Antique and Vintage Jewellery: A Glossary Of Terms

If youre new to the wonderful world of antique and vintage jewellery then some of the terms used may be a little confusing. As experts in the field of antique jewellery weve put together a glossary of some of the most common terms you may come across to help you in finding the right jewellery for your collection:


  • Bakelite - This is a dense synthetic resin that can be moulded and carved to make a variety of things, including jewellery. Patterned Bakelite items dating from the Depression era were made by integrating one colour with another and are valuable collectors items today.
  • Bookchains - Engraved rectangular links that look like tiny books are what make up these Victorian era chains. Large lockets were often added to them to create elaborate necklaces.
  • Cameos - These are designed carved out of shell or stone such as sardonyx in a relief style, i.e. raised up. They were very popular in Victorian times and most often featured portraits of women.
  • Celluloid Jewellery - Celluloid was an early plastic, first manufactured in the late 1800s using natural plant fibres. It was most commonly used to make hair accessories which were set with rhinestones. Celluloid deteriorates if not stored properly so if you have any of this plastic jewellery that dates back to the 1800s then you know it has been well looked after.
  • Doublets - These are made up of two pieces of inexpensive jewellery such as some coloured glass and a garnet used to create the illusion of an impressive gemstone like a ruby or emerald. Doublets were particularly popular in the Art Deco period between 1920 and 1935.
  • Filigree Jewellery - This consists of gold or silver wire hand twisted into intricate patterns and then fused into place. This type of jewellery design was particularly popular in the Early Victorian Romantic Jewellery period between 1837 and 1850.
  • Jet Jewellery - Jet, also known as gagate, is a form of fossilised coal that was mined near Whitby, England. Jet is hard yet lightweight, and black in colour, which made it perfect for use in the mourning jewellery of the Mid-Victorian era.
  • Lace Pins - During the Victorian and Edwardian eras ladies would use lace pins to hold their scarves in place. Pearls and elaborate gemstones tend to feature heavily in the design of lace pins.
  • Memento Mori - The term means remember that you must die; with jewellery featuring skulls, crossbones, skeletons and coffins. It seems quite macabre these days but the jewellery was used in the 17th Century as a reminder to cherish each day.
  • Micromosaics - These are made from tiny colourful tiles of glass, stone and other materials. A micromosaic is a small picture commonly used to decorate lace or hat pins.
  • Mourning Jewellery - At the start of the Mid Victorian period, in 1861, Queen Victorias husband Albert died which signalled a period of mourning for the queen. Many widows then followed suit and began wearing sombre jewellery to mark the passing of a loved one. Mourning jewellery is quite subdued and features black glass or jet in simple designs.