It didn’t take long on Antique Animal Jewelry’s Instagram for me to realize I was looking at something out of the ordinary.
Not only were the individual pieces remarkable, but the overall collection revealed a curator with a decisive vision: a vision of dark, sometimes slightly creepy, but always magnificent pieces of antique jewelry.
I had to know more.
As the name suggests, Antique Animal Jewelry has a focus: and it’s antique animal jewelry.
It’s mind-boggling how many spectacular pieces that Evie (the mastermind behind Antique Animal Jewelry) manages to keep in her shop. It’s not all animals, though: between the Essex crystal kittens and bold Victorian double snakes you’ll find spectacular mourning rings, unusual paste pieces, and anything else that catches Evie’s discriminating eye.
Please join me below for a selection of pieces from Antique Animal Jewelry, and snippets from my interview with Evie.
I thought I’d let Evie introduce herself by telling us about the path that led her to Antique Animal Jewelry:
“I worked as a fashion designer for 20+ years but always had a love of antiques. I had a boyfriend who was an antiques dealer and became very involved as well. I decided to start my own business and opened a dog store in London selling collars and leads, but also dog related antiques – from paintings to carvings to jewellery.
I opened a shop on Etsy for the Canine Collectibles, MaisonDogLondon, and I would include a bit of cat, and fox and horse. I had customers buying antique pins from me and asking me to convert them into rings or pendants. As this was doing very well I decided to split this into a second Etsy store and expand the range of animals and also include a few non animal pieces just because!”
Antique Animal Jewelry’s most remarkable non-animal pieces tend to be the mourning rings (in my opinion, anyway). Just look at the incredible condition of the two Georgian sepia rings above: every detail remains perfect.
This mourning ring is also a Georgian sepia ring, but it stands out thanks to its startlingly gorgeous and unusual halo of turquoise stones. The inscription reveals that the piece was created to honor a child who was lost at just two and a half years of age.
Evie names the store’s reverse painted crystal intaglio pieces as her favorites, largely due to the work involved:
“The sheer skill involved to carve out the crystal into a three dimensional form of an dog or cat for example, and then paint it in minute detail with a brush with just one hair, from the reverse. It’s a skill that hardly anyone possesses any more.”
I showed you a dog and a cat crystal intaglio already, but you can see another immediately above; a Victorian reverse painted crystal guinea pig intaglio, which is a thing I have never seen before.
Apparently guinea pigs were more in vogue than I’d realized in Victorian times. The Antique Animal Jewelry listing provides a snippet of history, revealing that “Queen Elizabeth I had kept one in her royal menagerie, and in the Victorian Age guinea pigs were bred and groomed for shows, as dogs are today.”
Antique Animal Jewelry frequently features conversion jewelry like the piece above: the finished bracelet represents the combination of the snake or griffin clasp, which was originally on a bracelet of horsehair, with a different 18k gold Victorian bracelet.
The guinea pig rings were also conversion pieces: the intaglios were original brooches.
This is one of the most unique pieces currently in Antique Animal Jewelry’s online shop: a ridiculously amazing snake belt, made of silver mesh and featuring a turquoise collar and a dangling red guilloche enamel heart. The pieces dates to 1900-1901.
Evie ended her interview by offering some advice for aspiring collectors, and then sharing a verse. I’ll end her post the same way:
“Start small. Go for the good quality items. You can buy an amazing small gold charm for an affordable amount. Build a theme so that your collection looks good together. The internet is available so do your research. Go with your gut instinct. I always do when I love something. I just buy it!! But if your gut is telling you something is not quite right, then walk away. Don’t convince yourself it is the right piece, just because the price is right.
If you go to a Jewellery fair, don’t buy pieces you know nothing about. Believe me, it could be a disaster. Research a period and stick to it so that you know what to look out for and what to avoid!
He who works with his hands is a labourer.
He who works with his hands, and his head, is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands, and his head, and his heart, is an artist.”
All images and info are thanks to Antique Animal Jewelry and the fabulous Evie.