Antique Jewelry: What’s the Story?

Serious antique jewelry collectors are motivated to acquire new pieces based on a number of factors—rarity, prestige, resale potential, the allure of owning a piece of history or one of the most coveted jewels in the world.

The mindset of a more casual vintage and estate jewelry shopper is much less complex. It’s safe to assume they’re passionate about the genre from the point of view of aesthetics (and follow hundreds and hundreds of estate jewelers on Instagram accordingly) but are perhaps not quite at the connoisseur level—yet— so they’re looking to jewelers for knowledge about a particular time period or cut of stone. They genuinely want to understand what makes, say, a Georgian paste mourning brooch so special, or the difference between an Old Mine or Old European cut diamond.

A unique, unequivocally beautiful design may be enough to seduce them, but a little storytelling on top of the basic facts goes a long way.

Estate jewelry lovers tend to be naturally curious. Myself included, which is why I’m so excited to cover JCK’s Las Vegas Estate Jewelry and Watch Pavilion in a couple months.

It’s also why I felt compelled to inquire about the trio of art deco onyx and diamond goodies pictured above that Steve Quick Jeweler recently posted on Instagram.

With help from the store’s president, Melissa Quick, I have since learned the following:

The client from whom Steve Quick Jeweler acquired the pieces shared that the ring has been passed down through the family for generations.

Steve Quick Vintage RingArt deco platinum ring with 1.64 cts. t.w. diamonds and hand-carved onyx, $11,550

The ring was originally made for the client’s great-grandmother on the occasion of the client’s grandparents’ wedding, sometime between 1917 and 1919; in the photo below, you can see the mother of the bride wearing the ring on her pinkie. The fun part of the story is that the great-grandfather owned a restaurant/saloon and acquired the diamonds for the ring as payment for bar bills and gambling debts.

Steve Quick Client Wedding PortraitThe original owner of the art deco onyx and diamond ring poses for a photo at her daughter’s wedding. The jewel is now for sale at Steve Quick Jeweler in Chicago.

The necklace below is from the same client’s estate.

Steve Quick Estate Drop Pendant NecklacePlatinum pendant with 0.85 ct. t.w. Old European cut diamonds and marquise-shaped onyx, $4,495

“Interestingly enough, there was another important lavaliere that had belonged to our client’s great-grandparents but the family parted with it way back when to pay off a gambling debt owed by her grandfather—the groom in the photo,” says Quick.

Ironic, right?

As for the larger pendant shown in the center of the Instagram photo, it’s from the Edwardian era.

Steve Quick Vintage pendantPlatinum topped 18k yellow gold pendant with diamonds and onyx, $7,500

The Steve Quick team acquired it a few years ago from a dealer from Uruguay at the Miami Beach Antique Show “It was so beautiful it actually stopped me in my tracks,” says Quick. “We believe the piece was made in Europe—it’s probably French or English, but there are no distinguishable hallmarks.”

Now the only question is—do you get the pieces as a set or à la carte? Decisions, decisions…

(Top image via @stevequickjeweler)


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Amy Elliott

JCK Contributing Editor

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