Know the Period
The most important factor in assessing the value of a piece of antique jewellery is knowing the period in which it was created. Although the craftsmanship, type and materials used will all affect the value older pieces will typically command a higher price because less pieces from that era will have survived to present day.
Knowing a little about the techniques used to craft jewellery during a certain era can allow you to assess whether a piece is truly as old as the sellers says it is. We’ve put together the following guide for the eras with which we have the most experience.
The Georgian Period immediately preceded the Victorian era, and many of the subsequent innovations in metallurgy or the working of precious stones were not yet widespread. Strong gold alloys (9ct, 15ct and 18ct) were not yet used, and the purer, softer gold used in jewellery was both more prone to damage and less able to keep its shape. This meant that Georgian pieces were made of larger sections of gold designed to be robust enough to hold together. Gemstone galleries were crafted to completely wrap around the stone for security, and backed in metallic foil to allow light to flow into and out of the stone.
The Victorian Period saw the more widespread use of mechanical and industrial processes, allowing precious metals and stones to be worked more efficiently. Stronger gold alloys allowed jewellers to move away from foil backing and create galleries with strong but slim claws and open backs, allowing a greater amount of light to flow through the stones. The premature death of Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert was keenly felt by the Victorian people, and pieces from this era often have sombre themes, using darker stones such as the deep red garnet or pure black jet to symbolise love and lives lost.
The Edwardian Period is often known as the “Belle Epoch” or Beautiful Era; a time where extravagance and opulence were fully embraced by the population. This is evident in pieces from the time, which used combinations of gemstones and innovative metalwork to create some of the most truly luxurious pieces in existence. It was during this time that platinum began to be used in jewellery, but it was not widely employed until the Art Deco period (below). The Edwardian era was a time of great societal change, particularly marked by the rise of the suffragette movement, which was responsible for the creation of an entire sub-genre of jewellery.
The Art Deco Period saw unprecedented innovation across myriad forms of artwork, and jewellery was no exception. Platinum and white gold came to be more widely used in jewellery, and jewellers experimented with a variety of geometric designs that reflected a widespread optimism about the modernisation of the world. Art deco pieces often have extremely large, bright stones such as aquamarines, along with arrays of precisely cut diamonds.
Know your Source
The most important part of discerning what a piece of antique jewellery is worth is knowing where it comes from. Unfortunately the vast majority of pieces have little or no provenance information attached to them. Many have passed through multiple owners over the years since their creation and what details can be discerned are often patchy or confusing.
This lack of information means that it is extremely important to trust that the source of the piece is a trustworthy organisation – one with a reputation for delivering authentic and high-quality jewellery. It is also important to note how long the retailer has been trading, as even the most well meaning jeweller can be duped by unscrupulous sellers, and it is only through experience in the trade that more well established companies can ensure the quality of their goods.
Brick and mortar his street jewellers who trade in antique jewellery can often be assessed by the quality and longevity of their shop front. Jewellers who trade in poor quality antiques or modern reproductions disguised as antiques will not last long, so it is imperative to avoid poorly maintained or “pop-up” premises. Similarly if a shop front is poorly maintained this may be an indication that the jeweller does not lavish much attention on the quality of their items.
If a shop is poorly organised or maintained there is a temptation to think that it may contain hidden treasures – something whose value the seller is unaware – unfortunately this is by and large a myth perpetuated by fiction and highly suspect reality TV shows.
Quality sellers will have faith in their pieces. They will provide any information which they have, and will be up front about any gaps in their knowledge. They will also acknowledge any damage or wear and tear on their pieces, and should give you the choice as to whether you would like the item to be professionally restored before purchasing.
Respectable sellers will also offer as much proof as they can that the item they are selling is made of the materials they say it is. Whilst there may be an additional cost involved many will offer to have the item acid tested (to determine exactly which metal has been used in construction) and also allow for the testing of any gemstones to ensure that the stone is as advertised.
Why Choose Us?
At Antique Jewellery Online we believe in going above and beyond the expectations of our customers. With over two decades of experience in antique jewellery we have provided thousands of pieces to satisfied customers.
Without the burden of a physical shop we have been free to focus exclusively on the quality of our goods, and the service we provide to our customers. We offer free sizing on all of our rings, routinely test our products for metal quality in house, and offer gemstone certification from trusted providers with whom we have cultivated long standing relationships based on mutual trust.
Our customers are at the heart of what we do, and it is incredibly important to us that they receive the best possible service. We are always happy to provide additional photographs or video footage of our pieces to give you as complete a picture as possible.
We are proud of our reputation, and we want to make absolutely sure that every person we sell to receives the perfect piece for them. If any of our customers are dissatisfied for any reason we offer a no-questions-asked refund (although we always like to know why the piece wasn’t right so that we can learn from the experience.
If you are looking to acquire a piece of genuine high quality antique jewellery our friendly staff can be reached at any time by calling England: +44 (0) 333 700 4500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always happy to answer any questions you may have.
Get in touch today, and let us help you to find the perfect piece of antique jewellery for you.