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Historic Preservation Month Highlight: Collecting Eventful Memories with Antique Jewelry

Tanzy Ward

The historical significance and events connected with antique jewelry are key components of it's preservation value. While analyzing the intriguing jewelry trends of the 19th century, the craftsmanship & intricate details are unparalleled and of high quality. The era was also a time of fascinating events and innovative ideas. Historically preserving these collectibles are important and pertinent due to the jewelry being at least over a century old, and many of the original pieces are becoming increasingly rare with time. Many authentic antique jewelry collectibles were not properly preserved and were destroyed with time or heavily damaged. These jewelry collectibles tell diverse stories and are a part of memories that people experienced while living through the historical times. 

People wore sentimental jewelry accessories for a variety of different personal reasons, in which were partly inspired by major events and the dignitaries during the time. A vast amount of Victorian Era jewelry (c.1837-c.1901) was inspired by British monarch Queen Victoria (1819-1901), and the timeline of personal events that occurred in her life during her long reign. Queen Victoria may have been the first to start the mourning jewelry trend after the passing of her husband Prince Albert (1819-1861), but millions of other people were inspired as well. Mourning jewelry is very important to preserve because it holds great sentimental value & gives an intriguing glimpse into the memories & experiences during the era. Victorians experienced uncertain times with wars and widespread pandemics. However, the Victorian Era was not just for mourning the dearly departed, but also introduced major progressive changes in society as well. 

            (Examples of Victorian & Early 20th century jewelry, Zanathia Jewelry)

(Unidentified African American woman in Victorian Attire, Georgia Division of Archives & History. Hallman Bros. Photography (c.1900's) 

Manufacturing and technological advances were some of the main focuses during most of the Victorian Era, but by the turn of the 20th century the love for completely handcrafted items began to be a major preference. The Art Nouveau Era (c.1890-c.1915) jewelry are great examples of the aesthetic transformation that birthed the Arts & Crafts Movement (c.1880's-1920's). The jewelry in this era were creatively crafted with nature-themed detailing & emphasized appreciation for semi-precious stones' natural beauty. Preserving these pieces are also historically significant because it was short-lived due to the onset of World War One. Art Nouveau means 'New Art' and it's aesthetic can also be seen with the cinematic ''trick films'' of the era. Women dressed as fairies or mermaids and nature-themed ethereal settings were common. Film directors like Segundo de Chomón (1871-1929) emphasized these images in early innovative films with optical illusions & camera tricks. 

(Examples of Antique Victorian, Art Nouveau, & Edwardian Era Jewelry, Zanathia Jewelry)

(Art Nouveau style film 'Easter Eggs',1907, A Segundo de Chomón film) 

Historic preservation of antique jewelry ensures that the significant history and the lives that lived through these periods are not forgotten or disregarded as time goes on. Physical items, collectibles, help tell stories that are sentimental memories. Presently, antique jewelry has seen a revival trend that keeps these collectibles and it's history freshly preserved. Original antique jewelry is the ongoing inspiration for modern reproduction styles. When collecting antique jewelry, one is preserving historical artifacts and the memories connected with it. A person can imagine who or what happened within the lives of a loved one with monogrammed mourning jewelry, a flapper girl necklace that might have been worn to speakeasies, to big band clubs, or a sentimental heart photo locket. We are allowed to explore history and it’s eventful memories with the collectibles that were left behind and saved over time. Over a hundred years later, they are still fascinating to analyze and collect. 

 


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