Antique jewelry can be made of real jewels and precious metals, or it may be glass with pot metal. At the turn of the 20th century, gems were used "regardless of monetary worth or popularity," Lillian Baker writes in "100 Years of Collectible Jewelry." Material can make a difference in price, and close examination is the key to pricing antique jewelry. Diamonds were sometimes set in silver, and mine-cut diamonds do not look like diamonds of today. You can learn to examine and price antique jewelry with some study, a little effort and some testing tools.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Gem tester
- Gold tester
- Silver test kit
- Diamond tester
- Magnifying glass or microscope
Price jewelry only after examination and testing. Learn the qualities of different metals by sight and feel. Feel gold and silver and look at marked pieces with a loupe. These metals feel very smooth and look as if the metal flows, with very few seams, rough spots or crisp edges. Check stones with a loupe, as natural stones often have flaws visible with a 10x loupe. Test gemstones with an electronic gem tester or diamond tester.
Look carefully for marks on estate jewelry. Antique jewelry is not always marked where you would expect. Some pieces are marked on the edge, and some are marked on the sharp pin. Bar pins are often marked on the catch. Use a loupe to find marks that others miss.
Use an electronic gold tester, a silver test kit, an electronic gem tester or an electronic diamond tester to identify metals and stones in jewelry that might be precious metals or stones.
Price antique jewelry after drawing your own conclusions as to its content. If you purchase jewelry, remember that sellers make mistakes, listen to tales told them and may not know the history. Ask questions, listen and then do your own research. Visit pawnshops, collectibles malls and shows and jewelry stores, and study jewelry on websites to learn what makes jewelry valuable. Remember that the price is what you are asking for the jewelry, and this is not necessarily its value. Value is what it is worth, or what it will actually sell for in the marketplace. If you see prices on jewelry, ignore them. Look for completed sales or sold items to see their actual value.
Confirm the value before you price antique jewelry for the market. Get a graduate gemologist (G.G.) to examine jewelry that you believe is real stones and precious metals to confirm your belief and give you some idea as to pricing and value. Alternatively, contact an appraiser who is a member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) or Appraisers Association of America (AAA). Do not sell to someone who appraises an item for you, as this is a conflict of interest, and the appraiser may give the item a low value if he wants to purchase it.
Price estate or antique jewelry only after testing and careful examination in order to avoid a costly error that cannot be corrected once the item is sold.
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