a shirt cuff. Cuff bracelets, among one of the most ancient styles of jewelry, are defined in this well-illustrated article. Learn what a cuff bracelet is, and which famed jewelry designers are associated with it.

This article defines demi-parure and also explains how it differs from a parure.

Dragon's Breath Stones
Find out how to identify the bi-color stone collectors refer to as Dragon's Breath.

Dress Clip Example
Jewelry Glossary Example of a 1930s Dress Clip Style of Brooch

"Easter Egg" Stippled Cabochons
View an example of "Easter egg" stippled cabochon stones used in costume jewelry from the late 1950s & early '60s.

Intaglio - The Definition of Intaglio
Learn what the term intaglio refers to in glass and jewelry manufacture.

Invisible Setting
You'll be able to easily see an invisible setting in a piece of jewelry after reading this glossary-style article. This illustrated article defines and gives the history of the invisible setting in jewelry.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart:
For soldiers during World Wars I and II, exchanging letters and mementos kept them connected with the home front and strengthened bonds with friends and loved ones back in the States. Many of the sentimental items that were sent home from servicemen are referred to as “sweetheart” collectibles now.

Maltese Cross
This article defines the Maltese cross, an ancient and enduringly popular motif in antique jewelry, both precious and costume.

margarita stone
The name of this stone used in vintage costume jewelry is named for the shape of the stone rather than the color.

Pavé Setting
See an example of the jewelry setting technique of Pavé setting stones.

Necklace Styles
If you're finding identifying antique and vintage necklace styles to be confusing, take a look at this illustrated guide.

Peacock Eye Glass Cabochon
View an example of peacock eye glass cabochons used in antique and vintage costume jewelry.

Pendant Necklace
Pendant necklaces have been around for centuries. See what they look like and learn more about this enduring style.

Pietra Dura Jewelry
An ancient Florentine technique, pietra dura can create subtle but intricate pieces of jewelry. This glossary-style article defines pietra dura, and gives examples of pieces displaying the technique.

René Lalique - Art Nouveau Genius
One of the major pieces sold on July 13, 2011 at Sotheby’s summer Fine Jewels auction in London – with an estimate of 10-15,000£ (around $16,000-24,000) – an anemones brooch by René Lalique (1860-1945). Though best-known today for frosted glassware, Lalique began his career as a jeweler, and is considered one of the avatars of Art Nouveau,...

Saphiret Definition
Saphirets are popular, and valuable, to costume jewelry collectors. Find out what they look like here.

Tesserae Mosaic Tiles
Test your knowledge of antique decorative techniques by identifying tesserae. This glossary-style article defines tesserae, the elements of the ancient art of mosaic making, with examples in jewelry and furniture.

Tiffany Art Jewelry
Curious about the jewelry crafted under the supervision of Louis Comfort Tiffany? Learn more about it here.

The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels
"Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels" at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York highlights the creations of the 115-year old Parisian firm, whose bold and beautiful, innovative and often-imitated pieces have adorned many a socialite and celebrity. The exhibition, which runs February 18-June 5, 2011, divides the Van...

Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry
This resource tells the jewelry story with both pictures and words for a complete package. Covers terms for both fine and costume examples.

Jewelry Resource Page
This vintage jewelry resource page maintained by Jan Gaughan of Eclectic Vintage. Among the numerous resources and links provided you'll find information on popular designers, how to identify specific types of jewelry, fakes/repros and care & cleaning tips.

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