If you're thinking of selling some old earrings, you might want to take a second look to see if you have gold scrap or valuable antiques. Below are three things to look at that may help date your items.
Examine the Fittings
Earrings have been around since the time of the Pharaohs and were fashion accessories for men and women. Up until the 1900s, pierced earrings were the only option. Earrings went through several design changes from the early 19th century through the middle of the 20th century. Fittings are the pieces that attach the earrings to the earlobes.
- In the early 1800s, earrings were held on by a simple loop that went through the earlobe at a downward angle. The loop curved down towards the back of the ear, preventing the earring from accidentally pulling out.
- Enhancements were made by adding hooks that would help hold the loop in place. Hinged ear wires came about in the 1880s, where the wire went into the back of the ear and came out the front to be fastened. This design was also altered to be used front to back. Screw pierced earrings also came out in the late 1800s. The post was a scored shaft and the fastener was a miniature "nut." These could be more easily adjusted for comfort.
- Clip earrings first arrived in the early 1900s. The earliest versions were modified hinged-loops that pressed tightly against the earlobe when closed. Later, a more comfortable, adjustable screw option was introduced. The wider clip back was patented in 1934.
- In the 1940s the French clip came out, using a thinner wire and giving the earring a more pierced look. That was modified in the 1950s to add a screw back to make the earrings more comfortable.
Look at the Materials
Antique jewelry is made from real metals, such as gold, silver and copper. Most of the precious and semi-precious stones were authentic. Strass, a clear glass that had a high lead content, was invented in the 1700s and, since it was easy to shape, was sometimes used. Shells, ivory, amber and enamel were also prevalent.
Victorian Hair Jewelry
One material that stands out is human hair. In the Victorian age, strands of a deceased loved one were woven into intricate designs and fashioned into earrings, bracelets and broaches. The jewelry was considered appropriate to wear with mourning dress, a subdued style of clothing worn after a death. Queen Victoria revived the practice in England when Prince Albert died in 1861. Many Victorians used patterns to create their own jewelry, just to be sure the hair used was from their deceased. The practice eventually trickled over to the United States.
Check Out the Cut of the Stones
If your jewelry has diamonds or other precious stones, look at the style of cut. Before the round brilliant cut was introduced in the early 20th century, simpler cuts, usually with fewer facets, were used. A facet is a highly polished plane on a gemstone.
Brilliant cut diamonds have 58 facets including the table and the cutlet. The table is the top of the stone that allows in natural light to create the sparkle. The cutlet, which is optional, is a tiny facet at the bottom of the diamond. If the cutlet is omitted, the bottom remains pointed. The facets are cut at precise angles to bring out the most fire, or sparkle, in a stone.
- The oldest of the antique diamond cuts is the single cut. It typically has 18 facets and a large table. This cut was first used in the 1300s.
- The rose cut can have between 3 and 24 facets. It has a dome-shaped top, rather than a table, and a flat bottom. In use since the 1500s, it was a popular option during Georgian and Victorian times.
- The old mine cut, also favored for Georgian and Victorian jewelry, was created in the 1700s. The diamond was more pillow-shaped than today's brilliant cut, with a small table and large cutlet.
- The old European cut preceded the brilliant cut. It also has 58 facets, including the small table and large cutlet of the mine cut, but the stone is round. This cut dates back to the 1800s and remained popular from the Victorian age through the Art Nouveau period of the early 20th century.
Now that you know how to identify antique earrings, you can check out a pawn shop online at a site like http://www.rmcoin.com to see if they buy antique jewelry.