One of the most popular and growing collecting category is antique jewelry, particularly gold jewelry. Many collectors and resellers are looking for fine gold jewelry from the 19th Century. They are looking for it at thrift stores, yard sales, antiques shops, estate sales, etc. These pieces are stunningly beautiful and highly sought after.
It is very important, if you are a collector or reseller of antique or vintage jewelry, that you know the many different international gold purity marks that may be found on gold jewelry. Especially when collecting antique or vintage fine jewelry, gold marks indicate value and time-period.
Appraising Queen Victoria’s Pin
Some pieces of gold jewelry that date to the Victorian period, that is the time period when Queen Victoria reigned, circa 1837-1901, are not marked the same way that American gold jewelry from that same time period is marked. Knowing the difference and recognizing the marks is necessary if you want to collect antique pieces. In the Victorian period, gold pieces from Great Britain were marked 15 karat gold or marked with the numbers 625. In Great Britain, 15 karats and 625 are both purity marks on gold that were used in the jewelry business. The 15 karat gold mark or the 625 numerical mark on a piece of gold jewelry means that the piece is 62.5% pure gold or 15 karats. This is a fineness or purity mark that has been used in Great Britain for years. The 15 karat gold mark is not the same mark that is used on either 14 karat or 18 karat gold pieces as these purity marks are typically used in the United States.
In the late Victorian period or the late 1800s, the 15 karat gold jewelry fineness mark was commonly traded in Great Britain. It was used on this gold double heart pin with seed pearls that I appraised at my antiques appraisal event which the current owner acquired from a relative who was a lady in waiting to Queen Victoria in the late 1800s. An amazing appraisal which was gold of 15 karats. Back then, 15 karat gold pieces were widely collected and held in high esteem; some even part of the Queen’s personal collection.
Today, it is harder to find pieces of 15 karat gold jewelry. While they do come to market online occasionally, they are not commonly bought and sold. Why? Because 15 karat gold is a gold purity standard that was discontinued in 1932. So, if you find a piece of 15 karat gold jewelry then you automatically know by its mark that it dates to the period between the mid to late 19th Century until 1932.
In the early 1930s, one gold purity mark replaced the other. In America, the gold standard of 14 karat gold pushed out the British 15 karat gold requirement and more people purchased 14 karat gold pieces for a few reasons. Mainly, 14 karat gold jewelry came to replace 15 karat gold jewelry because 14 karat gold is somewhat more durable for everyday jewelry wear than 15 karat gold. Also, people were attracted to the American’s 14 karat gold pieces because of the jewelry’s color differences.
Color is King
Color is a trait that impacts gold jewelry value. There is an obvious difference between the color of 14 and 15 karat gold jewelry. A piece of 14 karat gold jewelry is pale gold in color and can look slightly moss green, too. A piece of 15 karat gold jewelry has approximately 4% more pure gold than 14 karat gold and it has a yellow gold color that many collectors like, especially in antique and collectible pieces.
Images: (Photo credit: Staff of www.DrLoriV.com)