Appraising Antique Jewelry

With jewelry, “antique” means over one hundred years old. People often ask me how I know. The first give away is the cut of the stone. Stone cuts have evolved and over time, become more and more refined and some might think, more beautiful. With reading and experience, you become familiar with the evolution of stone cutting. Antique jewelry often includes stones that are asymmetrical, incompletely polished and “lumpy, bumpy.”

Methods of manufacturing have changed as well. The older the jewelry, the more likely it is to be handmade. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a pretty good generalization. If you think about it, when antique jewelry was made, we barely had electricity.

In the modern era, almost all jewelry is mass produced and looks machine made. They are cast or die struck and assembled. These may be organic looking, or geometric or they may be antique reproductions. As an appraiser, I need to know my stuff. I need to be able to separate an original antique from a modern reproduction. Whatever history a client can give me on a piece will help me more accurately appraise it and determine if it is indeed an antique.