Want Elizabeth Locke Estate Jewelry? Learn about history, jewelry marks, materials used, our favorite collectible pieces, and where to buy in this guide.
Elizabeth Locke travels the world to find the treasures that are used in her jewelry. She chooses the materials and creates the original designs that are meticulously crafted by master goldsmiths in Bangkok.
Brief History of Elizabeth Locke Jewelry
Elizabeth Locke was born and raised in Staunton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Her father was an English professor who wrote an extremely successful textbook, and the royalties allowed the family to travel to ancient ruins around the world. When Elizabeth was 11 years old, her father took her to Italy. She was enchanted with the 18th- and 19th-century micromosaics (miniature scenes created with tiny glass tiles), the graceful goddesses, pillars of draped female figures, and the sphinxes. Thus began her lifelong love of Italy and the antiquities.
After earning an English degree at Duke University, Elizabeth studied Italian literature at the University of Florence and remained in Italy to open a home décor business.
In 1975, she returned to the US and wrote for Town & Country Magazine. One assignment changed her life. She was sent to Bangkok to write about shopping, including having jewelry custom made. She met the most skillful goldsmiths who had only unattractive designs to work on. She thought about the amazing jewelry that could be produced with their talents, artistic designs and beautiful stones. When she returned home, she enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America and eventually earned a degree in gemology. In 1988, she founded Elizabeth Locke Jewels staked by a loan from her father-in-law.
Elizabeth Locke Jewels are, essentially, antique gems repurposed. She is inspired by the ancient Etruscans, Greeks and Romans; 18th-century Chinese gaming counters; and 19th-century micromosaics and Indian pietra duras (images made from cut polished colored stones). She also determined that 19 karat gold, not 18 or 24, was a more flattering shade of gold for jewelry. She returned to Bangkok to have those same goldsmiths bring her designs to life using Old World techniques, for example, the hammered finish and granulation used by the Etruscans and intaglio (incised) stones seen in Greek and Roman jewelry.
Some of those craftsmen still work for Elizabeth, all these years later. And her pieces still are completely handmade.
Elizabeth continues to scour the world for her “bits and pieces” of antiquity with London, Venice and Vienna her favorite places. Now that she has become super computer literate, she also scours the Wide World Web.
Her hallmark is as lovely, artistic and original as her jewelry (and as she is). It is an italicized E blended into an italicized L.
- 18K gold
- 19K gold
- Coins from classical Greece and Rome
- Venetian glass intaglios (exquisitely incised glass)
- Antique carnelian and sardonyx (multi-colored banded onyx)
- Antique Japanese porcelain buttons
- Antique Essex crystals
- South Sea pearls
- Cabochon stones
- 19th-century micromosaics from Italy
- 18th-century mother-of-pearl Chinese gaming counters (ethereally beautiful etched scenes of everyday life
- Pink tourmaline
- Blue topaz
- Malachite beads
- Colored glass
- Carved coral
- Carved lava
Favorite Collectibles: Elizabeth Locke Estate Jewelry
1990s. Necklace features two strands of polished aquamarine beads that are various sizes, shapes and shades of aquamarine. The cabochon aquamarine (approx. .6 inch) clasp is worn in the front. The hand-hammered gold is 19K even though the piece is stamped 18K). The necklace measures 18 1/2 inches.
Estate. This large oval brooch features a Chinese Gaming Counter intaglio made using an 18th-century glass mold. The 18K gold frame has a lightly hammered finish. The top of the brooch is decorated with three 18K gold cones set with cultured pearls accented with bead work. The brooch measures 2 5/8 inches side to side and 1 1/8 inches top to bottom not including pearls.
1980s. The brooch is an Etruscan design with a 5-carat ± bluish-white moonstone etched with a griffin, a mythological creature with a rear body of a lion, an eagle’s head with erect ears, a feathered breast, and the forelegs and claws of an eagle. The griffin is a symbol of intelligence and strength. The moonstone and surrounding Venetian glass is set into 18K gold with a bail that open and closes so that it can be worn as a pendant. Measure 1.5 inches by 1.9 inches.
Estate. The peridot is a stone of compassion and also brings good health and restful sleep. The friendly bright green instills good cheer. These peridot and 19K gold earrings measure approx. .4 inches by .4 inches.
Estate. A cerulean blue glass center with a chariot intaglio is surrounded by small round moonstones and set in hand-hammered 19K gold. The clip bail at the top allows the piece to be worn as a pendant with a 1.75-inch drop.
Estate. This ring has a center oval amethyst cabochon flanked by two oval peridot cabochons set in 18K gold. Amethyst measures .5 inch by .4 inch.
Tips for Buying Elizabeth Locke Estate Jewelry
- The Elizabeth Locke Jewelry website provides “Lookbooks,” which you can download to familiarize yourself with the various lines. You can also browse through them online. Either way, the jewelry is beautifully photographed. The danger is you may want it all!
- Elizabeth Locke jewelry is more likely to be found at auctions and estate sales.
- For upcoming auctions in your location, visit GoToAuction.com and click on your state, then your city.
- For estate sales and tag sales, visit EstateSales.net and enter city and state or zip code in the search field.
- A little-known element in Elizabeth Locke jewelry with Venetian glass is that, in most (but not all) pieces, the glass is backed with mother-of-pearl to bring out the vibrant color of the glass.
- As with all vintage jewelry, purchase only from reputable dealers who will answer your questions and who have fair return policies.
For a stunning in-person array of Elizabeth Locke’s micromosaics, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond has an exhibit: “A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke.” The collection traces the continuity of the ancient craft into modern time and demonstrates the historical legacy of the “Grand Tour,” once the custom of upper-class Europeans and Americans through the grand cities of Europe.