Understanding 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 most 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, can i be certain that what they are buying is truly authentic 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 understanding what to look for in a piece. Attend Vintage & Collectable Shows, browse Antique Shops and read lots of publications to familiarize yourself with period styles and their findings.

When looking at a piece, examine it carefully both front and back. An genuinely old piece will have all the ingredients to confirm its authenticity. Many jewelry styles do tend to overlap so always check the entire piece for clues.
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May be the piece signed, hallmarked? Surprisingly enough a lot of antique jewelry was proclaimed 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 stem! You’ll be amazed at what you could find and where you will find it. Suddenly some jewelry that you thought was more recent or made of silver plate or even gold plate now may be seen in a different light as genuine antique silver or gold and have a lot of value!

A lot of old jewelry like Victorian Jewelry was not marked. So now what? A Victorian brooch with a long pin stem increasing outward is a good indication that it’s earlier 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 exceptions to the rules since the “C” hold 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, bracelets, necklace, etc .. Does it look like a clasp used today or does it appear a bit different to you? Compare new pieces to old pieces. Does the jewelry have a brass springtime ring clasp from the 1930s or perhaps a shiny gold plate clasp? Would be the findings on a piece consistent with the style of that era? Those small distinctions 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 shot to popularity 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 pins broke in time so replacement ones were soldered onto the back. All better Jewelry is soldered a few 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 Classic Jewelry is to look at the metal content where there might be some underneath wear, usually in back where it would rub against the clothing. Genuine Gold and Silver, even if it has wear, will not display a base metal underneath since it continues all the way through. Many costume pieces from the nineteenth century and into the Art Deco period were made of gold and/or silver over base metals such as gold over brass, silver over brass, silver over copper, gold over copper, etc . Which one way of knowing the piece is at least 60 years old and more. During the war years of the 1940s there was the 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 from the piece is 12K gold and it 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 determining 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 shaped it would not have a seam line anywhere and the workmanship should appearance 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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