Antique silver jewellery has a unique historic and aesthetic appeal that calls many people to become collectors of beautiful heirloom-quality pieces. Silver necklaces, in particular, exist in a variety of styles, from the Victorian era, the Edwardian period, and later the Art Deco period. The foremost concern of anyone buying antique silver necklaces is verifying the authenticity of the necklace. Verification can be done by anyone with a little knowledge.
It is important to know about the jewellery in different periods in order to check that the necklace does indeed match the period during which it was made. Secondly, it is useful to recognise and understand common hallmarks found on authentic sterling silver. Finally, a potential buyer should be able to judge the quality and craftsmanship of a piece before investing in any fine jewellery. Antique silver necklaces can be found at estate sales, some jewellery stores, and online. By educating oneself about different antique periods, sterling silver hallmarks, and necklace quality, shopping for an antique silver necklace can be enjoyable and easy.
Antique Jewellery Periods
Jewellery styles changed drastically over time following historical events and social change. Jewellery that is antique can be traced back to one of four periods. These periods include: the Georgian period, the Victorian period, the Edwardian period, and the Art Deco period. Jewellery made after 1930, is generally considered to be vintage but not antique. Some define antique jewellery as anything more than 100 years old.
The Georgian period, where jewellery is concerned, stretched from roughly 1714 to 1837. The period is named after the four successive 'Georges' who reigned in England during this time period. However, the styles of the jewellery from this period were influenced heavily by other countries, France in particular. Georgian silver jewellery is rare because many pieces were taken apart to create new pieces. The pieces that do still exist are a nice demonstration of extremely fine workmanship. They often have floral motifs and scroll designs. Intricate carvings are also found. All Georgian jewellery was handmade by skilled craftsman, and frequently included precious stones and gems.
There are three basic periods within the Victorian era which extended from 1837 to 1900. Early in the era, jewellery followed nature-inspired themes, similar to the Georgian period. Brooches and lockets with intricate carvings were in fashion. Styles changed with the death of Prince Consort Albert in 1861. Victorian fashion entered into a period of mourning. Designs became more sombre in tone and dark colours were used, along with gemstones like jet, garnet, and onyx. The Late Victorian period was marked by the use of more colourful stones like amethysts, opals, peridots, and rubies. As technology rapidly progressed, jewellery became mass-produced with machinery, instead of being hand-crafted. Silver and oxidised silver were common, especially after the discovery of silver in Virginia City, Nevada, in the 1860s. Stars, crescents, and Egyptian-inspired designs were popular.
The Edwardian era was technically from 1901 to 1910, but actually extended before and after this period. Jewellery from this period was marked by the use of diamonds and other light or brightly coloured stones. Designs were light-hearted and feminine, often made of very finely worked metals like platinum. Stars and ribbons were common motifs in jewellery.
Art Deco Era
Art Deco jewellery is characterised by bold geometric designs. Archaeological discoveries around the early 1900s made Egyptian themes popular and fashionable. Motifs from other cultures around the world were also introduced. Diamonds and platinum were the most popular although gold, silver, and other gemstones were also seen.
Sterling Silver Hallmarks on Antiques
Hallmarking is a practice in metalworking that dates back to England in the 1300s. It establishes the purity of a fine metal like gold or sterling silver. British silver was required to have four different marks, giving the standard of the metal, the town, date, and the maker. Much of the silver jewellery made in England and in the rest of Europe is hallmarked. A hallmark can greatly increase the value of a necklace, since it adds authenticity. However, delicate necklaces or those that weigh less than 7.78 grammes are not hallmarked. Larger pieces are often hallmarked with a full set of marks (three different marks) while smaller pieces may have fewer marks.
The maker's mark is made up of at least two letters within a shield. These letters were an abbreviation of the maker's name. Sometimes, the maker's mark was of the company through which the jewellery was sold. Rather than indicating exactly who made the piece, the maker's mark indicated the party held responsible for the purity of the metal.
Gold and silver are too soft in their purest forms to be used for jewellery. For this reason, they are mixed with different amounts of other metals to make them strong enough to withstand everyday use. The metal mark gives the purity of the metal, whether it is gold, silver, platinum, or palladium. Metal marks for gold are octagonal while marks for silver are ovals. The number within the oval can be 800, 925, 958, or 999. The standard for sterling silver is 925, indicating that the metal is 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent other metals.
A higher standard was used by some goldsmiths starting in 1697, with 95.8 per cent silver and 4.2 per cent other metals. This standard (shown as 958) still exists and is called the Britannia standard. 999 is, of course, the highest standard possible for silver, and denotes almost pure silver.
Assay Office Mark
The third part of a true hallmark is the mark of the assay office which confirmed the purity of the metal. These marks are connected to icons or idiosyncrasies from the towns where the offices were located. Some common marks in this category include the anchor (the Birmingham office), the Edinburgh castle, and the harp of Dublin. An assay office mark from a rare or obscure assay office can also increase the value of a necklace greatly.
Evaluating the Condition of an Antique Silver Necklace
Even when a necklace is clearly an authentic Victorian or Edwardian item, its condition needs to be appraised carefully to determine its value. Many factors go into appraising the value of an antique, including design, demand, rarity, and craftsmanship. These require a great deal of knowledge and study on the part of the serious collector. However, anyone who is simply looking for a beautiful necklace with a great deal of history can get by with checking a few key aspects of a necklace's condition.
The patina, or shine, of any antique silver jewellery should be as worn as one would expect for its age. A bright shiny patina may indicate that it has been mechanically polished, or that other processes have been used to cover the original material. These processes can hide repairs or alterations to antique silver. Corrosion, discolouration, bumps, and holes in the surface should also be taken into account. When in doubt with valuable necklaces, get the item appraised by a professional appraiser.
Clasp or Closure
Since the clasp is the part of a necklace which most frequently breaks off, it is also a good starting place to check for repairs. Make sure the clasp works properly and that it matches the rest of the necklace. Also check for soldering or other signs of an unskilled repair.
Ideally, one would know the entire repair history of a necklace. In practice, this is practically impossible. However, experienced jewellers can discover much about an antique silver necklace through close examination with a jeweller's loupe. Anyone interested in pursuing collecting as a hobby should buy guides about antique jewellery restoration, as well as a good-quality loupe. Repairs generally lower the value of an antique. Antique gold and silver can be repaired by brazing, a process that is slightly different from soldering. Soldering with lead or tin can ruin antique silver jewellery.
How to Buy an Antique Silver Necklace on eBay
Finding an authentic antique silver necklace on eBay is easy and safe with the right knowledge of the home page. eBay's seller feedback system ensures that reputable and professional jewellers can be found with a click of the mouse. To find antique silver necklaces on eBay, simply enter the search term 'antique silver necklace&' in the search box on any eBay page. Use the search criteria to narrow down the search.
Some criteria to filter by includes price, condition, period, and metal. By using these search options, you can quickly refine the search to include only the listings that interest you. You can also refine the search by seller. Choose 'Top-Rated Seller' to see only listings by highly rated sellers. These are sellers who have a long history of excellent customer service and fast shipping times.
Researching an Antique Silver Necklace on eBay
When buying antique silver necklaces, make sure to look carefully at all the pictures provided. Good sellers always post high-quality pictures, so do not settle for fuzzy or unclear photos of the item. Also make sure all sides of the item are shown and described in detail. A seller should also be glad to answer any questions you may have, in a prompt fashion.
Antique silver necklaces make wonderful gifts to pass on to younger generations. They can come from the Georgian period, the Victorian period, or the Edwardian and Art Deco periods. The Victorian era encompassed 64 years of prosperity, and can be divided into three parts as far as jewellery styles. It was during this time that silver necklaces began to be made in factories instead of by hand. Authentic silver is often hallmarked to verify the purity of the metal.
British silver hallmarks have three parts which are easily recognised by everyone who values the high quality of British silver. The condition of a necklace, apart from its date and purity, is also important to those shopping for antique silver. This can be evaluated by looking at the patina, the clasp, and the repairs that have been done to the piece. While there are many other factors that contribute to the selling price of an antique silver necklace, the main three points (period, hallmark, and condition) give a buyer a start in evaluating the value of a necklace.