Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Find Jewlery Treasures-Part 1-What Metal is That?

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.
Lastly, don’t turn up your nose at Brass.  It was used often in the earlier parts of the 20th century and even the 19th century.  It often has a darkened patina.  I have a large early 20th Century onyx drop that is set in rose gold onto a patterned brass setting.  The result is gorgeous
This is a beautiful example of a vintage brass piece with a light patina to it.  This is from Boyler PF Jewelry on Etsy.
Be sure to stop in at Sara's Etsy Shop, As You Like It Vintage  to more beautiful examples of vintage jewelry treasures you can find using her techniques!

27 comments:

  1. This is a really informative post! It's going into my bookmarks for future reference!

    ReplyDelete
  2. An excellent article and so well written! You've given great points on what to look for in metals when searching for vintage jewelry. Thanks so much for featuring our brass necklace!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great article. Thanks for sharing this helpful knowledge! Also, wonderful blog.

    Courtney
    www.stickylipgloss.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very interesting - I might stop by more garage sales now :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks a lot for your feedback! Its so fun to write this and pass on a little of what is essential about finding good vintage jewelry. Thanks, too, to Elise for letting me share.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great article! Many, many years ago I was in the jewelry manufacturing business (I wasn't the owner) and your article is spot on!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a great blog, Divine! You spent a lot of time being thorough, and the photos helped make your points ... great job :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great article! Thanks! :)
    Great blog! So I am now a follower of your blog.

    http://lissiedesign.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  9. I only knew about the .925 silver. Great information.

    I'm following you from http://linorstorecom.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow a lot of good information here. Thanks, Judy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great info coming from an expert! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great information. I'm going to start carrying a magnet around with me.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Useful and interesting information!
    Thanks.
    I followed your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I never knew any of this. Thanks for sharing it!

    ReplyDelete
  15. wow amazing pictures! and wonderful information! (i have been online hunting for an engagement ring on etsy and i was wondering about the metal today!)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I always struggle with figuring out the metals on vintage pieces! Thanks for the great information! Lovely examples as well!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Several metals I haven't even heard about. I love the Rhodium!

    Mandy from Inspired Designs
    http://heartstringsbyjanice.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  18. OMG, This was my favorite blog so far. Loved the information and the pictures as well. I am constantly at flea markets and this will definitely help me now!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, This is Sara who wrote this particular blog. I've had this responsible feeling all week and want to warn you about carrying a magnet with you. (This is to check that a metal is not silver.) Be careful that it doesn't get close to your wallet, or your car keys if they have those chips in them. A magnet might do nasty things to credit cards and your keys, like wipe them clean. At least mine does because its so strong. So put it in another pocket of your bag, or even in another part of your car and carry it in your pocket into the store. Then I'll start feeling better. Whew!
    Sara from As You Like It Vintage on Etsy.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Cool tips - thanks for sharing them! Following and looking forward tthe next posts cos I have a set and have no idea what they are - kinda feel like light copper or tin... I just liked the look of them :)

    ReplyDelete