Necklaces and pendants in general are thought to be the highest jewelry status symbol, but when adorned with diamonds, they are surely to be the most coveted!
What is a Vintage Diamond Pendant?
Diamond pendants and necklaces are worn around the neck. They are comprised of a type of chain or cord, with a diamond component suspending off of said chain.
History of Vintage Diamond Pendants
It is thought that necklaces may have been one of the earliest forms of jewelry that humans wore. While diamond pendants didn’t come around until the 18th Century, necklaces themselves been around since Prehistoric Times.
Some of the earliest forms of necklaces we see are made of bones, shells, feathers, plants and other materials people could easily find in their surroundings. Continuing through the Ancient Times, we see more evolved forms, with a larger collar shape being popular. These were often made of precious materials such as lapis, carnelian, agate and gold, and they would be worn usually for religious purposes.
Beading started to come around with the Etruscans, who were very skilled goldsmiths. These gold beads would sometimes be pendants or charms, full of filigree and repousse.
The Greeks continued this use of repousse and added medallions as their pendants. These larger pendants were full of elaborate designs and some were geometric in shape.
During the Middle Ages we start to see more crucifix, cross designs as pendants. These were often strung off Rosary Beads. We also start to see more decolletage being shown during this time. This lower neckline in dresses and tops allowed women to more properly show off their necklaces and pendants. Their outfits were extremely elaborate, full of color, lace and detail, and they needed necklaces and pendants to match that style.
The Renaissance period showed an advancement in pendants with the use of enamel, carved gemstones and baroque pearls. Creativity was booming here, so we see more mythical creatures, animals and fantastical stories being depicted in pendants.
The early portion of the 18th Century is really when we start to see the rise of diamonds in pendants. Prior to this time, you might see a few table cut diamonds scattered in pendants, but now there have been advancements in facating. Diamonds were finally starting to take on their brilliance that we see today. The diamond riviere necklace became in fashion as did detachable pendants. Pendants could be moved from different chains for versatility, as well as be fashioned with a pin backing in order to be worn as a brooch.
Diamond pendants continued to take shape throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, but the introduction of platinum in the 20th Century really helped to popularize diamond pendants. Platinum allowed jewelers to create delicate styles with fine craftsmanship.
As we saw in the Middle Ages, jewelry fashion mirrored clothing fashion. During the 1930s there was a rise in popularity of low backed evening gowns. These dresses were the perfect backdrop for long chains with pendants displayed down the wearers back.
Watch This Video to Learn About The History of Diamond Cutting
Types of Vintage Diamond Pendants
Many of the trends discussed are still popular to this day. You’ll find many Vintage Diamond Pendants such as charms, crosses, lavallieres and other ornately designed items. Some will be just comprised of diamonds, while others will have gemstones and pearls incorporated to the design.
As mentioned, some were detachable, allowing you to change the chain, and some were also made to be turned into a brooch.
There are many styles of Vintage Diamond Pendants, and as they did in the past, you too can fashion your pendant to match your outfit of choice!
A Little About the 4 C's in Relation to Diamonds
A reputable jeweler will be willing to talk with you about the quality of the diamond you are buying. Diamonds are graded based on the 4 C's - Carat, Clarity, Cut, and Color. These factors significantly alter the value of a diamond. Here is a basic rundown of the 4 C's.
Note that diamonds made before 1931 will not have grading.
A carat is the unit of weight by which a diamond is measured. 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams equals 1 carat. The more carats a diamond is, the more expensive it is.
Diamond prices rise dramatically at 1 carat. Buying a diamond that is 0.9 c will save you a considerable amount of money.
Clarity is a sliding scale that measures a diamond's inner and outer flaws. Fewer flaws give a diamond more value. The clarity of a diamond ranges from F (no inclusions), IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, and I3 (included).
Be aware that up to a certain point, flaws are not visible to the human eye. There is not much point spending a fortune on a diamond whose flaws can only be seen under a microscope. Eye clean diamonds are within the SI1 and SI2 clarity range.
Miners and jewelers in the past had very high standards about inclusions, and this benefits you today because you can buy pieces with high-quality diamonds at a fraction of the price.
Contrary to what you may think, the cut does not refer to the shape a diamond has been cut into, but rather, refers to the quality of depth and dimensions of the cut which impact the diamond's luster and sparkle. The better the cut, the more sparkle a diamond has, and the more expensive it is. Some examples of cuts you will find in vintage rings are Old European or Old Miners. [Learn more about diamond cuts]
Color is a sliding scale that refers to the presence of yellow color in white diamonds. The color grading does not refer to the exact color of the diamond (pink and other colored diamonds are known as fancy colored). The more white a diamond is, the greater its value. The whitest diamonds are ranked as a D. The diamonds get more yellow as the letters move closer to Z.
Tips for Purchasing a Vintage Diamond Pendant
As diamond pendants are still being made today, you’ll want to be sure that what you are purchasing is truly vintage. Most Vintage Diamond Pendants will be made with older cut diamonds such as Old Mine Cut, Old European Cut, and Transitional Cuts. [Learn more about Diamond Cuts]
If the item you are looking at is made entirely of Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds, I’d give that a second glance. Some Retro items will be fashioned with these Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds, but be sure the style matches that time period.
The design of your Vintage Diamond Pendant should be similar to the designs of the times. Study up and look at images of Edwardian and Art Deco styles, as these were when most diamond pendants were made. [Read: Vintage Jewelry Design Periods]
As some pendants were made to be detached or also used as brooches, look at the mechanisms of those parts, the findings and components. They should be older and not of newer contemporary styles.
Important Buying Tips
- Look for reputable stores with lots of satisfied customer reviews. [Read: The Best Vintage Jewelry Shops on Etsy]
- Online shops should have plenty of images of a piece from different angles.
- Look at a shops return policy.
- Shop from stores that specialize in vintage jewelry.
- Look for certification to prove the authenticity of your piece of jewelry.
- Vintage diamond pendants will contain vintage diamond cuts. [Read: Vintage and Antique Diamond Cuts : A Basic Guide]
Where to Purchase a Vintage Diamond Pendant
Vintage Diamond Pendants can be found at Antique Shops or jewelry retailers who have an Estate section. Online is also a great way to shop around for these items. Etsy and eBay are great options. Be sure to use our tips from above as well as purchase from a reputable source. Get many images from all angles so you can see the craftsmanship and components.
My favorite place to shop online is Etsy. There are a few shops on Etsy that I personally love, they are super knowledgeable, and selling vintage jewelry is their passion. [Read: The Best Vintage Jewelry Shops on Etsy]
Gold Adore on Etsy
A Selection of stunning vintage diamond pendants can be found on Gold Adore, one of my favorite Etsy shops for vintage jewelry.
Vintage Diamond Pendants are a great way to accessorize any outfit. Not only will it compliment your clothing, but allows for a great talking point when discussing the history! Leave any questions you may have in the comments below, we always answer.