Know Your Antique & Vintage Jewelry

Know Your Antique & Vintage Jewelry
Know Your Antique & Vintage Jewelry

Know Your Antique & Vintage Jewelry – Wearing and enjoying beautiful antique and vintage jewelry with a history behind it can be a fun and exhilarating experience. For many, this is an addictive hobby. The more you collect, the more you want to collect! Very nice! But when buying this jewelry yesterday, how can people be sure that what they are buying is really genuine and not relatively new and / or of its claimed value? It is always advisable to buy from a reputable dealer who guarantees their item plus learn what to look for in its entirety. Attend Antiques & Collections Shows, browse Antique Stores and read books to familiarize yourself with antiquity styles and their finds.

When viewing a work, carefully examine the front and back. Really old pieces will have all the ingredients to ensure their authenticity. Many styles of jewelry tend to overlap so always check the entire section for clues. Is it signed, marked? Oddly enough, a fair amount of antique jewelery is tagged in the most unusual places so check along the edges, inside the bale, in safety pins, and even on the back of a pin! You will be amazed at what you can find and where you will find it. Suddenly a piece of jewelry that you thought was newer or was made of silver plate or gold plate can now be seen in a different light than real antique silver or gold and has a lot of value!

A lot of old jewelry such as Victoria Jewelry is not marked. So now what? A Victorian-style brooch with a long pin rod sticking outwards is a good indication that this is early Victorian times, while the shorter ones are from the future. The “C” hook is another indication that the cut is old. Remember that there are always exceptions to the rule as the “C” brace was also used later in Europe, so consider every detail to get your complete conclusion. See brooch hinges and clasps, bracelets, necklaces, etc. Do they look like the pins in use now or do they look a little different to you? Compare the new cut with the old cut. Does the jewelery have a brass spring ring clasp from the 1930s or a shiny gold plate clasp? Are the findings in a work in accordance with the designs of the era? Those small differences can answer your question and drastically affect the value of a work. Tube hinges were generally used until the 1890s when safety buckles became popular in the Art Deco period of the 1920s. Over the years, the appearance of safety buckles has changed, so it’s best to get to know the old one over the new. Many clasps on old jewelry are like pins that break in time so that the replacement is soldered backwards. All the jewelery is better soldered in some place but if the part has lifted the pads soldered to the back of the Brooch where the clasps are attached then they are replacement clasps.

Another great guide for dating an item and determining the value of Antique and Vintage Jewelry is to look at the metal content where there may be some clothing underneath, usually on the back that will rub against the clothing. Genuine Gold and Silver, even when worn, will not show the base metal underneath as it continues. Many costume pieces from the nineteenth century to the Art Deco period were made of gold and / or silver on base metals such as gold on brass, silver on brass, silver on copper, gold on copper, etc. That’s one way of knowing a piece is at least 60 years old and over. During the war years of the 1940’s, there was a shortage of base metals which affected the jewelry industry and so silver was replaced. If you see a sign like “1/20 12K on Sterling” then 1/5 of a piece is 12K gold and most likely from 1942 to 1945. Vintage Bakelite, a Polymer Plastic invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland in 1907, became popular in jewelry designs during WWII as well. There are several tests in determining Genuine Antique and Antique Bakelite Jewelry using Formula 409, Hot Water, Simichrome Polish and Q-Tip. Some Bakelites such as Black Bakelite may not test positive. Because Bakelite can be cast or printed, there will be no stitch lines anywhere and the work should appear to be hand-carved and not done as crudely as with postage stamps. On a Vintage Bakelite brooch, the hook will be pinned into the cut.

Fine jewelery containing diamonds or precious stones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires whether bezel-set, inset or pronged set and will always have the back open for maximum brightness. The visible bubbles in the rocks are a direct indication that the object is glass. Marcasites were replaced with diamonds in the early 1700s, regaining popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. A higher value piece of marcasite will have better workmanship where each marcasite will be attached with a fork or small bead versus glued together with another and because of this the stones will last longer. This also applies to Rhinestone in Vintage Costume Jewelry where sets of branches are valued higher than those glued together.

These are just a few of the many tips for knowing your Jewelry. It’s helpful to learn what to look for when buying Antique and Vintage Jewelry which can also be just as fun as wearing and collecting! Sure knowledge is Gold Jewelry!


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