Lillicoco explains how to shop for antique jewellery this Christmas

Lillicoco is the creation of Stacey and her partner Simon, who have made it their mission to bring extraordinary and affordable vintage jewellery to the masses. Stacey has taken her experience of working in some of the finest jewellery outlets in Bristol and used it to create her own unique brand. Her expertise, coupled with Simon’s background in photography and keen eye for a special gem has created a very special store.

Lillicoco’s unique handpicked antique jewellery collection is as accessible as it is diverse. And it shows. Stacey and Simon spend hours sourcing every piece and understand that an item of jewellery is much more than a sparkly adornment. These pieces of jewellery all have a different story to tell. They are treasures from the past but the heirlooms of the future, with undoubtedly more owners and more stories to make.

Art Deco Diamond Panel Ring in 18ct Gold & Platinum
Art Deco Diamond Panel Ring in 18ct Gold & Platinum – 0.35cts £1,645.00

Why Vintage Jewellery makes a Perfect Christmas Gift

Antique and vintage jewellery makes an extremely personal and intimate Christmas gift because it is so unique. The palpable sense of romance and history associated with each ring, necklace or charm just can’t be matched by contemporary jewels. Was it worn by aristocracy? Was it a lover’s gift? Every piece has a social or cultural significance and a story to tell.

Vintage jewellery is also timeless, despite it being vintage. These will never date or go out of fashion. They are made from high-quality materials in designs that have stood the test of time and will continue to do so. They are the exact opposite of the ‘throw away’ culture that is causing so many problems for the ecology of our planet. It is now widely acknowledged that the fashion industry contributes greatly to environmental damage, which makes vintage jewellery the obvious ethical choice for a special gift that does not cost the earth.

Art Nouveau Silver Marcasite Necklace c.1910
Art Nouveau Silver Marcasite Necklace c.1910 £145.00

What you Need to know before you Buy

Authenticity is always going to be your main concern. You can set your fears aside by using a trusted vendor who clearly has a good reputation in the business. Double check all photographs and descriptions and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Vintage jewellery is all about longevity so it makes sense to choose a piece that is durable. Look out for tarnishing and check that any gems are secure. Simple scratches in gold and silver jewellery can be repaired but corrosion, holes and bumps cannot. Test any hinges and have a good look at the piece from all angles. Ask if any of the materials have been tested for authenticity and quality.

Anything that is very delicate is not going to last as well as more robust pieces. Enamel looks amazing but is easily chipped. Pearls can also suffer with age, they are a natural product and can lose their lustre over time as their structure breaks down.

Get Familiar with the Terminology

The world of antique and vintage jewellery has its own language and it’s a good idea to get to know it before you make a purchase.

Perhaps the most important distinction is between the terms antique and vintage. The term ‘antique’ is defined differently by different people but it should only be used to describe pieces that are more than 100 years old, whereas ‘vintage’ jewellery can be from any era from the 1940s right up to the 1980s. In real life though, these terms are often interchangeable.

Antique 15ct Gold Opal Garnet Ring c.1840
Antique 15ct Gold Opal Garnet Ring c.1840 £485.00

The rarest pieces are typically from the Georgian period (1714-1837) and are handmade. They are often based on designs inspired by nature such as birds and flowers and have rose diamonds, precious topaz and even coral.

The Art Nouveau era (1890-1910) saw a backlash against the mass industrialisation of the UK and was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. The handcrafted jewellery of this period was colourful yet simple, taking its inspiration from natural forms, often the curved lines of flowers and plants.

15ct Gold Turquoise Dragonfly Brooch c.1900
15ct Gold Turquoise Dragonfly Brooch c.1900 £425.00

The reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901 was a long one, which saw many changes in both society and art. The art and jewellery of the Victorian era encompass several styles. Art historians divide the period up into several distinct styles: the “Romantic”, the “Grand” and the “Aesthetic” periods (or Early, Middle and Late periods).

Art Deco (1920-1935) jewellery is highly sought after with its geometric designs featuring strong lines and bold, contrasting colours. Pieces from this era were made using Bakelite, enamel and celluloid. Necklaces were worn long but chokers were also popular.

18ct Gold and Platinum Art Deco Ruby and Diamond Ring
18ct Gold and Platinum Art Deco Ruby and Diamond Ring £375.00

Choosing Vintage Jewellery

There is no doubt that vintage jewellery is an investment but there is no point buying it if you haven’t fallen in love with it. Branded pieces will always be a sound financial investment and you can’t go wrong with household names such as Cartier and Fabergé. The rare designs produced by Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari are timeless masterpieces and will always hold their value.

Look after it carefully. Brush it lightly with some mild detergent (washing up liquid) and warm water using a soft toothbrush. This will revive the sparkle of an older piece but you must be very gentle and it is essential that you dry it thoroughly as water can be very damaging.

With a little care and the right advice and guidance, your piece of vintage jewellery can continue to give pleasure for many years to come.