With so many modern day companies reinventing vintage styles, it can be hard to tell if that brooch you just picked up is really from the 1940s or was just made to look that way. While there is a lot of different aspects into determining the age of your vintage jewelry, there are some basic methods you can use to help get you started.
Vintage pieces are generally heavier than contemporary pieces. Materials like plastic were not readily available and older pieces had to be made of metal or heavier materials.
Rhinestones, milk glass, Bakelite, and jet are just a few materials that were used in place of precious stones. Be careful though because contemporary plastic often mimics the look of vintage materials. In future blogs we will discuss how to identify the various materials used in vintage pieces.
Looking at the clasp on a necklace or brooch can tell a lot about the age of a piece. If it’s a lobster claw styled or magnetic clasp more than likely it is a modern piece. Other clasp styles such as a hook with no clasp will indicate it is an older piece.
Brooch Backing Styles
While they are not as popular now, in the past brooches were worn by many women. Brooches will have a variety of backings, but those that are attached by a rivet or solder are general older styles as well as those with longer pins. The longer the pin, the older the brooch.
Earring Backing Styles
While all types of earring backings are common now, certain earring backing styles were more popular during certain ages. For example, in the early 20th century it was considered barbaric to pierce your ears so clip earrings became extremely popular.
The way your piece is put together will tell you a lot about the age. If it is glued together, more than likely you have a modern piece. Look for soldering, rivets, and prong set stones in older pieces.
While style cannot be used solely as a method of determining if a piece is vintage, it is a great starting point. Contemporary jewelry can use older styles as they come in and go out of fashion. A pieces style should match the materials used during the same age to confirm it is vintage.
A lot of vintage jewelry did go unsigned, however there are quite a few pieces with signatures from major jewelry companies. If you do have a signed piece, you can usually find a date range of your piece by researching the company.
In the 20th century some higher quality pieces were made with the assistance of glue. The way to tell if a vintage piece has been glued is by the color of the glue. Glue wasn’t made with the same way as now and glue from older years will actually show up yellowy. So if you have piece that looks yellow don’t throw it away, it might be worth something!
ProngsContemporary jewelry often has the illusion of prongs. If you look closely, contemporary costume jewelry will actually have stones glued in place and often the prongs aren’t even touching the stone! Look for prongs that are actually holding the stones in place to confirm a piece is vintage.