A vintage emerald glittering in a gold setting, this antique engagement ring is a piece of art deco history.

Beautiful emerald vintage ring from the 1920s. This stunning antique engagement ring is set in a rich gold setting and the center stone is an emerald cut diamond with lots of sparkle!

This is an antique emerald gold ring that was made in the 1920s. The center stone is a very deep green and the ring has beautiful detail on the sides.

This is a stunning antique emerald engagement ring, circa 1920-1930. The ring is set in 14 carat gold and has an open detailed art deco style setting with traditional hand engraving around the band. It was created by a silversmith who used 5 emeralds to create this one of a kind piece. The center stone measures approximately 4mm by 3mm and has two rubover style side stones that are also emeralds.

Art deco emerald ring

This ring is absolutely gorgeous! The stone is a classic emerald cut, with a leaf motif. The craftsmanship of this ring is amazing. All around vintage beauty, this ring will turn heads wherever you go.

The ring features an emerald-shaped yellow diamond. While the color of the gemstone is hard to determine, we believe it is most likely either a canary or topaz colored diamond. The vintage ring itself is a size 5 and weighs in at 4 grams.

Antique emerald gold ring

Solaroidenergy only provides you with the highest quality antique emerald gold ring deals since we strive to provide you with the most spectacular and exquisite engagement rings available. The antique emerald ring is available in many different styles and designs, such as antique emerald ring art deco, antique emerald engagement ring, and antique emerald ring.

Browse our unrivalled collection of antique and vintage Emerald Engagement Rings, estate emerald rings for sale. Free Worldwide … French 18ct Gold, Large Rectangular Emerald & Diamond Ring. Browse our collection of engagement rings. Each one is unique and distinct for a look that is all your own!

Find this Ringat Custom MadeThis wedding set shows design elements from many eras: a Victorian-inspired halo, Edwardian filigree, and a touch of modern asymmetry in the pear-shaped side stones. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

What Makes An Engagement Ring “Vintage”?

“Vintage” refers to anything at least 20 years old, while “antique” refers to anything at least 100 years old. When it comes to engagement rings, “vintage” usually signifies the ring’s style rather than its age. In general, if you’re looking for a vintage engagement ring, you’re really looking for a modern, vintage-style engagement ring setting.

If you’re visualizing a simple engagement ring, you’re most likely looking for a design from the “Retro Era” (1940-1960). However, most other vintage designs tend to be more ornate.

If your spouse-to-be frequents second-hand shops, they might prefer an older ring to a vintage-inspired modern one. Check out antique shops and ask family members for any heirloom rings you could have. If you’re going this route, read our article on antique engagement rings.

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Eras And Inspiration For Vintage Engagement Rings

Aside from age, there’s not much to dictate style for vintage engagement rings. Technically, even relatively modern rings from the 1990s can be considered “vintage.” However, we’ll discuss four eras that modern vintage styles frequently emulate. See what catches your eye.

Victorian Era (1835-1900)

In the Victorian Era, engagement rings vary widely in designs and materials.  (In fact, Victorian jewelry can be subdivided into early, middle, and late period styles). However, Victorian rings were generally yellow or rose gold and often included diamonds. Rows, halos, and clusters of diamonds became popular during this era. So, in some ways, a yellow gold double-halo ring could be an example of a Victorian-inspired vintage engagement ring.

Find this Ringat James AllenWith a nod to floral design and many tiny diamonds, this designer engagement ring strongly evokes Victorian style. Check it out. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Popular Colors

Since blue was the eponymous Queen Victoria’s favorite color, turquoise and blue enamel appeared often in jewelry from this period. Pearls were also featured frequently. Since perliculture hadn’t been perfected yet, pearls in jewelry from this era were natural, and small seed pearls were more common than larger ones. Other white gemstones like moonstone and opal were also popular.

Find this Ringat CustomMadeWith a halo setting and seed pearl accents, this vintage engagement ring is a good example of Victorian design. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Diamond Cuts

Although large diamonds were uncommon at this time, consumers began to wear diamond solitaires. However, most diamonds were old mine cuts, old European cuts, step cuts, or rose cuts, since modern diamond cuts like the round brilliant hadn’t been invented yet

Find this Ringat CustomMadeThe sweet simplicity of a rose-cut diamond can give any engagement ring a vintage feel. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Victorian Motifs

Popular Victorian motifs included bows, hearts, birds, and snakes. Navette or marquise shapes were also popular, either as a gemstone shape or in the overall design. In addition, the bypass setting was popular during this period (another common choice for modern styles as well).

Victorian era engagement ring with a 1.23-ct old mine-cut diamond center stone set in yellow gold, circa 1880. Photo © Estate Diamond Jewelry. Used with permission.

Edwardian Era (1900-1920)

If you’re into intricate, lacy designs, you’ll love jewelry from the Edwardian Era.

Find this Ringat James AllenScrolling details on this platinum vintage engagement ring were typical of Edwardian design. Check out this ring. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Rings from this period were generally platinum and included intricate metalwork called filigree in designs featuring scrolling, ribbons, and vines. Floral motifs were also popular.

Edwardian era engagement ring with a 4.30-ct antique cushion-cut diamond center stone set in platinum, circa 1910. The openwork filigree on the sides of the ring has a leaf motif. Photo © Estate Diamond Jewelry. Used with permission.

Although diamonds and pearls continued to be popular, colored gemstones appeared in jewelry more frequently. Old mine cuts, old European cuts, and rose cuts were the most common cuts for diamonds in this period.

Find this Ringat CustomMadeNature-inspired filigree took root in Edwardian jewelry. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Art Deco Era (1920-1940)

In contrast to the lacy lightness of Edwardian styles, Art Deco was all about bold geometry and repeating patterns. Instead of curvy, flowing filigree, Art Deco rings often included metalwork with repeating, sharp angles and tiny beads called milgrain. This style has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

The octagon halo, milgrain, and step-cut diamonds in the band are elements of Art Deco style. Check out this ring. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Step-cut diamonds like emerald and asscher cuts became fashionable, and colored gemstones, especially rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, were especially popular.

Art Deco engagement ring with a 0.94-ct old European-cut diamond center stone, set in platinum, circa 1930. Photo © Estate Diamond Jewelry. Used with permission.

However, during the Great Depression, many consumers couldn’t afford these expensive gemstones, so they opted for more affordable alternatives instead, including amethyst, citrine, garnet, and glass.

Retro Era (1940-1960)

Prior to World War II, few engagement rings featured a center diamond. However, after the highly successful De Beers diamond marketing campaign, which began in the 1940s, engagement rings almost exclusively featured diamonds.

Find this Ringat CustomMadeSimply beautiful, the round-cut diamond in rose gold with baguette diamonds was a popular choice in the 1950s and has seen a comeback. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Unlike earlier rings, engagement rings from this “Retro Era” featured simpler designs. Solitaire rings and baguette side stones were quite popular, and the typical size of the center stone grew larger once the Depression ended.

Retro era engagement ring with a 0.75-ct transitional-cut diamond center stone set in platinum, circa 1940. Photo © Estate Diamond Jewelry. Used with permission.

Since the non-military use of platinum was banned during World War II, yellow and rose gold became the metals of choice for engagement rings in the United States during this period. Many rings from this era were two-toned, with both yellow gold and white gold in the design.

A modern round brilliant diamond in a simple gold design might just describe your grandmother’s engagement ring, and this nostalgia makes these rings popular today.

The De Beers “A Diamond is Forever” tagline and campaign played a major role in establishing diamonds as the stone of choice for most engagement rings. A De Beers advertisement in the August 1960 Reader’s Digest. Photo by Sensei Alan. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Engagement Rings From Recent Decades

In the 1960s, Jacqueline Kennedy’s two-stone diamond and emerald engagement ring brought colored gemstones back into fashion. Art Deco styles were also popular.

In the late 1970s, disco styles were bold and large. Rings from this decade also featured geometric designs.

Vintage M. Buccellati engagement ring with a 1.07-ct round brilliant-cut diamond center stone set in white and yellow gold, circa 1970. Photo © Estate Diamond Jewelry. Used with permission.

In the 1980s, Princess Diana’s famous sunburst halo sapphire engagement ring inspired a wave of imitations. Colored gemstones and pear shapes were popular.

The 1990s are the most recent decade that can be considered “vintage.” Designs were bold and minimalistic, and marquise-cut diamonds were especially popular.

Vintage Engagement Ring Designs

Vintage engagement rings often incorporate aspects of styles from multiple eras, blending them into something new. Check out these rings that combine elements of Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco design.

In this vintage engagement ring, the metals appear like ribbons forming a heart shape, elements of Victorian or Edwardian jewelry. However, using two-tone metals and a relatively small, minimalistic design evokes the Retro Era. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Some vintage-inspired engagement rings incorporate modern design aspects, too. Take a look at how these rings blend the old with the new.

Although the strong angles and geometry might make you think Art Deco or the 1970s, the small size is part of a recent minimalistic trend. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Not Sure What Kind Of Ring To Get?

If you’re planning a surprise proposal and you’re not sure what kind of ring to get, start by checking with friends and family. Pinterest and Instagram are always good places to look for ideas.

You can also start by asking yourself some basic style questions to help narrow your search. For example, does your intended prefer nature-inspired designs or geometric patterns? Lots of diamonds in elaborate settings or fewer stones in simpler styles?

Where Should I Shop For A Vintage Engagement Ring?

If you’re buying online, James Allen has a great selection of beautiful vintage engagement rings. Plus, they’re the best place online to shop for a center diamond. So, if you want a diamond engagement ring, you’ll be able to find the stone that’s perfect for you.

However, even if you’re picking from a few dozen vintage engagement rings, you still might not find that perfect one. If you’re looking for a truly unique vintage-style engagement ring, choose CustomMade. Their experts will help you create the perfect ring, even if you’re not quite sure what you want yet

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Antique Emerald Gold Ring

Solaroidenergy only provides you with the highest quality antique emerald gold ring deals since we
strive to provide you with the most spectacular and exquisite engagement rings available. The
antique emerald ring is available in many different styles and designs, such as antique emerald
ring art deco, antique emerald engagement ring, and antique emerald ring.
Browse our unrivalled collection of antique and vintage Emerald Engagement Rings,estate emerald
rings for sale. Free Worldwide … French 18ct Gold, Large Rectangular Emerald & Diamond Ring.
Browse our collection of engagement rings. Each one is unique and distinct for a look that is all your

Emerald Jewelry Through The Ages

The History Of Emerald Jewelry

An ancient Egyptian bangle with small inset gemstones in an intricate design.

Jewelry made with precious materials has always been part of our fashion repertoire because of its value, its rarity, and its enduring beauty.  We have included a brief catalog of Jewelry periods and styles to give you an idea of how emeralds have been cherished and worn throughout the ages.

Antique Jewelry

Emerald jewelry made more than one hundred years ago is considered antique, and jewelry from twenty to one hundred years old is more properly termed “vintage.”  Fine antique emerald jewelry is very scarce and valuable.  Many of the truly great emerald jewels reside in museums, vaults, and state collections.  If a quality antique piece does come on the market, it demands high prices, especially if it features large natural stones or if it has an unusual history.

Ancient Egyptian Jewelry and its Modern Revival

An ancient map of the Nile River with oases depicted on each side.

Despite ancient misconceptions about the relationship between emerald and other green stones, we know that true emeralds were mined in ancient Egypt.  To the ancient Egyptians, green was a sacred color associated with the fertility of the land annually flooded by the Nile.

In the earliest times, only the pharaohs were allowed to wear emeralds.  Some were set in rings, which were worn on the tips of the finger as opposed to the base.  Egyptian kings were also buried with an emerald, a symbol of eternal life.  In fact, a fine necklace from the 14th century B.C. was reportedly found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

The emeralds of ancient Egypt were thought to have special healing properties.  They were also used as amulets and talismans.  Emeralds and other gemstones were thought to house powerful genies that had been turned into stone. The Egyptians used beads of emerald, carnelian, agate, lapis lazuli, and amethyst in necklaces to protect the wearer from all manner of evil.  The first emerald talismans were carved into scarabs.  According to Budge (1965), the carved emerald scarab also included an image of Isis and was invested with power at a sacred rite called the “Ceremony of the Beetle.”

An Egyptian revival necklace featuring carved scarabs set in filigreed gold.

Emeralds were used extensively in Egyptian revival jewelry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The spectacular horde unearthed from Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 inspired Art Deco designers who enthusiastically embraced Egyptian themes and motifs.

The Jewelry of Classical Greece and Rome, and its Revivals

Emeralds were well known in classical Greece and Rome and like the Egyptians (known for being the original source of emeralds and other fine green gems), the Greeks and Romans attributed healing, talismanic, and astrological powers to their gems.  Much of the jewelry of the period is characterized by the extensive use of engraved seals and gemstones, and polishing of rough gem forms. This makes it very easy to identify the different types of gems used from this period.

An ancient Roman emerald, pearl, and gold ring.This mosaic from Pompeii illustrates Roman jewelry fashions around the 1st century C.E.

Authentic jewelry from this period is exceptionally rare, but we do know that classical artisans were fine metalsmiths.  Ancient goldsmiths practiced the art of granulation, a difficult technique that ornaments surfaces with gold beads.  Granulation is most often associated with the Etruscans, who occupied northern and central Italy before the rise of Rome.  They learned the technique from the Phoenicians, who in turn carried it from Egypt, but it was the Etruscans who raised the art to its greatest heights.

Renewed interest in classical themes and motifs was experienced during the Renaissance.  More recently, increasing demand for classically inspired jewelry has spurred the production of contemporary granulation-based emerald settings, and modern goldsmiths are happily rediscovering this ancient art.

The European Middle Ages

A 3rd century gold and emerald earring.

The Roman legacy in Europe continued in the Early Middle Ages with techniques of filigree gold, cloisonné work and the use of cabochon gems.  The jewelry of this period was primarily associated with clothing and it included clasps, brooches, belt buckles, and buttons.  Cameos and intaglios inherited from the Romans were used a great deal in jewelry.

By the High Middle Ages, precious stones had become more widely available, at least in important European cities that traded with the East, and the gem and jewelry industry was increasingly regulated.

An English crown, probably owned by Richard III or Anne of Bohemia, circa 1370.

In 1331, an edict was passed in Paris against the use of paste gems.  In 1355, jewelers were forbidden to put tinted foil under gemstones to improve their color.  Although sumptuary laws mandated that precious gems be reserved for the clergy or aristocracy, the use of jewelry and the amount worn increases throughout the period.

In 1363, Edward III of England’s statute de victu et vestitu decreed that craftsmen, yeomen, their wives, and their children were not permitted to wear articles of gold or silver.  Knights were not allowed to wear rings or brooches made of gold or set with precious stones.  Only merchants, owners of land and their families were allowed to wear clothes and headdresses adorned with silver and precious stones.

Anne de Beaujeu, detail from the triptych of the Maître de Moulins (c. 1498).

In court jewelry, crowns, hats, and other head ornaments were encrusted with fine stones, including emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, and diamonds.  Men wore jewel-encrusted clothes, necklaces, and belts.  In the late 14th century women’s hair was padded over the ears and held in place with heavily jeweled gold hairnets.  Jeweled reliquaries were worn around the neck and a variety of brooches and badges were worn on dresses with low necklines that were embroidered with silk and sewn with jewels.

Jewelry of the Indian Subcontinent

An Indian Mughal pendant piece that could be used as kundan jewelry.

The ancient cultures of the Indian subcontinent were fascinated by gemstones.  Ancient texts contain references for the use of emeralds in ceremony and everyday life. An emerald offered to the gods was thought to produce “Knowledge of the Soul and of the Eternal.”

Although indigenous Indian kingdoms had strong jewelry traditions, ironically, the best recognized and most collectible of all antique Indian jewelry styles was developed by foreign conquerors called the Mughals.  During the Mughal period, from 1504 to 1707, the Muslim imperial courts that dominated northern India were awash in opulent personal ornaments.  Mughal jewelry mixes colored stones and diamonds in elaborate, abstract patterns.  Mughal patrons favored the colors red, green, and white, so rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls were the predominant gems.  In many cases precious stones were accompanied by intricate and colorful enamel work.  Complex gold settings were worked in a uniquely Indian style called the kundan technique.

A carved emerald that could be used for many ornamentation purposes in Mughal pieces.

During the Mughal period, men wore as much jewelry as women.  Mughal jewels included rings, necklaces, and earrings, as well as sumptuous sword hilts, scabbards, aigrettes (turban ornaments), brow pendants, anklets, and nose ornaments.  Even furniture and the interiors of palaces were adorned with precious gems.  The great production center for Mughal jewelry was the beautiful “Pink City” of Jaïpur in Rajasthan, which even now remains a major hub for traditional Indian jewelry manufacturing.  Authentic Mughal jewelry is rare and extremely valuable.  When it does enter the market, it is typically through one of the major auction houses.

A great deal of modern Indian jewelry is made to imitate the Mughal style, which has grown in popularity outside of India as well.  India has a thriving indigenous jewelry market, and a large percentage of a family’s accumulated wealth is sequestered in the gold ornaments of the women.  Today India consumes emerald in quantities, and is also a major source of the emerald beads used in jewelry.

The European Renaissance

A portrait of King Henry VIII in a selection of his elaborate jewels by Holbein.

During the Renaissance, metalsmithing and stone cutting in Europe made great strides and jewelry ownership began to spread beyond the aristocracy and clergy.  Although Henry VIII wore as many gems and jewels as his wives, by the end of this period, women’s adornment was far more elaborate than men’s—although the men still wore heavily embroidered clothes.

Renaissance jewelry borrowed heavily from classical motifs in sculpture—nymphs, centaurs, griffins, satyrs and other classical subjects enter the iconography of jewels.  Heavy gold chains and collars were popular, especially among women, and elaborate pendants gradually overtook the traditional brooch.

Eleanor of Austria wearing the jewelry fashions of the day (c. 1525).

It is during this period and the next that vast quantities of emeralds began to flow into Europe from the New World.  The conquistadors scoured the New World for emeralds and other plunder, fueled in part by fabulous legends of great wealth.  Joseph d’Acosta wrote that the ship that returned him to Spain in 1587 carried at least two hundred pound of emeralds.

Initially, emeralds from the New World were worn exclusively by members of the Spanish royalty.  The fashion at Castile in the 16th century was for dark clothes with white lace collars so tall that only the face and hands were exposed.  Emerald jewelry helped to brighten the drab attire.  By the end of the 16th century, this style had spread to nearly all the European courts, as did the craving for emeralds.

17th and 18th Century Jewelry Traditions

A French chatelaine with a watch and large pendant drop.

Around the first quarter of the 17th century, women reacted against the stifling dresses and multitudinous ornaments that had characterized the Renaissance style.  Fashions emphasized instead soft, flowing draperies and simpler jewels to match.

By the 18th century, brilliant stone cuts had been invented by Vicenzo Peruzzi.  Women preferred diamonds to reflect candlelight in dazzling ways at night and richly colored stones during the day.  Chatelaines were a woman’s most important piece of daytime jewelry.  Not only were they used to sport a watch, but also an étui or pendant case containing sewing equipment such as thimbles and scissors.  This utilitarian item was also called an “equipage.”

Men wore elaborate buckles on shoes, at the waist, on their hats, and to fasten bands of velvet or embroidered cloth around the neck and the wrists.

The Period of 1789-1870

Empress Josephine portrait wearing one her famous festoon necklaces.

It can be said that the 19th century began with the French revolution, and Empress Joséphine, Napoléon’s wife, gives us ample illustration of the jewelry and clothing fashions of the day.  Deep décolletages were perfect for displaying the large pendant or heavy festoon necklaces, which were in vogue.  Parures were also in vogue, and both Empress Joséphine and her successor, Empress Marie-Louise, had notable ones made of rubies, diamonds, and emeralds.

The period is characterized by romanticism and a Gothic revival.  Napoléon’s Algerian campaigns also influenced European jewelry, and elaborate knots and tassels were incorporated into designs for earrings, brooches, pendants, and gold hairpins.

Victorian Jewelry

An example of a Victorian emerald, diamond, and sapphire ring.

The Victorian era can be broken into three distinct periods:  the Early Victorian or Romantic period (1837-1860), the Mid Victorian or Grand period (1860-1885), and the Late Victorian or Aesthetic period (1885-1901).

In the early 19th century, the ideal woman was a decorative showpiece, the vessel on which the wealth and prosperity of the family was prominently displayed.  Jewelry was regarded as an essential component of the dress of the middle and upper classes.  Among those classes, it was traditional for the groom to present the bride with a casket of jewels, called a corbeille, as part of the marriage agreement.  The corbeille of the extremely rich and famous were detailed in ladies’ fashion magazines, which were consulted by all for information on what was new and socially acceptable.

A demand for superior craftsmanship emerged along with a taste for the exotic, which was spurred through contact with the cultures of the British colonies.  During Queen Victoria’s long reign, jewelry featured intricate metalwork; fabulous stones; and Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Middle Eastern motifs.

A Romantic period diamond and enamel pendant.

In the Early Victorian or Romantic period, the inspiration for jewelry came from nature.  Delicate motifs and themes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were very popular. Bracelets were a popular item, and many were worn on each arm.  Larger, more ornate necklaces dominated evening wear, but demure lockets were worn during the day.

By the Mid Victorian or Grand period, jewelry design had become bolder and more flamboyant.  Greek, Etruscan, and Egyptian themes became popular, due to exciting new archeological finds.  By the 1880s, colorless stones became the rage.  Because this period corresponded with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, morning jewelry, featuring jet, onyx, garnet, and amethyst, also became popular.

A Victorian mourning brooch that features a lock of hair of a passed loved one.

By the Late Victorian or Aesthetic period, when more women were enrolling in university and pursuing the right to vote, fashion changed once again.  Women began to limit their displays of jewelry.  To wear diamonds in the day was considered the height of bad taste.  Coral and semi-precious stones could be worn by day, but precious metals and gemstones were reserved for formal evening attire.

Elaborate and often rather formal, High Victorian jewelry is popular among antique collectors.  Emerald jewelry that mimics the Victorian style is also widely manufactured and sold today.

Edwardian Jewelry

An Edwardian ring with intricate and detailed metalwork.

Victoria’s successor, King Edward VII, inherited an empire at the peak of its power and influence.  Edwardian England gave birth to a distinct and influential jewelry style.

Edwardian jewelry owes much of its character to platinum, a rare and unusually strong metal that entered the jewelry trade at the end of the 19th century.  Although the Spanish recovered platinum from South America during the 17th century, it was nearly two hundred years before metalworkers mastered the techniques for refining and casting it.  Once they did, jewelers were quick to exploit platinum’s unique properties.

This Edwardian necklace is designed in platinum to create sweeping scrolls and the affect of bows.

Platinum’s tremendous strength allows it to endure wear even when it is drawn into a thin wire and slender shapes.  Fine mesh, dainty garlands, and satiny ribbons, all so delicate they would collapse like wax if they’d been cast in gold, became a trademark of Edwardian jewelry.  Edwardian designers adopted a clean, light style that made ample use of classical motifs borrowed from Greece and Rome.  With a huge influx of diamond coming from the newly discovered South African deposits, Edwardian jewelers enhanced their pieces with many small diamonds.  Diamonds and platinum also offered a pleasing backdrop for fine emeralds.

While fine examples of Edwardian jewelry are costly at auction, the style is frequently imitated in modern jewelry fashions.

Art Nouveau and Jugendstil Styles

Lalique dragonfly pendant with signature enamel work.

While Edwardian jewelry flourished in England, continental Europe created a family of styles that are particularly popular with today’s jewelry collectors.  These styles were known as Art Nouveau in France and Jugendstil in German-speaking countries.

Instead of the prim ribbons and garlands of Edwardian England, the continental styles featured organic lines and themes.  Faceted, carved, and cabochon-cut stones, including fine emeralds, were set in complex metal settings and often decorated with fine enamel.  Subjects from nature were especially popular, and turn-of-the-century jewelry often featured delicately rendered flowers, insects, fish, lizards, snakes, and birds.

Vintage Jewelry

Vintage emerald jewelry includes the colorful glamour of Art Deco and more massive Retro pieces.  Vintage styles are highly collectable among connoisseurs, so fine pieces can command prices far in excess of the value of the gems and the precious metals that they are made of.

Art Deco Jewelry

An Art Deco emerald ring set in gold with diamond accents.

The term “Art Deco” stems from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs, held in Paris in 1925.  The Paris exhibition, which included furniture, interiors, and household objects along with jewelry, introduced the world to a radical new style.  Gone were the delicate tracery of Edwardian jewelry and the whimsical animals and writhing tendrils of Art Nouveau.  In their place came bold, contrasting colors, broad fields of glittering diamonds, and a muscular geometry that reflected the exuberant energy of the machine age.  Yet for all that it celebrated modernity, Art Deco jewelry borrowed freely from ancient jewelry traditions around the world.  Chinese, Egyptian, and African motifs were reinterpreted in modern materials.

Art Deco jewelry was aggressively modern, but its up-to-date techniques and aesthetics also combined an unfettered imagination and exquisite craftsmanship.  It is no wonder that Art Deco jewels are still held up as icons of the jeweler’s art, or that grand jewelry houses including Cartier, Mauboussin, Boucheron, and Van Cleef and Arpels cemented their reputations with such work.

Emerald and diamond double clip from the Art Deco period. Photo credit: gia.edu.

Art Deco designers used the undiluted blue, green, and red of sapphires, emeralds, and rubies against platinum settings or black enamel.  Sapphire, emerald, and ruby combinations were a favorite of Cartier, and jewels with these gems carved into the shapes of fruits and leaves were called “tutti-frutti.”

Long dangling earrings were popular, along with cuff bracelets, intricate platinum-set rings, and necklaces and pendants of all sizes.  Two types of jewelry belong especially to the Art Deco style:  the double clip and the sautoir.

The Art Deco style prevailed from the mid 1920s through the mid 1930s, when wartime sobriety tempered its exuberance and wartime manufacturing siphoned off skilled craftsmen for less peaceful purposes.

Retro Jewelry

A Retro emerald ring set in gold with sweeping diamonds.

Over the course of the turbulent 1930s, Art Deco transformed into a style now called “Retro.”  The bold geometry introduced in Art Deco jewelry persisted, but in a more massive and metallic incarnation.  Art Deco jewelry was heavily studded with diamonds and colored stones, but metal dominates in the jewelry of the Retro period.  Retro jewelry features broad curved, rolling, or scrolled surfaces and blocky shapes rendered in glossy metal.  Bullet shapes, fat ribbons, and cylinders are also common motifs.

Gold was used extensively in designs of the Retro period, since platinum supplies were siphoned off for the war effort.  Pink gold’s coppery hue is still linked with the Retro style in public imagination.  Emerald was a popular stone in Retro jewelry designs, which included large cocktail rings, necklaces, and charm bracelets.  Retro jewelry often featured small gemstones, which were frequently channel set


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