Friday, August 21, 2009

The 3 Forms of Jewelry / Jewellery Plus More Terms

Photo #1: Earrings with glass and rhinestones, c.1980 by Givenchy. "Fruit salad" motif
Photo #2: Sautoir necklace with dyed green chalcedony, diamonds, 18k yellow gold, and platinum c. 1970 by Van Cleef & Arpels. Makers mark "AV" for Vassort, Paris.
Photo #3: Hinged bangle Bakelite bracelet, c. 1935-45. "Philadelphia" style with serrated design; butterscotch-colored Bakelite base with geometric design laminated fins.
Photo #4: Brooch/pendant with carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yellow gold, and platinum, c. 1890. A carved opal depicting a sea nymph with ocean waves by Marcus & Co.
Fine Jewelry -
is made with precious metals, karat gold and platinum. When a piece is set with gemstones only the precious gemstones ruby, sapphire, emerald or diamond will qualify to be designated as Fine.

Bridge Jewelry -
The name is quite descriptive. This type of jewelry is made of precious metals also - usually sterling silver. The gemstones used are semi-precious such as aquamarine, garnet, citrine, amethyst , turquoise, etc. Basically any gemstone that is not one of the ones listed under fine is considered to be semi-precious.
Bridge jewelry is so named because it is the bridge between fine jewelry and costume jewelry.

Costume Jewelry -
This type of jewelry is made with base metals that are gold, rhodium or silver plated and is normally set with faceted glass stones such as rhinestones or crystals.
The term “costume jewelry” didn’t really come into being until the 20th century. There are a couple of apocryphal tales. Some people say that Coco Chanel was the first to call it costume jewelry. Other people say Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld Follies coined the term. Another source says that the first time it was used was in the New York Times. It was sometime around 1920, after World War I, when the words “costume jewelry” were first used.
Some of the many costume jewelry terms are:

A stone that has a rounded, domed surface with no facets, or a paste with a flat back.

Faceted, highly reflective crystal or glass stones cut to resemble gemstones.

En trembling
A piece of jewelry with a motif that is mounted on a tiny spring so that it trembles when the wearer moves.

Jelly Belly
An animal pin that has a clear Lucite or glass stone in the center for the "belly."

A pin or brooch that can be worn as two separate pins or clipped together as one.
Gilding Process by which a base metal is plated with a very thin layer of gold.

Crystal or ordinary glass with a high lead content, which has been cut and faceted to look like a gemstone. Also known as rhinestone or diamante.

Sterling silver plated with gold. Also called silver gilt or gold wash. During the 1940s, most American costume jewelry was made of vermeil sterling silver.

Russian Gold plating
A coppery gold matte finish first used on costume jewelry in movies in the 1940s because it reduced the glare produced by studio lights.

Jewelry / Jewellery Hallmarks: Gold & Silver

Many people confuse hallmarks with makers' marks. A hallmark is nothing more than an indication of metal content, a guarantee of purity or quality, which may include a maker’s mark and other marks. Makers' marks alone are not considered hallmarks. Hallmarks are most often found on precious metal objects. Jewelry is exempted from hallmarking under certain circumstances. When a piece of jewelry is hallmarked, the marks can yield clues to country of origin and, sometimes, date of manufacture, as well as indicate the metal content of the piece.

American and European Fine Jewelry Hallmarks:

Gold Jewelry Hallmarks:

Besides the usual American marks of 10k, 14k & 18k seen on gold jewelry numbers are also used to mark jewelry today. These marks are primarily found on jewelry of European origin.

.375 is 9kt gold, a mark often found on English jewelry.

.585 is 14kt jewelry (58.5% gold in the metal mix)

.750 is 18kt gold jewelry (75% gold in the mix)

PLAT or Platinum if the jewelry is 95% or more platinum. Other marks are Pt1000, 1000Pt or 1000Plat for pure platinum; or Pt950, 950Pt.

If less than 95%, the mix is shown such as 10% irid plat, meaning the item is 90% platinum and 10% iridium (Iridium is actually more expensive than platinum. It is added for strength.). In addition, sometimes you will see imported items with 800 Plat, an 80% platinum alloy popular in a few foreign countries.

Silver Jewelry Hallmarks:

Sterling Silver jewelry is often marked 925 or .925 (92.5% fine silver in the mix)

Other European silver jewelry hallmarks include .800, .813, .875, .935, .980 and any other number of other variations that depend upon the amount of silver content.

European countries also use a variety of other symbols to mark silver jewelry and non-jewelry items.

These marks can be used in conjunction with purity or other designations.

England: the walking lion Scotland: the thistle, before 1975 Russia: hammer and sickle in star mark Sweden: "S" (in hexagon indicating 830 silver or higher) France: a boar’s head (from 1838 to 1961) and outside of Paris, the crab mark.

Non-Gold Jewelry Hallmarks:

HGE is Heavy Gold Electroplate (plated, not solid gold) .

Gold Filled is marked to show, by weight, an amount of a gold layer on the outside of base metal. For example, the mark 1/12 14kGF. This means the gold layer is 14k and is 1/12 the weight of the total metal in the item.

Many gold plated items do not have enough gold to rank and be marked as plated. These will have no mark.

Vermeil is gold wash or flash over sterling silver.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Conflict / Blood Diamonds

Diamonds symbolize so much: as the stone most commonly used for engagement rings, the diamond is a powerful token of love, purity, and prosperity. Its value relies heavily on its image of being clean, the most perfect thing that nature provides us, so, the current controversy over conflict diamonds (also called blood diamonds) puts a lot at stake.
About one in every ten gem diamonds, it has been estimated, is smuggled from four African nations, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola, that feed money to a large black market. Some of the profits go to criminal gangs, some to brutal ruling regimes, some to outright terrorists. And the stones are mined under oppressive conditions for the smallest of wages, using methods that damage the countryside.

Part of the problem is human and part is geological.

The Human Side
The human part is the diamond market, an ancient secretive business where dealers trade stones back and forth, combine lots from different sources, and sell them across many borders during their trip to the jeweler. American law demands certification only from the last country to export the stone. It has never been very important to know where a stone comes from—once cut and polished, a perfect diamond sheds its history. And no one in the business is interested in changing things any more than they have to.

Child Labor: Lack of regulation, harsh labor conditions, and poor wages make child labor a regular practice in the conflict diamond trade. Children are commonly considered an easy source of cheap labor and are often sent into small areas of mines that adults aren't able to enter. They are often given dangerous and physically challenging tasks, such as moving earth from pits, or risking their lives to landslides to be lowered into small holes or pits on ropes.
In Angola, a recent study found 46% of miners are under the age of 16, with many of the children working because of war, poverty, and the absence of education. And in India, where more than half of the world's diamonds are processed, child labor is commonly used for cutting and polishing diamonds. Taken on as "apprentices," these children suffer for years in dangerous conditions for little to no pay until they are replaced, often by younger siblings.
To dispose of the leftover ore contaminated with Cyanide and other toxins ("tailings"), a mine will create a dam which gets built up over the life of the mine. The gradual building of the dam generally causes the structure to be unsound. In the last 25 years, these dam failures have accounted for three-quarters of all major mining accidents. In 2000, a gold mine resulting from a tailings dam failure in Romania spilled more than 100,000 gallons of cyanide-laced mine waste into the Tisza river, killing 1,240 tons of fish and contaminating the drinking water supplies of 2.5 million people.

Violence & Smuggling: Despite continuing efforts to regulate the industry, diamonds remain more of a curse than a blessing in many parts of the world. While many of the wars from which conflict diamonds originated have abated, state sanctioned violence in the diamond industry has not. In Africa and South America, violence still plagues many mines, with local populations displaced to make way for diamond development.
Smuggling is also rampant in the industry, making the global diamond trade one of the largest black markets in the world. Diamond smuggling intensifies violence and instability in diamond-producing regions. It also reduces the amount of money flowing back into diamond-producing communities, depriving the government of tax revenues needed for basic services.
Fueling Conflict: Since the beginning of the 20th century, diamond-rich regions and their neighbors have endured unspeakable devastation for their wealth. The terms "conflict diamond" and "blood diamond" only entered the public consciousness recently, as the funds used to conduct devastating civil wars in Africa that ended millions of lives were traced back to diamonds. The conflict diamond trade has dealt permanent scars to people and nations around the world, fueling bloody civil wars, human rights abuses, child labor and terrorist organizations.
Despite widespread acknowledgment in the industry of their existence, these conflict diamonds have been smuggled into other regions and are now indistinguishable from the rest of the supply. Until now, it has been nearly impossible to verify the origin of diamonds and the conditions in which they are produced. The diamond industry's attempt to address the problem of conflict diamonds resulted in the Kimberley Process, which has been deemed woefully inadequate by independent NGOs and government monitoring bodies. The fact remains that conflict diamonds still exist.
The Geological Side
Geologically, gem diamonds lend themselves to anonymity. They are as anonymous as cash. Diamonds are extremely pure minerals, built of a tight matrix of carbon atoms and nothing else. Stray atoms of nitrogen, boron, or hydrogen—a few parts per billion—are the most significant impurities. These can barely be measured accurately with (expensive) current techniques.
Uncut gem-quality stones differ only subtly around the world:
South African and Indian gems include yellow and blue stones.
East African diamonds are etched.
West African and Canadian stones are fibrous.
Siberian diamonds tend to be sharp-edged and clear.
Some Australian stones are pink.
Experts can tell where uncut stones originate, but only if they have a batch of a hundred or so to inspect. Judging origins is largely a matter of statistics. and pinpointing one mine, or even one country, is rarely simple.
Moreover, a large fraction of contraband diamonds are mined from riverbeds in placer (sedimentary) deposits, not hard rock. Because diamond is extremely hard, grains can travel very far from their origins. The diamond placers of southwest Africa, for instance, include stones from forbidden Angola as well as legitimate Namibia.

My Final Thoughts
In my opinion only human-based systems have any hope of keeping diamonds conflict-free: unbreakable codes, certified containers and rigorous chains of custody. Along those lines, the world's diamond dealers are proceeding with the Kimberley Process, which was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in January 2003 as part of the UN's conflict diamond program.
In closing I have to add that Diamonds are anything but an “investment”. Did you know that 1-carat diamond will set the buyer back about $5,000, which amounts to $710,000? Even worse than a car once it’s driven off the dealer's lot, a diamond will never be worth what you’ve paid for it. Try to trade it or sell it or pawn it and you’ll be sorely disappointed. Do you know why? Because their “worth” has been artificially inflated! Diamonds aren’t scarce or rare.
Question to all of you:
People protest animal testing in the cosmetic industry and protest against people wearing furs but I am yet to see the same people protest against wearing Gems mined as stated above. How about People for the Ethical Treatment of Humans? Is this not a cause for concern?

What is happening with Diamonds is also happening in Burma/Myanmar with Rubies. Instead of calling the Rubies Pigeon Blood Red I think the name should be changed to Human Blood Red

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Understanding the Four C's of Diamonds

These are the standards by which diamonds are graded,
and ultimately determine their value. They are Cut, Color,
Clarity and Carat weight. Below is a brief

Contrary to popular belief, a large stone
alone does not make a diamond valuable. While bigger can be
better, it's not the only factor. All the other C's carry as
much weight in the end, and be sure to use the size as a
factor, though not necessarily a determining one. A carat is
actually a measurement of weight, not size, equal to 200

The less color the better. In other words,
everything else being equal, a colorless diamond will be
much more valuable. Diamonds range in color from colorless
to brown, and are ranked by letter starting with
"D",(colorless) to "Z", (brownish) This is determined under
special lighting, and does not include the "fancy colored
diamonds", as these are graded differently. In short, the
clearer the better!

Another important characteristic of a diamond's
value is it's clarity. This deals with the number and size of
any inclusions; small clouds, crystals, feathers or cavities
noticeable under 10X magnification. The clarity grades are
F-Flawless (extremely rare); IF-Internally Flawless; VVS1,
VVS2- Very, Very Slightly Included; VS1, VS2 - Very Slightly
Included; SI1, SI2- Slightly Included; and I1,I2,I3-
Included. All you really need to know about this though,
(other than your diamond's grade) is that you should not be
able to see any inclusions with the naked eye.

Most people think that the cut of a diamond refers to
it's shape. That's not so. It actually refers to the way a
diamond is shaped to refract light, thus enabling it to
sparkle. This is quite an art and requires that each facet
of the stone be cut at precise angles to each other, in the
correct shape and size, to bring about the desired effect.
Each diamond shape has different measurements for it's
particular dimensions. There are eight basic shapes popular
today, and they are, in no particular order; heart,
princess, pear, marquise, radiant, emerald, oval and round.

Antique Jewelry - Helpful Terms & Explanations

Berlin Iron Antique Jewelry

During the Napoleonic Wars (1789-1815) as in many wars, the populous of the Prussian region was encouraged to donate their gold and silver jewelry and tableware for the war effort. Berlin Iron became a substitute for finer metals. It was iron that was lacquered black and was worn by in place of the jewelry they surrendered. A few pieces are inscribed, "Gold gab ich fur Eisen" (I gave gold for iron). French artists also picked up the fashion and produced Berlin Iron as well. There it was for the exceptional lace-like ornate styles. Some pieces are signed, such as by the famous maker Geiss others are unsigned. It was produced well into the mid 19th century and a bit later, its appeal still holding long after precious metals were back in circulation.
Today pieces are quite rare and collectors abound with prices rising every year. Often the jewelry is quite large, fine, lacey and delicate in design, that and together with its coal black surface has an indescribably handsome appeal.

Antique Cut Steel Jewelry

As early as the 16th century, cut steel production began in Europe. Tiny pieces of actual steel are faceted and shaped, often with facet structures similar to a rose cut diamond, some with a few facets, others highly faceted. Each element has a post at the back and these pieces are inserted into a brass or metal base. They are set close together to form a bed of faceted steel beads in the desired overall shape. Some early work is quite fine, often later work the pieces are larger individual studs and not as refined. Cut steel flourished in the later 18th and later 19th centuries, and finally popularity waned in the earlier 20th century.
The craft was created to imitate the shimmer of diamonds. Their refraction and glimmer, particularly in certain light, has remarkable brilliance. Steel has an alluring appeal with its distinct gray blue coloration, and catches the light from a myriad of angles. It is no wonder it has become so collectible and prized today. Mathew Boulton, an 18th century industrialist, owned a factory in Birmingham, England where cut steel jewelry was manufactured in great quantity. This was no mere substitute however, being prized for its own merits and often exceedingly expensive in its day. In great vogue at the later part of the 18th century, even Napoleon’s second empress, Marie-Louise commissioned a suite, as well as Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Antique cut steel was often used for similar items as those set with gems, diamonds or paste jewelry. Shoe buckles, hair ornaments, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, chatelaines, and more were all fashioned in this remarkable material.
Steel is thought to be so durable, but is quite ephemeral given the possibility of rust if not cared for over time. Thus many pieces did not often survive. Caring for pieces today is simple: avoid cleaning with water or getting wet or moist. If an article of cut steel does get damp, simply thoroughly dry immediately. One old method of storage is to place in potato starch; or you can put in a box with rice grains to absorb moisture. To clean use a small soft toothbrush to whisk away any dust or dirt and polish with a soft cloth.

Victorian Essex Crystal Jewelry

Essex crystals, sometimes referred to as reverse crystals, reverse painted crystal, Cook's crystals or even Wessex crystals, came into being in the mid to later 19th century. Rock crystal is cut en cabochon (a back flat, the front rounded and smooth). Skilled artists then carved out the rock crystal from the back in a desired form รข€“ often animal motifs. Once carved out, the depressions were then carefully painted in detail. Mother of pearl was often used as a base and backing and once turned to the front, an extraordinary image is evident in-the-round.
Horses, dogs, cats, pheasants and sporting scenes were some of the more featured themes. Even hare, boar and other exotic sporting animals can be found. A wide array of dog breeds is available as well. Depending on the size of the crystal, and the skill of the artisans involved, some are rich is detail and can be viewed from the side and appear near life-like in their three dimensional nature. Later reproduced in the early 20th century, some were often pressed glass imitations, with far less detail, and machine-like quality of color and subject matter (Scottie dogs are common). However, examples from this era can still be exceedingly fine.
However, antique fine Essex crystals are nearly unmistakable. Made until the early part of the 20th century, the skill and craftsmanship needed, and fashion and tastes changing, as the way of most things, the technique died out. No one having the time or willing to afford to pay for such labor intensive work, these are now highly collectible today and pricing is every rising.
Mountings range from brooches, to cufflinks, pendants, bracelets and other jewelry forms. Some are quite massive, others delicate and petite. Look for ones with great depth and fine painting. Subject matter too determines price as some dogs breeds, for instance, are much more common than others. Certainly the setting can greatly influence price as well as condition. Chips and cracks are to be avoided. A world unto themselves, their imagery is captivating and it is no wonder they have become so sought after today.

Halley's Comet Brooches

Celestial events captivated the imagination and were interpreted into jewelry as early as the 18th century. Passing comets, stars and moons all insinuated their way into precious metals and objects of personal adornment. With the passing of Halley's Comet in 1836, England in particular began to produce diminutive brooches representing this most famous of comets. Almost all are under one (1) inch in length (although a few are larger) and come in a variety of materials and gems.
From gold to cut steel, diamonds to strass or paste, these antique brooches are an area of collecting that spark wonder and allude to the mysteries of our universe. Often worn in small groups, they possess a head, often of one larger gem, a linear element and a tail also studded with a tinier gem. Some are elaborate, others simple and austere. Continuing the tradition, later generations still produced them until the early 20th century when they fell out of favor. Occasionally later costume jewelry we see large comet-like rhinestone brooches set in base metal but these stylistically have little relation to their earlier forbears.

Antique Lover's Eye Miniatures

Portrait miniatures of just an eye, often referred to as lover's eyes, are as captivating, symbolic and evocative as jewelry can be. There is controversy over the origins, but certainly began with the portrait miniature itself. Portrait miniatures were the photographs of their day, and were tiny paintings of family, loved ones and those departed and were usually extremely personal remembrances often set in jewelry and worn close to the person.
It was the late 18th century when the painted eye alone first appeared. It is reported to have begun when the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert wanted to exchange portrait miniatures. However, their romance was a secret as Mrs. Fitzherbert was a Catholic widow. One of the court miniaturists came up with the idea of painting just an eye. Only the wearer would know whose eye it really was. The Prince later married Maria Fitzherbert in 1785 but it was declared illegal. Had the marriage continued, the Prince could not have become George IV and taken the crown, with a Catholic wife.

The eye miniatures were popular from around the 1780's to around 1830, and fell from popularity once Queen Victoria reign began. While some eye portraits were painted after that time, most fall within that time period. Some do date later however. While originally their purpose was love related, as with almost all trends, they changed over time and some are in honor of friendship and others of a memorial nature.

Lover's eyes are most often set in brooches, but occasionally rings and even boxes and stickpins. As with any artist, there were good and bad portrait painters, and thus good and bad portrait miniatures. However, there are some factors to look for.

They are highly sought after and very collectible today. However, this means that fakes are produced, particularly in England. Eye miniatures were rather scare in their day so a buyer should be careful from whom they purchase eye miniatures. Be wary in particular of very fancy settings and mounts. Forgers take out hair and inserts from lockets and crystals and place in it either a newly painted eye, or a very convincing piece of an old portrait miniature they have cut out. The fancier the setting - gem set, fancy bracelets, rings, intricate settings, the more one needs to be careful. Also, Victorian settings may be suspect, as most eyes were Georgian, though again not always.
One is to look for overall aesthetic appeal - is the eye the right size and shape for the "frame" in which it sits? It is an eye sitting in a great deal of empty space? Does it look lifelike? Does it have bags under the eyes, or a brow, perhaps a shadow of a nose or hair so appears to be painted from someone's eye? Or is it just a "dead" looking eye? Are the colors subtle and have lifelike skin tones? Does the paint bead up, or does it seem part of the ivory? Is the crystal covering chipped at the edges? Is the gold rim chipped and obviously removed? Does the ivory piece have ragged edges or not fit properly? No edges should be visible ideally. Most all miniatures were painted with watercolor and gouache and when viewed with a good loupe or magnifying glass is extremely delicate - almost like tiny points of color.

It is very hard to tell if a miniature is real if it actually came from a period miniature to begin with! If buying from the internet, make sure you email or call a dealer with any questions you may have. All honest dealers will be more than happy to take back an item if you are not satisfied so know a dealer's return policy. Examine the jewelry with a magnifying glass or loupe. Also, be sure to obtain a written invoice clearly stating a description and price.
Prices are quite high and usually range from $3000 up to well over $6000 depending on the quality of the painting, and the setting itself, the rarity and overall aesthetics of the jewelry. Some settings can be encrusted with diamonds or pearls; others are just more simple coral or gold. And remember, dealers - even the most experienced - are not perfect so trust your instincts.

Antique Micro Mosaic Jewelry

The origins of micro mosaics date back centuries to Roman times and portable mosaics began as early as Caesar’s reign. Micro mosaics are made of heated glass that is pulled into small strands and cut into tiny pieces called tesserae. Metal oxides are added to the glass to achieve color. The tesserae are then placed and glued to form an image. The mosaic is placed within a surround of stone or glass and then placed in a frame. Micro mosaics were either set in jewelry or occasionally framed just as a miniature painting would be. Even in the early 18th century, micro mosaics were sold to visitors in Italy and the art form reached great popularity in the mid to late 19th century. Micro mosaic jewelry has today once again found favor and is highly prized for its intricacy, charming depictions and delicacy of work. Venetian mosaics employ a variety of shaped tesserae; Roman mosaics are often comprised mostly of rectangular shapes of tesserae. Mosaics from Florence are termed pietra dura and use pieces of shaped hardstone to form images, the pieces of stone usually much larger and set in a black background.
The value is determined by a number of factors. Condition as always is one of the most important factors. But the size and delicacy of the work in a micro mosaic should be considered. Much 20th century jewelry for tourists used relatively large tiles and is quite crude compared to earlier pieces. Some go from fine work, to extremely fine tesserae no larger than a needle tip that resembles a painting, the tiles merging into one image. Also, subject matter is important. Most common are flowers, architectural scenes in Italy or Europe, or religious themes. However, some contain bug images, animals, highly realistic landscapes, birds, flowers, dogs, or other more unusual subjects. These can command higher prices.

Antique Paste Jewelry

What is paste? The origins of the term paste are unknown. However paste is a collective word used for cut leaded glass that is faceted to resemble gems or precious stones. Sometimes it is referred to as strass. Georges Frederic Stras, a Parisian jeweler in 18th Century France lends his name to these stones. Around 1730 and after, he became world famous for his paste jewelry (sometimes the term French paste is still used today). Appointed to the post of jeweler to the King of France in 1734, Stras's fame was assured. He used a mixture of glass and lead that makes glass highly reflective and began mounting them in the most sumptuous of settings. The stones are coated with a metal coating or foiling, sometimes tinted, to make them even more brilliant and refractive. The mid and later 18th Century was awash with paste and even Marie Antoinette wore it copiously.

The craftsmanship required to cut paste is demanding and is thought to be more difficult than the art of cutting diamonds. Diamonds are harder thus easier to work with in many respects. Examining 18th Century paste shows the variety of stone cuts - marquise, oval, pear and all manner of shapes and sizes. A surprising variety of shades and colors was utilized. The jewelry can be of very high quality and skill and is usually set in silver. Paste was used in everything from men's shoe buckles, to the most magnificent of tiaras. Most strass or paste jewelry ranges from the 18th century through about 1850, but the word has come to be used to encompass other finer imitation stones through the early 19th Century. Paste jewelry has drawn a special collector, thus quite expensive and more and more difficult to obtain, particularly in the earlier examples or ones with color. Its luster, glow and shimmer are incomparable.
Black dot paste is paste which has a tiny black dot painted on the very bottom underside of the stone. It is thought to have mimicked the open culet of early diamond cuts, which often look quite dark or black. The culet is the bottom of the stone, where in today's modern stone cuts all the facets come to a perfect point. In years past, the facets did not meet in a point but joined around a flat area on the bottom. Black dot paste is one hallmark of very fine quality paste. However, there are many examples of excellent paste which do not have these tiny black dots.

Pinchbeck Jewelry

Copper and zinc are the two metal that when combined made a very convincing gold substitute. Christopher Pinchbeck, born in 1670 and lived until 1732 discovered the alloy. It was used quite extensively as a durable yet less costly metal than gold, but fell out of favor during the mid-Nineteenth Century after 9K gold was legalized. Often it is termed Pinch for short. It is evident today why the metal was as successful as it has a lovely color, sheen and look and has been styled in a grand manner with just as much care, skill and attention to detail as an item in gold. Quite scarce today, it has become highly collectible and is admired for its own attributes. Often gilt or rolled gold pieces are incorrectly identified as Pinch. Pieces that date after about 1840 are rarely of true pinchbeck.

Antique Pique Jewelry

Pique is the now lost decorative art of inserting minute bits of metal into a medium to form a design. Tortoise shell, ivory, mother of pearl and even other metal have all been the basis on which to inlay this work. Often brass, silver and gold are the primary metals with which are then worked into the medium. There are two types of pique. Pique pose and pique point. Pique pose uses pin head shaped pieces of metal and pique point flat strips. Dating to the 17th century, this marvelous craft decorated small personal objects such as etui, boxes, portrait miniature covers and then later into the 19th century was revived and was seen in jewelry as well.

In some cases, such as with tortoise shell, this base material is heated or wetted rendering it malleable and then grooves are prepared. Metals points and strips are then inserted into the heated or wet materials, and once cooled or dry, it then seals itself around metal.

Stuart Crystal Jewelry

King Charles I was executed in 1649. He was part of the Stuart Monarchs in England that reigned from 1603 to 1714. Loyal followers of his began to wear, sometimes in secret, rings that often had a faceted rock crystal with locks of his hair, initials, or rings with his image to show their loyalty to his reign. As with many trends, it began there but transformed to a more personal memento. Stuart Crystal jewelry, as it is now termed, stemmed from that political origin.

While memento mori and memorial jewelry had been worn since the 16th Century, memorial rings arose worn for family and loved ones often with a faceted crystal, underneath a skull, a lock of hair, bits of silk, or tiny gold cherubs or crowns and bits of twisted gold wire referred to as a cypher or cipher. Not always memorial in nature, some examples are seen which were a tribute to marriages or other rites of passage. This type of ring and jewelry maintained popularity until around the early to mid 18th Century. Often slides, stickpins and lockets in a number of shapes and sizes (but always quite compact) are also found made in the same manner. These types of jewelry are quite rare and have become highly collectible and of course, pricing on the open market reflects this. The facets of the crystals with the tiny mementos beneath are so fascinating and enigmatic it is no wonder their presence has inspired many an enthusiast.

Vauxhall Glass Antique Jewelry

As early as the 18th century, England began producing items of jewelry from their famous glassworks factory outside of London. Situated in Vauxhall, the glass ware and jewelry simply began to be referred to as “Vauxhall Glass“. Although there seems to be no concrete proof the jewelry was produced at that factory, the term stuck. A number of colors were produced from clear, to deep blacks and a rich burgundy red. Little has survived of those early pieces but they were evidently quite adored in their time. What most often survive today are 19th century examples. Revivals of this material occurred in the mid to later part of the 19th century, patents were taken out, and various items were again produced. Insects and bugs, tiaras, earrings - all manner of jewelry was produced in this reflective, appealing material. Often it can be recognized by its mirror backing, but it is not always the case. A few pieces do survive so collecting is still possible.

Care of Antique Jewelry

Care & Cleaning of Antique Jewelry

Jewelry which is open backed (usually made after 1840) can often be cleaned using a mild jewelry cleaner or even a window cleaning product that is based on ammonia and water. Often water alone is sufficient. A light rub with a soft, lint free cloth or a very soft old toothbrush used dry or in combination with these liquids can remove dirt and grease. However, opals, pearls, turquoise, and other soft and porous gems should never be cleaned in this manner. When in doubt please consult your local jeweler. We do not recommend ultrasonic cleaners for any antique jewelry.
Do not rub hard or use harsh fabrics as these can mar the surface of stones. Over time even wearing jewelry while sleeping can affect the surface of the stones. Be cautious about leaving jewelry in areas where the temperature is too extreme in either direction or is in direct sunlight for any period of time.
Jewelry should be stored in cotton or soft cloth and care should be taken that pieces do not knock against other pieces of jewelry. Storage in dry humid-free areas are best. Do not store at length in closed, air tight plastic bags or boxes. With a modicum of care, the jewelry you adore can last many more lifetimes to come.

Special Note for Georgian & Earlier Jewelry (Circa 1840 - prior)

Any jewelry which is closed back most likely has set stones which are foiled on the reverse. This is a metal coating that allows the stone to reflect more light. No closed back jewelry should ever be placed in water or left on the hands while washing or engaging in any other activity where water may come in contact with the stones. Any tiny gap between the mount and the stone can let in moisture and the foiling can be spoiled and change color. Be careful wearing jewelry in heavy rain as well.
Never clean any early jewelry (those with closed backs) with water or any other liquid. Use only the softest toothbrush to very gently brush away dust or old dirt. You may also use a very soft, lint free cloth to clean the surface of stones and gold and silver. Silver cloths for silver mounted jewelry or gold and silver treated cloths are fine as well to use for metal areas. Eyeglass cloths are ideal for removing light grease and dirt.


If repairs are needed, make sure the person(s) you choose has a good deal of experience with antique jewelry before entrusting pieces to their care. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their level of confidence with antique jewelry. Often, the older the piece of jewelry the more expertise is required to restore or repair the item.

Styles & Eras of Antique Jewelry (Circa 1714 - 1950)

Below is an overview of the some of the styles of antique and estate jewelry from the 18th century to the 1950s. Many designations are based upon the names of Kings and Queens, most from the royals of the English monarchy. Others terms are derived from a variety of sources. However, countries such as France have their own classification for many of the same time periods - a number are noted here. Dates provided are only a guide. There is no precise year or moment when one stylistic period ended and another began. Gradual transitions and shifts waxed and waned, new styles came into play, others continued, many fell from favor.

Retro Jewelry (Circa 1935 - 1950)

Styles of this period in estate and vintage jewelry are characterized by the use of gold, and often rose gold. Platinum, popular in prior decades, was scarce due to its use in World War II. Bold, chunky styles with arrays and clusters of gems grabbed the imagination of the people. But rather than the most expensive of gemstones, more often they were brightly colored, less costly stones such as citrines, aquamarines, topazes and tourmalines. Diamonds were decidedly out of favor, except as small, accent stones. Clip-on earrings made their debut at this time. Earring styles were often close up on the ear or just below - long dangles of the 20's were out. Plain gold or the combination of alternate yellow and rose gold made its appearance in large, wide bracelets, dress clips, earrings, brooches and collar necklaces. With women working in greater than ever numbers (while men were away for the war), fashion and jewelry took on a decidedly strong profile.

Art Deco Jewelry (Circa 1920 - 1935)

While a brief period of history, its impact on jewelry design was resounding and long lasting. Known for its innovative designs, the wellsprings of creativity for this period were often derived from the sultry and frenetic music, performances, current events and arts of the day. The great Jazz Age brought color back into jewelry and made geometry the basis for much of the work of the times. Oriental and exotic themes also wove their way into the antique jewelry. The use of platinum and white gold were still popular from the previous Edwardian era. Yellow gold rarely seen. Strong, linear designs embellished with color - so gems of every sort were employed. Androgynous fashion and bobbed hair served as a backdrop for surprisingly ornate, yet sleek jewels. Long, lean earrings, stacked bracelets, rings, and long "flapper" beads all abounded. Screw-back earrings invented in the very late 19th century, were now used almost exclusively as pierced ears were considered taboo.

Edwardian Jewelry (Circa 1900 - 1915)

So named for England's King Edward, this era was known for its use of platinum, pearls and diamonds...and more diamonds. In France, this time span was termed La Belle Epoque (or "the beautiful epoch" or era). Renowned for it exquisite craftsmanship with an airy feminine style and rich restrained designs, it was an era well named. Platinum had finally come of age. While it had been discovered nearly a century earlier, its use in jewelry was virtually unknown. Making dating simple, a piece of platinum jewelry is almost always from the turn of the 19th century or later, used mostly during this period and forward.

A color scheme of white and white metal was the foundation for this grand and eloquent era of antique jewelry. Based upon styles found in the 18th century Georgian era, these were now reinterpreted through a different sensibility. A lighter airier framework and mount was possible due to the remarkable properties of platinum (strong even with the use of very little metal). The garland style took swags and flowers and translated them into jewels in which gems were at the forefront and their settings almost invisible. A new “royalty” emerged that was based on wealth rather than lineage. As a result American jewelry came into its own.

Art Nouveau Jewelry (Circa 1895 - 1910)

Although it often became an umbrella term for a number of varied styles and movements, Art Nouveau jewelry is one of the most common names. Known as Jugenstil in Germany and Austria, Arts & Crafts in Britain, and Art Nouveau in France, these do, however, share some similarities and overlap in many ways. In general, all these styles were a rebellion or counter weight against much of the rigid and sometimes formulaic designs of the mid and late Victorian period. Also too was a surge toward hand made, rather than machine made work propagated from the industrial age of the mid 19th century. Less expensive materials were chosen and combined with hand made craftsmanship (or what appeared to be hand crafted). Harkening back to the individual, rather than the mass produced, led to a radical form of jewelry not seen before. Silver, enamels, moonstones, even horn and natural materials, were combined in organic and sinuous forms, with metals being prominent and used artfully in the naturalistic designs. Insects such as the dragonfly, women's heads and flowing hair, plants and flora dominated much of jewelry design.

Victorian Jewelry (Circa 1840 - 1890)

In her days of ruling England, Queen Victoria also presided over and greatly influenced much of the fashion of the world. Although this era spanned many decades and a plethora of styles and materials were used, some broad themes emerge.

Initially, sentimental or romantic jewelry with floral motifs and symbolic themes flourished. Mid century brought the Grand Period and with it many revival styles. Late in the century, the Aesthetic Period blossomed. For the first decades, gold was the preferred metal. However, it was at this time that gilded metal, rolled gold and manufactured gold plated techniques were perfected. Gems including pearls, citrines, amethyst and garnets were popular. By the mid century and with the death of Prince Albert, the Queen went into a long period of mourning. This resulted in black jewelry becoming the fashion. Gold was often decorated with black enamel. All genres of black material were used to produce bold and strong designs for everything from brooches to necklaces and pairs of bracelets. Additionally, along with the mid century came revival jewelry styles. Using antiquity and the Gothic and Renaissance periods for example, jewelers incorporated those designs elements as the basis for much of the jewelry. Later in the century, silver jewelry again took its place as diamonds and pearl set jewelry were once more in vogue.

Victorian Jewelry (1840 - 1890)

The Victorian period roughly spans from 1840 - 1890 and, of course, is named after the British ruler Queen Victoria. Her influence, much like that of Princess Diana in recent years, spawned a vast array of styles in fashion and personal adornment. The nuances of fashion and jewelry sway greatly depending on the trend setters, as the fashionista of today.

Victorian jewelry is usually divided into three stylistic periods: the Romantic Period, the Grand Period and the Late or Aesthetic Period. Although considered to be one broad era of jewelry history, in actuality the Victorian period embodies a considerable range of styles, forms and utilized a vast array of materials. Yet looking closely, the inevitable ties to what has come before, to revivals, and to inspirations rooted in the past is clear. However, innovation is ever present in all the eras of the history of design.
In addition, the phrase “Victorian Jewelry” has come to encompass jewelry styles of other countries such as the United States and France. To be precise, it actually refers to only jewelry of British origin. Modern convention however gives us leave to have that designation apply to any antique jewelry produced during that period of time, not matter the country of origin.

The Romantic Period

As a holdover from the end of the Georgian period, sentiment, meaning, symbolism and femininity reigned supreme. With the marriage of Queen Victoria, all thoughts turned to love and union. Jewelry was far more than a mere pretty bauble. Exchanged between family, friends, lovers and spouses, often there was an intimate message or meaning imbued with the design and giving of jewels. Forms and motifs such as hearts, anchors (hope), snakes (eternity and everlasting love), and crosses (faith) all alluded to emotions imbued in these keepsakes. Gold was ever popular as were many semi-precious gems. Open backed gemstones were now the rule, not the exception.

The Grand Period

Characterizes by motifs and themes rooted in the past, this era borrowed from many glorious past eras including ancient and Renaissance, Gothic and other patterns, textures, color and jewelry making techniques to create a grand and eloquent statement. Terms such as Greek, Etruscan or Egyptian revival along with that of Roman, Renaissance, Gothic and Celtic revivals were key all were used as a springboard for jewelry design. Many of these earlier periods of design, styles and jewelry were translated and reinterpreted during the Victorian period. Exceptional master jewelers, such as Carlo Guiliano and Castellani, made an extraordinary impact on jewelry history. Taking actual archaeological discoveries of jewelry, they sometimes cast new jewelry in their likeness. Yet, they also brought great creativity and individual interpretation to these relics of the past. Casting, an ancient technique, was once again revived.

Gold is found quite frequently and used during this period along with enamels and colored gems. Classical themes and geometrics dominated the scene. Sometimes heavy and ornate, the jewelry was most often dramatic and large in overall scale.

The Aesthetic Period

The later decades of the 19th century from around 1880 to 1901 were referred to as The Aesthetic Period. This period of time actually witnesses many other jewelry movements as well. Art Nouveau, Beaux Arts, Arts & Crafts, and Jugenstil, and even the beginning of the Edwardian period. It can be confusing as to exactly what era "box" to put an item of jewelry into. Influences and touches of design came from many quarters.

In general, the last phase of the Victorian period is seen as a return to some romanticism with a lightening of the scale of jewelry. Smaller, more delicate, whimsical and less formal were shifts in the production of jewelry. Some motifs prevalent include stars, clusters, crescent moons and insect and reptiles. Diamonds discovered in South Africa naturally led to a great deal of jewelry set with this ever popular gem. Old mine cuts, cushion cuts and rose cut stones were most often used.

The end of the century then divided into tributaries of jewelry design from many countries and influences.

Georgian Jewelry (Circa 1714 - 1835)

Spanning no less than the reigns of the four kings of England (George I, II and III and IV), this period was a grand and elegant era in jewelry history. Stemming from the consummate and regal designs of the late 17th century France, the eighteenth century carried on in much the same excessive tone. Mainly of gold and silver, large jewels held diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. Colored gems such as garnets, topazes, amethysts and citrines all were used. Frequently gems were set in closed backed metal with foiling beneath. Metalwork tended to be greater in proportion to the stones than in more modern jewelry and most jewelry was handmade. The back of the jewelry was sculptural and weighty and were usually bulbous.

Many of the designs were composed of bow motifs as well as the teardrop shape. Quintessentially 18th century, the ever present girandole motif consisted of a surmount, bow and a three-drop form. Late in the century, a rise in Neoclassicism led jewelry designs into a different world. This realm of clean lines, simplicity and geometry distanced itself from the now out-of-favor aristocracy of the Revolution. Less costly materials and semi precious gems were in favor. Early in the 19th century, a softer romantic tone emerged. A rising middle class continued to present themselves with the luxury of jewels and finery of the aristocracy. Understandably, a great deal of jewelry was produced and a surprising amount, although scarce, can still be found today.

Georgian Jewelry (Circa 1714 - 1840)

The term Georgian refers to an era in English history during the reign of King George I-IV from 1714 - 1840. Like the term Victorian (used for jewelry during Queen Victoria's rule), it is accepted in use as a term that refers to certain styles of jewelry. While this time period saw a number of stylistic changes and, is in reality a broad, sweeping category, the label is oft used for jewelry with certain characteristics. Sometimes the term is applied to jewelry from other countries (France, Italy, and the United States for example) and although its use is not entirely appropriate, it is generally still accepted as a way to refer to a time period and to certain styles of antique jewelry.

Eighteenth Century Jewelry

For the privileged and elite, that century saw a great increase in evening pursuits as improvements in the manufacture of candles gave rise to longer burning and brighter candles. Balls and soirees of sumptuous proportions rose to exceptional heights. Thus the divide between day and evening jewelry marked a new chapter in jewelry history. Women often wore pearls, garnets, moss agate or colored gems or paste in daytime. The most formal evening events, courts, balls and receptions were the only appropriate times to wear diamond jewelry. Consequently, diamonds found new favor. Mines opened in Golconda, India and Brazil began to produce stones in the 1720's. Now diamonds were more readily available.

Closed backs were used on almost all gems and paste stones. Open backs were known, but most of the examples we see today are of the closed style. The true art of stone cutting (and allowing light through a gem to reveal its refractive properties) was not yet truly understood. In addition, then most stones were foiled. Foiling is the use of a metal coating, sometimes colored, painted on the back of a stone to enhance its brilliance. The cut of gems were either the rose cut or the old mine cut, although a few table cuts were still in use. Brilliant cuts also gained in popularity. Often for colored gems a flat cut was used - the top being flat with a few facets on the edges.

For metals silver or gold was in use; platinum was not as yet discovered and white gold was not used in jewelry. Rose gold, yellow gold, silver, and sometimes green or red gold were employed. Most diamond jewelry was almost always set in silver; the sentiments of the time were that the silver color of the metal enhanced the properties of diamonds, whereas a gold surrounding did not. The backs of jewelry and ear wires were often gold to prevent tarnish on skin and clothing. Colored gems were set in gold. Mounts or bezels for jewels were frequently set in a closed setting, a cut away setting or in a very early claw setting (usually seen for early large pastes). The first two mountings show a good bit of metal that comes up around the sides of the stone, thereby encasing the stone in metal.

Stylistically, the earlier part of the century saw a more ornate form of jewelry with complex and frilly designs. As the years progressed and the next century advanced, the forms turned to more of a neoclassical inspiration of simpler geometric and formal derivation. Also it was a great century for paste. Even Marie Antoinette had her own paste jewelers - it was not just for those who could not afford real gems. Some examples of the themes and motifs used in the earlier 18th century were bows, floral designs, giardinetti (garden) and feathers while later times saw classical themes such as arrows, quivers, lyres, intaglios, and geometric forms.

Types of jewelry worn were the stomacher (a large element worn similarly to a huge brooch at the center of the stomach just below the breasts and trailing down the front), aigrettes (elements for the hair), girandoles (three drop earrings), pendeloque earrings (a bow and drop form), necklaces (sometimes secured by ribbons, rings, slides), bracelets typically worn in pairs usually slipped onto a ribbon, chatelaines, and buckles and buttons - for men for shoes, breeches and other clothing.

Nineteenth Century Through 1830 - Antique Jewelry

Toward the end of the earlier century and into the next, wars tore through Europe and affected life and, consequently, jewelry. Often gold and precious gems were in short supply as these items were typically given toward the war effort. Jewelry used less metal, even of very thin proportion, and cannetille came into use. Cannetille uses tiny wires that are wrapped to make a much more ornate jewel utilizing little metal. A romantic era arose, again sentimental and mourning jewelry became popular by the end of the 18th century and into the 19th. Regard rings, symbolic gems, tokens of affection, and lockets of hair all found great favor. Gems were small and less significant. Queen Victoria's reign brought about many changes in temperament and the jewelry and fashion which followed suite ending a grand and elegant era in the production of jewelry.

Jewelry Eras at a glance:
1714 -1836
1837 - 1900
1901 - 1910
Art Nouveau:
1880 - 1914
Arts & Crafts:
1890 - 1914
Art Deco:
1920 - 1939
1935 - 1950

How to Identify Antiques

Here are 6 helpful tips I found and wanted to share

Ask yourself where the item came from. Was it passed down in your family from generation to generation? Then it might be antique--although not always necessarily so. Maybe you found the item in a flea market or estate auction. Antiques are stumbled upon in all these situations but remember, just because an item is old does not mean it is always an antique

Make a small investment in magazines and books about antiques. Publications about identifying antiques are very helpful. They offer advice and information on the latest "popular" fads in antiques and how to tell if something is real or a fake copy. If you'd rather not purchase your own copies, libraries and the Internet offer invaluable free tips and advice about antiques and authenticity of such items

Step 3
Look for the item's manufacturer. Some items will have an identifying mark used by a manufacturer somewhere on the item. Usually it is on the underside of the piece. If it was produced by a company--it may bear a stamp or indentation--pressed into the item by a piece of machinery or stamping equipment. If it is a handmade piece, for example, a piece of pottery, then it may be hand-signed or have identifying marks such as the creators name, year or sometimes a tiny copyrighting symbol or date.

Step 4
Research the general decade you think the item came from. For example, Roll top desks, often found to be antiques now, were made in general in the 1940's and 1950's. By researching that time frame you can discover information that could tell you if a particular desk you might own is a valuable original antique or a more recent copy of the real thing.

Step 5
Be aware that antiques are generally judged by two main criteria, the period of time when made and the materials it was made from. Certain kinds of cloth, wood or glazing techniques were only available in a limited time frame. If you have something that looks old, or even has marks identifying it as antique, it may still only be a copy if it is made out of the wrong material for the decade it is supposedly from. You might still have a collectible item, but it won't be considered an antique.

Step 6
Valuable antiques or junk? Visit a reputable appraiser. You've done some research in identifying your item but are still not 100 percent sure of the value and authenticity of your item. It is time to visit an appraiser. An experienced appraiser has a highly critical eye and is very experienced at weeding out "fake " antiques. They can tell you if you do indeed possess a valuable antique collectible or just an interesting worthless item. Never underestimate the importance of having your item appraised because some things that people mistake for junk sometimes have been discovered to be rare priceless antiques!