Below, you will seven styles of earrings commonly found in antique and vintage jewellery. (In a previous article, I discussed how to age earrings by the findings. )
Stud earrings became popular in the late 1800s but fell out of use when ears stopped being pierced in the early 1900s. They became popular again in the early 1960s and continue in popularity to this day.
Note: Some stud earrings have threaded posts which can be indicative of a finer piece.
This type of round or domed earring with no dangling element first became popular in the 1930s. Earlier examples tend to have screw backs whereas those from the 1950s and 1960s tend to be clip-ons. From the mid-1960s onwards some button earrings were also produced for pierced ears.
Top and Drop Earrings
This is a style of earrings which has two sections, usually round or oval. The two sections normally match and the bottom section is normally the largest. The top section usually hangs just below the lobe except when there is a pierced post and then it might sit on the lobe itself. The style has been around for centuries but is associated with the Georgian era as it was so popular in that era.
When the bottom section is detachable, these are known as day to night earrings as they can be converted for daytime or evening attire.
This is a style which began in the 1800s. It is similar to the Top and Drop earring style, but the two sections are connected by a third central section, designed as a bow.
This is a style which has three dangling elements with the central element usually being the largest or hanging lower than the other two elements. The style first appeared around 1700 in France but is often associated with the decade of 1870 as it experienced enormous popularity during the Rococo Revival of that period.
This is a very popular style which consists of a single element attached to the finding.
This is a style of earring which has tiers of dangling elements, resembling a chandelier. They are often associated with the Mid-Victorian era.
© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
In today’s post I am going to discuss these beautiful earrings, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Firstly, we know they from between 1819 to 1838 as the V&A tells us they are marked. That will also be how we know they are French. But even if we didn’t know this, the style is very much from that era and typically Western European. Many earrings designed like this from the time would have been called ‘day to night’ earrings and you would have been able to detach the bottom part of the earrings if you choose to create a less showy look; V&A doesn’t tell us if this is the case or not but I strongly suspect it is.
Another thing we can surmise is that the gold is a high karat, at least 18 karat, as this would have been usual for gold jewelry of that era and especially in France. The gold also appears to be rose gold, which would mean it would be alloyed with copper. Rose gold is typical of the entire 1800s and early part of the 1900s.
The stones are chrysoprases, which are a type of chalcedony. They are really very common in Victorian era jewelry. The stones in these earrings appear to be cabochons (unfaceted) but it is possible that the larger stones have some subtle faceted around the edges, it is hard to tell with the way the light is shining on them.
Another notable thing about these earrings is the way they are bordered with grainti. This is typical of the era, particularly in France where the technique was first revived.
The metalwork itself is openwork and would have probably been made from separate pieces soldered together.
The enamel work is created with a simple technique, I believe by looking at it is Champlevé enamel work, which would be created by making hollowed out indentations in the metal and then filling with the enamel.
The blue flowers are reminiscent of forget-me-nots which was a common motif in that era and could have been meant to convey a message.
Also, very typically of the era, are the findings, which appear to be the front closing kind. This kind of closure nearly always places earrings as being from before 1882. However, it is always wise when evaluating a piece of jewelry to look at all the clues as a whole.
Sources / further reading:
Looking at the findings of jewelry is just one way of evaluating the age of a piece but can be very helpful. It seems there is quite a lot of contradictory information out there regarding evaluating the age of earrings by the findings, so I have outlined the basic facts that I’ve uncovered below. However, I am sure I will be revisiting this post in the future with more details and updates as I have to admit I’m still quite unsure about quite a few things. And you will find that the drawing above and the information below don’t quite match, even though I’ve used a variety of reliable sources. So please used this guide with my disclaimer until I’ve learned and experienced more. If you have any insights about it yourself, please do let me know.
Also, I should say that I’ve used the term ‘invented’ here interchangeably with ‘brought to market’ and ‘patented’ as for our purposes it is sufficient.
Prior to 1882
Before this date there were fundamentally two types of earring findings in use: one was ‘The Shepherds hook’
The other kind the hinged kind that went through the back of the ear and hooked in at the front.
Coral and gold earrings with front fastening
The kidney wire safety catch was invented.
- RODDIN 1888 Catalogue
- Coral and gold earrings with kidney wire safety catch
The screw was invented (this used to have little to nothing to rest against the ear in the early days, many were changed later as this wasn’t comfortable). These are still made today but they are not that common on newer pieces. The threads were thicker in diameter and the nut was much heavier than those that are made today.
The lever back with safety catch was invented.
Screw back for non-pierced ears invented.
The friction back earring was invented or ‘post and butterfly’. This is still in use today and is the most common earring type today.
Spring clip back invented for non-pierced ears.
Adjustable hinge clip for non-pierced ears.
Omega back invented for non-pierced ears.
Louis Édouard Rioult – Portrait Of A Lady Wearing Coral Jewellery
Antique, untreated coral is one of the most loved of materials in antique jewelry. It is considered to be one of the ‘organic gemstones’ (the other two being amber and jet and pearls). Women who first own a piece of old coral jewelry soon become addicted to it and tend to become collectors. There is something truly sumptuous and almost edible about antique, untreated coral. It has long been worn as a talisman and later for its pure beauty; it was considered by the Victorians to promote good health and vitality, and you can really believe that it does once you experience wearing it.
One of the wonderful things about coral is that it tends to adapt over time to the woman who is wearing it and will subtly change color in a very organic way. Many women have reported a feeling of ‘rightness’ about their particular piece of coral jewelry, as though the piece is actually part of them. Coral ranges from white, to ‘Angel Skin’, to ‘Salmon’, to ‘Oxblood’ and every nuance in between.
28 – 29 October 2009
London, King Street