Giving jewellery at Christmas was a popular pastime in years gone by and is a tradition that continues today. Jewellery was often worn by women historically as a statement of social status to display their husband’s wealth, so the more diamonds and pearls you wore back in the Victorian period, for example, the wealthier your husband was perceived to be. It is not surprising then that a husband might choose to bedeck their wives and daughters with impressive jewels because it showed his prowess and success in the world.
Suffragette women were quite clever when buying jewellery or having it made for their own purposes, perhaps even against their husband’s wishes. For example, let’s take a husband who wanted to buy his wife a pendant as a Christmas present back in the Edwardian period. She might actually say “Oh, I’d love you to buy me a really beautiful big pendant, but I’d like it to be set with amethysts, diamonds and peridot”. Purple, green and white are the three suffragette colours used to represent loyalty, purity and hope so the wife was able to show that she was a secret supporter of the female vote but her husband, unknowingly, had bought her the necklace because he thought he was sharing how wealthy and successful he was!
Buying antique jewellery for Christmas makes Christmas stockings a bit different, doesn’t it? Nobody wants to have the same Christmas presents that everyone else is getting. They want to feel special so to open up your stocking and find some amazing antique earrings or a pendant makes that person feel valued and loved. It’s something that’s completely unique. Plus it’s good value for money for the person that’s buying it.
Edwardian silver and enamel pendant decorated with roses, with a locket at the back for a precious memento
Antique jewellery is perceived to be expensive and only affordable to a small select group of people. That is not true at all! It is affordable and, in many ways, much more affordable than modern jewellery and better value for money. Firstly, because you don’t have VAT to pay when you buy a second-hand piece of jewellery but secondly, someone else has already paid for that depreciation. Antique jewellery tends to hold its value more than a new piece because, like buying a car, as soon as you buy a brand new piece, the price does drop once you leave the shop and it takes a while for that price to then build up again. So what you’re buying is not only a lovely gift for someone but it’s also an investment. It’s something that can be kept and that can grow through the generations. It’s not a fad that will eventually be thrown away. It’s something that you know is going to last, grow in value and still be here in a hundred years time. I’m not sure the same could be said for something like a laptop or a digital camera, which really only lasts a matter of years.
The benefit of buying antique jewellery is that every piece has a story to tell. You’re buying a piece of history. I think if you’re the sort of person that looks at things with a little bit of sentiment, there’s always that element of, “Well, I wonder who else was gifted this piece at Christmas time all these years ago?”There is not that same sense of history and sentiment with a new piece. I also think people see an antique piece as being more special because it’s been personally selected. It’s not something that anyone else is going to have.
A pair of late 19th century 15ct yellow gold and banded agate cufflinks. £975
Compared to modern jewellery, the main difference with antique jewellery would obviously be the style. There is an abundance of styles from lots of different periods to choose from. For example, Art Deco or the Arts and Crafts period. Some of the lovely traditional Art Nouveau jewellery is quite beautiful and jewellery from the 60’s & 70’s is, don’t forget, still vintage and iconic and increasingly collectable. There’s a style element which you don’t necessarily have with a modern jewellery. Also there’s fewer of these antique pieces about so, again, you’re wearing something that’s different but easy to wear and it’s still stylish.
If someone came in wanting to buy something for their female partner or friend, I would probably show them a couple of rings first of all, mostly coloured gemstones so there was no implication that there was an engagement, something that was away from anything bridal related! We always find that sapphires sell well at Christmas and we always have a wide selection of both antique and modern sapphire rings. After rings I would probably show earrings because most women have pierced ears and we’ve got a great selection of both modern and old earrings at almost every price point from £19 rising to £2000. Our antique earrings tend to be big drops, so perfect for wearing at Christmas time with Christmas lunch and parties. We’ve also got some nice diamond and rose gold examples and a pair beautiful Victorian carved coral drops which look fabulous with a little black dress.
Simple pieces can also be a great solution for those that simply can’t choose so perhaps some single stone earrings with little diamonds in – you couldn’t go wrong with those. Then of course, we would definitely get the pendants out! Most ladies wear some form of necklace so we would show perhaps some of the Art Nouveau necklaces which is a style that a lot of ladies like. This period of jewellery design uses a lot of different types of stones such as mother of pearl, tourmaline and turquoise as well as alternative materials such as silver and pewter.
We like to get to know our customer a bit first so we’d find out a little bit more about who they are buying for, their likes and dislikes and colour preferences so we can tailor our choices perfectly. For example, if they are somebody that is out gardening all the time, a ring with a big claw-setting is not going to work for them. Or perhaps she’s someone that goes to a lot of black tie events and therefore she might prefer something a bit more dressy and a bit more glitzy. We love everything in the shop, but not everyone will!
If somebody came into the shop today and said: “I’m looking for something really special for my male partner”, the first thing I would say is look at the antique cufflinks. We have a big collection of antique cufflinks from gold to silver and enamel to completely plain, with lots of different styles of fittings that will suit all different types of shirt and gentleman as well, all at an affordable price point. The lowest priced antique cufflink would be around £150 rising to around £450.
A pair of vintage enamelled and silver gilt cufflinks with Birmingham assay marks. £165
Buying antique jewellery for younger people is a growing trend and something we would positively encourage! We want to show people that actually antique jewellery is not fuddy-duddy and something to stay in Grannys jewellery box gathering dust. It can actually be really cool and trendy. We see lots of the modern designers on the High Street, people like Monica Vinader and Chupi, for example, who copy a lot of antique styles but put a slightly contemporary twist on it in the materials used or the way it is marketed.
I think we are seeing a younger generation that want a delicate piece of jewellery with a story to tell- they might have a small neck which suits some of the old antique pieces as people were a lot smaller back then. The younger generation are also more open to different materials in jewellery, things like 1960s perspex, silver and enamelling.
A new handmade silver three strand cuff bangle. Made in Warwickshire by a retired blacksmith. £112.
Antique jewellery is a great choice for Christmas for so many reasons – pop into the shop and let us show you why!
Wishing all our customer and supporters a very Happy Christmas wherever you are!