As the popularity of all things vintage and antique increases, determining the difference between reproductions and real antique jewellery has become an important skill for collectors, investors and the fashion conscious. Even some true antique pieces retain their lustre and value better than others. By noting a few key traits, even the novice can spot a fine quality antique ring, brooch, pin or other type of jewellery.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Jeweller's loupe
- Book with photographs of antique jewellery
Check the jewellery's construction. The artisans who crafted antique rings, brooches and other older pieces tended to place pearls, rhinestones and other gems together in tight formations. Reproductions use inferior materials (lightweight counterfeit pearls, for instance), glued to the metal or base. Test the clasp on a necklace or pin. Well-made antique jewellery often includes a catch that secures it to the wearer. A good quality piece will have a cameo, photo, or other inlay fashioned into the frame, while cheaper jewellery contains separate pieces glued into place.
Look for common materials used in antique jewellery. Early brooches, pendants and other pieces were made with ivory, coral or shell. Georgian and Victorian jewellery were often crafted out of silver and yellow gold. Check for enamel, mosaics, and human or horse hair embellishments. Jewellery made in the 1700s and 1800s used bulging, uneven diamonds with a bright sheen.
Look for the carat mark on the back of the pin or brooch. Use a jeweller's loupe to locate these small symbols. They may be faint due to years of wear and tear. Look for other markings that indicate the company or artisan.
Rule out jewellery as reproductions or modern pieces by the backings and clasps. Clip back and barrel clasps indicate jewellery from the 1920s or later. Fold over latches were used after 1900, as were earrings with lever backs.
Compare the item with photographs of genuine antique jewellery. Find detailed colour photos of costume and fine jewellery in books like the Antique Trader's Jewelry Price Guide. By studying several pictures of Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and other types of antique jewellery, you'll learn to spot characteristics of each style by sight.
Look at the stone's setting. Antique jewellery contains hand-cut diamonds and other gems. Baguettes and invisible settings were first used in the 1920s. The more uniform the cut, shape, or style, the more likely that it's a vintage reproduction
Learn about the designs, symbols and terminology used with different eras of antique jewellery. Bookchain refers to rectangular book-shaped charms, often used in lockets during the Victorian era. Ladies used lace pins to hold scarves in place during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Early Victorian jewellery often sported filigree designs of gold or silver wire. By combining these attributes with the other traits listed above, you can come close to pinpointing the era, quality and age of a piece of antique or vintage jewellery. Always consult an appraiser before selling estate jewellery or a piece that appears to be rare or valuable.
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