Vintage Silver Bracelet Buying Guide

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Vintage Silver Bracelet Buying Guide

Silver is a timeless precious metal, and for hundreds of years silver jewellery has adorned the arms, necks, and ears of women all over the world. While new pieces of silver jewellery are often sold in jewellery shops, true vintage pieces are only found either through estate sales, or online websites like eBay. Some buyers malign purchasing vintage silver, especially tarnished pieces that were not cared for properly, but the truth is that silver holds its value over time. Even tarnished pieces can be restored to their former brilliant glory with a little bit of silver polish, and a lot of elbow grease.

Furthermore, many vintage pieces are simply stunning, and it is impossible to find modern jewellery that can compare to some of the silver bracelets produced one hundred years ago. When buying vintage silver bracelets, customers need to select a type and style, and then carefully clean the item.

Types of Silver

Like gold, pure silver is a supremely soft metal, which makes it easy for the silversmith to shape. However, its softness can affect its durability, which is why pure silver pieces are typically rare. Silver plate has a thin coating of silver, around a metal alloy that rests underneath. While silver plate is popular in silverware and tableware, it is rarely seen in vintage jewellery. This is because jewellery makers usually use a higher grade silver that is mixed with a metal alloy for additional strength.

Sterling Silver

Most discerning silver jewellery is made from sterling silver. By definition, any piece of sterling silver must be at least 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent metal alloy. Copper is commonly selected as the preferred metal alloy to use with silver, giving it additional strength. However, both copper and silver oxidise, which means the surface of the jewellery reacts to the surrounding environment, slowly transforming from silver into silver sulphide. The process known as tarnishing, creates a black coating on the surface of the silver bracelet.

Fine Silver

True fine silver is made up 99.9 per cent pure silver, but this is typically only used to make bullion bars. In the vintage jewellery world, there are several types of silver that claim to be 'fine silver' because they are a grade higher than sterling silver.

Name

Per cent Pure Silver

Mark

Sterling Silver

92.5

925

Mexican Silver

95

950

Britannia Silver

95.8

958

Since these fine silvers use less copper, it takes longer to tarnish them than it does sterling silver. However, this is only true under the right conditions. Silver that is stored where it is exposed to moisture may tend to tarnish faster, regardless of the fact that it is fine silver, sterling silver, or silver plate.

Silver Jewellery Time Periods

Silver was used throughout the different time periods that cover the vintage and antique era as well as many others. Customers who want to purchase vintage jewellery need to understand how the art style of the time period affects their silver bracelets. Each era has its signature style and sought after pieces made by famous artisans. Understanding the different art movements between the eras helps buyers find the style of vintage jewellery they are looking for.

Victorian Era

The Victorian era lasted during the reign of Queen Victoria in England, stretching from 1837 to 1901. This was a time of great wealth for England, and most of the jewellery from this era uses gold as it was highly popular. Despite the fact that silver was considered a lesser metal, many jewellery makers did create silver bracelets. The Victorians rarely used silver plate for jewellery, and this is also true of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco time period as well. It is possible to find silver bangles from this time with a hinged clasp, a design that splits the bracelet in half to open and close it over the wrist. Charm bracelets were also popular during the Victorian era, including the still-popular puffy hearts charm design.

Art Nouveau

The goal of the Art Nouveau period, which lasted from 1895 and 1910 was to break down the barrier between so-called 'high art', painting and sculpture, and the applied arts, which was craft making. The result was intricate pieces of jewellery that focused less on wealth, like Victorian jewellery, and more on aesthetic principles. Famous examples include the dragonflies of Rene Lalique, usually seen on brooches or pins, but sometimes found on bracelets. This was also the era of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and any silver jewellery from him during this time is worth a small fortune.

Art Deco

Art Deco emerged on the heels of Art Nouveau, a time period stretching from 1915 until 1935. Jewellery from this time follows an eclectic style that represents everything Art Deco had to offer. This was the time period of a renewed focus on the Industrial Age, producing jewellery outlined in stark, geometrical patterns. But it was also the time of a renewed appreciation for the past following the discovery of King Tut's tomb, so it is common to see ancient motifs on Art Deco bracelets.

Caring for Vintage Silver Bracelets

In order for silver jewellery to look its best, it must be properly cared for and safely kept. Sometimes buyers might find a great deal on vintage silver jewellery that is in fact somewhat tarnished. While the tarnish looks bad, as long as there are no other defects, the bracelet can be cleaned to look as good as new. However, cleaning silver is somewhat tricky, though it is possible to do it at home.

Silver Polish

Silver polish both removes the tarnish from silver jewellery, and buffs its surface. It should always be applied with a very soft cloth, and used extremely carefully around any silver bracelets that have gemstones in them. This is because silver polish contains many chemicals that could actually harm some of the softer gemstones or disrupt their settings. In fact, the chemicals in silver polish are so strong that not only does it remove the layer of silver sulphide, it also takes off a layer of silver underneath.

Baking Soda

In contrast to the silver polish method, some owners choose to use baking soda to remove the tarnish from their silver. When the baking soda is mixed with salt and a small amount of water until it has the consistency of toothpaste, it can be gently rubbed over the silver jewellery using a sponge. Instead of taking off the uppermost layer of silver, this process actually galvanises the silver sulphide back into silver. However, there are a few issues one should note regarding this method. Only use it with sterling or fine silver, never silver plate. Furthermore, despite any directions to the contrary, never submerge the silver bracelet in water, especially if it has gemstones. Water can enter into small crevices and start to rust the silver, loosening the gemstone settings.

Buying Vintage Silver Bracelets on eBay

There is no better place to explore jewellery from the past than eBay. Thousands of auctions from all over the world offer vintage pieces from many different time periods, in hundreds of unique styles. Vintage jewellery, including silver bracelets, stands out from the rest due to its unique style. With eBay's gigantic selection, everyone can find a quality silver bracelet from a bygone era.

Searching for Vintage Silver Bracelets on eBay

The vintage section of eBay is absolutely enormous and impossible to navigate without using the search engine. If you want to see a wide sample of some of the pieces currently for available for auction, such as charm bracelets, type in 'vintage charm bracelets' into the search engine to return results from many different unique time periods. If you tend to gravitate towards a particular time period, such as Art Deco, then enter 'Art Deco bracelet' into the search engine. You can further narrow down the search by looking for silver bracelets with or without specific gemstones, such as a 'vintage diamond silver bracelet'.

Conclusion

Vintage silver bracelets represent the best work of artisans from long ago. Some pieces command top dollar prices, especially those made by big-name craftsmen. Other pieces are far more reasonably priced than others. eBay sells them all, allowing the buyer to explore all of the different silver bracelet auctions to find the one that best fits his or her needs. When it comes to shopping for silver bracelets, buyers need to understand what type of silver they are buying. They can also choose to buy from a specific time period, especially if they find multiple pieces of jewellery from a certain era quite attractive. Even older pieces of silver can be cleaned up and made to look brand new. Having a unique sense of style and fashion says a lot about one's personality. Find the right vintage silver bracelet with all of the easy-made tools that eBay has to offer. When it comes to silver bracelets, vintage styles can last forever with the proper research and caretaking.

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