Buying Vintage & Antique Diamond Earrings

Antique diamond earrings are popular with many people who feel nostalgic about the past, or who want a memento of days long gone when they would wear them for dinner on their favorite cruise liner or even when they first met their future husband. People have many different reasons for wanting jewelry of the past, whether it is in the form of antique amethyst earrings, vintage diamond earrings or some other form of jewelry such as a necklace, bracelet or ring.

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Many prefer the old styles simply because they look astounding, and a pair of sparkling antique diamond earrings would grace the lobes of any woman's ears, young or old. However, if you intend purchasing a pair, keep in mind two things:  first that the best antique earrings did not generally come by themselves but as a matching set with a bracelet or necklace, or often even both, and secondly, all that  glisters is not gold.

Not only that, but many antique earrings are costly, although not necessarily beyond the pocket of any discerning young man wanting to impress his belle with a distinctive gift that will add a sparkle to her appearance. Others prefer the beauty of amethysts, and antique amethyst earrings are also very popular these days. However, diamonds are a girl's best friend as they say, and you can't go wrong with a set of antique or vintage diamond earrings for that special occasion.

When buying them, there are a few things you should keep in mind, not the least of which is provenance. If a set comes with written provenance, confirming their authenticity, maker and date it was crafted and also its chain of custody, then you can be certain that you are purchasing the real McCoy - otherwise you are trusting on honesty.  However, there are tell-tale signs you could look for to confirm at least the age of the piece.

1.  The Hallmark

Most diamond earrings will be set in gold, so each piece should be hallmarked. The hallmark will inform you of the purity of the gold, the year the piece was assayed and the assay office, and therefore its age.  Then same will be the case if it is in solid silver.  Plated or 'rolled' items are not hallmarked, and unless the price warrants its purchase, should be avoided. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver, the rest usually copper, which is why it goes black as the copper and silver oxidize.  Plated antique gold diamond earrings may quickly stared to turn silver.

2.  Corrosion or Oxidation

Check for corrosion or oxidation. Gold does not rust or corrode, and nor does it take on the patina that silver does when it is oxidizing.  If the earrings are slightly blackened, or show traces of rust, then they are not gold and likely not what are claimed to be.  Silver is the basis of photographic paper that turns black on exposure to light.

3.  Maker's Signature or Mark

An antique diamond earring may have the maker's signature or mark somewhere on the piece, indicating when and by whom it was crafted.  The signature should also confirm the era in which it was produced and whether or not it is a genuine antique, vintage or modern

4. Ambiguous Descriptions

Check the description very carefully, particularly if you are buying vintage diamond earrings. The terms 'vintage style', 'vintage like' or even 'vintage era' do not mean that the earrings are true vintage.   Be aware of what the terms 'vintage' and 'antique' mean: there is no universally accepted definition of these terms.  Ambiguity is rife in the antiques trade.

5.  Definitions of Antique, Vintage and Estate

The definition of the term 'antique', such as in antique diamond earrings, depends a great deal on the type of article, and in terms of jewelry it is accepted by most that an antique must be at least 100 years old.  eBay defines it as originating from before 1930, and other claim 70 years to be the true definition, but as a rule of thumb you should consider 100 years as being antique.

Vintage and 'estate' are other terms used, of which only vintage has a generally accepted age - that being 25 years. However, you can find the term being used to describe a certain period in time, such as '1980s vintage'.  Diamond earrings, or even sapphire, emerald, ruby or amethyst earrings are regarded as being vintage of they are between 25 and 100 years old but another term has crept into American phraseology:  'estate'.

Estate diamond earrings can be of any age:   all the terms signify is that the piece has been left in somebody's estate, and so it could theoretically be anything from a day to thousands of years old. So if you see the term 'estate' being used, ignore it. It is meaningless, other than then seller has been left it in a will or inheritance.

When buying antique diamond earrings you should now have a better idea of what to look for in terms of proof of the claims being made for them.  They are popular items of jewelry and people purchase them as gifts, for their collection or simply because they like them and want to wear them. However, before you do so, take care to ensure that they are as described and that the hallmark (or lack of it), supports the claims made for it.