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How to Estimate the Age of Jewelry

Oct 22, 2018

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Do you have one or two pieces in your jewelry collection that you think is valuable? If so, you may be curious to learn more about the age, era, and history of the piece.

Without proper training and experience, it can be challenging (if not impossible) to correctly determine the age of a piece of jewelry. However, there are some tips, tricks, and background knowledge that will help make dating your favorite jewelry pieces a little easier.

Need a faster answer?

When you don’t want to go through the hassle of researching and trying to determine the age of a jewelry piece yourself, the Samuelson’s team can help. We offer free, private consultations to evaluate the age, era, and value of your jewelry.

Schedule a Consultation

Consider what you know

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A good way to start your investigation is to compile all the details you already know about the piece. Depending on the item, this could include:

  • When you got the piece
  • Where/who you got it from
  • What information was originally given to you about the item (origin, material, etc.)
  • Any paperwork, certificates, or documents you have relating to the item

If you received the item from someone else — for example as a gift from a friend or as a treasured family heirloom — take this research a step further by talking to the individual who owned the item before you. We know this isn’t always possible. If it is, some things you might want to learn from this person or someone close to them might be…

  • When, where, and from whom they received the valuable
  • If they have an estimate of the age
  • The story behind it

Keep in mind that while older heirloom pieces often come with a story, it may not always be 100% accurate. With time and through every retelling, it’s common for these tales to change ever so slightly.

Additionally, perhaps the original owner has carried a misconception about its authenticity for years. It’s unfortunate, but you’d be surprised how common counterfeit and forged valuables can be!

Think you might be dealing with a counterfeit?

Learn how to spot a fake!

Check for hallmarks

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Another easy thing you can do is closely examine the item for hallmarks. A hallmark is a stamp that typically outlines the metal content of a piece and the country of origin, designer, or manufacturer. And British hallmarks on jewelry often include a date stamp, indicating a year of production. There could be other engravings on the item as well.

Not all hallmarks will include all these details — you may see just one or two. And some antique items won’t have a hallmark at all.

A few of the most common material hallmarks you’ll find, depending on the material, are:

Gold hallmarks — 8K, 14K, 10K, 750, 585, 375
Platinum hallmarks — 950, PLATINUM, PLAT
Silver hallmarks — 925, Silver, 800, Sterling

As for designer or manufacturer of the item, keep an eye out for hallmarks like Sarah Coventry, AVON, and Trifari, If you notice these on your item, you’re likely dealing with costume jewelry and it’s likely not very valuable. However, it will give you a better idea of how old the item is!

If a mark can be identified, some research may reveal when that manufacturer was in business. From there, the style of the mark itself could provide more precise dating, as marking qualities have changed over the years. You may even be able to look back at the generations of jewelry the designer has created, comparing and contrasting your piece until you find a match.

Many luxury watches, bullion, and other valuables may even have a serial number from their manufacturer. You can verify this with the manufacturer to get even more details about the piece.

In general, aim to thoroughly investigate whatever marking or engravings — you can learn a lot!

Determine the era by design

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The materials, stones, components, size, and overall design of your item will tell you a lot about its past. The trick is understanding how to read the signs! If you’re serious about researching the age of your item, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the different eras of jewelry.

Here are the most common jewelry eras and the characteristics of each.

Victorian Era: 1837-1901

Did you know: The very first diamond solitaire engagement ring originated during the Victorian era. Jewelry from this time is sentimental and romantic in nature with lots of floral motifs and symbolic themes. Pieces from the Victorian era are often colorful, adorned with rubies and emeralds, and feature gilded metal and rolled gold.

Art Nouveau: 1890-1910

Art Nouveau jewelry is easily recognizable for its soft and romantic design, complete with lots of curving lines in a natural and dreamlike way. Pearls and pastel-shaded gemstones were very popular during this time.

Edwardian Era: 1901-1920

The use of platinum in jewelry originated in the Edwardian era. However, diamonds were the primary focus.

Most of these pieces of this era stick to a color scheme of white (diamonds) and metal (platinum) and feature delicate designs. Jewelry of this time also utilizes migraine, which is a small border of platinum beads around the edges of a piece of jewelry.

Art Deco Era: 1920-1930

The Art Deco era was known for being edgy and minimalistic. Jewelry of this period held a strong, geometric design with a certain feminine appearance. Unique gemstones were all the rage during this time, with many pieces feature sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.

Additionally, screw-back earrings came about during this era and were used almost exclusively since pierced ears were considered taboo.

Retro Era: 1935-1950

Retro era marked the end of minimalist looks and stronger styles emerged. Big, bold, and dramatic jewelry often comes from this period. Additionally, wide gold bracelets and clip-on earrings were very popular.

Get your jewelry evaluated by a professional

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It can be fun to conduct research on your own, but if you want the best, most definitive answer, it’s best to get your piece evaluated by a professional.

A jeweler will have the years of training, experience, and knowledge to properly determine the age of your jewelry. Since age alone doesn’t make (or not make) your piece valuable, your jeweler can also help you understand how much your item is worth.

At Samuelson’s, we offer free jewelry evaluations in a comfortable and private environment. Our consultations are safe and secure and dedicated to helping you understand more about your piece and how much it’s worth.

Our expert jewelers have been providing outstanding service to the Baltimore and Chevy Chase
areas for almost 100 years. Although there’s never any pressure to accept, we offer the best prices for valuables in the area.

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