The authenticity that comes from items of a bygone era is second to none. Not to knock current fashions or modern iterations that take inspiration from a particular period. But for vintage lovers and collectors, pieces from the past come with a cache that new designs simply don’t possess. While decades-old coats, handbags, and dresses regularly amount to wardrobe wins, vintage jewelry trends often feel like the greatest treasures. Of late, '70s-inspired gold, meaningful charms, and whimsical designs á la the ’90s and early aughts are among the most sought-after baubles. As indicated by the Spring/Summer 2021 runways, a return to silver is in, too. Plenty of contemporary takes on throwback jewelry fill the market, but what better way to get in on the biggest trends than with a genuine antique? At the very least, it’s a more sustainable way to add to your jewelry collection.
Jewelry is a significant spend no matter how you shake it. But when shopping for vintage designs, the pressure is really on. Questions of authenticity, value, and style are important — you want to be sure you’re investing in pieces you’ll wear and love, not merely buying for a trend or collectible’s sake to sit in a box or on display. “The first thing I always recommend to new vintage collectors is to do your research. Make sure that you’re collecting as much information as you can about a piece before buying it and work with a trusted dealer because there are so many fakes floating around,” Jill Heller, designer and vintage jewelry expert, tells TZR. “If the dealer can provide provenance and condition reports, even better — that’s the best way to ensure authenticity and a piece’s worth.”
For well-known designer pieces from houses like Cartier, David Webb, or Bulgari, Heller says to look for a signature. “The mark of the designer is what gives the piece its credibility. Without it, it may look like a great piece, but it won’t be the same investment,” she explains. Iconic designs will help to guarantee a piece holds its value as time goes on, too. “With jewelry, as with furniture or fine art, well-known pieces by established names tend to best hold, and even increase their value,” Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director and director of fine art at 1stDibs, says.
Another hot tip when shopping for vintage jewelry? Take your time. “Don’t jump to purchase a piece because it’s of-the-moment — consider whether it’s evergreen and something you see yourself wearing for years to come,” Heller advises. Online browsing will help you home in on suitable-to-you pieces, though she suggests sticking to reputable auction houses and sites specializing in vintage, like 1stDibs.
So as not to overwhelm yourself with vintage jewelry options, Barzilay Freund recommends setting parameters by focusing on one era, designer, or category like zodiac jewelry. Then, he says to pay attention to pricing, see how quickly pieces you like sell, and communicate with dealers to find out the rationale for the price or details of what makes a piece special and unique. “The more informed you are, the more able you’ll be to make a well-considered purchase,” he says.
To ensure vintage jewelry looks modern and stylish, Barzilay Freund advocates for popular layering tricks, from multiple necklaces at once to rings on every finger. “When it comes to wearing vintage in a modern way, more is definitely more,” he states.
With these tips, scroll on to discover eight of the most prominent jewelry trends this season. If you’re ready to shop, rest assured, each vintage or antique piece is a sound investment.
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The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Charms
Heller says charms are huge at the moment, especially as demand for jewelry with a talismanic vibe has increased. “People are looking for jewelry with gravitas — jewels that make you feel good and mean something. Old charms that express love, luck, protection, good fortune, and so on are in high demand, as well as zodiacs,” Heller explains. She adds, “I get several requests every day for vintage Van Cleef and Cartier zodiacs; they are some of the hardest to find and the most coveted. I’m also getting a lot of asks for Cartier’s old charm bracelets.”
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Hoop Earrings
“Vintage hoop earrings continue to be extremely popular with our audience, particularly those from the 1970s,” Barzilay Freund tells TZR. With a wide array of offerings in this category, ranging from expensive to affordable, the expert highlights Victorian and antique designs dating back to the 18th century, both of which have seen an uptick on 1stDibs. “All this shows that the hoop is a perennial, retaining its cool factor through the years and, therefore, its value.”
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Silver
Silver jewelry was all over the Spring/Summer 2021 runways, and vintage pieces from across many decades are making their way back into the mainstream. “Gold chains were popular for some time (and still are), but now, ’90s silver is having its moment,” Heller says. Another cause for the uptick? The 50th anniversary of Elsa Peretti’s bone cuff last year, boasting a sculptural design that feels relevant as ever.
As a more affordable material, silver is the perfect start for new vintage collectors. “That’s how I started my collection when I was in my teens,” Heller shares. “There are amazing Moroccan tribal and Native American pieces out there to choose from, but you can also find signed pieces from renowned silversmiths and artists like Art Smith, Robert Lee Morris, Alexander Calder, and Jean Després — there’s an amazing range.”
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Italian Intricacy
For statement makes, Barzilay Freund says the high-drama of intricately-crafted gold and jeweled pieces in the style of Italian master jeweler Mario Buccelatti is seeing a spike in interest among 1stDibs shoppers. “Everybody needs an extra wallop of ‘wow’ in their lives right now, and pieces that show the hand and unique vision of their makers feel extra special as we head into 2021,” he tells TZR.
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Menswear-Inspired Rings
As many do with clothing and certain accessories, Heller says it’s becoming more popular to push the boundaries of what is considered feminine by incorporating menswear-inspired jewelry. “Women are forgoing daintier pieces in favor of weighty, more stereotypically masculine designs, like signet and gypsy rings,” she explains.
Signet and gypsy rings date back to the Victorian Era and are known for their subtlety, customarily featuring stones set into heavy gold. “I recently had a Bulgari sapphire gypsy ring available for sale that sold within seconds of posting it on Instagram,” Heller shares. “There are so many gorgeous vintage ones out there and a slew of contemporary designers doing them really well, too, like Deborah Pagani, Jemma Wynne, and Brent Neale.”
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: ’60s Whimsy
Vibrant and playful ’60s styles are another vintage jewelry trend that resonates with maximalists and bold tastes. “The 1960s was a fertile period for jewelry design,” Barzilay Freund shares. “[We have] so many fun and striking pieces from this time that collectors keep coming back for.” Among the most popular: whimsical and candy-colored pieces, particularly from the top-three most-searched-for brands, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and David Webb.
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Serpent Watches
As rich and thickset '70s-style jewelry continues to trend, Heller says serpent watches are a big part of the comeback. “Serpent watches were popularized in the 1940s when Bulgari came out with their first Serpenti watch but became fashionable in the ’60s when Elizabeth Taylor was photographed wearing an ornate gold and diamond design by the house on the set of Cleopatra,” Heller explains. “The image of her wearing the watch is what really put Bulgari on the map.”
Now, Heller says chunky silhouettes and sleeker gold and stainless steel designs are in high demand. “They’re both effortless and luxurious at once, making them very versatile — the perfect way to dress up a T-shirt and jeans,” she says. Adding, “Given that they’re a design iconic to the brand, they’re also a great investment piece.”
The Vintage Jewelry Trend: Brooches
Whether you’re seeking out extra adornment or cueing your inner Carrie Bradshaw, Barzilay Freund says statement brooches are also getting a lot of interest — think big, colorful pieces that add instant pizazz to an outfit. “These can be pieces by such blue-chip names as Cartier or Chanel,” he says. For a modern effect, the 1stDibs expert says the trick is to wear a brooch in surprising places. “At the waist, as a fastening of a jacket, even as a hair accessory,” he suggests. “That kind of toying with expectations can make old-fashioned jewelry feel cool again.”