Here’s the last in the series of Amy’s short blogs letting you into a few trade secrets of our shop.
How do we know the age of a piece of jewellery we are selling?
This must be the most asked question in the shop!
We are jewellery detectives/historians and have to look for the clues to help us.
Firstly, you trust our expertise, knowledge and our guarantee:
All items are bought by only me, the owner, and no one else – I am a graduate, with more than 18 years of experience dealing with antique and pre-owned jewellery. I am RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) qualified which means I have passed intensive exams in jewellery, silver and other antique categories. I am also qualified at foundation level with the Gemmological Association of GB (CertGA) and have qualified on the practical exam for the Diploma (FGA). I attend many different courses throughout each year specialising in jewellery to fulfil my RICS requirement for continued professional development (CPD). Above all, I LOVE jewellery!
So, I am very lucky to deal with jewellery on a day-to-day basis and have therefore built up a specific skill set to recognise identifying features of a piece of jewellery. These features could be:
- Recognition of hallmarks and signatures –Learning about different makers and understanding their marks can help me date a piece but can also help me determine if that item is genuine or not.
- Construction – the way a piece of jewellery has been put together gives me a clue into when it was made. Different manufacturing methods were used at different times. I can recognise the difference between handmade and cast or hand or machine engraving, for example.
- Materials – Different materials were used at different times. For example, pre 19th century, most diamonds were set in silver with gold backing as platinum and white gold has not yet been discovered. 15ct gold stopped being used in 1932 so this helps us to date an item. Different gemstones were available at different times, for example, amethyst wasn’t widely used until the late 18th and 19th By looking at inclusions in gemstones such as sapphires, I can determine whether they are natural or synthetic stones. Synthetic sapphires were not introduced commercially in jewellery until late 19th century so this will help me recognise whether a piece has an original stone in or not. The cut of a gemstone can also help me to date a piece.
- Condition – The condition of an item of jewellery can give me clues to age. An 18th century piece is likely to show repairs and marks consistent with age and wear. If these are missing, one would question the originality of the piece and look for other clues to prove the age. Condition also gives me an idea of how that item has been used. If a ring has been worn as engagement ring, it may well have wear marks to the side of the setting where it has been sitting up against a wedding band.
- Styles – All era-specific styles can be reproduced over time but distinctive styles such as those from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles give me a clearer timeline and, together with other clues above, can help confirm age and identity.
If you have an item of jewellery that you wish to find out more about, Heirlooms can help you. Send in a photo or pop into the shop (when we are open) and I will happily examine it and let you know what I think. This is a free service and is only chargeable if you require information in writing or wish to know the value.