Dr. Lori: The 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 collectible categories is antique and vintage jewelry, especially in precious metals like gold and silver jewelry. Many collectors and dealers seek fine gold jewelry from the 19th and 20th centuries at auctions and online. They look for jewelry at thrift stores, garage sales, antique shops and estate sales. These pieces are incredibly beautiful and highly sought after in today’s busy jewelry market.

If you are a collector or dealer of antique or vintage jewelry, you should be aware of the many international gold purity marks found on silver and gold jewelry. These marks can indicate a period or an age and indicate a value.

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

In Victorian times, some gold coins from Britain were marked with 15 karat gold, or with the numbers 625. These British purity marks mean that a piece of gold jewelery is 62.5% pure gold or has a fineness of 15 carat gold.

For example, the 15-karat gold hallmark is found on a double heart gold brooch, accented with gold links and seed beads. I appraised this special brooch at one of my antique appraisal events on my national tour.

The gold and seed bead pin was a gift from Queen Victoria herself. The gold double-heart lapel pin belonged to a relative of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, and the lapel pin was a gift from the Queen in the late 1800s. With its impressive provenance and recent sale to auction of Queen Victoria’s Jewels, this pin has acquired a very high value in the antique jewelery market.

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

There are two basic reasons for switching from 15 karat gold to 14 karat gold. One reason is that 14 karat gold is a bit more durable for everyday jewelry than 15 karat gold. And, jewelry collectors are more drawn to the golden color of 14k gold compared to 15k gold pieces, which have a moss green hue.

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

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


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