Shopping for estate and antique jewelry can be a fun and thrilling way to spend your time. You'll come across exquisite pieces that recall a bygone era, and owning them means owning a tiny piece of history. However, you want to make sure that the items you are purchasing are authentic. It can sometimes be difficult to tell original pieces from reproductions, but there are a few simple tips you can use to have a better chance at finding the real deal. Use this guide to help you as you begin your antique or estate jewelry collection.
Study Up On Marks
Jewelers used to, and sometimes still do, mark their pieces to indicate who made them. Some marks were simple initials, while others were more intricate designs that represented their design house. These marks were typically found on the back of a piece of jewelry. On necklaces, they might be found on the back of the pendant or on the clasp, or they might be located on the inside of a ring. Spend some time at the library or researching online to familiarize yourself with the different marks.
Learn About Fashion Eras
Becoming an expert in the different fashion eras can help you to identify reproductions being passed off as antiques. For example, screw-back earrings were popular in the early 1900s, while the clip-on backs you might be familiar with today didn't become popular until later. Using this information, you can reasonably assume that a pair of Victorian-style earrings with modern clip-on backs are either reproductions or have been altered in some way. Learn about the different designs that were representative of each era, including clasps and closures, to help identify authentic antique jewelry.
Ask About Each Piece's History
Antique dealers are often proud of their best pieces, so don't be afraid to ask about where the jewelry came from or if the dealer knows anything of the history of the piece. If a particular brooch or necklace was purchased at an estate sale, for example, the dealer you are buying from may be able to tell you something about the previous owner. In some cases, there may be a certificate of authenticity, original sales receipt, or other documentation to go with the jewelry. These items may not be on display in the display case, but the dealer should be willing to let you see any documentation that should accompany the items in a sale.
Take the time to do your research before shopping, and get ready to have fun finding treasures as you begin your antique jewelry collection.