Dating antique jewellery is tricky and as such best left to an expert. That said, it is worth familiarising yourself with some of the simplest means by which the experts begin to ascertain the age of items that fall into their hands as this could help to prevent you from being conned, or from simply paying over the odds for a genuine antique.
Then, here is a quick guide that highlights five areas you should inspect and learn more about if you are interested in buying and / or selling antique jewellery.
A jewellery item bearing hallmarks can tell a person a lot, from when it was made to by whom it was made as well as the country and even the region in which it was created.
Hallmarking did not become standard practice though until 1910. Therefore, jewellery items predating the Late Victorian Period are likely to bear no clear mark or stamp to indicate their age or origin. This does not then mean they are not genuine antiques. In fact, it is sometimes possible to spot a fake because it features a hallmark when in fact it is supposed to be too old to have been stamped with any.
In cases in which there is a genuine hallmark though, this is of course one of the quickest and surest ways to date an antique item of jewellery.
Brooch Clasps and Fastenings
When buying antique brooches it is important to inspect their claps and fastenings, and not just for wear and tear; the specific clasp or fastening used to create a brooch will provide information as to its age, or should do.
The first and most basic clasp used when creating brooches was the C clasp. Brooches bearing a C clasp are likely to be some of the oldest out there. In fact, until 1890 the C Clasp was used as standard. Hence, an antique brooch is likely to feature one and one which doesnt has been altered or repaired over the years, is a fake or was made after 1890.
To work out which scenario is true, one can inspect the clasp itself for any soldering and how well a newer clasp has been soldered to the item as well as by what metal clasp an original has been replaced with.
Earring Fittings and Findings
Just as with brooch clasps and fastenings, earring fitting and findings over the years have changed considerably. Prior to the Victorian Era hook and kidney shaped earring wires were almost exclusively made and worn. Their simple design made making earrings prior to the Victorian Era possible.
During and subsequent to the Victoria Period, earrings began to be made on posts. Unlike the earrings of today which feature a smooth post and butterfly style stopper often made of metal or even clear plastic, the first and so many Victorian examples of post mounted earrings were screw-like to permit the earring posts they were cast with or attached to to be threaded with a small, ornate nut which was literally screwed onto their backing once in place within an ear to keep them there.
Hinged and lever back earring findings were not devised until the 1900s. Hence, it is possible to look at an earring finding and fitting and from its specific design along with the design of the piece, stones it contains and metals used in its making to estimate its age. Whilst relying on the fitting or finding design to age antique earrings will not tell you the exact year or even decade perhaps in which they were cast, it should provide you with the correct era.
Different stones and differently colored metals have been fashionable at different times. Hence, whilst the most popular gems including diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, have enjoyed continuous use, it is still possibly to date many antique items based on the stones and colors of the stones they bear.
A perfect example of this is when looking at antique jewellery bearing black stones. Whilst a black stone could in fact prove to be jet or onyx, it could also be glass, petrified wood, coal or galvanised rubber and is likely to belong in to a piece of mourning jewellery created during the mid to late Victorian era, as this is the time in which mourning jewellery items were most popularly being made and almost all of those specifically containing black substances and stones were created.
In fact, using color to date an antique item can prove extremely useful as, to stick with the example of mourning jewellery, certain stones and materials used to create it can be traced to the exact or short time frames in which they were used. This is true with materials such as gutta-percha, a type of dark tree sap, which was not used in jewellery making until it was introduced to England in1841, or crepe stone (black glass) which was not used until 1883 by American based jewellers who wished to emulate the aesthetic qualities provided by onyx and jet.
Therefore, as well as paying special attention to the quality, size and condition of any stones an antique jewellery item contains, it is as well important to consider its color or use of colors when dating one and, in some cases tracing its origin too.
Diamond inlaid items specifically can be dated according to the cut of the stones they contain. After all, diamonds have been being cut for thousands of years and according to ever changing techniques. Hence, recognizing the cut of a diamond featured in a jewellery item is likely to provide a solid idea of the time in which it was created.
Today there are almost twenty different types of common diamond cut, aside from bespoke cuts. You can see them all for yourself via the Antique Jewellery University website where diamond cuts beginning with those affected by the Romans and Medieval table cut diamonds up to the modern brilliant cut are all discussed and explained in depth.
Meanwhile, to view a vast range of antique diamond rings which have already been dated and authenticated and are ready to buy, wear and add to a collection, head over to view our collection here at Heritage Antique Jewellery.