Get The Look of Your Favorite Antique or Vintage Details and Styling

Photo courtesy of Sofia Kaman–model wears Sofia Kaman Language of Flower collection rings


What if you like the look of antique or period jewelry but you prefer not to wear pieces that have been part someone else’s life, someone you never knew? You might be drawn to a ring with engraved romantic motifs but you prefer it not be inscribed with a marriage date that could have ended in divorce, nor do you want locket with someone from the 19th centuries’ snip of hair encased in it.

While most serious antique enthusiasts find these touches part of the mystique and rarity of the jewels they collect, the general consensus among jewelry lovers is that they prefer to wear pieces that are newly designed but that re-create details, motifs, meanings and styling that reflects jewelry through the ages.

The ever-evolving trend among both large and small independent contemporary designers to create collections that give a nod to period through vintage jewels continues. But it isn’t a recent phenomenon. It has been going on throughout history. Think of Victorian times and how jewelers back then revived Etruscan and Archeological styles. Renowned houses responsible for some of the most popular  Art Deco jewelry such as Cartier and Boucheron were largely influenced by Egyptian, Indian and Asian cultures as the movement and style evolved. Van Cleef & Arpels created an entire collection based on luck and good fortune with a wink to Victorian and Georgian motifs but in a style that was completely their own and fashionable for the time in which it was designed.

Today’s designers are interpreting certain motifs and styles that have been handed down and reinvented throughout the 20th century, but they are creating pieces that are relevant to modern women, who are into symbolism, spirituality and sentimentality and pieces that speak on a personal level. They are creating what has become know as inspired collections, rejuvenating various styles with wit, originality and an inventive mixing of time periods and themes.

There is a range of designers who have popularized this style throughout the past 10 years such as Monica Rich Kosann who has brought lockets, charm bracelets, watch fob keys and compasses with a contemporary chic and has turned poesy rings into an entirely new category of necklaces and bracelets. There is Erica Molinari who plays on memento mori and poesy themes but always with a sense of edginess or wit.  Foundrae’s collection of medallions and cigar bands can reveal the entire story of a woman’s life, from where she has been to where she is going. There are also jewelers like Gabriella Kiss who reinvented and captured the emotion of portrait and “lover’s eye” miniatures and memorial jewelry with her own pared-down aesthetic and in a perfectly modern context. Love Token rings feature hands engraved with the word Amitica, meaning friendship, and an eye with a tear engraved with “Nil Nisi Cruce” on the band, meaning nothing without suffering to name a few in these series.

There are also designers who are emerging in this category or who have updated their collections to include more pieces that are influenced by certain historical references and styles. For this article, I have chosen talents who are inspired primarily by the Georgian and Victorian eras-the messages, mottoes and details of romantic, meaningful and sentimental times. All of these pieces are more durable and can be worn every day, whereas the authentic pieces cannot. And these jewels, unlike antique and vintage, can create a story, which begins with you.


Two Mechanical hand clasps that Susan Cohen of Circa 1700 designed on an antique chain and ‘holding’ an antique heart.

The Circa 1700 Inspired Collection, aptly named by designer Susan Cohen is steeped in symbolism. “I am inspired by the Georgian and Victorian era when jewelry was both a beautiful object as well as a coded message. These messages utilized gemstones, symbolism and letters/words to create love tokens that captivate us even today. I wanted to reinvent pieces that embrace this bygone era while playing with concepts that speak to the modern woman. It was important for me to mix things up and add my aesthetic – making it my own design. The enamel and gemstone collection embodies romance and strength while still being wild at heart – hence the ‘Yes.  No. Maybe’ pendant.”

Circa 1700 Bonne Chance and Lucy Star pendants

Susan also played with a Morse code concept that was popularized during WWI & WWII by the British.  The Morse code ‘V’ was shorthand for Victory during both wars in charms and pins. She explains, “I created my medallion to celebrate Victories – both large and small. Two charms that are close to my heart are the Bonne Chance because we all need a bit of luck, and the This Be Your Lucky Star, (also for luck) and for which I switched up the design by adding a moon for my love of Good Night Moon. Then, there are my latest additions that fulfill my passion for all things mechanical: The Loving Hand Mechanical Clasp (dedicated to all moms) and Eternal Love Snake Mechanical Clasp. These two were for me a lesson in patience and creativity! But, both were worth the challenge. They work as both clasps and charm holders and can be customized with enamel hues and gemstones of one’s choice. Each of these also continues my theme of romance and hidden messages.”

Circa 1700’s Yes, No, Maybe and Victory medallions

Circa 1700’s enamel and ruby gem set mechanical Loving Hand and Eternal Love Snake claps which hold a Circa 1700 floral charm holder and a range of antique charms. Off to the side is the ruby gem set mechanical Loving Hand Clasp


Sofia Kaman/Sofia Kaman

Sofia Kaman stack of enamel and gold rings which complement her Language of Flowers collection which stack around an antique seven stone old cut diamond ring

Sofia has been designing soulful, bohemian yet feminine jewelry, inspired by antiquity to the Art Deco Era but with her own spin of added time-worn textures and unexpected details for the past 15 years. Ten years ago she also opened her own enchanting shop in Los Angeles to feature her own designs as well as authentic antiques and vintage pieces. Her newest collection ‘Language of Flowers’  reveals how Kaman has evolved and expanded her collection, capturing a more elegant romantic feeling with perfected textural interest and in enamel, diamonds and gold. “I’ve long been inspired by the symbolism that was a huge part of Georgian and Victorian jewelry, and especially love the use of enamel as a painterly touch to the authentic exquisitely detailed antique pieces. My ‘Language of Flowers’ grouping is rooted in the same sense of sentiment, with a touch of whimsy, so it seemed a natural place to introduce an assortment of enamel pieces to our collection. They needed to be timeless, bold yet soft, and thoughtfully detailed. These pieces incorporate old world enamel craftsmanship, re-imagined in some of our everyday classics, like stackable bands, signet rings, and Mandela-like engravable medallions for the modern woman with an antique persuasion at heart.”

Sofia Kaman Mandela inspired enamel pendant with center diamond

Emily Jean Duffelmeyer/ Jean Jean Vintage

Emily first launched Jean Jean Vintage eight years ago with what she describes as “Victorian jewelry of the people: bohemian garnet, glass and costume jewelry.” She named the company in honor of her father who passed away unexpectedly and heartbreakingly on her birthday just a few years before. “Jean Jean was his affectionate nickname for me due to the fact that my middle name is Jean.” She says. Then, two years ago, s she started to create pieces of her own, based on glass and wax seals that she found during her travels.

“I was thrilled to find these seals,” says Emily. “I realized it was truly the way in which people communicated—particularly during the 19th century. I then was lucky enough to find one amazing set of sealing way stamps in French and another set of different seals in Italian. I made one pendant for myself, and friends and followers on Instagram began asking me for it.” She continues. “I thought, why not create a dozen or so simple pendants in gold and silver designs and see how it goes.”

The seal pendants took off and Emily named them The Cachet Collection and began selling them in her online shop alongside the antique jewelry she continued to find. She then started selling some of the styles to Erica Weiner for her stores in Brooklyn and downtown New York as well as Erica’s online shop. “The French seals feature mottos and sayings on the front. Some have days of the week on the back while others are completely plain on one side so they can be monogrammed. The Italian group of seals is double-sided and is extremely detailed. Some I needed to recast and engrave deeper, and I have begun adding a diamond or a colored gemstone where it made the most sense in the piece.” Clients who purchased the pendants then started asking Emily for rings. She created signet styles that are both single and double-sided.
“More recently I have added swivel rings of a few of the styles so you can wear it on one side or the other, depending on what you are feeling on a particular day. These all are personal pieces that women relate to in different ways, based on their experiences and events in life. What always amazes me is that these were created 200 years ago but they express the same feelings and sentiments we have today. The can be completely romantic, reflective or whimsical. It’s a way of wearing who you are and incorporating a piece of history into your own jewelry box.”

Jean Jean Vintage ring with meaning: side 1 ∙ a full heart with the phrase, “je ne suis pas gai si tu es triste / I am not happy if you are sad.” A sweet sentiment of the bond that connects us to the one we love. When you hurt, I hurt. side 2 ∙ day of the week, “Jeudi / Thursday”

Leoorah Betan/ Lulu and Shay

Lulu and Shay’s acrostic rings which spell out Dream, Hope and Faith

The collection Lulu and Shay was named for designer Leoorah and her husband Chace’s nicknames when they were children. Says Leoorah, “Ever since I was a young girl, I was intrigued by the fashion during Victorian times, especially the romanticism of the jewelry during that era. Victorian jewelry is rich with meaning. The designs of the day are not just pretty embellishments; each has hidden symbolism and the gemstones have their own multiple meanings as well. I found myself drawn to these symbols and wanted to create a line that revives and reinterprets these styles for today.

Lulu and Shays earrings that spell out Dream and Loved

After creating more motif-driven pieces—such as swallows, owls, keys, hands, shield and wings, all with their own significance—I decided to do my own spin on acrostic jewelry. This type of jewelry first became popular in France and England in the Regency and Georgian Eras and then made its way into Victorian times. The first letter of each gemstone spells out a term of endearment (predominately Regard, Dearest, Love and Adore in the earlier pieces). I have is updated this with current phrases of affection and a total range of gemstones.” Styles such as ultra-thin stackable rings have small stones and delicate decorative engraving.  Leoorah has also designed mismatched earrings with a different word for each ear or multiple words for multiple piercings. She features feminine Y necklaces and well as swivel rings with tiny gemstone set barrels among other styles that she explains “will speak to today’s generation of women”

Lulu and Shays Y-Necklace of Bezel-Set Stones which spell out the word Dear