Must Have Book: The Modern Guide To Antique Jewellery

Writer and contributor Beth Bernstein explains why she chose to write this 'modern guide' for lovers of antique jewels. 

Bentley _ SkinnerP109

From the years 2015 through 2017, I was the contributing antique and vintage jewellery editor for the Jewellery Editor, this online magazine dedicated to luxury jewels. Although I cover renowned makers and emerging contemporary designers, I also have an obsession for jewels designed between the 1700s and the 1920s. Show me a posy ring with an affection inscription, a tiara that turns into a necklace, a pair of matching Victorian bracelets that were never separated or a Belle Epoque necklace that feels like lace and I become speechless, enchanted and often entranced.

So while speaking to Maria and Christine - co-founders of The Jewellery Editor - about my latest book The Modern Guide To Antique Jewellery (ACC ARTBOOKS April/May 2022), they asked me to write about the book from my point of view, since I covered many of the styles and time periods in their online magazine. Who could turn that offer down?  What’s more, Maria had previously covered my last book If These Jewels Could Talk  (ACC Artbooks 2015) so it was a natural follow-up.

Book The Modern Guide to Antique Jewellery by Beth Bernstein
Must-have book: A Modern Look At Jewels From The Past. Writer and contributor Beth Bernstein explains why she chose to write this 'modern guide' for lovers of antique jewels. 

I decided to write about the book for readers to gain insight and knowledge into the magical world of antique jewellery. I cover many decades in the book, but always conversationally rather than scholarly, with anecdotes and quotes from international experts, dealers and store owners. My goal was not to show what was in museums but museum quality jewellery that could be found in the market today.

As its name suggests, the The Modern Guide To Antique Jewellery provides the ultimate go-to reference whether you are a novice or consummate collector, starter antique dealer, long-time shop owner, burgeoning jewellery historian or student of jewellery-making. It is for the those of you who share an affinity for the craft and the unbridled creativity that the jewellery of the past embodies. You are part of an ever-growing community intrigued by those rare pieces that provide an instant connection with the romance, lore and legend of different periods that continue to influence jewellery styles today.

Giardinetti brooch of multiple gemstones, set in silver and gold with French marks on the clasp, mid-18th century. The back of the brooch is silver, encasing each of the stones in an equally artistic fashion. Courtesy of Sandra Cronan 

Throughout the book, you will be taken on a tour to discover the most desirable, collectible and enduring styles from the 1700s through to the early 20th century. As the text travels through the different eras and the most popular styles of the times, it introduces you to international dealers and experts who, through anecdotes, advice and shared experiences, educate on the specific styles and materials that characterise each period. They reveal secrets of their trade, from insider knowledge on how they choose pieces, to how they score the jewellery before it goes out into the marketplace. They discuss the availability of certain rare pieces, as well as the cyclical nature of the market, and how it affects supply and demand.

Various trends have influenced the popularity of antique jewellery over the past ten or twenty years. Celebrities and stars of the small and big screen started wearing period pieces on red carpets, whether Georgian rivières or Victorian brooches and diadems, while also favouring antique engagement rings. Their choices influenced women across the world.

Yellow gold acrostic bracelet with multiple gemstone heart sections. Features an acrostic message, diamonds for endurance and the iconography of jewelled double hearts framed by diamonds. Each double heart consists of a pear-shaped rose-cut diamond to the left and pear-shaped gemstone to the right, the first letters of the stones to the right spell the message “DEAREST”, circa 1880. Courtesy of Wartski London

Antique jewellery tells a lasting story, one that continues to hypnotize, captivate and delight. While reading, you just might discover what makes your heart skip a beat. To collect and wear authentic, one-of-a-kind pieces conveys a part of ourselves, while it renews a part of history.



Support our Work with a Contribution of any Amount

We need your help to keep The Jewellery Editor’s independence so that we can continue to offer quality writing that’s open to everyone around the world.

It means we can give a full and varied picture of the big, wide world of jewellery and watches whether it is on our website or social media channels.

Every contribution is hugely appreciated and key to ensuring our future.

Terms and conditions

Shop this article

Our shopping list