Your Guide to Buying an Antique Jewellery Box

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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Jewellery Box

Beautiful, handcrafted jewellery boxes have been in existence from the time of Cleopatra; later, they were considered treasure chests for trinkets, cigarettes, cards, and the priceless jewellery of aristocrats, priests, and royalty. The superior craftsmanship, excellent quality material used and singular beauty of such bespoke jewellery boxes mean that they are highly sought after as collectibles. In addition to their obvious aesthetic value, antique jewellery boxes also protect fine jewellery from damage, scratches, and the elements, keeping the jewellery pieces safe and secure. With each passing year, the demand for antique jewellery boxes increases while supply trickles so that anyone who owns one can consider it a solid investment. Flea markets, antique auctions, second hand shops, and estate sales are hunting grounds for antique collectors and dealers hoping for a steal. Online stores such as eBay bring antique items and bargains from far-flung parts of the world straight to one's living room, items that may be impossible to see at local stores.

Fine antique and vintage jewellery that has survived decades deserves a bed as timeless and classy as the pieces themselves. Learning about antique jewellery boxes helps buyers develop a keen eye for the design features that stand out in each period of influence.

The Definition of Antique Jewellery Boxes

Many of the terms used in describing antique jewellery items might seem interchangeable, but they hold specific meaning to jewellers, collectors, and antique enthusiasts. One who takes time to understand all the terms and their meanings is in a better position to relate to  antique item descriptions, gauging not just their value and authenticity but the dealer's specialty as well. Antique refers to old collectible items that are at least one hundred years old and were made during the particular period ascribed to them like Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian, and Elizabethan antiques and have distinct characteristics reminiscent of that period. The term 'period', when used to describe jewellery and other accessories, denotes those made within the last 100 years; thus period pieces might be vintage items but are not antiques. Another confusing term is 'estate jewellery', which has nothing to do with estate sales and liquidations but is really a quaint tag for jewellery items that are in used condition.

Antique Jewellery Boxes Through the Ages

There are different ways to classify antique jewellery boxes but the easiest is by historical periods, which are distinctive and representative of the different epochs. While studying the periods, one should take careful note of the quality and types of materials used as well as the designs that characterised them.

Georgian Period (1714-1837)

Styles and designs of the Georgian era were strongly influenced by nature in flowers, feathers, leaves, crescents, insects, and birds, while the Memento Mori reminded one of death with its skull and coffin motifs. Jewellery boxes were handcrafted to personal customisations in very high standards. Antique jewellery boxes from the Georgian era are extremely rare and highly coveted.

Victorian Period (1837-1901)

The early Victorian period was full of romanticism with delicate etchings; the later influences of the East resulted in depictions of flora and fauna in jewellery items and accessories as well as the Shakudo style of gold colouring. Mosaic and relief styles were also popular until the death of Prince Albert, which cast everything in solemn black. The aesthetic period brought star and crescent designs into the picture.

Arts and Crafts (1894-1923)

 The arts and crafts period was rife with rebellion from jewellery designers expressed in the simple, colourful designs and stylised birds and plant forms in bold lines. Some of the designs were left unfinished, giving the piece a rustic look.

Edwardian Period (1901-1915)

This era, known as the 'Beautiful Era', brought a new metal, platinum, into jewellery development with fragile, feminine designs in a white-on-white theme with diamonds, pearls, and platinum, and sporting motifs. There was heavy Chinese and Indian influence in the designs.

Art Nouveau Period (1895-1915)

The art nouveau period was the most influential in antique jewellery box styles with the romantic influence of Paris in the flower and butterfly motifs. Mythical creatures like chimeras, griffon hounds, and dragons formed part of highly stylised designs celebrating the female form using different types of enamelling techniques.

Period in History

Distinct Features


Handmade, bespoke, extremely rare, nature themes, skull and coffin motifs


Romantic, etchings, images of flora and fauna, Shakudo gold colouring, mosaic and relief styles and black material during the mourning period, star and crescents for the aesthetic period

Arts and Crafts

Simple designs, bold lines, bird and plant form motifs, rustic unfinished look


Introduction of platinum, delicate patterns, mostly white-on-white theme, sporting motifs, designs influenced by Chinese and Indian styles

Art Nouveau

Romantic, flower and butterfly motifs, mythical creatures, soft curves and sinuous lines, advanced enameling techniques

Determining the Value of an Antique Jewellery Box

Discerning buyers who know the fine attributes of quality antiques spend less time on undesirable reproductions. It is also through knowledge, experience, and a few mistakes that a person learns how to evaluate an antique item by considering its quality, rarity, colour, provenance, and condition. Skilled antique collectors develop such fine instincts that some are said to set reproductions apart from the authentic items without even looking for the hallmarks.


When considering antique jewellery boxes, one should look at the form, style, proportions, and construction techniques to get a good idea about its value. Antiques were made to last forever; that is is why the superior craftsmanship of pieces made over 100 years ago still trumps mass-produced items of the last decade in quality, durability, and class. The beauty of any item crafted from high-quality material is that it lasts with time, with many antiques handed down from generation to generation. Any embellishments are well constructed and set firmly with care. Modern reproductions, on the other hand, might show slight signs of re-gluing or have skewed embellishments.


Antiques in mint condition are so rare that if the antique jewellery boxes looks new, then it is probably a reproduction. Do not overlook wear, damage, and missing parts, as these significantly lower the value of the item and might need extensive repair and restoration services. Some parts are irreplaceable, so one must consider whether anything less than a 100 per cent original is a smart move. A 'marriage' item of old and new parts in good working condition is, according to purists, highly inappropriate.


Provenances are verifiable histories of antique items which show their origin and location, including prior owners, and are mostly documented and listed together with any items for sale. Provenances authenticate antique jewellery boxes and greatly increase their value and cost.

How to Buy an Antique Jewellery Box on eBay

Many of eBay's features make shopping for an antique jewellery box a breeze. If you are registered as a buyer, you can quickly save your searches, favourite sellers, and stores, or even a collection of all the items you fancy so you can come back later to browse at your convenience without searching again. When you do decide on what you would like to buy, go through all the photos of the listed item, making a thorough inspection of all parts of the antique jewellery box for condition and signs of authenticity. Ask the seller about any marks you see in the photos that are not included in the listing description. Reputable sellers and stores quickly respond to any questions you have regarding the authenticity of items as well as offer further proofs or hallmarks.

Buying from a seller in or near your locality is more cost-effective, but since an antique jewellery box is a singular rarity, feel free to purchase from anywhere on the globe and to your heart's content as long as you find the shipping charges reasonable. Once you receive your jewellery box, remember to insure it.


Whether one wishes to buy them for nostalgic reasons, to help recycle, as a personal little treasure chest, or to start an heirloom tradition, those delightful antique jewellery boxes are a solid investment because the value and prices appreciate with time. There are two simple rules to buying antique jewellery boxes: know what you are buying and know the exact condition of the item. Armed with this information, anyone interested in antique jewellery boxes are get good value for their money by quickly identifying when items were made, passing up reproductions, evaluating item values based on their period, condition, and construction, and, finally, working within their set budget because antique jewellery boxes can stir most people into buying beyond their means. When it comes to buying antique jewellery boxes online at auction sites like eBay, one can find a good and reputable seller with bargains galore and who caters to one's own taste, add them to an eBay favourite seller list. This allows one to get to their store quickly and, should one subscribe to the mailing list, receive instant email notifications on new items they list for sale.

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