Trying to identify trends in vintage jewelry can be a futile exercise given the extraordinary diversity of this category. (By definition, anything over 20 years old is vintage.) But there’s no doubt that certain styles, periods, and manufacturers go in (and out) out of fashion.
“Twenty years ago, 1990s jewelry was just jewelry,” says Russell Zelenets, co-founder of the Stephen Russell Gallery, now 30 years old and vintage.
Unlike Victorian, Art Deco, and Retro pieces, most of which have been in circulation for many years and are now in private hands, 80s and 90s jewelry has recently entered the market and embodies a bold look, characteristic for the modernity that buyers are looking for.
This is not to say that the jewels of earlier eras, such as the ever-sought-after Art Deco engagement rings or the ever-fashionable Victorian star earrings, have gone out of style.
The specialists we cite below said they expect the vintage jewelry market to have another record year, in part due to the category’s relative rarity.
“We can make prettier jewelry, but we can’t make prettier vintage jewelry,” says Zelenets.
Susanna Martinez, co-owner Lang Antiques, San Francisco
“We have found that colored stone rings remain highly sought after, especially in larger sizes. People are getting a little bolder. Most of the rings with large stones date back to the second half of the 20th century: a lot of retro, 60s and 70s jewelry.
Platinum is back. We sell many more white metal colored stone rings. Moonstones are also very popular, especially in the Victorian era.
We are again seeing the mixing of bracelets with colored stones, like those in the 40s with 5-carat amethysts and citrines. People wear several bracelets at the same time; they combine color and yellow gold.”
Sunny Bond, co-owner Fox & Bond, Los Angeles
“What I’m really drawn to now, but what I wouldn’t have looked at eight or nine years ago when we started our business, is Italian things from the 80s and 90s, similar to Bulgari, which are now very in demand but very scarce.
Fashion in general is switching to 2000 style, and maybe the jewelry is not quite 2000 style, but that’s what people from the 90’s want.
We still sell Victorian jewelry, of course, Art Deco jewelry remains in demand, especially engagement rings. People still want a beautiful classic ring.
But finding good Victorian and Art Deco pieces is getting harder and harder. Supply and Demand – The supply of these items is decreasing and prices are rising. But there are tons of more modern pieces that reflect the fashion and feel a little more timely. I don’t want to diminish our love for old styles and designs because we are obsessed with them. We just see that the offer of more modern things is growing.”
Natasha Plotitsa-Zimmerman, co-owner Platt boutique Jewelry, Los Angeles
“Everything related to Cartier in the 70s is incredibly in demand right now.
Unusual yellow gold rings are very popular – they are encrusted with diamonds of various shapes, for example, pear-shaped, triangular-cut, marquise. And jewelry with snakes, in the Victorian style of the 70s, is always very popular. Rings and bracelets in the form of snakes are very well bought from us. They have a lot of meaning, such as eternal love and renewal. Now that Bulgari is back with its Serpenti collection, these pieces have become even more popular.
Emeralds are a big deal: we had a great year selling emeralds. And jewelry from the 80s and 90s is really popular.”
Mallory Witten, Jewelry Sales Manager at M.S. Rau, New Orleans
“This year we bought and sold some incredible art deco pieces. Refined workmanship and product design from the 1920s and 30s is what we look for when purchasing new items, and our customers feel the same way. There is always a strong demand for bright, raw colored gemstones, especially when owned by iconic houses such as Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.
Retro style gold jewelry is very popular right now. Large massive spectacular jewelry: gold bracelets, earrings in the form of doorknockers and massive chain necklaces will always quickly find their owner. These are things that are great for everyday wear, but also make a visual impression.”