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4 Ways to Identify Antique and Vintage Jewelry

Annabelle / March 21, 2019

Maybe you’ve inherited something from your grandma, or you’ve recently been into thrift shops- you want to know more about your jewelry, and the only thing that you’re sure of is that it’s old.

But where to start? Well, check out our antique jewelry identification guide below.

What is Antique and Vintage Jewelry?

Vintage jewelry is jewelry that is at least 30 years old, while antique jewelry must be older than a century. This means that there are many different types of vintage and antique jewelry based on fashion trends, manufacturing styles, popular materials, and jewelry stamps.

4 Ways of Identification

1. Figure Out the Jewelry Style

One of the most telling ways to identify your jewelry is by its style, which can correspond to a specific time period or area. Here’s a brief breakdown of the most popular jewelry styles by era:

  • Georgian (1700-1830): As one of the oldest and still commercially available styles of jewelry, Georgian jewelry is named after the four kings that ruled England during this period. While this style tends to fluctuate due to the lengthy period of time, it is known for its elaborate designs, colorful precious gemstones, and love of yellow gold. Most pieces were part of a set that could include necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, brooches, and even crowns. Due to age, many of these pieces are quite expensive.
  • Victorian (1830-1900): Named after the reign of Queen Victoria, this style of jewelry was highly personal to the beloved queen, who was a style-setting icon of her time. During the first years of her marriage, a snake ring that was given to her by her husband, Prince Albert, became wildly popular. After his death, the public joined her method of mourning by wearing black jewelry, set with jet, onyx, and other somber gems such as garnets.
    Not everything was gloomy, however; Queen Victoria owned a bright and cheerful bracelet with enameled hearts, which inspired jewelers to experiment with enamel in their own creations. Other styles include acrostic jewelry, or jewelry that spelled out messages with the first letter of the types of stones: REGARDS (ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, diamond, and sapphire.) Towards the later part of the Victorian era, a fad for archaeology was responsible for the creation of Egyptian and Ancient Greek designs. The rise of the cameo, or a hard material carved into a portrait, is also attributed to the Victorian era.

    antique-jewelry-victorian

    This cute little snake ring has a pair of ruby eyes and a diamond head.

  • Edwardian (1900-1910): This style of jewelry refers to the name of King Edward VII, even though it continued for a period of time after his death. It carries over some of the Victorian era’s femininity with lacy and floral designs, but with a more simple touch. White gold and platinum were popular, as well as garland designs that incorporated bows and leaves.
    antique-jewelry-edwardian

    This beautiful filigree bow piece embodies the Edwardian aesthetic.

  • Art Nouveau: (1890-1910): Overlapping the Victorian and Edwardian styles, Art Nouveau jewelry is a very distinctive style that’s characterized by nature-inspired designs and smooth, sweeping curves. The colors are more muted and natural, including stones such as opal, amber, and moonstone. Beautifully sculpted pieces of ladies with flowing hair commonly appear in this era.
    antique-jewelry-art-nouveau

    This brass ring shows typical Art Nouveau detailing; note the nude woman and the flowing, organic lines.

  • Art Deco (1915-1935): If you’ve watched the Great Gatsby movie adaptation, you should have an inkling of what this style looks like! Art Deco pieces were bold and modern, to reflect the growing flapper power of the day. This style combines sharp, geometric shapes with bright gemstones like sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
    antique-jewelry-art-deco

    This white gold art deco ring is set with diamonds.

  • Retro (1930-1940): The Retro jewelry style was created during the war, when materials were scarce. As a result, synthetic and inexpensive materials became popular, such as plastic, rhinestones, and glass. This gave birth to costume jewelry, made popular by Elsa Schiaparelli and other high-end designers at the time.

In addition to these historical styles, there are also some regionally-specific types of jewelry:

  • Southwestern: Inspired and produced by Native American artisans and silversmiths, these designs are usually made out of sterling silver or leather, with turquoise, coral, mother-of-pearl, and malachite as common materials. Designs include feather motifs, stamped patterns, conchos, and indigenous art.
    vintage-jewelry-southwestern

    Two examples of southwestern rings.

  • Black Hills: Originating from the gold rush in South Dakota, Black Hills gold has a unique look due to its usage of different gold colors, including yellow, pink, and green. Grapevines and grape leaves make the designs distinctive and easily identifiable. In order for an item to be called Black Hills gold, it must be manufactured in South Dakota.
    vintage-jewelry-black-hills

    This Black Hills ring shows off the signature multicolored gold look, with grape leaves.

2. Take Note of Manufacturing Methods

While manufacturing methods drastically vary, certain components and details are very telltale when it comes to dating the jewelry. For instance, hand engraving is indicative of a piece dating at least to the 1900s, especially if it is on a signet ring. Incredibly intricate, small, and lacy filigree work, in combination with white gold or platinum, will often point to Edwardian or Art Deco jewelry. Even stones can be affected; machine stone cutting was introduced in the early 1900s, which created the round brilliant cut that is still the most popular diamond cut today. Prior to that, jewelry from previous eras were set with old, hand-cut gems, such as the rose cut for Georgian and Victorian jewelry and the European cut for Edwardian and Art Nouveau jewelry.

Countries have different standards for their metals as well, which will allow you to figure out where your item is from. As an example; the United States does not consider anything less than 10k (41.6%) gold to be considered gold jewelry. In the UK, however, 9k gold is very popular and this is a common indicator that the item was manufactured there.

antique-jewelry-engraving-signet

This beautiful signet ring was probably hand-engraved with the owner’s initials.

3. Spot Popular Materials

Aside from gemstones and metals, different materials were introduced to jewelry at certain points in time. A short list of these materials include:

  • Bakelite: The first synthetic plastic, bakelite was created in New York in 1907. Aside from its versatility in creating household implements, it was also used in jewelry due to its unique look and variety of colors, including transparency. Nowadays, it has become a popular collector’s item.
  • Camphor Glass: A type of glass made from hydrofluoric acid treatment in order to give it a frosted appearance. It first appeared in the late 1800s as a form of mourning jewelry, but eventually became mainstream. Typical pieces from the 1800s to early 1900s are framed with silver or white gold, with delicate filigree work and occasional marcasite or rhinestone accents.
    antique-jewelry-camphor-glass

    A vintage pendant made from camphor glass.

  • Paste: An old term for rhinestone, the material used to create paste stones has changed over time from rock crystals to crystal glass and plastic. This range of composition allows for further dating of the item, as earlier, antique jewelry pieces would contain hand-cut pieces of rock crystal paste instead of a more modern alternative such as plastic.
    antique-jewelry-earrings

    This beautiful pair of earrings was made from two century-old rhinestones.

  • Foil Opals: A simulated gemstone that was actually a piece of glass over a thin sheet of sparkly metal, in order to mimic the look of a natural opal. These were introduced in the late Victorian era, and are different from other synthetic opals that were made from plastic or sparkly glass. However, the term “foil opal” is now commonly used to refer to all faux opals. These stones are also popularly used in vintage costume jewelry, especially from Mexican manufacturers.
    vintage-jewelry-opal

    This piece, probably of Mexican origin, has a more contemporary foil opal.

  • Palladium: Palladium is a shiny silver-white metal that entered jewelry manufacturing during the 1930s, as platinum had been reserved for military use during the war. It is lighter than platinum, but retains its color much better than white gold, which has a tendency to turn yellow with wear. As a result, a piece of jewelry made from palladium will most likely date from the 1930s or later.
jewelry-ring-palladium

A modern palladium ring.

4. Look for Jewelry Stamps

Jewelry stamps or hallmarks on the piece often help determine an item’s origins, or even the year it was made. Some manufacturers were in operation up until a specific year, and other manufacturers change their company hallmark over time. Metal stamps, such as 14k, 18k, 925 (for sterling silver), and PLAT or 950 for platinum can also help you identify the material.

Country-specific hallmarks are also great for determining the item’s location of manufacturing. For instance, the United Kingdom has very well-established assay marks, or metal stamps and other symbols that indicate where the item was tested and certified for its metal content. There are four offices in the UK that are allowed to assay jewelry- London, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. Each of these offices have their own corresponding assay stamp (in order): a leopard’s head, a rose, an anchor, and a castle. You’ll find that every country has their own standards for marking items, and their own unique symbols.

antique-jewelry-british

This ring is made from 9k gold (37.5%) and has a clear Birmingham anchor stamp.

Revival Jewelry and Imitations:

Not all vintage or antique-looking jewelry is actually vintage or antique! Be careful of fakes or revival jewelry, which are pieces that emulate older jewelry styles. It can be difficult to tell, but cheaper materials are usually a dead giveaway. Taking it to an appraiser or a jeweler will also allow you to determine if the piece is legitimate or not.

antique-jewelry-revival

An Ancient Roman revival coin ring

Now you should be set to do some jewelry investigating on your own after reading this antique jewelry identification guide! Comment below if you have a cool piece you’d like to share, or let us know if you’re interested in vintage jewelry repair!

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Cathy Ferguson

I have markings on my ring that I don’t understand. After 10K is shows LC inside a symbol that looks like the superman shape and a small crown symbol inside a large letter C. What do these symbols mean.

Suzanne

My ring has a maple leaf in a square, then 583 , then 3in a triangle.

Cathy L. Watkins

This info was so helpful to me. I collect antique and vintage jewelry. I have over 2000 pieces and it amazes me at what i have. I have Marion Haskell, Hollycraft, etc. I also have some vintage wrist watches. I really would like to sell alot of it.

Reina MacDonald

Where r u located do u have pics of what u want to sell? I might be interested? U can email me at [email protected]

Lisa A Campbell

My mothers broche or pin I’ve had a long time. Light sliver or platinum light weight circle with leaves that you can extend out. Clear crystals or glass also in a circle. Beautiful peice. She was from Philidelphua but moved 1941 to St. Lois as a Rosie the Riveter.

Jen Laney

Whilst digging in the garden I have found a yellow gold ring which only bears the initials WG&S then next to that 18CT&PT. I assume this to be a mix of gold and platinum? There is no other hallmarking or reference to its age…any ideas?

Sara

I have a ring that has korea 8 on it i would like to know what kind of ring i have

Britney Messer

I have a beautiful ring that I can’t find any info on online! It only has 2 markings, 925 which means it’s sterling silver then it also has a letter D, capitalized and cursive! It’s got a beautiful amethyst emerald cut diamond! Any info on this? It looks vintage!

Samantha smith

I recently received a 925 with same capitol cursive D. But three round clear stones, the middle being the largest.
Have u found any recent update as to your original question here?

john

great

Sherri

Hi, I have a ring stamped ” Sterling” on the inside. Can you tell the age by this?

Matt

I have a ring that is stamped with 14Kb and other writing that has been worn off. Looks like it says DIA

Laura B

My mom gave me a ring that has a lot of filigree on the metal, 2 round stones (they are not the exact same size, but close) with 4 smaller diamonds each on the top and bottom, and 4 on the sides of different sizes, all of which surround the 2 middle larger diamonds. Is very detailed and dainty. My mom tells me she thinks it’s from early 1900s. There are no markings on the inside, I think they’ve worn off.

Rose

I recently bought an oval brooch with flowers painted the Porcelain … it has the numbers 904, c in a circle and stamp with a upside down U. I searched online via google photo search and found a similar looking one and made out the words 12 KT Gold Filled… there were some letters WINA which was blocked partially. Any idea about the origins of this brooch? Can you roughly date it? Thanks 🙂

Jenifer cabrera

My ring has FI 14k what does that mean

whitney newbern

i have a ring that has BL-10k stamped on the inside, does anyone know what that means??

Carol

I have a wedding ring set with markings, 14k, D008 and 032. It’s one oval centre diamond shanked by two oval diamonds, mostly white gold but has yellow gold on the settings of the shanked diamonds. It also has design cut outs and very small diamonds around each side of the band and two very small beads/balls. I have no history as I bought it on consignment. Any insight would be wonderful

Andrea Goodson

I have necklaces, bracelets and earrings from my grandmother that look incredible; one drop necklace has only a stamp DAVID and another piece I can make out (I think) MONE with maybe more. These pieces are incredibly made and still look new. How can I come their worth

Catherine

Hi there, we actually have an appraisal service here at Quick Jewelry Repairs. Here’s a link for that!
Jewelry Appraisal
Let me know if you have any other questions!

Avery

How old would an art-deco style ring be with seeds pearls, imperfectly-cut dark red (probably garnet) stones (one of them isn’t a perfect circle but the rest are a little more) and a 925 silver stamp be? It has a hollow front that the stones are set into with little bridging pieces on the sides and has no other markings.

Catherine

Hi there, not sure. It can be hard to tell with out a makers mark!

Jillian Rippel

i got a 10k opal ring from an antique shop, im haveing trouble figueing out the manufactur after the k theres a T then a triangle

Catherine

Hi there, I’m not having any luck finding which manufacturer that is but you can definitely try looking it up!

Paul Woodward

Can anyone help me with these markings on my grandfathers ring that was left to me thanks sure could use the help

D35796DC-ACAA-438C-ABD2-E75A425A4F4C.jpeg
Catherine

Hi there, that means its 10 karat gold and the other stamp is a makers mark!

Erin

Hi All. We inherited a trunk from my husband’s grandmother and this small piece was inside. I have no idea what it is. Can you help? Thanks!

IMG_3799.JPG
Catherine

Hi there, not sure what that is but it could probably be used as a pendant!

Sherry Vogan

Hi, I do have two similar pieces, but mine are midnight blue. It looks to be a hair pin. If you pull a small piece of hair back then lay the pin flat on your hair and twist, it intertwines your hair around and the more you twist the tighter it gets. If you get them in correctly with the gems evenly displayed they will look elegant and beautiful. Now taking them out is a whole different monster!

Bruce Jensen

Any thoughts on this ring. We Know nothing about it other than it was my father in laws. It says sterling 10K in side. There is another small circle stamp inside but I can’t make it out anything. There is a man and woman on face of ring. The man is wearing a helmet, a total of six fish (2 pairs, 2 singles), a ship on each side (3 mast) with a flag on each mast, what looks like a tree below each ship

20200927_142904~2.jpg
Hayley Cates

I have a watch that has “63 Italy” on the inside, and a cursive J. or L. hallmark. Then MK0585 and TUPE on the inside. It’s a solid gold woman’s rope watch with diamonds around the face. The gears are see through in the back with a glass cover. I’m trying to see where or who made this.

Sarah

I HAVE A RING THAT SAYS 38 750 OR 36 750. DOES TIS MEAN ANYTHING TO ANYONE?

Reina MacDonald

750 means 18k gold. If u have any diamonds on the ring the 36 could mean the clarity or size of the diamond. I’m not 100% sure what 36 means but I am 110% sure that a stamp of 750 indicates its 18k gold. Hope this helps a bit 🙂

Emilee Whitson

I have a ring the gem was changed out for an aquamarine gem. But the stamp on it say thailand 825 15. So it has 3 separate stamps upon it and the person who gave it to me said it was his grandmothers engagement ring.

The second ring i have is 14k and I cant figure out the gems that are in it. It has no other stamps so im confused on the Era and type ot could be I think it could be no more than a decade or 2 at most.

16070535727916869831147278403688.jpg
Reina MacDonald

An 825 stamp on jewelry indicates that the piece is made from gold and is 19 karats. 825 represents a purity rating of 82.5%, meaning that the piece contains more than 82% gold. Also it looks more like a K than a 15 to me. So
Your ring must be white gold.

Or it could say 925 and just the 9 is squashed making it look like an 8? Which would make it sterling silver But it does look like an 8…

Hope you figure it out 🙂

Paige

Hi I have a ring that is very old, gold

It says on the engraving
W.m.j 786. Then further along days 70

Kenneth Murray

Hi I’m Kenneth, and I’ve recently acquired a 10k gold millionaires club ring with the name REDKEN HANSEN. I’ve done some searching on the ring but nothing has came up. If anyone knows anything ABOUT this ring,please let me know.

Screenshot_20210103-181222_Mercari.jpg
Nicky

I would assume it’s to do with Sally Hansen redken the hair designer??? Big deal lady and products definitely a millionaire club status

Laura McCammon

I have my ggmothers initial charms brooch which is dated by chain of custody to late 1800’s, it has a conch shell as it’s “stone”, with what I believe is glass beads leading down to the initial charms. There are no marks. My problem with this is that my ggmother owned property in multiple states, all landlocked, so what is the significance of the shell??
Also, I have a beautiful beveled black stone bracelet with a fancy clasp. It’s marked “India 325”. Can you tell me anything about that? Thank you and thanks for the informative posts!

Ana

I have a ring that seems to be of Edwardian style. It only has a purity mark of PT900? Is this possible for an Edwardian ring or could it be a reproduction? The center stone is an old European cut diamond. I am in the US.

Gigi

I have a pair of old goldish hoop earrings that have a stamp on them that says Spain. I would just like to know more about them they are an old family heirloom of a family member that pasted away and my great grandmother would like to know more about them because it was her family’s only valuable that was kept in the family.

Gigi

These are the earrings it didn’t post last time

image.jpg
Katherine Patterson

my pendants have yc-74 on the back. does 74 mean the year?

Wauneda

I have a ring that looks antique it has 16 tiny pearls around 2 red ruby’s it is stamped 10k and in a square box is stamped SA what does that mean

Pauline

Really useful is there any reference books available

Roger Holdroyd

How can I identify if this ring is precious metal? It has SIL and 2 on the inside.
is it SIL jewellers in America?
the ring is cut in the ‘sparkly’ pattern and is D shaped.

image.jpg
Gretchen

I have a very old bracelet that says precious metal and looks like gold but I can’t find anything about what it might mean. Short of having it tested, I am asking for help here.

Veronica

I’m not sure of what the stone is. This ring is a sajen 925

image.jpg
Catherine

Hi Veronica, it looks like it could be a lapis! For a confirmed evaluation, I do suggest getting this appraised through us. Here’s a link with more info and how you can place an order. 🙂

https://quickjewelryrepairs.com/repair/appraisal/jewelry-appraisal/

Reina MacDonald

I thought lapis was blue with golden specks or chunks? I’ve never seen lapis with green before. Hhmmmm well ya learn something new everyday 🙂 lol

Sherry Webb

I was wondering about this ring what style anything really says s925 on inside not sure how to tell age

20210503_140458.jpg
Jess

i was wondering if any one could maybe tell the style just from the picture

chirag patel

I am too fond of jewellery. Loved your jewellery. Keep writing such so that i get to know more. Thanks for such amazing writeup.

Reina MacDonald

I have what I assume is a hand made Persian turquoise cluster dome ring with a stamp of 14A and another symbol please see attached picture.
When I tried to look up the symbol I could only find one and it stated it meant 1883? Has anyone seen 14A and this symbol before???
Please help.

Screenshot_20210113-150732_Gallery.jpg
M Peterson

I have a gold and turquoise ring that is also stamped 14A and I am unable to find any information regarding what 14A means. I hope someone can tell you what it means.

Sherry Schauer

I have a brooch that is gold, it is a leopard with black spots. The tail swivels and green stone eyes. On the back are 20 clear stones.
On the back the word “FLOVENZAO” is printed .
Any ideas?

Gaylene

Pure guess but could it be from Florence, or Venice Italy?

Tanya Streeter

Has anyone seen a locket like this? It is well made but no makers mark or metal marks. I received this from my neighbor when she passed.

IMG_20210626_214007339~2.jpg
Bec Tiz

Hiya, I have a gold bangle with only a number on it. It looks like R No 39257.
No other marks.

35914747-F41E-4314-B76D-685060B49AE5.jpeg
Shirley Buccini

What does “vintage D block” mean?

Chloe

I have a ring that SAYS DW 9CT AND HAS AN S5 in it what does this mean

Tasha

My mother has this ring and we can’t find any information about it. Any suggestions!

16268278229813356526983481030665.jpg
Catherine

Thanks for reaching out! I would suggest getting the pieces appraised, that way you know exactly what the piece is made from and how much it’s worth. We wouldn’t be able to tell what year it was made though, that’s a factor that is very hard to determine.

Appraisals with us are about $75 per item. Here is a link for that service if you’d like to place an order or need additional info on appraisals.

https://quickjewelryrepairs.com/repair/appraisal/jewelry-appraisal/

Krystle

I have a ring that’s gold with sharp etched lines all the way around the band with leaves on each side of a pearl shaped tigers eye in the center. I can’t seem to find anything about it online.

Jeff

Can anyone tell me what this is?

78539CF2-C883-43CD-BF55-E8CD9BD32CB2.jpeg
Jordan

This is the hook earring.

Agnieszka Potepa

I have a antique engagement ring which i believe is Edwardian as all i see inside ring is 1907 PLAT it has 3 stones unfortunately i have no clue what’s r they could anyone please help me with it i dont want to get robbed if its worth anything more than scrap

20210801_163224.jpg
Catherine

Hi There, I would suggest getting your item appraised so you know exactly what it’s made from an it’s value!

Here’s a link for our appraisal service. https://quickjewelryrepairs.com/repair/jewelry-appraisal/

Clayton jerry Kittleson

Please tell me or help me find out where this ring is from it only has one 925 stamp and I cannot find anything like it anywhere looks like it has three X’s and the diamond in the middle x

16280879099066378552423069193847.jpg

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