Understanding Your Antique & Vintage Jewelry

To decorate and enjoy a beautiful piece of antique plus vintage jewelry with a history at the rear of can be a wonderful, exhilarating experience. For a lot of it is a lovingly addicting hobby. The greater you collect, the more you want to collect! It’s that exciting! But when buying these jewels of yesterday, can i be certain that what they are buying is truly genuine and not relatively new and/or associated with it’s claimed value? It’s always recommended to buy from reputable dealers who also guarantee their items plus learning what to look for in a piece. Attend Vintage & Collectable Shows, browse Antique Shops and read lots of books to familiarize yourself with period styles plus their findings.

When looking at a piece, examine it carefully both front and back. An genuinely previous piece will have all the ingredients to verify its authenticity. Many jewelry designs do tend to overlap so check the entire piece for clues. Will be the piece signed, hallmarked? Surprisingly enough a lot of antique jewelry was marked in the most unusual of areas so check along the edges, within the bale, the pin stem and also on the back of the pin come! You’ll be amazed at what you could find and where you will find it. Suddenly a piece of jewelry that you thought was newer or made of silver plate or even gold plate now may be observed in a different light as genuine antique silver or gold and have lots of value!

A lot of old jewelry such as Victorian Jewelry was not marked. Therefore now what? A Victorian brooch with a long pin stem extending outward is a good indication that it’s earlier Victorian while a shorter one is of a later date.
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The “C” clasp is another indication that the item is old. Remember that there are always exceptions to the rules since the “C” clasp was also used later on in Europe so take every detail into account to come to your full conclusion. Look at the joint and the clasp of a brooch, bracelet, necklace, etc .. Does it look like a hold used today or does it seem a bit different to you? Compare new pieces to old pieces. Will the jewelry have a brass spring ring clasp from the 1930s or perhaps a shiny gold plate clasp? Would be the findings on a piece consistent with the look of that era? Those small differences could answer your questions and drastically influence the value of a piece. The tube joint was generally used until the 1890s where the safety catch clasp became popular in the Art Deco 1920s time period. Over the years the appearance of the safety capture clasp has changed so it’s good to recognize the old from the new. Many clasps on old jewelry such as hooks broke in time so replacement types were soldered onto the back. All better Jewelry is soldered at some place but if the piece has raised pads soldered to the back of the Brooch where the clasp is attached then it is a replacement clasp.

Another good clue to dating a piece plus determining the value of Antique and Classic Jewelry is to look at the metal content where there might be some underneath wear, usually in back where it could rub against the clothing. Genuine Gold and Silver, even if it has wear, will not show a base metal underneath since it continues all the way through. Many costume pieces in the nineteenth century and into the Art Deco period were made of precious metal and/or silver over base metals such as gold over brass, metallic over brass, silver over copper mineral, gold over copper, etc . That’s one way of knowing the piece is at minimum 60 years old and more. During the battle years of the 1940s there was a shortage of base metals exactly where it affected the jewelry industry so sterling silver was substituted. If you see a marking such as “1/20 12K on Sterling” then 1/5 of the piece is 12K gold and is likely to be from 1942 to 1945. Vintage Bakelite which is a Polymeric Plastic invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland in 1907, became popular in jewelry design during the hardships of World War II also. There are several tests in identifying Authentic Antique and Vintage Bakelite Jewelry using Formula 409, Warm water, Simichrome Polish and a Q-Tip. Nevertheless some Bakelite such as Black Bakelite may not test positive. Since Bakelite is either cast or molded it would not have a seam series anywhere and the workmanship should look hand carved and not be crudely executed as if a stamp has been used. On Vintage Bakelite brooches, the clasp would be embedded to the piece.

Fine Jewelry containing Diamonds or Precious Stones such as Rubies, Emeralds and Sapphires are either bezel-set, inset or set with prongs and will always have open-backs for optimum brightness. Air bubbles seen in stones is a clue right off that the piece is glass. Marcasites which were replaced for diamonds as early as the 1700s, regained it’s popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. A higher valued marcasite piece would have better workmanship where each marcasite would be set with tiny prongs or beads vs glued in ones and because of the the stones will stay in place longer. This is also true for Rhinestones in Vintage Costume Jewelry where prong set ones are valued higher than glued in ones.

These are just some of the many tips to knowing your Jewelry. Really so helpful to learn what to look for when buying Antique and Vintage Jewellery which also can be as much fun as wearing and collecting this! Knowledge is definitely Jewelry Golden!

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