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Historic Preservation Month Highlight: Collecting Eventful Memories with Antique Jewelry

Tanzy Ward

Antique jewelry courtesy of the Zanathia Jewelry Collection

The historical significance and events connected with antique jewelry are critical to its preservation value. While analyzing the intriguing jewelry trends of the 19th century, the craftsmanship and intricate details are unparalleled and of high quality. The era was also a time of fascinating events and innovative ideas. Historically, preserving these collectibles is essential and pertinent because the jewelry is at least a century old, and many original pieces are becoming increasingly rare. Many authentic antique jewelry collectibles were not correctly preserved, destroyed with time, or damaged. These jewelry collectibles tell diverse stories and are a part of memories that people experience while living through historic times. 
People wore sentimental jewelry accessories for various personal reasons, partly inspired by significant events and 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 essential to preserve because it holds great sentimental value and gives an intriguing glimpse into the memories and 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 significant progressive societal changes. 

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


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

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


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

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