You can find antique jewelry—jewelry that is more than 100 years old—at local pawn shops, flea markets, and antique shops for great prices. Occasionally, you can even find a rare, expensive piece for practically a song and a dance. But how do you know if you're actually getting a good deal or if a piece is truly antique?
After all, many modern designers love to make pieces that have an antique look and feel, which makes shopping for antique jewelry challenging. What appears to be an old heirloom piece might actually be younger than you. Following are telltale signs that a piece of jewelry was made recently.
Modern Gold Markings
Before the early 1900s, gold jewelry was not valuated and stamped the way it is today. In fact, before this time period, many jewelers preferred not to place a hallmark or mark on their pieces. If they did, the marks were obscure and known only to those in the industry.
People shopping for antique jewelry today would be hard pressed to decipher such marks without the help of an antique jeweler. If you come across a piece that has a mark you can understand on your own, such as 14 karat or 18 karat gold, the piece is most definitely modern.
One of the ways that jewelers date antique jewelry is by looking at the clasp. One type of clasp in particular, the C clasp, has evolved throughout the years, and it can be used to precisely date jewelry within a time period of just a few decades. Popular during the Victorian era, C clasps along with T-bar pins were used extensively. These types of clasps did not have safety latches.
The rollover or safety clasp was not used until 1910. Therefore, if a piece of jewelry has a safety clasp, the piece is most likely modern or it has been modified with a modern clasp. Pieces that have been modified are not as valuable as those that have not been tampered with.
When dating jewelry, antique dealers also look at the type of metal, stones and setting used and compare it with those used during the suspected time period of the piece. For example, the popularity of certain metals has waxed and waned. If a piece has a setting that was popular in one era, but the metal doesn't match up to the time period, the piece might not be genuine.
When in doubt, always have a piece appraised. Most pawnshops and jewelers such as Danny's Pawn Shop will be happy to facilitate this for you.