This is a short introduction to our process of redesigning Antique Jewelry from Day Old Toys, our listings can easily be found by searching for DOT as we include that in every title. This is a guide for everyone interesting in purchasing Antique Jewelry to wear or just as an investment. Thanks for spending a few minutes with us.
1. Why do you use Antique Jewelry? Why not use new jewelry components?
It is a well-known fact that most items made over 100 years ago had more craftmanship and detail than a brand-new item will contain, this also applies to Jewelry. It has become too expensive to reproduce the quality today, period.
2. What parts do we most often replace with something new?
After a wire or loop has been manipulated three times it becomes weak. We assume that all chains have been twisted (process of opening and closing the loop) at least once in the original design. If we remove a loop and add it to a newer design that is three times. If a loop has tool marks then we assume it has been already manipulated several times and weak. That makes connecting loops the most often new item we replace on an Antique Piece of Jewelry because we want that item to be wearable. In the item shown in this section, the bale and connecting ring are new, the rest of this is Antique Sterling over 100 years old.
- How do we know when something is Antique?
Years of experience and exposure to as many different styles and periods of jewelry is the best way to learn to estimate the age of a piece. We say estimate because we are not certified Antique Dealers, so this is a best educated guess.
Wear is another common way of determining age. In our designs a lot of pocket watch chains are used, they were worn every day for decades so extensive smoothing is a good indicator that this is a real antique. Also many of the details of the design like the back of an item, how it feels, how it drapes is all indicators of the period of time it was constructed. A lot of antique chains have a tendency to twist during wear, modern chains do not as the construction methods are different.
The most common way to determine a brooch is vintage or antique is by the pin back – General rule of thumb a simple C-clasp is antique, a pin like the picture below is vintage ( generally less than 100 years old is our gauge of when something is considered antique). Also the amount and type of hallmarks is an indicator of age and are well documented on well-known websites. Don’t buy something unless you can see all sides clearly as there are plenty of people who unknowingly sell something as antique.
Earrings with clips are all vintage (unless it is a replacement part on an item that was originally antique). Antique Earrings will have screwbacks, wires or lever backs …vintage earrings will also have the same components but generally are slightly different in construction details. Hopefully you have good closeup pictures to view before purchase. Ask the buyer to provide more if possible.
- Which pieces of Antique Jewelry are more desirable? In other words a good investment.
One thing we have noticed is that more ornate detail a piece has then it tends to be more valuable. This most often translates to the amount of work and effort put into the piece. Even items that don’t have a lot of gold or silver content can still be very desirable. Rarity of an item will also determine the price. We see a lot of popularity in animal forms like snakes, dragons, birds, lions and mythical beasts.
For example –
A particular bird called a swallow is an important image because it has the message “Come Back to Me” , a lover’s request to another.
- How can one be sure an item is Antique?
The best way is to become familiar with hallmarks. Precious metal (gold and silver) hallmarks have been around for hundreds of years. To be absolutely certain of an item’s age and origin it needs to have more than one mark – most often it is the Maker’s Mark, Year and Place of Origin. Antique Silver from England (Great Britain) is one of the best ways to learn about hallmarks.
There are several free websites that are easily found that have hallmarks for precious metal well documented. One problem with Antique Jewelry is that the hallmark may not be readable due to wear. The wear along with a partial hallmark can be a way of documenting the piece and even be better than a complete hallmark. It is rare to find Antique Jewelry that doesn’t have wear especially items that were worn on a daily basis during its life. An Antique piece of Jewelry that was originally expensive may not have much wear because the original owner only used an item on a rare occasion but that is more of the exception than the rule.
- What if there aren’t any Hallmarks on an Antique Piece of Jewelry?
Most antique jewelry will NOT have any hallmarks at all. One reason is that most Antique Jewelry is NOT made of solid precious metal. It is most often what we as Americans call Gold Fill (a layer of solid gold over base metal) or in other countries it is a slightly different process call Rolled Gold (layer of gold over base metal). This is completely different than gold plate which is a process of layering gold with the result being a very thin (tiny amount of gold). Also gold plate wears off easily even with just cleaning a piece. Gold Fill will take years of use before showing any wear just simply due to the thick layer of precious metal.
- Why should I invest in Antique Gold Fill /Rolled Gold Jewelry?
Gold Fill is most often a rose color….which indicates that there is also copper present. Gold Fill over brass will most often be yellower in color. Green-Colored will have a small amount of platinum. A lot of Antique Jewelry has extensive brassing…that is where it takes on a darkened patina (brownish in color) due to long-term chemical interactions of the different metals. Once a Gold Fill or Rolled Gold piece has extensive brassing it is extremely hard to remove. Even if you can clean it off, it may return within minutes after being exposed to the air and look heavily tarnished just as before. Be wary if brassing is evident throughout the piece and it is being advertised as solid gold. All jewelry even precious metal tarnishes or oxidizes when exposed to the air, the higher the karat of solid gold on an Antique piece the longer amount of time is needed before tarnishing is evident to the unaided eye.
The image below shows what Brassing usually looks like on a piece of Antique Jewelry. That brown patch on the left as compared to the one on the right. There is probably also gold wear in this picture which is where the underlying base metal (non-precious) is now exposed to the air and will tarnish quickly after polishing. If you see an Antique Item that is extremely shiny assume it has been polished or even replated. We have seen recently Antique Jewelry pieces that has been replated without disclosing that the treatment has been done. Be wary of any piece that looks too bright and shiny with no mention of treatment. Antique Jewelry that has been polished will have a softer shine than a piece that has been replated.
Polishing will most often remove gold plating….sometimes you can just rub it off with your finger! This means that piece will have to be replated to bring back the shiny polish surface.
- Enjoy Antique Jewelry by Making it Wearable Again
It is hard to enjoy a piece if it is locked away in a vault somewhere. Yes, an expensive item should be keep safe to maintain its investment value. That is why we invest and design with Antique Pocket Watch Chains as they were originally made to last for decades with daily wear.
Don’t stick with only a single style….anything goes this day. There are many great design periods in Antique Jewelry – Etruscan, Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian and Art Deco. We mix the different styles as long as the resulting piece maintains design integrity in terms of a balanced composition.
It should have balance in color, similar weight on chain components and also fit your sense of style. Make sure it drapes well…yes that piece may look great as it is pictured when the best features are highlighted. Have they shown how it looks like it is being worn? As other people will see it on you! If a piece is too light on one side than the other it won’t drape correctly, it will only hang off in the most awkward ways.
We design new styles never seen before just so that it becomes a balanced composition. In the following example the chains are completely different but the Tbar and charm on the lighter side makes it balanced in form and weight.
- Don’t buy Junk or Trash
As time has gone by…..we have spent more on Antique Jewelry than ever before. It is becoming rarer every day by the sheer fact it is already Antique. So it makes sense not to purchase what is only good for scrap. We may take a gamble on a piece when it isn’t really clear the age or material but the seller vouches for the condition. Lots of sellers don’t have the experience, the right camera or ability to correctly describe an Antique piece. If it looks like junk in the picture more than likely you won’t be able to make it look better, this is especially true for Vintage pieces.
It is extremely hard to replace used gemstones, Intaglios or other carved pieces. Soldering takes heat and that may crack the mounting and/or the stone itself. It makes sense that there are less jewelers these days that can fix these Antique pieces so it is expensive to have custom work done. So go ahead and spend more money to get the nicer Antique piece that is already in wearable condition.
We don’t really try to restore (as that takes equipment and time we don’t have to invest) but make it a wearable piece to be enjoyed by a newer generation. Be wary of lockets that don’t close or other types of mechanical problems as these are very hard to fix. A little bit of tarnish and wear is normal so don’t shy away from a piece because of small flaws. If that piece is perfect then why is the price so low?
- How to Best Clean Antique Jewelry?
Most Antique Jewelry has many years of wear so you may see a thick oily layer and body cells, yuck! Plus the fact that smoking was very common for decades these pieces actually become filthy. We recommend using the powder Bon Ami cleanser plus a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water with a used toothbrush to make it wearable again. Be aware that this cleaning won’t remove heavy tarnish or brassing. Also be gentle with the brush so that you don’t accidentally remove any loose stones.
Your best friend is a good jewelry polishing cloth to remove as much of the tarnish as possible. It does take some work to get it as tarnish-free as possible. It is also the safest method of cleaning Antique Jewelry. We also recommended cleaning with a baby wipe before storing, one that is free of perfumes and dyes. The baby wipe removes your oils and any skin cells that have accumulated.
Store your pieces with Anti-Tarnish Tabs in a sealed environment. You are trying to remove as much air as possible as that is what causes the tarnish. Don’t store uncleaned items sealed tightly as bad odors will accumulate.
Patina will come off on your clothes so be careful wearing a tarnished piece with light-colored clothing. We will oxidize a piece and then seal it so that the patina doesn’t come off during normal wear.
We also recommend replacing all (unmarked metal) earring wires with new to be sure they are hypoallergenic, antique metals didn’t adhere to the same strict practices as today.