Knowing Your Antique & Vintage Jewellery

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

When looking at a piece, examine it carefully both front side and back. An genuinely previous piece will have all the ingredients to confirm its authenticity. Many jewelry designs do tend to overlap so always check the entire piece for clues. Is the piece signed, hallmarked? Surprisingly enough a lot of antique jewelry was noticeable in the most unusual of places so check along the edges, within the bale, the pin stem and even 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 for example Victorian Jewelry was not marked. So now what? A Victorian brooch with a long pin stem extending outward is a good indication that it’s early Victorian while a shorter one is of a later date. The “C” clasp is another indication that the piece is old. Remember that there are always conditions to the rules since the “C” clasp was also used later on in Europe so take every detail into account ahead to your full conclusion. Look at the joint and the clasp of a brooch, bracelet, necklace, etc .. Does it look like a clasp used today or does it seem a bit different to you? Compare new pieces to old pieces. Will the jewelry have a brass springtime ring clasp from the 1930s or even a shiny gold plate clasp? Would be the findings on a piece consistent with the style of that era? Those small variations could answer your questions and drastically impact the value of a piece. The tube joint was generally used until the 1890s where the safety catch clasp shot to popularity in the Art Deco 1920s period. Over the years the appearance of the safety catch clasp has changed so it’s good to recognize the old from the new. Many clasps on old jewelry such as pins broke in time so replacement ones were soldered onto the back. All of better Jewelry is soldered at some place but if the piece has raised pads soldered to the back from the Brooch where the clasp is connected then it is a replacement clasp.

Great clue to dating a piece and determining the value of Antique and Vintage Jewelry is to look at the metal articles where there might be some underneath use, usually in back where it might rub against the clothing. Genuine Silver and gold, even if it has wear, will not display 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 gold and/or silver over base alloys such as gold over brass, sterling silver over brass, silver over water piping, gold over copper, etc . Which is one way of knowing the piece is at minimum 60 years old and more.
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During the battle years of the 1940s there was a shortage of base metals where it affected the jewelry sector so sterling silver was substituted. If you see a marking such as “1/20 12K on Sterling” then 1/5 from 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 Ww ii also. There are several tests in identifying Authentic Antique and Vintage Bakelite Jewelry using Formula 409, Hot Water, Simichrome Polish and a Q-Tip. Still some Bakelite such as Black Bakelite may not test positive. Since Bakelite is either cast or molded it would not have a seam line anywhere and the workmanship should appear hand carved and not be crudely executed as if a stamp was used. On Vintage Bakelite brooches, the clasp would be embedded in to the piece.

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