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Authenticating Vintage Jewellery


The Real Deal: Ensuring Authenticity in Vintage Jewellery


With over a decade of experience in curating, selling, and authenticating vintage jewellery, every piece I handle meets my high standards. Here’s an in-depth look at my authentication process:

Authenticating vintage jewellery is both an art and a science. I use a comprehensive process to confirm the authenticity of every item in my collection, examining various aspects from documentation to the physical characteristics of the piece.

The Importance of Official Documentation

Starting with official documentation is crucial in my authentication process. Original purchase receipts provide immediate verification of a piece’s origin and age. Additionally, care cards and maintenance logs for repairs or resizing offer valuable information. These documents not only confirm authenticity but also provide a detailed history of the piece, enhancing its value and narrative.

Decoding Hallmarks: Chanel, Dior, and More

Hallmarks are the unique identifiers of the jewellery world. Each fashion house has its own stamps and dating systems. For instance, Chanel’s hallmarks have evolved over the decades. Early pieces from the 1950s might feature simple "Chanel" stamps, while later items include more complex marks indicating the collection or year. I thoroughly analyse these marks, cross-referencing them with databases and catalogues to ensure authenticity. The style, placement, and details of the hallmark are scrutinised to confirm it matches the claimed era.

Understanding Patina

Patina refers to the natural wear and tear that develops over years of use and storage. It’s a critical indicator of authenticity because it’s almost impossible to fake convincingly. Scratches, discolouration, and the overall feel of the piece are evaluated. These signs of age and use add character and authenticity to the jewellery.

Analysing Metal Quality

In my costume jewellery collection, I primarily deal with gold or silver-plated pieces on high-quality base metals. The quality of the plating is a significant factor in my authentication process. I examine the colour, texture, and wear of the metal. For instance, a genuine designer vintage piece should maintain consistent plating quality over time. If necessary, I perform chemical tests to reveal the base metal under the plating, confirming its composition and treatment. The weight and feel of the metal are also crucial—authentic pieces have a heft and solidity that counterfeits often lack.

The Role of Stones

Stones in designer costume jewellery are usually non-precious but still beautiful. For example, Gripoix glass, a staple in vintage Chanel pieces, often contains tiny bubbles that are a hallmark of its handcrafted nature. These bubbles are a good indicator of authenticity. Older faux pearls also develop a specific lustre from years of wear. Chanel’s faux pearls, for instance, develop a unique sheen over decades. I scrutinise the setting of these stones, including the type of glue used, the precision of the setting, and the overall craftsmanship.

Comparing Fastenings

Fastenings are like hidden signatures of jewellery designers. Different designers have used various types of fixings, findings, and fastenings over the years, helping me pinpoint the era and verify authenticity. Common fastenings include the spring ring clasp, used since the early 20th century, and the lobster claw clasp, popular from the 1990s onward. Other notable fastenings are barrel clasps, box clasps, and hook clasps, each indicating different time periods and styles. Earring fastenings also provide clues: screw-back earrings were popular in the early to mid-20th century, while clip-on earrings became fashionable in the 1950s. Understanding these various fastenings and earring types helps me authenticate and date each unique item in my collection.

Understanding Jewellery Trends

Understanding the evolution of jewellery trends is crucial for authentication and appreciation of vintage pieces. Here’s an overview of each era:

  • 1960s: Bold Experimentation and Cultural Shifts The 1960s saw a dramatic shift from delicate styles to bold, experimental designs influenced by the Op Art and Pop Art movements. Materials like plastics and polymer clay became popular, often used in monochrome designs featuring black and white. Space motifs inspired by the moon landing were common, with pieces mimicking celestial bodies such as the sun, stars, and moon. The hippie movement brought natural materials like wood, feathers, and leather into vogue, with large, dangling earrings gaining popularity as ear piercing became socially acceptable. Designers also experimented with textured surfaces, creating gritty, crumpled, and hammered effects on gold jewellery.

  • 1970s: Nature and Freedom The 1970s continued the hippie influence, with handmade jewellery featuring natural materials and floral designs. Peace symbols and jangly ankle bracelets were emblematic of the counterculture movement, emphasising harmony with nature. Jewellery during this period often included beaded necklaces, large disco-inspired earrings, and boho-chic designs incorporating leather and hemp. The era also saw the use of bone and ivory carved into bracelets and necklaces, reflecting the broader societal shift towards environmental awareness and personal freedom.

  • 1980s: Extravagance and Celebrity Influence Jewellery in the 1980s was characterised by its extravagance and boldness, often influenced by Hollywood and celebrity culture. Imitation pearls, rhinestones, crystal, and cut glass were heavily used. Large hoop earrings, bangle bracelets, and dramatic brooches were in vogue. Gold, whether real or plated, was the dominant material, reflecting the decade's love for all things flashy and oversized. Statement pieces were the norm, with big necklaces and cocktail rings becoming essential accessories.

  • 1990s: Eclectic and Personal The 1990s saw a diverse range of jewellery styles, reflecting the decade's eclectic and experimental fashion sense. Neon colours, mood rings, and chokers became popular, alongside a resurgence of vintage styles like Art Deco, known for its bold geometric shapes and vibrant colours. Jewellery was highly personal and eclectic, with many people mixing and matching different styles to express their individuality. This period also embraced minimalism towards its end, with more understated designs starting to emerge.

  • Early 2000s: Bling and Boho-Chic The early 2000s were dominated by the "bling" culture of hip-hop, featuring large, flashy diamond and gold jewellery, including custom-made pieces and grills. At the same time, the boho-chic style brought back layered chains, beaded necklaces, and cuff bracelets, reflecting a more relaxed and natural aesthetic. Playful elements like hearts, flowers, butterflies, and fruit-shaped charms were common. Materials included gold, silver, and alternatives like acrylic and polymer. The decade saw a mix of bold and minimalist designs, catering to a wide range of tastes.

Seeking help

Consulting with antique dealers, jewellery appraisers, or gemologists can provide expert insights and authentication. Professionals can offer certificates of authenticity and detailed evaluations based on their extensive knowledge and experience.

There are also numerous online resources, forums, and websites dedicated to vintage jewellery identification and authentication. These platforms can provide valuable information and support. 

Trusting Your Intuition

After handling thousands of pieces, I have developed a sixth sense. This intuition, honed through extensive experience, is my secret weapon. The look, weight, and patina of a piece often tell me more than any document or hallmark ever could. This gut feeling, combined with all the above factors, ensures that every piece I offer is the real deal.

Good luck!


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