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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Point to the patent number of any image, and you’ll be able to view the patent documents. You cannot, however, download the file.
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.
Once you locate the image of the piece, click the patent number to view the vintage jewelry patent.
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!
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Thank you, Christine 🙂