Past present: antique jewels she will treasure forever

The jewels of yesteryear make for charming Christmas gift ideas for vintage aficionados.

ACS Jewelry Victorian brooch

Does antique jewellery feature on your Christmas wish list? Whether for the novice or consummate collector, be it a friend, your mother or even a gift you would desire from your significant other, we have hunted down 12 authentic pieces, including one “turtle dove” and two “gold rings”. Many of these vintage jewellery pieces are filled with symbolism and sentimentality, and are the perfect way of spreading joy, thoughtfulness and good cheer for the year ahead.

Give peace a chance

Doves are associated with peace and love, and this Etruscan revival pendant is of Florentine manufacture from the Victorian era. Featuring intricate micro mosaic work, which was popular in Italy and then throughout Europe, this particular antique pendant features two white doves on a periwinkle blue background with sparks of stronger colour on various sections. What a perfect time of year to offer a gift of peace in an intricate and artfully designed jewel. 

Love everlasting

This gold heart-shaped locket, circa 1900, features various aspects of everlasting love. The heart of course is all about romance, and the gems are set in an ivy motif, which means fidelity. The stones set into this piece are diamonds for endurance, sapphires for fidelity and rubies for passion. So if you are looking for a highly sentimental gift, you can’t go wrong with this piece of antique jewellery. 

Victorian secret

Brooches might be back on-trend, but this “secret lover” style with a locket fitting is the work of a master jeweller of the Victorian period. A mechanical enamel fan "opens" with the pull of a tab, and is held open by a gloved hand decorated with butterflies. If you’re in need of Christmas gift ideas, how much better can it get? Circa 1870, the fan and hand motif are in gold, and the interior of the glass locket frame is a rigid, strong alloy metal. Persian turquoise and seed pearls add another dimension with crosshatched designs. 

Read more about antique lockets

Fly me home

This brooch is truly representative of Victorian sentimental jewellery and features two yellow gold swallows, symbolising “safe home”, surrounding a red guilloché enamel heart and pearl centre. If home is where the heart is, this might be the perfect gift for your mother, or yourself if you drop subtle hints! 

An earful

For the woman who feels under-dressed without earrings, these Victorian gold blue enamel and old mine-cut diamond earrings are the perfect gift. These easy-to-wear, versatile earrings are perfect for both everyday and special occasions. 

Read my jewels

A popular chain style in the Victorian era, after Queen Victoria came out of mourning, was a sterling silver book chain. The design began with links that were shaped like books and featured intricate and deep engraving of scrollwork and foliate designs. These were usually worn with a large pendant or oversized locket to complement the links. A wonderful gift for a woman who desires silver over gold and a chunkier statement piece. 

Lock it

Hidden keepsakes, photos of loved ones, a secret only you know - all of these things can be kept inside lockets, which makes them timeless and classic presents for the holiday season. This is an intricate piece from 1890 France, with perfectly cut sugar loaf turquoise playing off the richness of high carat gold, rope detail and a pearl centre. 

Seal of approval

For those who appreciate the language of love and symbolism of the Georgian period, this gold and turquoise fob in the shape of a basket is a gift of bountiful happiness. But there’s more - an amethyst intaglio seal with a butterfly at the base, plus the letters AEI for amity, eternity and infinity, creates a true gift from the heart and one that will be passed down through generations. 

Read more about secret codes hidden in antique jewellery

Ring around the posy

Golden rings were part of the Twelve Days of Christmas and these posy rings from two different time periods, revive the romance of poetry and speak of love and friendship. These two sentiments make for the best Christmas present ever. A Tudor gold posy ring, English, circa 1592, spells out “As endless is my love” on a flat band composed of a double heart motif flanked by repeating flowers and heart motifs. 

Poetry in motion

“A True Friend’s Gift” is inscribed on this gold posy ring, circa 1700, offering a take on lovers who are the best of friends as well. 

The heart remembers

This charming thin gold bangle featuring a turquoise heart with applied gold-set, rose diamond forget-me-not is chock full of significance. Wearing your heart near your sleeve in a gem that brings luck to the wearer is almost perfect in its various meanings. 

Serpentine dreams

Snakes have held their place in history for centuries, with various meanings of transformation, rebirth, and new beginnings. But they became even more popular when Queen Victoria received an entwined emerald and gold snake as an engagement ring from Prince Albert. After that, snakes came to mean enduring love, and formed rings, pendants and bracelets such as this one with a chain that feels like silk and slinks around the wrist with turquoise cabochons in the head, and garnet eyes. You might not want a live serpent slithering up your arm but how could you turn this jewel down? 

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




We use our own and third party cookies to improve your experience and our services. If you continue, we consider that you accept their use. You can get more information on your website at cookies policy.