By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
I ran into a dear friend today while out doing errands. Knowing I write about vintage jewels, she flashed a beautiful old ring on her finger at me. “Is this a nice ring?” she asked. “It was my grandmother’s.”
The ring was set in 14K yellow gold. It had a bezel set, oval shaped, faceted amethyst in the center. The amethyst was deep purple (very desirable because as amethysts are exposed to sunlight, they get lighter and lighter in color) and it was about ¾ of an inch long. The bezel was surrounded by a lovely, thin, bright green enamel border. The gallery and shank of the ring were decorated with classical Greek Key motifs in black enamel. (If you aren’t familiar with ring terminology, See Talk About Your Rings Like A Pro.
“It’s lovely. It’s from the 1930s or earlier,” were the words that immediately popped out of my mouth at the site of that beautiful ring. But as I drove home, I started to fret. Had I been correct about the time period? Sometimes my memory’s not the best, even though I’ve been studying jewelry for years and years. (Yes, I’ll admit I’m not a spring chicken!)
I put my ring sleuth hat on as soon as I got home. My biggest fear was that the ring was even older than I had told my friend-perhaps Victorian, even. A quick look through my Victorian jewelry books squashed my fears. Victorian ladies’ rings were typically dainty, with seed pearls and smaller stones. This ring made a statement with its large ¾ inch long oval amethyst in the center, surrounded by a bright green band. It was impossible not to notice this bold ring on my friend’s hand! It was definitely not a dainty Victorian piece!
Then, I remembered that the colors bright green (or spring green) and purple were the favorite colors of King Edward and his bride, Queen Alexandra. They became King and Queen of England upon the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Hence the time span from 1901 to the start of World War I in 1914 was known as the Edwardian era. Was my friend’s ring Edwardian?
Recall my friend told me the ring was her grandmother’s. My friend is sixty. Doing a quick ballpark estimate, I assumed my friend’s mother had her at age 20. And I assumed that her grandmother also had her mother at age 20. That would make her mother 80 and her grandmother 100 years old today. 2016 – 100 = 1916. So grandma was born around 1916. I add 20 years (the time at which point she matured into a young lady) and get 1936; the Art Deco era. So the ring could not be Edwardian unless perhaps it was given to grandma by her mother. Since this scenario might be a possibility, I decide to turn to the Internet for further sleuthing.
And now a bit of warning: Not everything on the Internet is correct. Not every ring labeled Edwardian or Art Deco is really from those eras. Sure enough, to my horror, when I google “Edwardian enamel ring” and click on “images,” I get a hodge-podge of rings from all eras. The same thing happens when I click on “Art Deco ring.” What should I do next?
Turn back to the experts. In this case, I have volumes in my personal library that display ample examples of both Edwardian and Art Deco rings. I can therefore conclude that the ring was most likely made in the Art Deco era (1920-1939). So, thankfully, I did not mislead my friend about the age of her ring! But enough about me. I know you don’t have my jewelry library at your disposal.
So where should you look next?
2. Auction sites. I’m particular toBarnebys.com because you can find info on past and current jewelry auctions in higher end auction houses worldwide on the site. ( I am no longer getting paid promote them. It’s only because I find them fully fabulous in my quests for jewelry info!) If you are registered on the Barnebys site you can also receive free appraisals of jewelry and other items. You can check out the appraisal service here: free online appraisal.
3. Antique jewelry dealers. Just make sure they’ve been in the business for a good amount of time. Also, read any reviews if they are available to make sure the dealers are reputable.
Beware of searching on Ebay because items are often misrepresented. Only after you are thoroughly educated should you attempt to do jewelry time period searches on the site. Antique and vintage Jewelry is often incorrectly labeled and categorized. Trust me; I learned the hard way when I started out!
So there you have it! A few tips (ballpark age estimates, Internet research, jeweler sites, auction sites, and antiques dealer sites) to help you determine how old your ring is. I hope you enjoy the hunt!
(Dear readers: Please do not ask me to tell you how old your vintage or antique rings are unless they are from Uncas. And please only do so by emailing me directly: email@example.com.)
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Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems, jewelry and fashion. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques. Current projects include writing jewelry blogs and web articles for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her to write for you? Visit her website danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms and more information.
About This Blog:
The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!