Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to identify Arts and Crafts Antiques

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement that started in England around 1860 and continued having an influence on style, decoration and ideals until the 1930s.

Led by artist and writer William Morris in turn inspired by writer John Ruskin, the movement began as a reaction against industrialisation and the inequalities of the Victorian Age. This philosophy as well as design movement embraced ideals of equality alongside the celebration of good quality craftsmanship.

The Arts and crafts movement was inspired by images from the medieval age and folklore and nature. It became fashionable and influenced architecture, art, household objects, decoration and jewellery.

Because the Arts and Crafts movement was all about individual craftsmanship, no two pieces are exactly the same although you may find similar designs. This makes it very interesting to collectors and can cause prices to vary.

In jewellery, natural themes such as animals, plants, insects and birds were very popular. Arts and Crafts jewellery tends to favour metals such as a copper, brass and silver over more expensive materials such as the gold and diamonds that were popular in the Victorian age.

Arts and crafts jewellery often contains semi precious gemstones chosen for their appearance rather than their value, and pearls, turquoise, jet and moonstones were popular.

You will often find that gemstones have been cut en cabouchon - which means that the stone is finished with a polished rounded surface rather than the multiple cuts and facets that you see in valuable gems such as diamonds and sapphires.

Enamelling is also very popular in arts and crafts jewellery. This process was pioneered by Edith and Nelson Dawson who used a small kiln and employed production techniques that dated back to the renaissance.

Otherwise CR Ashbee is one example of a jewellery maker to look out for. In 1888, he set up the Guild and School of Handicraft in London’s East End, which he modelled on the medieval guilds and ran as a craft co-operative before relocating the whole operation to Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire.

This guild produced some very fine pieces that can be characterised by intricate wire work, hammered silver and colourful gemstones.

Although well known designer pieces of jewellery fetch high prices, you can often pick up Arts and Crafts jewellery at very reasonable prices. Look out for good quality craftsmanship, the design and the condition of the piece and don’t forget to check for the hall mark.

hallmarks guide