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Necklines and skirt lengths weren’t the only fashions to change with the turn of the century. The intricate and delicate work found in Edwardian jewelry – such as bows and garlands, flourishes and frills–gave way to more geometric Art Deco jewelry shapes. In the 21st century, women once again sought out something more fitting for their evolving sense of style.

While some brides want a clean modern look or the latest styles such as a halo ring or a ring set with  vivid gemstones or unusual diamond cuts, others prefer the jewelry available from the Edwardian and Art Deco periods. Antique engagement rings from these eras  have a great deal in common.  However, if you’re trying to discern the differences, here are some hints and clues to tell them apart.

Choice of Precious Metal

Art Deco and Edwardian engagement rings can both be made of platinum. Edwardian jewelry and platinum appeared for the first time as a significant jewelry component. This use of platinum allowed for more minimal settings that highlighted diamonds and other gemstones. Before this period, heavier settings tended to overshadow the stones.

While a platinum ring may be from either period, Art Deco engagement rings can be platinum or white gold. If a ring is white gold, it is from the Art Deco period or later. White gold’s patent was granted in 1920 to the Belais Brothers firm and came into wide use by the 1930s.  Rings from later in the Art Deco period therefore are more likely to be white gold as this new material became all the rage. But if the ring is white gold, it is never from the Edwardian period or earlier.

Repetition and Symmetry

Symmetry, balance, harmony and delicacy are trademarks of the Edwardian years. Most engagement rings of the time were created with that aesthetic in mind.

The Art Deco period represents both points of view, symmetry of design and also asymmetrical innovative creations.  What is an asymmetrical design? Asymmetry doesn’t always utilize mirror images right to left or even north to south. One side of the ring might be one design, the other blended but using different lines, gemstones, diamonds or metals. The frenetic and vibrant period lends itself well to rings that are offbeat, colorful or may incorporate a visual surprise.

Angles and Curves

Rings featuring graceful, flowing curves are more likely to be Edwardian than Art Deco. Edwardian pieces often feature soft curves and minute details mimicking bows and ribbons. These are almost always made of platinum and diamonds, but occasionally even silver or silver topped gold. Filigree and open work designs held single diamonds or clusters of stones in a lace-like surround of light and platinum.

An Art Deco ring will more likely embody the aesthetics of straighter lines and sharper angles, showcasing a more geometric style. Squares, circles, diagonals and strong, well defined shapes all created an energetic, kinetic feel to the rings and jewelry of the period.

Choice of Gemstones

Both Art Deco and Edwardian engagement rings often feature diamond center stones. However, the accent stones in a ring are an important clue regarding the era in which a ring was created. A ring paved with small colored gems is more likely to be an Art Deco, while a ring that incorporates small diamonds to highlight the central diamond is probably Edwardian.

The jewelry world and the public were introduced to new technologies in the gem world. Synthetic lab created gemstones were available and became preferred in many instances over the real thing. At the time, they were a marvel of technology. Often sapphires, emeralds and rubies in tiny sized stones, termed calibré cuts, were used to embellish a central diamond. They were the 1920’s lab grown diamond of their day and people couldn't get enough of these new and exciting discoveries.

Overall Appearance and Style

In the very early 1900s, high society was at its peak of sophistication and elegance. America’s new royalty of money ruled the world with their industry earning millions. This period is known for its diamonds, platinum, diamonds…and did we mention diamonds? Pearls were the one gemstone that counterbalanced all those dripping diamonds in the haute couture high jewelry of the day.

It often seems as if jewelry designers tried to use as many diamonds as possible in each piece. Jewelry was delicate and light in appearance, with diamonds and platinum common as themes. Think layering is a 2019’s thing? Wrong, just look at photographs of heiresses and matrons of society and you will see multitudes of necklaces, bracelets, chokers and rings stacked upon stacked.

Art Deco jewelry tends to reflect women’s new, stronger roles beginning around 1915. These pieces express the fresh attitude of the times with edgier styles and a more sleek and pared down appearance, including strong, geometric designs, straight lines, and bold splashes of colored stones such as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Even coral, onyx and semi precious gemstones added hues and colors in a variety of unexpected combinations.

North and south oriented rings graced many a finger during the Art Deco years. Longer, slender rings even for engagement rings were at the top of everyone’s must-have list. Some became excessively lengthy, but engagement rings tended toward marquise shapes or those with a more modest length.

Summary

It can be difficult to distinguish between these two eras based on the very similar antique jewelry that they produced. To further complicate the issue, there are transitional periods between these eras during which the lines blurred even more.

If you are having trouble distinguishing or choosing between these two styles, experts at The Three Graces are happy to consult with you to answer your questions and make suggestions regarding the styles from these eras and others that you might love