How Madeleine Albright Let Her Jewelry Do The Talking!

Madeleine Albright Says “Read My Pins”

Oh, the interesting things you find when cruising the Internet! I happened to come upon information about a traveling exhibit of Madeleine Albright’s jewelry collection. The exhibit, named “Read My Pins,” toured from February, 2010 through June, 2015 and featured a striking collection of her favorite pins.

Most of the jewelry are costume pieces that she picked up at antique shops and flea markets. She wore these to silently make a statement when she met with foreign dignitaries, a habit that she began when she served as U.N. Ambassador (1993–1997) and continued during her time as Secretary of State (1997–2001).

A few of the pins are shown below.

The Serpent Pin

Madeleine Albright's Antique Snake Pin
Madeleine Albright’s Antique Snake Pin

“This all started when I was ambassador at the U.N. and Saddam Hussein called me a serpent. I had this wonderful antique snake pin. So when we were dealing with Iraq, I wore the snake pin.”

Source: NPR Article and Radio interview (see links below)

 

You’re Bugging Me!

Madeleine Albright's 1997 Iradj Moini Large Bug Pin
Madeleine Albright’s 1997 Iradj Moini Large Bug Pin

In 1999, it was discovered that the Russians had bugged the U.S. State Department. The next time Albright met with the Russians, she pinned this giant bug to her left shoulder.

Source: NPR Article and Radio interview (see links below)

 

 

Pretending Not To See

Iradj Moini See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil pins
Iradj Moini See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil pins

Because she felt that Russia was ignoring human rights violations they had committed in Chechnya, Ms. Albright wore these Iradj Moini “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” monkey pins for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Source: NPR Article and Radio Interview (see links below)

 

Madame Secretary

Antique French Diamond Eagle brooch
Antique French Diamond Eagle brooch

This beautiful antique French diamond eagle brooch was worn for her swearing-in ceremony as Secretary of State.

Source: NPR Article and Radio Interview (see links below)

 

Lady Liberty

Gijs Bakker Liberty Brooch
Dual Watch Liberty Brooch by Dutch Designer Gijs Bakker

This striking “Liberty” pin was created for Secretary Madeleine Albright by Dutch designer Gijs Bakker in 1997. It features two clocks, arranged so that she, when looking down, and a visitor, looking across, will each be able to tell when the time for the meeting is finished.

Source: Smithsonian Article and Photo Gallery (see link below)

 

 

Support the Troops!

Trifari 1940s Uncle Sam Top Hat and Eagle Brooches
Trifari 1940s Uncle Sam Top Hat and Eagle Brooches

Ms. Albright also loved to wear patriotic pins, like these fabulous Trifari vintage 1940s Uncle Sam Top Hat and Eagle, which she often liked to wear together, especially when visiting the troops.

Source: Mint Museum Exhibit Article and Photo Gallery (see link below)

 

 

 

 

Many More to Come!

Madeleine Albright's Book, Read My Pins
Madeleine Albright’s Book, Read My Pins

Ms. Albright has written a fascinating book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box. The book documents her life through these brooches and contains over 200 photographs, along with many interesting and often humorous stories about jewelry and her diplomatic career.

Check out the book on Amazon here:

Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box

 

 

Stop by the Shop!

When you’ve finished looking at all of the lovely jewelry, stop by the My Classic Jewelry shop and get some for yourself, or find a wonderful gift for someone special!

Shop link: My Classic Jewelry

Resources

Although the exhibit has ended, you can see additional photos and read more about the pieces at some of the sites that hosted the exhibit, below.

Initial announcement with exhibit schedule: Museum of Arts and Design Exhibit Announcement

Smithsonian article with Interview and Photo Gallery: Madeleine Albright on Her Life in Pins

Article and Photo Gallery on the Mint Museum site: Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection

Article on More site: Read Her Pins: Madeleine Albright on Diplomacy Through Jewelry

NPR article with Photo Gallery: Madeleine Albright’s Jewelry-Box Diplomacy
NPR Audio of Radio Interview with Susan Stamberg Here: NPR Interview with Madeleine Albright

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Identification and Research

How to Date and Identify Trifari Vintage Jewelry

I often get questions about Trifari vintage jewelry, and the two most frequent questions are “When was it made?” and “How can I find out more about it?” This article will show you how to get the answers.

A Brief History of Trifari Vintage Jewelry

The Trifari Company was founded by Gustavo Trifari, an Italian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island from Napoli in 1904 at the age of 20. In 1910 he founded “Trifari and Trifari” with his uncle. Gustavo’s uncle left the company a few years later, and Gustavo continued the company under the name of “Trifari.” It’s no wonder that Italian collectors love to buy Trifari Vintage Jewelry, as Gustavo is one of their own.

Leo Krussman joined Trifari in 1917, and Carl Fishel joined as head of sales in 1925. The company name was then changed to “Trifari, Krussman and Fishel” and the logo “KTF” (with an enlarged “T” at the center) was used to mark the jewelry. Trifari vintage jewelry pieces from this era are extremely rare, as the mark was only used for several years.

Alfred Philippe and Trifari Vintage Jewelry

In 1930 Trifari hired Alfred Philippe as head designer, and that is when the company really began to take off. Philippe’s background designing very high end fine jewelry for firms like Cartier and Van Cleef and Arples brought a wonderful sense of luxury and style to the company. The designs he created for Trifari vintage jewelry have the style and glamour of fine jewelry and were very popular. This began an era of Trifari dominance in the industry which lasted for many years.

During the 1930s and 1940s “diamante” jewelry was the most sought after style. These pieces had the look of diamonds and other precious gems with metals that resembled gold and silver or platinum. The earlier Art Deco designs featured geometric shapes, while later pieces were very ornate with scrolls and floral sprays, often with colorful enameling. Dress clips were very popular, and many costume jewelry firms, including Trifari, made beautiful dress clips that had the look of fine jewelry and diamonds. The Trifari CLIP-MATES featured a large brooch that could be separated into two dress clips (see photo below).

Trifari ClipMates Aqua Glass Stones
Trifari CLIPMATES Aqua Glass Stones and Rhinestones Convertible Brooch Dress Clips Patented 1936
Trifari ClipMates Aqua Glass Stones
Trifari CLIPMATES Aqua Glass Stones and Rhinestones Convertible Brooch Separated into Dress Clips

Few pieces from this era are in circulation today, however, many of Alred Philippe’s patent drawings can be found with a Google Patent Search:

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Patents filed by Alfred Philippe

Here is the drawing and description for the CLIP-MATES patent application, issued on August 11, 1936.

Trifari 1936 ClipMates Patent 2050804 Drawing
Drawing for Trifari 1936 ClipMates Patent
Trifari 1936 ClipMates Patent 2050804 Description
Description for Trifari 1936 ClipMates Patent

If your jewelry has a patent number, you can easily search for it on the Google Patents site here: Google Patents. Just enter the patent number to search. Designs were usually produced for several years, so the patent date provides an approximate age for the jewelry.

Trifari 1930s ClipMates Aqua Glass Stones Back
Back of Trifari ClipMates with Signatures and Patent Number

Alfred Philippe remained as Trifari’s head designer until his retirement in 1968, and his wonderful patented designs can still be found today among Trifari vintage jewelry sellers and collectors.

For more information about vintage jewelry patents, see this article: Vintage Jewelry Patents: Find and Use them to Date Vintage Jewelry

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Signatures

Prior to 1955, the top jewelry designers patented their designs to protect them from other jewelry companies who might copy their designs. After 1955, the copyright law was changed to include jewelry designs. After that time, jewelry companies no longer had to patent their designs. They were able to stamp their jewelry with a copyright symbol to protect the designs.

Note: Trifari was very diligent about signing all of their jewelry. They would often publish ads in the fashion magazines informing customers that “If it isn’t signed, it isn’t Trifari.”

Because all Trifari vintage jewelry was signed, it’s easy to identify the approximate age with the signature. The chart below summarizes these marks.

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks

It’s important to note when a company had a large inventory of clasps or other findings that were already stamped, they would continue to use them on newer jewelry, so signatures will often overlap these dates.

In 2000, the company was sold to Liz Claiborne and production was moved overseas. Since then, lesser quality jewelry has been mass produced and sold on Trifari cards without any stamps on the jewelry. Recently, some necklaces have been produced overseas with a new Trifari hang tag, but these are not vintage pieces.

For a more detailed look at Trifari vintage jewelry marks, check out the guide here: My Classic Jewelry Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks Guide

How to Research Your Trifari Jewelry Jewelry

Once you have a date range for your Trifari vintage jewelry, the next step is to research designs and determine the approximate value. With patented designs you can search for listings with “patent” or “pat” in the title to find similar pieces and price ranges. For example, here are eBay search results for “trifari (pat, patent) necklace” – note the two search terms in parentheses – this will find listings with either “pat” or “patent” in the title. Sorting the results by price (highest first) allows you to see the range of prices and to determine where your piece might fit in.

Trifari Pat Patent Necklace Search on eBay
eBay Search results for “Trifari (Pat,Patent) Necklace”

You can perform similar searches on Etsy, Google, and Ruby Lane. You don’t have to find the same exact piece – just one that is comparable in age with similar materials. For example, if your piece has rhinestones, make sure to include that in your search.

Additional Resources for Trifari Vintage Jewelry

Vintage ads and catalogs are a very helpful source, as they can identify the names of various Trifari vintage jewelry lines. The photo below shows a 1958 Trifari vintage jewelry ad for their “Fascination” line.

Trifari Vintage Jewelry 1958 Fascination Ad

Here are some helpful links to sites with Trifari vintage jewelry ads and catalogs:

Illusion Jewels Researching Costume Jewelry “RCJ” – Vintage Trifari Jewelry Ads

Morning Glory Antiques (4 pages, organized by decade) – Jewelry Advertising, Trifari Ads, 1940s

Morning Glory Antiques – Trifari Catalogue, Fall and Winter of 1966

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Ads on Pinterest

You can also visit our Trifari Vintage Jewelry Ads board on Pinterest: My Classic Jewelry Trifari Vintage Jewelry Ads on Pinterest

Here’s one of the ads on the My Classic Jewelry Trifari Vintage Jewelry Ads board:

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Serpentine Ad

Click the image to view the entire board.

Shop for Trifari Vintage Jewelry Right Now!

Please visit the My Classic Jewelry Etsy shop to see the Trifari Vintage Jewelry available for sale.

Trifari Vintage Jewelry for Sale at My Classic Jewelry Etsy Shop
Trifari Vintage Jewelry for Sale at My Classic Jewelry Etsy Shop

Visit the shop here: My Classic Jewelry Etsy Shop and just type “trifari” into the search box.

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

Thanks so much for visiting the blog and I hope you now have a better understanding of how to identify and research your Trifari vintage jewelry.

I’d love to hear your feedback. Please click the comment link below this article to add your comments. Use the share buttons below to share this article. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Gold Jewelry: Gold vs Gold Filled vs Gold Plated

Vintage Gold Jewelry

About Vintage Gold Jewelry

In a previous article I discussed silver jewelry hallmarks – you can read that article here: Silver Jewelry Marks: Learn to Identify and Date Silver Jewelry. I recently came across a piece of jewelry that had a gold filled mark, but was silver in color. It turns out the piece was gold filled white gold. While researching, I discovered that many people are a bit confused by all of the terms used to describe gold content, especially when dealing with vintage gold jewelry, so this article will shed some light and sort things out.

There are several ways gold is used to produce jewelry. These include gold plated, gold filled and rolled gold, and karat gold. The chart below explains these processes

Vintage Gold Jewelry Processes
Gold processes used to create vintage gold jewelry

Gold Plated Vintage Jewelry

Most of the vintage gold jewelry that you’ll see is gold plated. It’s created by bonding a very fine layer of gold to a base metal using an electromagnetic process. The gold layer is only a few microns thick, so the plating will wear off in time. Typically the gold plating is 18K or 22K (see the Karat Gold Vintage Jewelry section below for an explanation of these markings). The process involves dipping a base metal, such as steel or brass, into an electroplating solution with a lump of solid gold. An electric current is applied, which deposits a very thin layer of gold on the metal.

Vintage Cocktail Ring marked as Heavy Gold Electroplate (HGE), plated with 18 Karat Gold
Vintage Cocktail Ring marked as Heavy Gold Electroplate (H.G.E), plated with 18 Karat Gold

The layer of gold in gold plated jewelry is normally a tiny fraction (about one 1,000 to one 1,000,000) of an inch thick. Heavy gold electroplate might be two or three 1,000s of an inch thick (also known as 2 or 3 mils). Gold plated jewelry may or may not contain a purity mark; most gold plated pieces do not.

Gold Vermeil Vintage Jewelry

Gold Vermeil refers to silver jewelery which is coated with karat gold, also known as “gilded silver.” The silver is usually Sterling, which is 92.5% silver, and can sometimes be higher. Using a process called “electrolysis” the silver is treated with electricity and an acid bath, which attaches the gold to sterling. The gold is commonly 18K or higher, although a minimum of 10K may be used to consider the piece Vermeil. According to the U.S. FTC (Federal Trade Commission), Vermeil should have a minimum gold thickness of 2.5 microns (or 1/100,000 inch) on all surfaces. Typically, the thickness is somewhere between gold plated and gold filled jewelry.

Because Vermeil jewelry is made with only precious metals, it is more valuable. In addition, the layer of gold is thicker than plated metals and will keep its color much longer. It’s not unusual for vintage Vermeil pieces that are 20-50 years old to still have a lovely bright color. Some Vermeil pieces have a rose gold finish and some may have both rose and yellow gold to create a “tri-color gold” look. Although Vermeil can tarnish, a gentle buff with a specially treated silver polishing cloth will usually brighten it right up.

Sterling Yellow Gold Vermeil Blue Glass Stones Flower
1940s Yellow Gold Vermeil Blue Glass Flower Brooch
Coro Sterling Vermeil Moth Brooch
Coro Sterling Rose Gold Vermeil Moth Brooch
Reja Sterling Vermeil Giraffe
1940s Reja Sterling Rose Gold Vermeil Giraffe Brooch

Vermeil jewelry is generally marked for the silver content. Typical marks include “STERLING” and “925.” The gold content is not usually specified, although you may come across a piece with both the silver and gold purity marks, such as “STERLING + 14K.”

Vermeil is a wonderful alternative to karat gold jewelry, as it is more affordable. Because it contains only precious metals, there are no allergy concerns and it keeps its value for years to come. Vintage gold jewelry was produced during the World War II era, but it’s more common to see Vermeil jewelry instead of plated jewelry from that period because the base metals used with plated jewelry were needed for the war effort.

Gold Filled Vintage Jewelry

Gold filled, also known as “rolled gold,” jewelry is made with a base metal (usually brass or copper) that is covered with a thick coat of gold. Unlike gold plating, the process used to create gold filled jewelry involves thick sheets of gold that are mechanically bonded using heat and high pressure, not electroplated. This bonding is permanent and the gold is much thicker than that of gold plate. It’s not uncommon to find gold filled jewelry that is fifty years old or older looking almost brand new.

In order to be considered gold filled, the gold content must be 5% or 1/20 of the total weight (1/10 if 10KT) and have a mark that identifies the karat value. Typical marks are “1/10 10KT GF,” “1/20 12KT GF,” “1/20 14KT GF,” and “1/20 18KT GF.” Sometimes you may see a mark like “14/20,” which means the outer 1/20 (5%) is 14 karat gold, the same as the “1/20 14KT GF” mark.

Most vintage gold jewelry that is gold filled is yellow in color, although you may also find pieces that are rose gold or white gold in color

Cultra Vintage Gold Filled Hearts Cultured Pearls Earrings
Vintage Gold Filled Hearts Earrings with Cultured Pearls
Vintage White Gold Filled Fluted Beads Pearls Bracelet
Vintage White Gold Filled Fluted Beads Pearls Bracelet
Vintage Gold Filled Carved Shell Cameo Brooch
Vintage Gold Filled Carved Shell Cameo Brooch

Because the layer of gold is so much thicker than plated jewelry, gold filled jewelry will not peel or flake, and with reasonable care will last as long as 14K gold jewelry. Although the gold can tarnish with age, buffing with a silver cleaning cloth or a very mild cleaning solution will usually restore the lovely finish. An added benefit is that people with sensitive skin will find it safe and comfortable to wear.

Little Known Fact: A great deal of heirloom jewelry from the 1800s was gold filled, which demonstrates that gold filled jewelry is very durable.

Karat Gold Vintage Jewelry

Karat Gold is sometimes also described as “genuine gold” or “solid gold.” Because gold is a soft metal, it is combined with other metals to make the pieces more durable. The marks stamped on gold pieces show how much of the metal is gold. The chart below explains these marks.

The karat is a very old measure of how much gold is in an alloy, or gold-blend. A measure of 1 Karat is where there is 1 part of pure gold and 23 parts of metal alloy – or 4% gold. So 24K is 100% pure gold. 9K is 37%, 14K is 58%, and 18K is 75%

Note: Some people confuse “carat” and “karat.” Carat is a unit of weight used for gemstones, such as a one-carat diamond. Karat is used to measure the amount of gold in a metal piece.

Vintage Gold Jewelry Marks
Standard Purity Marks used for Vintage Gold Jewelry

Sometimes the karat value is shown as a ratio, such as “18/24” or “14/24.” This is most commonly seen with gold filled jewelry, as mentioned in the section above.

Vintage Gold Jewelry with European Purity Marks

In Europe, purity marks are commonly shown as percentages. The most common marks are “585” for 14K gold (58.5%) and “750” for 18K gold (75%). The photos below show a 14K vintage gold jewelry Ankh cross marked with the European “585” purity mark, and an 18K vintage gold jewelry coral rose brooch marked with the European “750” purity mark.

14K Gold Stardust Finish Ankh Cross Front
14K Gold Stardust Finish Ankh Cross with European “585” Purity Mark, Front
14K Stardust Ankh Cross Back
14K Gold Stardust Finish Ankh Cross marked with European “585” Purity Mark, Back
Vintage 18K 750 Gold Swirl Coral Rose Brooch
Vintage 18 Karat Gold and Coral Rose Brooch with European “750” Purity Mark, Front
Vintage 14K 750 Gold Swirl Coral Rose Brooch
Vintage 14K Gold Swirl Coral Rose Brooch with European “750” Purity Mark, Back

Gold Colors

The three most common gold colors are yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. Yellow gold is the traditional color used in most vintage gold jewelry. White gold gives the look of platinum and appears silver in color, and rose gold has a warm, pinkish hue. Various metals are used to produce these colors. For example, white gold usually contains gold mixed with nickel. Rose gold is usually gold combined with copper.

Tri-Color Gold

Tri-color gold is a combination of white, yellow, and rose gold and is a very desirable fashion look. This look can be similated with vermeil, silver pieces that are thickly coated with yellow and rose gold. The photos below show a Sterling Silver bracelet that has both yellow and rose gold vermeil to give the look of tri-color gold at an affordable price point.

Milor 925 Italy Wide Tri Color Cubetto Bracelet
Milor Italy 925 Wide Tri Color Sterling Silver with Yellow and Rose Gold Vermeil Cubetto Bracelet, Front
Milor Italy 925 Wide Tri Color Cubetto Bracelet
Milor Italy 925 Wide Tri Color Sterling Silver with Yellow and Rose Gold Vermeil Cubetto Bracelet, Inside

Alloys Used with Gold

An alloy is a combination of two or more metals. There are virtually hundreds of different metals that can be combined with gold. For example, nickel is mixed with gold to produce a white gold color. Those who are allergic to nickel should avoid white gold. As mentioned, copper is used with gold to produce a rose gold color. 50% gold and 50% silver can be used to create the typical yellow gold color. Small amounts of zinc (usually 2%) will also be added to make the metal hard, as both silver and gold are soft metals. Other metals that may be used are tin, palladium, and manganese. The exact metals used with gold are usually not specified in the stamp, however, the companies that produce gold jewelry will almost always know the composition of the materials they use.

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

Thanks so much for visiting the blog and I hope you now have a better understanding of vintage gold jewelry and what the various stamps represent.

I’d love to hear your feedback. Please click the comment link below this article to add your comments. Use the share buttons below to share this article. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Damascene Jewelry: Three Traits Separate the Real from the Fake

Vintage Damascene Jewelry

Vintage Damascene Jewelry: Three Key Traits

There are three key traits of genuine damascene jewelry:

  1. The background metal is oxidized to a very dark color
  2. The design is hand chiseled into the metal
  3. Gold and/or silver foil is pressed into the chiseled design

The following sections explain these in more detail and include photos of both genuine vintage damascene jewelry and faux damasacene pieces so you can easily tell the difference.

What is Damascene?

I first became interested in damascene jewelry on a trip to Europe when I visited Toledo, Spain. In addition to the beautiful cathedral and the renowned synagogue, our tour included a trip to a large shop that produced its own damascene jewelry. We were able to visit the workshop and watch the artisans create this beautiful jewelry by hand. Of course, I bought quite a few pieces, which, I’m sure, was the intent of the tour. Some I gave as gifts, but I did keep a few pieces for myself.

Damascene Jewelry from Spain on original cards
Fine Damascene Jewelry purchased in Toledo, Spain on original cards
Note the quality label on the left

According to Wikipedia.com, “Damascening is the art of inlaying different metals into one another—typically, gold or silver into a darkly oxidized steel background—to produce intricate patterns similar to niello. The English term comes from a perceived resemblance to the rich tapestry patterns of damask silk.”

When I visited the workshop in Spain, I saw artisans hand etching designs into the darkened metal. Once the designs were completed, they applied silver and gold foil from large spools into the crevices, again by hand. The result is striking and beautiful. Some of the designs use yellow gold, rose gold, and silver to create a lovely color pattern.

Fine, handcrafted damascene jewelry is decorated with 18K or 24K gold and/or silver foil. When purchased from a shop, this will be noted, as shown on the jewelry cards in the photos. Vintage damascene jewelry and damascene jewelry produced today will have the same characteristics, as this jewelry was and still is made by hand.

Genuine Damascene Jewelry Cross
Simple genuine damascene cross, front and back. Note the dark, oxidized metal

The cross in the above photo clearly illustrates trait number 1 – oxidized metal.

What about Niello?

Although it may look similar to damascene, niello is a different process. Metal is engraved to create a raised design, then a mixture of silver, lead and sulphur, which creates a black enamel-like substance, is poured into the engraved areas. So with damascene, the black is oxidized metal which provides the background. With niello, the black is a compound added to the engraved areas of the metal. While niello is always black, Siam Sterling pieces use colored enamel in place of a black lead and sulphur compound to create more colorful designs.

Niello has been produced in many countries, while vintage Siam Sterling is from Thailand. From the 1930s through the 1970s, handmade Siam Sterling jewelry was made popular in the U.S. by American soldiers who brought it back as gifts for their wives and girlfriends. At the time, Thailand was known as Siam, which is why these vintage pieces are stamped “SIAM STERLING.”

Vintage Yellow Enamel Siam Sterling Bracelet
Vintage Siam Sterling Bracelet with Yellow Enamel applied to recessed areas

A Brief History of Antique and Vintage Damascene Jewelry

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were known to produce items with damascene-like designs. The artisans of Damascus, Syria are credited with developing the process into a high art form over 2,000 years ago, hence the name “damascene.” History tells us that in the 8th century this metal technique was carried to Japan via the “Silk Road” from Damascus to Japan. Japanase artists then began crafting their own designs. Around this same period, the Moors conquered Spain and brought the craft with them. What is interesting is that damascene developed in both Japan and Spain, then later disappeared from the Middle East. Damascene is still made in Japan and Spain today.

Vintage damascene jewelry fan brooch from Japan
Vintage damascene jewelry fan brooch from Japan. Note the Japanese mountain scene

Japanese vintage damascene jewelry is easy to spot because it usually features oriental themes with mountains and pagodas. Spanish vintage damascene jewelry usually features Arabic inspired designs.

Note that in most damascene pieces, the dark oxidized metal will be inset into a larger metal setting, as if it were a stone. Think of it as a piece of art set in a frame.

Vintage Genuine Damascene Jewelry Bracelet3Traits
This vintage damascene bracelet clearly exhibits the three traits of genuine damascene

Damascene, Faux Damascene, and Toledoware

The best way to see the differences between genuine vintage damascene jewelry and “faux damascene” is to compare them side-by-side. With genuine damascene, the background is always very dark, since it is oxidized metal. You can clealry see that the designs are etched and that gold and/or silver foil has been pressed into the etched areas. With “faux damascene” there are no etched designs, rather the metal is thick and textured, then colored enamel or paint is used to create the design.

Real vs Faux Vintage Damascene Jewelry
Compare genuine and “faux” damascene side-by-side to see the differences

Faux damascene jewelry has one trait that is an immediate giveaway. It almost always has beaded or “granulated” trim painted white. On some older vintage pieces the white paint may have worn away, but the raised metal design and beaded trim are easy to spot.

“Toledoware” is a slang term that is often used to refer to faux damascene made in Spain. Toledo is the Spanish city where fine damascene is made, but most of the faux damascene jewelry was also made in Spain and usually stamped “SPAIN.” Those stamps have sometimes confused people, but as mentioned, compare them side-by-side and you’ll see which is the genuine vintage damascene jewelry and which is the “faux.”

Vintage Faux Damascene Jewelry
Examples of vintage faux damascene jewelry. Note the raised metal designs and painted detail.

Vintage Damascene Jewelry Resources

Here are a few articles that explain and discuss damascene and niello.

Damascening at Wikipedia.org: Damascening

New York Times Travel Article about Damascene: Damascene Ware in Spain’s Toledo (Published: April 11, 1982)

Niello at Wikipedia.org: Niello

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Jewelry Hardware: How to Date Your Jewelry based on Construction

My Classic Jewelry Vintage Jewelry Hardware

What is Vintage Jewelry Hardware?

Vintage jewelry hardware refers to the various types of clasps, pins, earring backs, rings, and other elements used to create jewelry. These are also called “findings.” Techniques and elements have evolved over time, so knowing the types of hardware used during various eras will help you to properly date your vintage and antique jewelry. This is especially important when the jewelry has no hallmarks or maker’s marks.

NOTE: This is the final article in my four-part series on how to identify and date vintage jewelry. You can read the other articles in this series here:
Part 1: Vintage Jewelry Marks: Help for Dating Your Vintage Jewelry
Part 2: Silver Jewelry Marks: Learn to Identify and Date Silver Jewelry
Part 3: Vintage Jewelry Patents: Find and Use them to Date Vintage Jewelry

So let’s get started learning about vintage jewelry hardware.

Vintage and Antique Brooch Clasps

The earliest type of brooch clasp is a simple hook, also known as the C-clasp, since the hook is shaped like the letter “C.” It was used well into the 1930s. On older brooches (around the turn of twentieth century) you’ll see that the pin extends well beyond the clasp. As time went on, the pins became shorter. Although mostly seen on older brooches, some inexpensive brooches are made with C-clasps even today.

The trombone clasp, patented in Europe in 1850, was named after the musical instrument as it had a tube with a round top. You would pull the top out to release the pin. These were used in the latter half of the 19th century into the 1950s, mostly by European jewelers.

Antique and Vintage Jewelry Hardware Brooch Clasps
Antique and Vintage Jewelry Brooch Clasps

The safety catch (also known as the “spring ring” clasp) was introduced in 1921. Improvements and modifications made throughout the 20th century. It eventually evolved into the modern locking clasps in use today. Safety pin clasps were also popular and were used from the late 1800s until the early 1900s, and are still used on some hand made pieces today. They are commonly found on hand made brooches from the mid-20th century era, such as painted wooden brooches from Russia or micro mosaic brooches from Italy.

Antique and Vintage Brooch Clasps
Antique and Vintage Brooches with C-clasp, Safety Pin Clasp, and Modern Clasp

Vintage and Antique Bracelet Clasps

The clasps used on bracelets depend on the type of bracelet. Wide bangles typically used secure hinges with tongue and groove type clasps (also known as box clasps), while more delicate link bracelets used ring clasps. Wider link bracelets set with stones would often have fancy decorated box clasps. The lobster claw clasp in use today is a fairly new design from the late 1970s, as is the toggle clasp.

The spring ring clasp, introduced in the early 20th century, is the most common vintage bracelet clasp. It has a spring inside the ring that allows it to open and snap closed. A variation of this is the sport ring clap, which works the same way, but instead of a nub, it has a ridged end used to open the ring.

Box, Spring Ring, and Sport Ring Bracelet Clasps
Box Clasp, Spring Ring Clasp, and Sport Ring Bracelet Clasps

Foldover clasps were used on both bracelets and necklaces. These could be either narrow or wide, depending on the width of the pieces. Pieces with stones would sometimes have foldover clasps that were decorated with matching stones.

The sister hook clasp was popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It had two scissor-like hooks that opened in the middle, then overlapped each other when closed. Early designs were rectangular in shape. Monet had a patented, rounded sister clasp used in its jewelry in the 1950s and 1960s.

Vintage Foldover and Sister Bracelet Clasps
Vintage Narrow and Wide Foldover Bracelet Clasps and Monet Patented Sister Clasp

In addition, there were some specialty clasps used, such as snap clasps, unique pin clasps found on wide link and bangle bracelets, and unique hook clasps.

Vintage Jewelry Hardware Bracelet Clasps
Unique Vintage Jewelry Bracelet Clasps

Vintage and Antique Necklace Clasps

As with bracelets, commonly used vintage necklace clasps include ring clasps, foldover clasps, and box clasps. The hook and box clasp (also called “fish hook” clasp) was commonly used on pearl necklaces or necklaces with gemstone beads. Often oval shaped, the long hook was inserted and locked into place.

The Hook clasp (also called shepherd’s hook) was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when chunky multi-strand bead necklaces and sparkling rhinestone necklaces were very popular. Usually, the necklace had a chain that allowed the hook to use any of the chain links, making the necklace length adjustable. The S-hook clasp is a variation on the hook, with a rounded, S shape.

Barrel clasps were quite popular, and are still used today, so it’s important to note the age of the clasp. Older pieces will show some darkening of the metal, looking more like brass.

Vintage Jewelry Hardware Necklace Clasps
Vintage Jewelry Hardware Necklace Clasps

Vintage and Antique Earrings

Until the late 1800s the typical style of earring used fish hook or “shepherd’s hook” style ear wires for pierced ears. In 1898 the kidney wire was introduced. This was a more sturdy and secure fastener, as the wire was secured with a hook at the bottom of the earring. Both fish hooks and kidney wire earring backs are still in use today. Post earrings (also known as stud earrings) were also common at this time and normally the studs were threaded so that the backs of the earrings could be secured with screws.

Vintage Jewelry Hardware Earring Backs
Vintage Jewelry Hardware: Wire, Leverback, and Victorian Post Earrings

Hinged, or “leverback” ear wires have been in use since the 1880s, and are still quite popular today. Up until the 1890s all earrings were made for pierced ears. In 1894 the screw-back earring was invented, allowing women without pierced ears to wear earrings. The earring clip was patented in 1934 and by the 1940s became the preferred earring style for women without pierced ears. The clip mechanism has been improved over time and clip earrings are still quite popular today.

Vintage Jewelry Hardware: Earring Clasps
Vintage Jewelry Hardware: Leverback, Screwback, and Monet Specialty Earring Clips

Resources and Final Comments

I haven’t been able to locate a single web site with comprehensive information about vintage jewelry hardware. Rather, I’ve picked up bits and pieces of information from multiple sites. The Morning Glory Antiques Jewel Chat Findings page has some photos of basic antique and vintage jewelry findings. You can view it here: Morning Glory Antiques Jewel Chat Findings Page.

There are also a few vintage jewelry reference books that I can recommend:

Collecting Costume Jewelry 303Collecting Costume Jewelry 303: The Flip Side, Exploring Costume Jewelry from the Back, Identification and Value Guide
This wonderful and thorough reference book covers the collectible costume jewelry designs of 97 companies with over 1,200 photographs. The detailed close-up photos show hardware traits, construction elements, interesting stones, and signatures for each piece.
Jewelry Fixups: How to Clean, Repair, and Restore Your JewelryJewelry Fixups: How to Clean, Repair, and Restore Your Jewelry
An excellent reference for jewelry care and repair techniques, Jewelry Fixups also provides details about the construction and materials used in the jewelry designs of various eras. This information enables you to identify the age and composition of popular jewelry types and teaches you how to keep them looking like new. An essential reference for any jewelry owner.
Warman's Jewelry: Identification & Price GuideWarman’s Jewelry: Identification & Price Guide
This book offers significant historical information and lavish images of gorgeous jewelry. It covers both fine and costume jewelry from the 18th to 21st centuries. Eras include Late Georgian and Early, Mid, and Late Victorian. Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, and Edwardian. Includes manufacturer marks, historic time line, and glossary.

There are additional attributes that help to identify and date pieces. Other jewelry parts such as the metal, plating, stones, and bead characteristics can help determine the origin and age of jewelry. These are additional topics that I plan to write about in the future.

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Jewelry Patents: Find and Use them to Date Vintage Jewelry

Vintage Jewelry Patents by My Classic Jewelry

Introduction to Jewelry Patents

At one time, jewelry designs could not be copyrighted, so jewelry manufacturers protected their investment in their designs using patents. This process could sometimes take months, so once the patent design and specifications were submitted, companies would mark their jewelry “PAT. PEND.” or “DESIGN PAT. PEND.” (sometimes “DES. PAT. PEND.”) to indicate that the patent had been submitted and was pending approval. Once the patent was approved, companies could then stamp the patent number on the jewelry.

In some cases, a design was patented, but the jewelry may not have a patent stamp, as in this lovely 1941 Coro brooch. Later on, I’ll discuss how to locate a vintage jewelry patent when you don’t have the patent number.

Coro Pegasus 1941 Egg Basket Faux Moonstones Brooch
Coro Pegasus Egg Basket Faux Moonstones Brooch patented in 1941

Beginning in 1955, jewelry designs were allowed to be copyrighted, and jewelry companies could simply stamp their jewelry with the copyright symbol to protect the designs. Jewelry patents then ceased, because the patents were no longer needed.

Vintage jewelry patents are a wonderful way to date vintage jewelry that was created prior to 1955. The documents provide illustrations (which are works of art in themselves), and filing and issue dates.

Using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Site

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an extensive database of patents dating back to 1790. It’s a great way to locate vintage jewelry patents when you know the patent number. You can access it here: USPTO Online Patent Database.

In the “PATENTS” menu there is a “Patent Search” link, which displays the page shown in the image below:

US Patent and Trademark Office Site
US Patent and Trademark Office Site has an extensive Patents Database

Patents prior to 1976, which includes vintage jewelry patents, are scanned images in PDF format stored in the Full-Page Images database. Because they are images, you need to have the patent number to locate them. Click the “View Full-Page Images” link to enter the number.

US Patent and Trademark Office Database Full Page Images
Locating pre-1976 patents using the US Patent and Trademark Office Database Full Page Images

Note that Design patents, which includes vintage jewelry patents, must begin with the capital letter “D” followed by a 7-digit number. If your patent number is only 6-digits, add a leading zero, as shown in the illustration below. By the way, I tried using a lower-case “d,” but that didn’t work, so make sure to use a capital “D.”

US Patent and Trademark Full Page Images Database
Entering a patent number into the US Patent and Trademark Full Page Images Database

After entering the number, the first page of the patent document is displayed. You can use the arrow buttons or the links below the arrows to access specific pages. Most vintage jewelry patent documents have at least one illustration page and one page with specifications and signatures. You can also download the PDF file.

Patent on US Patent and Trademark Office Site
Patent on US Patent and Trademark Office Site

Downloading the Vintage Jewelry Patent File

Why would you want to download a jewelry patent document? Because patent documents are in the public domain, you can display them on your web site and/or blog, and/or share them on social media sites. Displaying or linking to a jewelry patent document in your sales listing immediately lets customers know that you are knowledgeable, and that the item in question was produced in a specific year.

Note: If another site has incorporated vintage jewelry patent documents into their own page design, you can’t simply copy their design and descriptive text – you’ll need to create your own design and description based on the original jewelry patent documents.

Before downloading the patent document, make sure to click the “Full Pages” button so that the entire document will be downloaded. Locate the PDF icon buttons at the bottom of the page, and click the Save icon to download the file.

Downloading a Jewelry Patent File
Downloading a Jewelry Patent PDF File from the US Patent and Trademark Office site

Naming the Downloaded File

I like to give all of my downloaded files descriptive names. It also helps to save files to a specific folder. For example, I knew that I would use the patent document shown above on my web site, so I downloaded it to folder where I work on my web site files. I named it “CoroPatentD0125170.PDF” (the .PDF extension is added automatically), so I know exactly which patent it is.

Using Google Patent Search to Locate Vintage Jewelry Patents

Another way to get information about a jewelry patent is to visit the Google Patents Search site at www.google.com/patents. Simply enter the patent number and the patent documents for that patent will be displayed. You can also download the PDF file with the patent documents.

Locating Jewelry Patents without a Patent Number

Sometimes it can be difficult to locate a particular patent in the USPTO database or on the Google Patent Search site. If your jewelry is marked “PAT. PEND.” you might think you are out of luck, but there are other sites that can help.

The two sites I like to use are JewelryPatents.com Online Jewelry Patents Database and VintageJewelryPatents.com.

These sites are designed to browse through lists of patents by company, which takes a bit longer. They are invaluable when you don’t have the patent number.

Vintage Jewelry Patents on JewelryPatents.com

The JewelryPatents.com site allows you to search for a vintage jewelry patent by text, a date range, and a range of patent numbers. As an example, I searched for “coro brooch” and scrolled through the page to locate my flower basket brooch.

Vintage Jewelry Patents on JewelryPatents.com
Locating a Vintage Jewelry Patent on JewelryPatents.com

Point to the patent number of any image, and you’ll be able to view the patent documents. You cannot, however, download the file.

Viewing a Jewelry Patent on JewelryPatents.com
Viewing a Jewelry Patent on JewelryPatents.com

In addition to the search feature, you can also browse by company and by category of jewelry.

Vintage Jewelry Patents on VintageJewelryPatents.com

Locating vintage jewelry patents on the Vintage Jewelry Patents site is a bit simpler. You select the company name, then select either the type of jewelry or the range of years. When the vintage jewelry patent illustration is displayed, you simply click the patent number to view the entire patent document.

Vintage Jewelry Patents on the VintageJewelryPatents.com Site
Vintage Jewelry Patents on the VintageJewelryPatents.com Site
Coro Patents on the VintageJewelryPatents.com Site
Virewing Coro Patents on the VintageJewelryPatents.com Site

Once you locate the image of the piece, click the patent number to view the vintage jewelry patent.

Viewing a Vintag Jewelry Patent on VintageJewelryPatents.com
Viewing a Vintag Jewelry Patent on VintageJewelryPatents.com

Some Final Notes About Vintage Jewelry Patents

In addition to patents for the jewelry designs, jewelry manufacturers also patented their clips, clasps, and other mechanisms. Since these are not considered designs, but functional objects, they continue to patent them even today. If you see a patent number on jewelry, you do need to research it, and not just assume that you have a piece of pre-1955 jewelry.

Recently, I acquired a lovely vintage Napier necklace and bracelet set that had only “Napier” and a patent number stamped on the clasps. There was no copyright symbol, so it’s safe to assume that the set was produced prior to 1955, right? Wrong! The set did seem very new to me, and when I looked up the patent number it was for the clasp, which was patented in 1988!

So one final tip – it pays to do your homework!

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

I hope this article has been helpful to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please click the comments link below this article to add your comments. To share this article, use the share buttons below. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

Thank you, Christine 🙂

Silver Jewelry Marks: Learn to Identify and Date Silver Jewelry

Vintage Silver Hallmarks

What are Silver Jewelry Marks?

Silver jewelry marks are the hallmarks found on silver jewelry to help identify the composition and source of the jewelry. At a minimum they include the purity marks that indicate the silver content, and can also include the maker’s mark (or signature). Silver jewelry marks can also include the region or town where the piece was made and/or dateletters to indicate the year when the piece was made.

American Silver Jewelry Marks

American silver jewelry marks are fairly simple, usually including a purity mark, and sometimes a maker’s mark. Because Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver, the common purity mark used today is “925.” Most vintage Sterling Silver pieces have the older marks: “STERLING,” “STER,” or “STG.” Some modern jewelry today will use “STERLING” either with “925” or without it, usually in conjunction with the maker’s mark.

For examples of American silver jewelry marks, see the first article in this series, Vintage Jewelry Marks: Help for Dating Your Vintage Jewelry

Resource: The 925-1000.com site has a very extensive database of silver marks from all over the world. For American silver marks visit this page:
American Silver Marks on www.925-1000.com.

To look up a maker’s mark, use the Alphabetical Listing by Maker’s Name by clicking a letter. You can also use the Pictorial Marks to locate symbols and the Initial Marks to identify initials used by a company when you don’t know the company name. Note that the database includes marks used on flatware and other silver items, so you may need to search a bit to locate the company you want.

Mexican Silver Jewelry Marks

Mexican silver jewelry marks usually include the “925” purity mark, and sometimes include “STERLING” as well. In addition, the jewelry will often be stamped “MEXICO” or “HECHO EN MEXICO” (MADE IN MEXICO). Older pieces may be simply signed “MEXICO SILVER.” Pieces stamped D.F. (for Distrito Federal) come from Mexico City.

Pieces from the Taxco region are often stamped “TAXCO” or sometimes simply with the letter “T” at the beginning of the signature. The second letter of the signature represents the initial of the last name of the artisan, and the number following is the sequential number assigned to that artisan. So “TB-188” indicates a Taxco artisan whose last name begins with the letter “B” who happens to be the 188th artisan who registered with the letter “B.”

Mexico Silver Jewelry Marks
Mexico Silver Marks from Taxco and Mexico D.F. (Mexico City)

Resources for Mexican Silver Marks

925-1000: Here is the section of 925-1000.com for Mexican Silver Marks: Mexican Silver Marks on www.925-1000.com

Lang Antiques’ Antique Jewelry University: Here is their list of Mexican Jewelry Maker’s Marks: Mexican Jewelry Maker’s Marks on Antique Jewelry University

British Silver Jewelry Marks

British silver jewelry marks are the most complex, as they include various letters and symbols. British hallmarks have been used for over 500 years and have changed over time. Hallmarks include a Standard or Purity Mark, a City or Town Mark, a Date Letter, a Duty Mark, and a Maker’s Mark. Not all pieces will have all of these marks.

The Standard (Purity) Mark is usually a symbol, that varies, depending on the region. The photo below shows examples of these symbols, as well as the most common Town Marks.

British Standard and Town Marks
Examples of British Standard (Purity) and Town Marks

The Date Letters are especially tricky, as the various towns used different lettering schemes to represent the years. After a complete set of letters was used, a new set began a different font. Luckily, you can find many photos and charts online that help decipher the dates. Just make sure you are using the chart for the town where your piece was made. There are now even phone apps for hallmarks. Just search for “British Hallmarks” on either your computer or phone app.

Glasgow Dateletters Chart
Chart with Glasgow Dateletters

Resources for British Silver Marks

925-1000 British Hallmarks: This page explains the hallmarks with photos of the most common marks. View it at: British Hallmarks

Silver Hallmarks: A U.K. site with an “English Silver Hallmarks” page that shows and explains the British marks. View it at: English Silver Hallmarks

Antique Silver: This U.K. site has several helpful pages, like this one with charts of Town Date Marks. See it here: Antique Silver Town and Date Marks

Scandinavian Silver Jewelry Marks

Scandinavian silver jewelry marks vary with the country. Swedish silver marks are similar to British silver marks, as they also have Town Marks and Dateletter Marks. Sweden uses one Dateletter chart, which makes things a bit easier. Norwegian and Danish silver marks usually include a Purity Mark and a Maker’s Mark. The examples shown in the photo below are from David Andersen in Norway, and Meka in Denmark.

Scandinavian Silver Jewelry Marks
David Anderson (Norway) and Meka (Denmark) Silver Marks

Resources for Scandinavian Silver Marks

925-1000 Swedish Hallmarks Page: This page has a chart with the Swedish Date Code Marks. View it here: Date Code Marks on Swedish Silver

925-1000 Danish Hallmarks Page: This page includes links to a Danish Hallmarks Overview, Danish Assay Marks, and Danish Makers’ Marks. See it at: Danish Hallmarks

925-1000 Norwegian Makers’ Marks Page: This section includes four pages of photos for many Norwegian Hallmarks. See it at: Norwegian Silver Makers’ Marks

925-1000 David Andersen Marks Page: This page shows the various marks used by the David Andersen company, established in Norway in 1876, and still producing jewelry today. See it at: David Andersen Hallmarks

Silver Jewelry Marks Used in Other Countries

It’s not possible to cover every country in a single article, but there are some good online resources to research silver jewelry marks in various countries.

925-1000 Guide to World Hallmarks: This page includes photos of typical hallmarks used in various countries. View it here at: Guide to World Hallmarks. In addition, their overview page has links to various international hallmark pages, including Austrian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and more. View it here at: 925-1000.com Overview Page

Modern Silver Magazine: This site has a helpful article written by Christie Romero in 1998 with information about French and European hallmarks, as well as hallmarks from other countries. Read it here at: Basic Hallmark Identification

Additional Resources

Please visit the My Classic Jewelry Resources page for a list of other helpful vintage jewelry sites. View it here: My Classic Jewelry Vintage Jewelry Resources. In addition, check out my list of recommended vintage jewelry books books at: My Classic Jewelry Recommended Reading

Here are a few hand-picked vintage silver jewelry books on Amazon:

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Jewelry Marks: Help for Dating Your Vintage Jewelry

Why Vintage Jewelry Marks are Important

Maybe you’ve just acquired some vintage jewelry from a family member or friend. Or you found some nice vintage jewelry at a yard or garage sale or at the thrift shop. Whether you plan to keep the jewelry as a family heirloom or would like to resell it, a knowledge of vintage jewelry marks will help you to identify and date it properly.

I often get requests from people asking for help with vintage jewelry they’ve acquired. Because it’s not possible to have a comprehensive discussion of how to identify and date vintage jewelry in a single article, this article is the first in a series, and will specifically address vintage jewelry marks. Future articles in this series will discuss how to date patented jewelry and jewelry without signatures and/or hallmarks.

Signatures vs. Hallmarks – What’s the Difference?

According to Lang Antiques’ Antique Jewelry University, the term “hallmark” refers to any stamps or marks on jewelry and usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Purity marks – indicates gold, silver, or other precious metal content
  • Maker’s marks – the firm or person responsible for guarantee of the purity mark (usually the firm or artist who manufactured the jewelry)
  • Dateletters – indicates when it was made
  • Town marks – indicates where it was made
  • Other marks (described below)

The photo below shows some of the most commonly seen vintage jewelry silver purity marks.

Vintage Jewelry Marks for Silver Purity
Marks commonly used in vintage silver jewelry

Purity marks for older silver pieces can differ from those commonly seen today. For example, most Sterling Silver Jewelry up until the 1940s era was usually stamped “STERLING” or “STER” or “STG.” The “925” mark did not come into common use until later. Some makers continue to use the “STERLING” mark in place of “925” even today.

Vintage jewelry from other countries may have European purity marks, such as “585” for 14K gold and “750” for 18K gold, as shown in the photo below.

Vintage Jewelry Marks for Gold Purity
Various gold purity marks commonly found on vintage and antique jewelry

A hallmark can also include other marks, such as:

  • Designer marks – used when multiple designers worked for the same firm
  • Tally marks – indicate the journeyman or artisan who actually created the piece
  • Retailer marks – a specific sales outlet, usually a large branded store
  • Duty marks – indicate that taxes have been paid on domestic pieces
  • Import and export marks – indicate that taxes have been paid or that items were exempt from taxes
  • Patent and inventory numbers – government or company issued numbers to protect and track jewelry designs

Vintage costume jewelry usually doesn’t have purity marks, but will often have a maker’s mark (commonly called the signature), and can sometimes have a retailer mark and/or patent or inventory marks. Patent numbers are especially helpful when dating older vintage jewelry, and will be covered in a separate article in this series.

Resources for Learning About Hallmarks

Antique Jewelry University: Lang Antiques features a section on their site named “Antique Jewelry University” with lots of useful information, such as this page discussing hallmarks: Hallmarks on Period Jewelry

925-1000: Described as the “Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks, and Makers Marks,” the 925-1000 site is the first place I go to research vintage silver jewelry marks. It includes silver marks from many countries and you can access it here: 925-1000 Silver Marks

Vintage Jewelry Marks: Changing with the Times

When learning how to date vintage jewelry, a maker’s mark (or signature) can be a big help, since most companies changed their signatures over time. As a general rule, signatures without a copyright symbol indicate the piece was manufactured prior to 1955. There are exceptions, however. Jewelry companies would often use up their supply of pre-stamped clasps and findings after switching to a new signature, so some pieces made soon after 1955 might not have copyright symbols.

A detailed study of vintage jewelry marks could fill multiple books, but to give some guidance we can use the Trifari company as an example. Trifari always signed its jewelry and was very diligent about protecting its designs. Prior to the change in the copyright law in 1955, the designs were patented. The most commonly seen vintage Trifari pieces have signatures from pre-1955 through the 1990s. In 2000 the company was bought by Liz Claiborne and production was moved overseas to create mass produced unsigned jewelry.

The photo below shows the various signatures you’ll find on Trifari vintage jewelry.

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Signatures
Various signatures for Trifari vintage jewelry from pre -1955 through the 1990s.

Resources for Learning About Vintage Jewelry Marks

Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks Resource: I’ve published a brief guide with photos that discusses various signagures for Trifari vintage jewelry. You can view it here: My Classic Jewelry Trifari Vintage Jewelry Marks Guide

Vintage Jewelry Marks Resource: You can search for “vintage jewelry marks” for information about the jewelry marks used by various jewelry companies. One site I like to use is Illusions Jewels’ “Researching Costume Jewelry” pages. They have an extensive library of jewelry marks located here: Researching Costume Jewelry. Just scroll down a little and click the letter of the alphabet for the company marks you wish to view.

Resources Page with All Links: If you’d like to have all of the resources mentioned in this article in one place, check out my Resources page: My Classic Jewelry Resources Page

Vintage Jewelry Reference Books

Another way to learn more about vintage jewelry is to read vintage jewelry books. In addition to learning about the history of vintage jewelry or particular designers, they also include wonderful photos, often with the vintage jewelry marks. I’ve accumulated a modest library of vintage jewelry reference books and have created a page on my site that lists some of the best, along with a brief summary for each one. Check it out here: My Classic Jewelry Vintage Jewelry Books

Coming Up

Future articles will discuss other aspects of dating vintage jewelry. Vintage jewelry patents provide a wonderful way to research and accurately date older vintage jewelry. I’m also planning an article describing how to date vintage jewelry that isn’t marked. I hope you’ll come back to read them, or use the form in the upper-right sidebar or at the very end of this page to subscribe to updates, and you’ll have the articles delivered to your inbox.

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

I’d love to hear your feedback. If you found this information helpful, or have any questions at all, please click the comment link below this article to add your comments. To share this article, use the share buttons below. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

Thank you, Christine 🙂

Recent Articles

Retro Vintage Jewelry: Wonderful Era and Style
Vintage Copper Jewelry Book Review – Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Lustre
Jewelry Glue for Quick Repairs of Your Vintage Jewelry
Napier Vintage Jewelry Information and Company History

Retro Vintage Jewelry: Wonderful Era and Style

Retro Vintage Jewelry Article Graphic

What is Retro Vintage Jewelry?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Retro as: “relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past: fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned” which indicates that all vintage jewelry could be called retro. In vintage jewelry circles, however, Retro has a more specific meaning relating to the jewelry of the 1940s and early 1950s.

Ronco Sterling Red Glass Stones Set
Ronco Sterling 1940s Vintage Retro Brooch with Earrings
Retro Sterling Wreath with Green Glass Flowers Brooch
Retro Sterling Wreath with Green Glass Flowers Brooch

What Makes Retro Vintage Jewelry Different?

World War II had a tremendous impact on society, culture, and politics worldwide. Its effects were also felt in the fashion of the era. Materials were rationed, so women’s clothing became more streamlined and simple, in keeping with the times. In the jewelry industry, this meant that the base metals commonly used in costume jewelry were not readily available, as they were needed for the war effort. As a result, jewelry manufacturers produced many Sterling Silver pieces. When a gold color was desired, Sterling pieces were coated with a Gold Vermeil finish.

Retro Vintage Goldtone Mesh Multi Color Rhinestones Necklace Earrings
Retro Goldtone Mesh Multi Color Rhinestones Necklace and Earrings
Vintage Retro Sterling Vermeil Blue Glass Flowers Brooch
1940s Vintage Retro Sterling Vermeil Blue Glass Flowers Brooch

Because the Retro jewelry era followed the Art Deco era of the 1930s, some Art Deco style elements are visible in Retro vintage jewelry, such as angular shapes, sparkling rhinestones, and some colored glass stones. Earlier Retro vintage jewelry pieces were dainty and delicate, but those soon gave way to designs that were larger and bolder than Art Deco pieces with bright, colorful stones. A few bold jewelry pieces could really dress up a wartime wardrobe.

Lots of Flowers

Floral themes were very popular, and can be seen in many Retro vintage jewelry pieces. Often large colored glass stones were used to simulate the flower petals, while the Sterling served as the leaves and stems. Sometimes smaller, clear rhinestones were used to embellish the larger, more colorful stones.

This video shows a vintage flower brooch from the early Retro era. Notice how feminine and delicate the brooch is, contrasted with the heavier, bold designs of later Retro pieces.

How to Identify True Retro Vintage Jewelry

Most, though not all, Retro vintage jewelry pieces were made of Sterling Silver and are stamped “STERLING” or “STER.” The “925” stamp did not come into use until much later. Although some artisan designs were engraved by hand, most pieces were stamped and machine made, reflecting the simplicity and economy of the times. Design standards, however, were very high. Manufacturers took great care that the quality of the jewelry reflected this, despite the scarcity of materials.

Since Retro vintage jewelry was produced so long ago, most pieces will show some “patina” – aging or tarnishing of the metal. It’s been said that studying the genuine is the best way to recognize an imitation. For that reason, I’ve included several photos of Retro vintage jewelry in this article. As you become more familiar with jewelry from this era, it will be easy for you to recognize a Retro vintage jewelry piece when you spot it at the garage sale, flea market, estate sale, or thrift shop.

Retro Vintage Jewelry in My Etsy Shop

If you’d like to familiarize yourself with various Retro vintage jewelry pieces, have a look at the collection in my Etsy shop. Just click the image below. Each listing has a detailed description and several close-up photos.

Retro Vintage Jewelry pieces
View Retro Vintage Jewelry pieces in my Etsy shop

Recommended Book

If you are interested in learning more about vintage and antique jewelry, check out the book Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry, by C Jeanenne Bell. It covers jewelry from the mid-1800s through the 1950s, with a chapter on the 1940s to 1950s Retro era. There are many beautiful color photos with information about how jewelry pieces were constructed during the various periods. View and/or purchase it here: Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry

Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry Book
Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry Book

I also have a Vintage Jewelry Books resource page, where you can read brief summaries of various vintage jewelry books: My Classic Jewelry Vintage Jewelry Books

Please Comment, Share, and Connect

I’d love to hear your feedback. Please click the comment link below this article to add your comments. Use the share buttons below to share this article. You can also use the Social Media buttons in the right sidebar to visit my pages.

Thank you, Christine 🙂

Vintage Copper Jewelry Book Review – Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Lustre

Copper Art Jewelry Book Review and Video

A Vintage Copper Jewelry Book for Collectors and Sellers

Most collectors and sellers of vintage jewelry have extensive libraries of reference books acquired over the years. Recommended by a friend, this vintage copper jewelry book, Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Luster, by Matthew L. Burkholz and Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan, is a wonderful addition to any vintage library. This hardcover book was published in 1992 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

The book discusses vintage copper jewelry from the mid 20th century, focusing on the premier copper jewelry designers of that time, Rebajes and Renoir. With over 300 color photographs of beautiful vintage copper jewelry pieces, the book also includes original art work, advertising, and identifying marks. Not just a reference book, you will thoroughly enjoy reading about the mid century era and the history and biographies of Francisco Rebajes and Jerry Fels of Renoir.

What You’ll Find in This Book

The book has four long chapters. The first is an introduction to copper art jewelry and gives an overview of the mid-century era as it relates to copper jewelry, which was wildly popular at that time. The second chapter gives an in-depth history of Francisco Rebajes and his company, and focuses on his unique style. The third chapter gives the background of Jerry Fels, founder of Renoir of California, with the history of that company. Although their styles were different, both were creative geniuses and the stories of these men and their companies would make a wonderful Hollywood movie.

Of course, there are beautiful photos of their stunning vintage copper jewelry pieces. Most are dated and/or identified by style name.

The last chapter covers other manufacturers of vintage copper jewelry and discusses kit made copper jewelry, which was very popular during this era. There’s also a bibliography, a price guide, and an index. In addition, there are various charts and lists sprinkled throughout the book.

See the Book in My Video

For a “hands-on” look at the book, view my video book review.

Why I Love This Book

I find this book to be an invaluable reference whenever I acquire a piece of vintage copper jewelry. Not only does it help me identify vintage copper jewelry pieces, but it also helps me learn what to look for when purchasing jewelry. There are so many wonderful pieces pictured, that just by browsing I can put things on my “wish list” or “be on the lookout” (BOLO) list whenever I shop for vintage jewelry. This book is a pleasure to read and use and has the most complete information about vintage copper jewelry you’ll find.

One of my favorite sections is a chart of small freehand drawings from Renoir that identify many of the designs they produced. This chart has more than once helped me to identify a piece that was not included in the beautiful photographs. You can see it in my video, above.

Although the price guide is a bit dated, as this book was published in 1992, it still gives a good idea of where a piece might fall on the price sale – moderate, higher end, or top of the line.

If you decide to purchase this book, I don’t think you’ll regret it – I never have. Every time I use this book I am so glad my friend recommended it, so now I’m passing the favor on to you.

Click here for purchasing information: Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Luster

If you’d like to learn more about vintage jewelry, check out the list of recommended books on my site: My Classic Jewelry List of Vintage Jewelry Books.

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Thank you, Christine 🙂

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