- Written by Dr. Lori Verderame Dr. Lori Verderame
With Valentine’s Day celebrated this month, jewelry is on the minds of both givers and receivers.
One of the most popular and growing collecting categories is antique and vintage jewelry, particularly in precious metals like gold and silver.
Many collectors and resellers are looking for fine-gold jewelry from the 19th and 20th centuries at auctions and online. They are looking for jewelry pieces at thrift stores, yard sales, antiques shops, and estate sales, too.
These pieces are stunningly beautiful and highly sought-after in today’s very active jewelry market.
If you are a collector or reseller of antique or vintage jewelry, you need to know the many different international gold-purity marks that are found on both silver and gold jewelry. These marks can indicate time period or age and point to value.
Recognizing foreign marks will help treasure hunters find fine-jewelry pieces. For example, some pieces of jewelry that date to the mid- to late 19th century — also known as Victorian jewelry made during the years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) — are not marked the same way American jewelry pieces of the same era are marked.
In the Victorian period, some gold pieces from Great Britain were marked 15-karat gold or with the numbers 625. These British purity marks mean that a piece of gold jewelry is 62.5% pure gold or has a gold fineness measuring 15 karats.
For instance, this 15-karat gold mark can be found on this gold double-heart pin enhanced with gold links and seed pearls. I appraised this special pin at one of my antiques appraisal events during my nationwide tour.
The gold-and-seed pearl pin was a gift from HRH Queen Victoria herself and was owned by a relative of a lady-in-waiting to the queen, who gifted the pin in the late 1800s.
With its impressive provenance and the recent sale of Queen Victoria’s jewels at auction, this pin commanded a very high value on the antique-jewelry market.
Today, it is more difficult to find pieces of 15-karat gold jewelry. Why? Because 15-karat gold is a gold-purity standard that was discontinued in 1932. In the early 1930s, 14-karat gold became the gold standard for jewelry.
There two basic reasons for the switch from 15-karat gold to 14-karat gold. One is that 14-karat gold is somewhat more durable for everyday jewelry wear than 15-karat gold.
And, jewelry collectors are more attracted to the golden color of 14-karat gold when compared to 15-karat gold pieces, which have a mossy-green hue.
A piece of 15-karat gold jewelry has approximately 4% more pure gold than 14-karat gold. This difference impacts the color of 14-karat gold, which many collectors prefer.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide and appears on The Curse of Oak Island on History channel. Visit drloriv.com and youtube.com/drloriv or call (888) 431-1010.