This is Part 1 of Sara's article. If you enjoyed the article and found it helpful, please comment so I can let her know.
Whenever I go to a garage sale or thrift store it seems I gather an audience. I think it’s my glee at finding the treasures. Here are a few of my tricks:
We all know to look for the metal content. It can hide! Get your loupe and look everywhere. Look on the back, inside the bale, inside curves or settings. Don’t give up!
|This is a loupe. It is a magnifying glass that fits right in your eye. The professional kind can be very expensive but I bought a whole set for only $5 at Harbor Freight.|
If you see .925, that means it is sterling. Be careful of those clasps on necklaces or bracelets don’t assume that because the clasp is marked, the chain is sterling too. The chains may not be sterling -- only what is marked. If you find “Italy” or “Mexico”, so what? Only .925, sterling, ster., a lion for England, a French “Poicon” (a head of a man) is sure to be sterling silver. A trick: sterling is NOT attracted to magnets. If your metal moves towards the magnet, it is NOT sterling silver.
|This is the lion mark for British Sterling Silver|
You may also find something that is gold in color but says .925 or sterling. If you do, you are very lucky because you have vermeil (vair-may), which is sterling silver coated with gold. Often old brooches will be gold on the front and silver (the gold worn off) on the back.
|This is a stunning example of vintage Gold Vermiel|
Gold as you know comes in different purities. It can be 10K, 14K, 18K or close to pure which is 24K. If it has a G.F. after it watch out! It is gold filled, which is a gold sandwich. H.G.E. is gold electroplate - a zap of gold onto another kind of metal. You can often tell if something is gold plated because the gold will wear off on the edges and other places. That is not bad, just be aware so you don’t pay gold prices for something that is not all gold.
Lots of pieces made in the early to mid part of the 20th century were made with “pot metal” -- whatever they threw into the pot. The metal looks kind of dull and is soft. Dress or fur clips, dress buckles, earrings all come to mind. These can be quite wonderful and a bargain too. You don’t have to have a pure metal. Look at the piece as a whole.
|A lovely example of a pot metal piece. Nothing shabby about this gem.|
One of my favorites metals is Rhodium. It is rarely marked, but with practice you’ll spot it in a flash. Rhodium is in the same family as platinum, is extremely hard and durable, and has a silver luster and brightness that rarely comes off. It came into use in the 1950s mostly on those great linked choker necklaces and bracelets with inset thermoset and/or rhinestones. Many earrings were made with it as well. Most of the better costume jewelry houses used it.
|No wonder Rhodium is one of Sara's favorite metals. This is an example of a vintage Rhodium piece from Bajan Lizard.|
|This is a beautiful example of a vintage brass piece with a light patina to it. This is from Boyler PF Jewelry on Etsy.|