Dr. Lori: Victorian jewelry market is as good as gold [antiques column] | Antiques

With Valentine’s Day being celebrated this month, jewelry is on the minds of both givers and receivers.

One of the most popular and growing collecting category is antique and vintage jewelry, particularly in precious metals like gold and silver jewelry. Many collectors and resellers are looking for fine gold jewelry from the 19th and 20th centuries at auctions and online. They are looking for jewelry pieces at thrift stores, yard sales, antiques shops and estate sales. These pieces are stunningly beautiful and highly sought after in today’s very active jewelry market.

If you are a collector or reseller of antique or vintage jewelry, you need to know the many different international gold purity marks that are found on both silver and gold jewelry. These marks can indicate time period or age and point to value.

Recognizing foreign marks will help treasure hunters find fine jewelry pieces. For example, some pieces of jewelry that date to the mid- to late 19th century, also known as Victorian jewelry made during the years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), are not marked the same way that American jewelry pieces of the same era are marked.

In the Victorian period, some gold pieces from Great Britain were marked 15-karat gold, or with the numbers 625. These British purity marks mean that a piece of gold jewelry is 62.5% pure gold, or has a gold fineness measuring 15 karats.

For instance, the 15-karat gold mark can be found on a gold double-heart pin, enhanced with gold links and seed pearls. I appraised this special pin at one of my antiques appraisal events during my nationwide tour.

The gold-and-seed pearl pin was a gift from Queen Victoria herself. The gold double-heart pin was owned by a relative of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, and the pin was gifted from the queen in the late 1800s. With its impressive provenance and the recent sale of Queen Victoria’s jewels at auction, this pin commanded a very high value on the antique jewelry market.

Today, it is more difficult to find pieces of 15-karat gold jewelry. Why? Because 15-karat gold is a gold purity standard that was discontinued in 1932. In the early 1930s, 14-karat gold became the gold standard for jewelry.

There two basic reasons for the switch from 15-karat gold to 14-karat gold. One reason is that 14-karat gold is somewhat more durable for everyday jewelry wear than 15-karat gold. And, jewelry collectors are more attracted to the golden color of 14-karat gold when compared to 15-karat gold pieces, which have a mossy green hue.

A piece of 15-karat gold jewelry has approximately 4% more pure gold than 14-karat gold. This difference impacts the color of 14-karat gold, which many collectors prefer.

Lori Verderame, who holds a Ph.D. from Penn State, is an award-winning antiques appraiser and artifacts expert who appears on the History channel’s “The Curse of Oak Island.” She gives appraisal value information at her website DrLoriV.com, on www.Youtube.com/DrLoriV or at 888-431-1010.