Tag Archive | fakes

Celtic inspired and Scottish style agate glass costume jewellery

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch info

Celtic inspired and Scottish glass agate costume jewellery is very distinctive , with the designs often based on earlier Victorian and pre-antiquity pieces. Made from glass stones (created to imitate the agates) which are set into non-precious mixed metal, they are a beautiful mix of intricate patterns and bold statement features.

Notable makers are Miracle and Heathergems (who ingeniously use compressed real heather found on the Scottish moors to create stones,) though collectors might also come across vintage producers no longer in business, such as Jacobite and Hollywood; look for ‘signatures’ and makers stamps on the back of the jewellery as often (but not always) jewellery might be signed.

Telling the difference between modern Celtic inspired and Scottish costume jewellery and older ‘real’ antique  agate jewellery can be tricky at first. As a general rule, antiques tend to be more delicate and intricate in nature; look for fine etching, flush stone settings and top quality scroll patterns. T-bar pins and long pins are a sign of antique brooches too (see here for my guide to dating antique brooches for more info). Antique Celtic inspired and Scottish jewellery is made from real agates and gemstones.

How to id identify antique vintage scottish agate jewellery and costume jewelry

ABOVE: a real circa 1870s Victorian antique Scottish agate sterling silver brooch. Notice the quality flush settings of the agate stones (each one from a part of the Scottish coastline), intricate scroll work around the sides, and long pin which sticks out from the side of the brooch.

 

More modern Scottish costume jewellery dates from circa 1950s to today, and is usually made from glass, enamel or other imitation ‘stones’. The pieces tend to be much chunkier, and often include thistles and Celtic knot work patterns (surprisingly, real Victorian antique Celtic and Scottish jewellery rarely shows thistles or Celtic knot patterns, instead using popular Victorian era scroll patterns of the time instead).

 

How to id identify real antique vs costume faux Scottish jewelry

ABOVE: a more modern costume jewellery circa 1980s glass agate brooch. Notice the chunky stone settings, Celtic patterns and ‘mottled’ stone colours of the glass (which is trying to imitate agates.

 

Here are some of my favourite Celtic inspired and Scottish costume jewellery designs:

 

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Beautiful simple Celtic cross brooch, with brown banded glass stone, made circa 1980s. A sign of more modern Celtic inspired and Scottish jewellery is the use of the cross in the design, along with Celtic patterns.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Some costume Scottish or Celtic inspired brooches do have gemstones set into them (such as this quartz), though note the metal is still mixed/non-precious, as seen in this lovely modern brooch.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Gorgeous circa 1970s Scottish inspired brooch. Whilst the patterns are intricate, the stones (made from glass) are glued in quite crudely, and not flush set.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Unusual Celtic glass agate brooch, set into imitation gold colour metal.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Chunky, bold and vivid colourful design – a hallmark of more modern Scottish agate glass inspired brooches.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Stunning circa 1950s glass stone brooch.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Lovely penannular style brooch, made from mixed metal and glass. Genuine penannular brooches are a type of cloak fastener rather than decoration brooch – though note the costume jewellery designs (such as this one) are decoration only, and don’t work!

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Magnificent Scottish glass agate costume jewellery brooch, set in bronze colour metal.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Whilst brooches are the most popular type of Scottish and Celtic inspired costume jewellery, pendants, bracelets and rings are made too.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Outstanding and rare design huge Celtic costume jewellery brooch, made with orange speckled glass stones and set into pewter tone metal.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery cross pendant necklace

Lovely glass agate cross pendant

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Unusual black glass agate costume brooch

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery cross bracelet

Whilst brooches are the most popular type of Scottish and Celtic costume jewellery, pendants, bracelets and rings are made too.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery earrings

Gorgeous little Scottish thistle costume jewellery earrings, with glass ‘amber’ flowers.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Lovely Heathergems stone thistle brooch. You can learn more about the amazing way heather flowers are turned into Heathergems jewellery here.

vintage modern Celtic Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Stunning thistle design Scottish glass agate brooch

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Rare fan posy design Scottish and Celtic inspired brooch – note the good quality faux bloodstones, which have been made out of glass

vintage modern Celtic Scottish agate glass costume jewellery pendant cross necklace

Huge Celtic glass agate cross pendant necklace

 

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Very unusual circa 1960s modernist Cetic inspired brooch, with green marble stone. There is a signature to this piece but it’s an unknown maker.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Detail of the above brooch – this is the signature to this piece but it’s an unknown maker.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Vintage circa 1960s Scottish Celtic inspired pendant, made from glass stones, and signed ‘Hollywood’ on the back. Hollywood were a well known costume jewellery makers during the mid 20th Century.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Stunning pre-antiquity-inspired modern Celtic brooch made with brown glass stones in bronze tone metal.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Gorgeous Scottish style thistle brooch, detailed with blue and purple glass banded stones.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery brooch

Stunning Celtic pattern green glass stone costume jewelry brooch – top quality, and signed ‘Jacobite’ on the back.

vintage modern Scottish agate glass costume jewellery ring

Whilst brooches are the most popular type of Scottish and Celtic costume jewellery, pendants, bracelets and rings are made too.

 

 

References and further reading:

Miracle Jewellery shop: https://www.miraclejewellery.co.uk/

Vintage Miracle and Jacobite costume jewellery info: https://www.vintageandhandmadejewels.com/signed-uk-jewellery-439-c.asp

Vintage Hollywood costume jewellery info: https://www.vintageandhandmadejewels.com/signed-uk-jewellery-439-c.asp

Heathegems shop: https://www.heathergems.com/

Guide to Victorian Scottish jewellery: https://jewellerymuse.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/vintage-and-antique-scottish-agate-jewellery-info-guide/

How to date vintage and antique brooches: https://jewellerymuse.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/tips-on-how-to-date-a-vintage-brooch/

 

I sometimes have Scottish and Celtic jewellery in my shop – please check here to see there is any in stock.

 

 

 

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Types of gold plating .. what do those letters on gold tone jewellery mean?

 

 

RG…..GF…… gold HGE……Gold bonded……GP…..Vermeil……Gold layered.

 

Have you ever looked at gold jewellery on a website and come across the above words and initials in the description? Do you wonder what they mean?

identifying initial letter stamps on gold plated jewellery fakes GP HGE tips

Read on for tips on how to identify your gold coloured jewellery!

You’re not alone. I’ve had quite a few emails over the years which have asked for my help in explaining the letters on gold looking jewellery that someone has purchased. Virtually every time I’ve had to be the bearer of bad news; they’ve been conned and their expensive ‘solid 18kgp ring’ is actually gold plated costume jewellery.

Sadly, some unscrupulous sellers give a rather ‘creative’ description of their jewellery for sale, which tries to gloss over the fact that their jewelry is not real – it’s gold plated.

So today, look no further than the Jewellery Muses’ quick glance guide to identifying letter stamps and initials on jewelry which are used to describe gold-tone/ gold-plated metal …

~ RG – means rolled gold.  This is gold sheet (usually 12K or 14k) that is rolled into a tube, and then filled with a base (ie non precious) metal such as brass.  This process gives a longer lasting gold colour than normal gold plating, and is often stamped on jewellery: 1/20 12kt GF or 1/20 14kt RG for example.

vintage rolled gold pink deco glass bead necklace

Many old vintage glass bead necklaces were threaded on rolled gold wire, which is most commonly slightly square shaped and thicker than normal wire. Rolled gold wire also develops a nice patina like normal low grade gold (eg 9k), and is not prone to wear.

~ GF – means gold filled, which is simply another name for rolled gold.  RG and GF are more durable than gold plated metal.

art deco vintage pink glass opal diamante ring

A ‘RG’ stamped rolled gold art deco ring. Note how well it’s lasted; rings are notoriously prone to damage, yet this one is nearly 100 years old and is only now showing signed of wear to the metal. Rolled gold (aka gold filled) metal is a perfect bridge between costume jewellery and more expensive fine solid gold jewellery.

~ GOLD OVERLAY – again means a type of rolled gold; a gold sheet (usually 14k) that is rolled into a tube, and then filled with a base (ie non precious) metal.

~ GP – stands for gold plating, a process which involves spraying a fine layer of gold onto base metal.  GP jewelry tends to lose the gold coating with day to day wear after a while.

vintage 70s toledo damascene pendant jewelry

The back of what was once a brilliant bright gold-plated circa 1980s pendant, which has now faded and worn out

~ HGE – means Heavy Gold Electroplate, a slightly thicker coating of gold onto base metal than standard gold plating.

~ HGP – also see HGE, means a heavier gold plate, a slightly thicker coating of gold onto base metal than standard gold plating.

vintage sapphire glass paste cz ring deco (2) (640x617)

Some rings offered online have  ‘creative’ descriptions, such as ‘For sale: solid 18KHGE white gold and blue sapphire CZ ring‘, a description which in real life means nothing more than a cheap and pretty costume jewellery ring made with a sapphire coloured fake stone and white gold plated metal.

~ LAYERED GOLD – another type of gold plating.

~ GOLD BONDED – another type of gold plating, or occasionally used to describe rolled gold.

~ VERMEIL – this is genuine 925 sterling silver which has been given a thick coating of gold (normally 14k or 18k).  Base metal which has been gold plated cannot by law be described as vermeil, only genuine gold-plated sterling silver can.

vintage shell cameo brooch

If you come across a piece of jewellery that has a ‘925’ stamp on it, but it’s gold coloured, then you have a piece of true vermeil jewellery, like this vermeil frame shell cameo brooch.

~ HAMILTON GOLD – brass toned metal with gold plated finish; generally only used on watches.

~ PINCHBECK GOLD – an early gold imitation, invented in the 18th century and made from an alloy of zinc and copper.  True pinchbeck items are very rare and worth a lot of money.  Nowadays, the term ‘pinchbeck’ generally means any type of antique faux gold.

Antique victorian carved shell cameo brooch jewelry

Many dealers will describe any type of antique gold looking metal as ‘Pinchbeck’, but real genuine pinchbeck is hard to find! Always ask a seller if their pinchbeck is real, or just their general description for gold plate.

~ GOLD TONE / GOLD – COLOUR – jewellery that is gold coloured, not real gold.

vintage 80s gold tone snake chain flower necklace drop daggers (3)

A cute gold tone necklace. Gold tone costume jewellery is often described as being made from ‘pot metal’ ‘mixed metal’ or ‘base metal’, which means there is no real gold used in the item (other than perhaps a thin layer of gold-plate)

~ GOLD LEAF – a type of gold plating.

Look out for descriptions such as “fantastic genuine solid 18k HGE gold ring”, or “solid 14KGP gold ring”.  If you see any of these phrases, words or initials in the description of a jewellery item then be aware that the jewellery will not be genuine solid gold.

Two Final Quick Tips:

~ Just because something has a gemstone in it doesn’t mean it will automatically be encased in real gold. Low grade gemstones (or lab created gemstones/lab-diamonds) can be dirt cheap to buy, and might be used to make gold plated jewellery appear more ‘real’.

 

Vintage marcasite jewellery

If you want sparkle, but prefer an understated look, then marcasite gemstone jewellery may be perfect for you.  These semi-precious stones are a type of mineral, which range in colour from silver-yellow to bright white silver. When faceted and set into jewellery, they create a subtle sparkling effect, rather than a full on glitz – perfect for adding a hint of shimmer.

Close up of loose marcasite gemstones

Above, a varied selection of vintage marcasites, harvested from old broken jewellery. Notice how some are flat-backed (near the back), and some are the traditional ‘diamond’ shape, depending on the setting of the jewellery they came from. Marcasites generally vary in size from approx 0.5mm to 1.5mm. They are seriously tiny!

marcasite gemstones size close up next to finger

Marcasites next to my pinky finger!

vintage marcasite pave sterling silver ring jewelry

Marcasites can be set into all types of jewellery, and were a popular gemstone to be used in art deco rings.

vintage marcasite swirl silver tone bridal wedding necklace jewellery

Marcasite necklaces have been worn since the 19th Century, and are still hugely popular today. This vintage beauty dates from around the 1960s.

vintage marcasite swirl silver necklace jewelry

The above marcasite necklace when worn

vintage marcasite bow silver brooch jewellery

Marcasites can sometimes develope a yellow/ brown colour over time, as seen in this adorable vintage circa 1970s bow brooch – this is simply age and nothing to worry about 🙂

vintage silver marcasite carved shell cameo brooch jewellery

Had normal glitzy glass paste rhinestones been used to frame this lovely carved shell cameo, they would have detracted from its beauty. Marcasites however, are perfect for giving a crisp finish without over awing the jewellery itself.

vintage cold painted enamel marcasite flower basket brooch jewellery

Flower basket brooches were hugely popular in the 1950s – some were plain or set with rhinestones, while others were encrusted with diamonds and coloured gemstones (depending on your budget!). Marcasites are the happy medium between costume jewellery and fine jewellery, and suit most budgets.

vintage 1950s cold painted enamel marcasite flower silver brooch jewelry

This outstanding marcasite flower brooch has been ‘cold painted’ with enamel (ie, using a paintbrush and enamel paint, rather than more complex true vitreous enamel work which involves firing powdered glass in an oven). Cold painted marcasite enamel jewellery was popular during the 1950s to 1970s, and on a personal note, is one of my all time favourite types of vintage jewellery – it transcends ‘accessory’ and becomes ‘art’.

vintage 60s marcasite collar necklace leaf wedding bridal jewellery

Vintage circa 1960s marcasite and silver tone leaf necklace

vintage marcasite clip on earrings swallow bird silver jewelry

These marcasite bird clip on earrings look like they could have been made recently – but they actually date from the 1950s. Cuteness never goes out of style 🙂

vintage 1970s cultured freshwater pearl marcasite swirl circle brooch jewelry

While a couple of stones missing from vintage marcasite jewellery is quite normal, any more and I consider it damaged and in need of repair (with prices to reflect this.

repairing marcasite stone jewellery

Repairing marcasite jewellery yourself is tricky, but can be done with a steady hand and the right tools. Firstly, you need a good stock of marcasites harvested from other broken jewellery (or buy some online). Match up the sizes to the rest of the marcasites in the jewellery you wish to repair. Next, get yourself some proper ‘jewellery cement’ such as “GS Hypo Cement” – it’s a strong clear specialist jewelry glue that has a super fine nozzle – perfect for tricky work (never use superglue – it dissolves marcasites, as I found to my horror many years ago at my first attempt at marcasite fixing!). Put a tiny dab of cement in the hole you which to place the stone in, and then pick up the marcasite by pressing your finger on it – the natural moisture on your finger will temporarily hold it on. Finally, place it in the hole, and adjust with a pin if needed. This is tricky work, and it may take a few attempts before you get it right.

vintage 1960s marcasite gold tone maltese cross teardrop pendant necklace jewelry

An unusual vintage circa 1960s Maltese cross pendant – gold tone, but set with silver colour marcasites

vintage 60s faux marcasite horse pony eloxal brooch silver jewellery

Spotting faux marcasite jewellery can be hard work, especially because modern real marcasite jewellery can look very similar to vintage faux marcasite jewellery! A good giveaway is the weight – vintage faux-marcasite jewellery, as seen in this cute pony brooch, was made from a metal called Eloxal (a type of aluminium) which was very light in weight – almost weightless! (Vintage Eloxal jewellery was usually made in West Germany and occasionally East Asia, and was popular during the 1960 and 70s because it never tarnished or discoloured). Grab a magnifying glass and have a good look at the stones – if they appear too ‘perfect’ and flush set, it could be faux marcasites (real marcasites are a pain to set straight, and are often even purposely set slightly crooked to give better sparkle and depth to the whole piece of jewelry).

vintage 1960s faux marcasite eloxal panel bracelet chunky jewellery silver celtic knot pattern

A beautiful Celtic inspired vintage circa 1970s faux marcasite panel Eloxal metal bracelet. Two give-aways in identifying the jewellery was its weight (almost weightless when held – a signature of vintage Eloxal metal), and the uniform shape and settings of the ‘stones’. Vintage Eloxal jewellery is a collectable in its own right, and I absolutely love this bracelet!

Tests for identifying jewellery materials, from Amber to Whitby Jet

Buying and collecting vintage jewellery can be so addictive once you get started, so it pays to make sure what you’ve bought is the genuine article.  Here are some tricks of the trade to help you get started!  Though these tests aren’t 100% conclusive, they can guide you in the right direction when investigating what a material is.  

***WARNING: The tests marked ‘invasive’ are here for historical information only – do not use them – they can seriously damage jewellery. ***

Tests for antique mourning jewellery materials such as Whitby Jet can be found at the very bottom of the page.

How to test amber gemstones jewelry real fake tips

Testing amber

AMBER

Amber is fossilized tree resin which is millions of years old.  It can come in a variety of colours, from light yellow and green to dark brown-red and even rare glowing blue amber from the Dominican Republic.  One of the first items used to make jewellery thousands of years ago, Amber has captivated us ever since. Unfortunately fake amber and the real thing can feel and look the exactly same, and your best bet is to get it tested by a proper expert, such as a long time amber collector (online gemology/ mineral forums are a good place to find some), registered auctioneers or fully qualified gemologist.

Test 1: There’s a lot of fake amber around the internet at the moment.  The safest and least invasive test is the static test.  Rub the amber vigorously against wool for a few seconds, then place next to a piece of paper, or a strand of hair.  Real amber creates static electricity, and should gently pull the paper or hair towards it.

Test 2: Genuine amber usually floats in sea water, so try the salt water test (only works on amber without settings ie plain loose pieces or beads).  Mix about 20-25 grams of salt into 200ml of water until it’s dissolved.  Real amber generally floats, imitations tend to sink to the bottom.

Test 3: Invasive:  The acetone test (try some brands of nail polish remover).   Put some acetone on a tiny bit of cotton wool and rub it in an tiny inconspicuous area of the amber – acetone should not affect it. Copal or some plastics become slightly tacky.  This test can massively decrease the value of you copal or plastic jewellery.

Test 4: Invasive: Hot needle test.  Heat a fine sewing needle and gently pierce the amber with it (in an inconspicuous place so it will not be seen).  Plastics will emit a chemical smell, amber will emit a sooty pine smell, with white smoke.This test can massively decrease the value of you amber jewellery.

Some amber will glow gently under UV light – but this isn’t a good test, as some plastic fake amber glows under UV light too.

How to test coral gemstones jewelry real fake tips

Coral

CORAL

This organic material comes in a variety of colours, though mainly red and sought after salmon pink.  It can be carved into cameos or polished into beads, and has a long and distinguished history in jewellery. It was poular in Victorian jewellery as it was thought to ward off illness and disease.  Coral is still popular today, and good quality vintage coral jewellery always demands a high price. 

 Test 1:  You’ll need a good jewellers loupe.  Inspect the coral closely with the loupe – it should have tiny ‘grains’ to it, similar to a grain of wood.

Test 2: Invasive: Take some lemon juice and a good magnifying glass/ jewellers loupe for this.  In an inconspicuous place, place a tiny pin-head sized drop of lemon juice on the coral.  Look at the area with a magnifying glass – tiny little bubbles should start to form from the coral if it is genuine.  Thoroughly wash the item immediately after it happens to remove all traces of lemon juice – if you don’t this test will completely ruin the coral.  This test can massively decrease the value of you coral jewellery.

How to test diamond gemstones jewelry real fake tips

Testing diamands

DIAMONDS

The only real way to test diamonds yourself is to purchase a top quality diamond tester, which includes the Moissanite test (moissanite is a type of imitation diamond).  It’s always best to take possible diamonds to your local jeweller or auctioneers for proper appraisal,because even if your jewellery is made from diamonds it can vary widely in price.  The following are only stepping stones, and must not to be used as conclusive tests.

Test 1: Breath on the stone.  A real diamond disperses the ‘breath’ mist immediately, while fakes usually remain misty for a few seconds

Test 2: Diamonds will scratch glass (though many other gemstones will too!)

Test 3:  If the stone is loose (ie, not in a setting) then try reading a word in a newspaper through it – it should be impossible to make out.

Test 4: The cost – real diamonds are not cheap!  If the price is too good to be true it usually is. 

Test 5: Colour. Fakes such as Cubic Ziconias, Diamoniques(TM) and glass are usually much ‘whiter’ in appearance than a diamond, especially when they catch the light. Diamonds can vary in colour  –  some being an almost almost translucent grey.

Test 6:  Some diamonds glow when held under black light (also known as UV or ultra violet light). 

How to test pearl gemstones jewellery real fake tips

Pearls

PEARLS

Genuine pearls feel slightly gritty when rubbed lightly against your teeth, while glass pearls or plastic pearls always feel smooth.  Plastic pearls are light to the touch.  Both glass and plastic pearls have a pearl coating which  scratches or chips off – this cannot happen with real pearls. Real pearls are often slightly mis-shapen (unless very expensive).

How to test gold gemstones jewellery real fake tips

Gold

GOLD

The best way to see if gold is real is to find its hallmarks.  However, some antique gold isn’t hallmarked, and you can buy cheap testing kits which use a special acid to test and grade the gold.  Please use these kits with extreme caution – I’ve seen dreadful damage done to antiques by well meaning people trying to test their gold.  Take your jewellery to a local jewelers or auction house for proper appraisal without damaging potentially valuable items.


Test 1: With a strong magnifying glass or jewelers loupe study the gold. Look at its edges, and the parts that come into direct contact with the skin closely.  What kind of wear can you see? Can you see any fading, or another colour showing through underneath?  If the item is scratched, can you see the colour of the metal inside the scratch – is it the same colour?   Gold is always uniform throughout its depth ie any scratches or dents to gold should only reveal more gold underneath – never another colour.

Test 2:  Grab a magnet, and hold it to the item.  Precious metals are not magnetic.

As you become used to handling a lot of gold, you’ll develop a ‘feel’  for it.  Many professionals can privately tell a good quality gold plated piece from a solid gold piece just by looking and briefly holding it, though this takes a time and practice!

How to test glass jewellery real fake tips

Testing glass

GLASS

Glass has been used as an imitation for gemstones and in costume jewellery for hundreds of years.  It is always cold and hard to the touch.  It can be opaque or clear, and molded into impressive shapes and designs.  A hot pin test will never damage glass.  When rhinestones (also called ‘pastes’) are used to imitate gemstones, they have often been coated at the back with a gold or silver coloured foil, and have a more ‘flat colour’ compared to the real thing.  Glass can also be scratched, cracked and chipped quite easily. 

The term ‘paste’  or ‘glass paste’ is the correct term used to describe any imitation stones made from glass.  French Jet is another term you may often hear- this is simply fancy name for black glass. 

How to test mourning jewery real fake tips jet glass gutta percha bog oak vulcanite

Testing old plastics

PLASTIC

Plastic is softer and warmer to touch than glass or gemstones.  It is a specialist collectors area in its own right, with Bakelite in particular attracting a huge following and prices to match.  Plastics come under ‘costume jewellery’, though many plastic Bakelite pieces can fetch over a thousand pounds at auction. 

Plastics are most commonly used to imitate Amber, Jet or Tortoise Shell.  It often has ‘seams’ where it has been joined or molded together during manufacture, where as genuine items don’t have these seams. 

Bakelite jewellery in particular is flooded with fakes, and many sellers don’t know how to test for it properly.  If you see an item of vintage Bakelite for sale always ask the seller how they know it’s genuine Bakelite.  I always use the respected Simichrome test (along with my sense of smell) to make sure any Bakelite I have is genuine.

Testing Bakelite:  Try and get hold of some Simichrome Polish, which is the easiest way to test for Bakelite.  Put a dab of the polish onto cotton wool and rub the item.  The cotton wool should turn a yellow colour.  If you can’t get hold of any Simichrome, simply rub the item vigorously until hot – it should emit a distinctive chemical odour.  Bakelite should never have any mold seams, and is very hard to the touch. 

Invasive:  Bakelite does not accept a hot needle (though a hot needle will badly damage the Bakelite by leaving a brown permanant scorch mark which decreases its value massively).  Using this test will massively decrease the value of your jewellery.

Tips on how to test bog oak jet french jet mourning jewellery vulcanite etc

How to test Victorian mourning jewellery

MATERIAL USED IN MOURNING JEWELLERY: 

  Mourning jewellery has been around for centuries and was created and worn in remembrance of loved ones.  It became hugely fashionable during the reign of Queen Victoria.  Mourning jewellery often had hidden meaning in it’s symbols (such as flowers or objects) – it could even reveal a Victorian woman’s status in life.  Many pieces were typically made from black coloured materials, such as Whitby Jet, Onyx and glass.  The richer members of society wore solid gold, sometimes decorated with fine black enamel and detailed with the loved ones woven hair.

BOG  OAK 

This is a type of beautifully carved peat, and was used mainly by the people of Ireland for creating imitation Whitby Jet.  It is usually very dark brown in colour.

Test 1:  Will leave a brown streak on a white unglazed tile.

Test 2: Feels warm and lightweight (like wood) when held. If you hold a magnifying glass up to it you should see grains, like grains and patterns in a plank of wood.  Will not usually be highly polished and shiny like Jet is.

Test 3: The actual design of the item can give bog oak away. Mourning/ Victorian era bog oak jewellery mostly came from Ireland, and usually has shamrocks, castles and harps carved into it.

Tips on how to test bog oak jet french jet mourning jewellery vulcanite etc

Whitby Jet

WHITBY JET

This fossilized black material was quite soft to work with, could be intricately carved, and was polished to a shiny finish. Antique Whitby Jet jewellery is today highly prized and desired.  It is black in colour, and is prone to cracking and chipping with age.

Test 1: Will leave a dark brown streak when lightly pressed on a white unglazed tile

Test 2: Feels surprisingly warm and lightweight to touch, similar to black plastic (never feels cold or heavy to hold like black glass or onyx).  Can be given a good polish and has an almost oily in texture when rubbed between fingers. Not as mirror-like reflective as glass or polished onyx.

Test 3:  Some jet creates static electricity when rubbed against wool.  Do this, and then place the jet near a strand of hair or a piece of paper – the jet should pull it slightly towards it.

Test 4: Invasive; Hot pin test.  Heat a needle and gently pierce an inconspicuous area of jet.  It should not take a needle well, and emit a coal like odour (jet is fossilized coal).  Using this test will decrease the value of your jewellery.

Tips on how to test bog oak jet french jet mourning jewellery vulcanite etc

Vulcanite

VULCANITE

One of the earliest forms of ‘plastic’, Vulcanite was invented in the 1840s by combining certain types of tree sap with sulpher.  It is usually black to mid-brown in colour, and is often in near perfect condition due to its durability (other than fading to a brown colour).

Test 1:  A simple and very reliable rub test.  Holding the jewellery, rub a part of the vulcanite vigorously until its quite hot and then smell.  It should emit a rubber like (and sometimes slightly sulfuric) odour. 

Test 2: Will leave a brown powdery streak on an unglazed white tile.

Never get Vulcanite wet – water will damage it.

GUTTA PERCHA

Again, another rubber type material used, and is not commonly seen.  Tests as for Vulcanite, though with one important and unmistakable addition – the taste test!  Touch the Gutta Percha in a tiny inconspicuous area with the tip if the (dry) tongue – it will taste incredibly salty.  Never get Gutta Percha damp nor wet as water stains and damages it. 

Tips on how to test bog oak jet french jet mourning jewellery vulcanite etc

French Jet

FRENCH JET

A fancy name for black glass.  Cold and hard to touch, and will not be damaged by a hot pin test. 

Tips on how to test bog oak jet french jet mourning jewellery vulcanite etc

Horn

HORN

Another material used to imitate Whitby Jet, horn was molded into desired shapes, and then dyed black.

Test 1:  Will sometimes leave a grey powdery streak when rubbed on an unglazed white tile.

Test 2:  When held to the light the edges are often translucent.

Test 3:  Invasive:  When gently pierced with a hot needle in an inconspicuous place horn will emit an odour of burning hair. Using this test will damage and massively decrease the value of your jewellery.

Tips on how to identify and avoid fake malachite gemstones.

Antique Malachite gemstone  cross bar brooch how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

Malachite gemstone

One of the most popular gemstones is malachite.  With its beautiful green colour, wonderful patterns and heavy, quality feel, its no wonder!

Like all popular gemstones though, there are now increasing amounts of fake malachite flooding the market, especially over the internet.  Here are some tips to help you avoid these imitations:

  • Genuine malachite is very cold, very heavy and feels hard.  It is heavier than solid glass or plastic, and feels ‘dense’ and ice cold when held and touched.  The striped patterns are called ‘banding’.  Genuine malachite is not uniform in its patterns and colours; you’ll find circles, speckles and thin to thick parts in the patterns, and dark to light-green hues.
  • Fake malachite comes in many forms.  Plastic fake malachite is easy to spot as it’s lightweight and warm to the touch.  However, fake-malachite made from glass, is cold and hard to the touch like genuine malachite, but because it’s glass it will warm up in your hand much quicker (real malachite won’t warm up much at all; it remains cold – this applies to a lot of gemstones by the way).
  • Beware new malachite pendants! The area I’ve seen the most fakes in is the ‘Choose Your Stone’ type pendants (such as dagger shapes, moon shapes, silver-set cabochon stones, angel shapes, heart shapes etc), where you can choose from a variety of gemstones; I’ve never seen a real malachite stone in those pendants yet.
  • Genuine pure Malachite is always green.  So called ‘red malachite’ is simply a fancy name for a type of red jasper. Multi coloured ‘malachite’ is cheap dyed Howlite. However, malachite does occur naturally with a rich blue mineral called Azurite, which can create a stunning mix of azure and green colours; these genuine gemstones will be labelled as ‘Azurite malachite’ and are quite collectable.

Here are some examples of FAKE malachite:

FAKE: This is a coral and malachite mix stamped 925 sterling silver pendant - but it is in fact a fake - both the coral and malachite are made from glass. Coral and malachite mix jewellery is notorious for being fake - in fact the only real one I've ever come across was an antique bangle from about 100 years ago.

FAKE: This seems to be a coral and malachite stamped 925 sterling silver pendant, but it is in fact a fake – both the coral and malachite are made from glass. Beautiful coral and malachite mix jewellery has been made  around the world for many years, but is unfortunately flooded with fakes at the moment. My best advice would probably be to buy direct from the artisan themselves, or buy from a proper dealer who specializes in this type of jewellery (not a general jewellery or antiques dealer whom I’ve seen offer fake malachite/ coral Scottish Celtic style brooches genuinely convinced they were real) unless they can offer a full-guarantee of the authenticity of the stones.

 

Above: a fake malachite costume jewellery brooch. The centre faux-malachite is made from plastic, and the surrounding rhinestones are glass.

FAKE: a faux-malachite costume jewellery brooch. The centre faux-malachite is made from plastic, and the surrounding rhinestones are glass.

 

Vintage green glass imitation malachite bead necklace jewelry how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

FAKE. This is a glass fake malachite necklace. The banding is too uniform, with non of the patterned circles or flourishes genuine malachite has.

vintage 1970s glass coral malachite glass scottish agate bracelet how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

FAKE. Selling imitation malachite, as seen in the above green glass imitation  vintage 1970s bracelet, is fine (in fact there’s a jewelry collecting niche for glass imitation gemstones), as long as the seller clearly points out the stones are not real malachite.

Reconstituted malachite fake tips avoid how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

FAKE. This is re-processed or reconstituted malachite, and is made from crushed leftovers of the gemstone, mixed with dyes and resins. It still feels cold like genuine malachite would, but is lighter in weight and doesn’t feel as solid.

 

Here are some examples of REAL malachite:

 

Genuine real solid malachite gemstone cufflinks. Notice the sheer variety of colourization and patterns, from standard stripes to waves and unusual speckles.

REAL: Genuine real solid malachite gemstone cuff links. Notice the sheer variety of colourization and patterns, from standard stripes to waves and unusual speckles.

     

    vintage 1970s malachite brass bangle how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

    REAL: vintage 1970s malachite brass bangle, made from small panels of malachite gemstone.  Up to now, man cannot 100% reproduce malachite patterns accurately, nor its distinct green colours which can range from deepest forest green to teal green to light green all in one bead or panel.

    Vintage 1970s Malachite bead necklace earrings set how to test malachite for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

    REAL: This is a genuine vintage malachite necklace. dating circa 1970s. How could I tell? Firstly, it was very heavy and cold (and the beads didn’t warm up in my hands). Secondly, the beads were not a uniform round shape – some were slightly too oval, meaning they were likely to have been hand finished. Thirdly, the banding patterns were too ‘natural’ to be fake which is tied directly to the fourth way; experience. I’ve handled a lot of malachite over the years (as well as many imitations) and you just get a feel for it. To help you get started, why not visit some museums, which often have large chunks of the real stuff in gemology displays, or visit antique fairs and handle it. Reputable jewelers and gemologists should be happy to help you buy an affordable beginners piece, and why not also buy some properly labeled imitations so you can compare the two (ie, reconstituted malachite, plastic, glass).

    REAL: These are very old vintage malachites, very dark green, very heavy, and knotted in between for security (in fact knotting can be a good (but not 100%) sign of genuine gemstones, as knotting is a laborious process and it's not particularly cost effective to do it on faux stones.

    REAL: These are very old malachites from a vintage 1950s flapper necklace –  very dark green, very heavy, and knotted in between for security. Knotting can be a good (but not 100%) sign of genuine gemstones, as it is a laborious process and it’s not particularly cost effective to do it on faux gemstones.

     

    REAL: Genuine malachite beads. Note how the beads aren't perfectly round; this is because they have been hand cut and finished - a sure sign of genuine malachite beads.

    REAL: Genuine malachite beads. Note how the beads aren’t perfectly round; this is because they have been hand cut and finished – a good sign of genuine malachite beads.

     

    Tips on how to identify genuine Lapis Lazuli gemstone (and avoid the fakes!)

    vintage lapis lazuli nugget chip bead necklace long (1)

    Lapis lazuli has been sought after and used in jewellery for thousands of years. It’s rich blue colour, along with those sparkling flecks of fools gold iron pyrites make it truly irresistible! Unfortunately, lapis lazuli has also become one of the most faked gemstones in the world. It’s not easy to tell the difference between fake lazuli and the real gemstone. Many cheap minerals and gemstones (such as poor quality jasper, white howlite, spinel, sodalite or calcite) can be dyed to imitate it, while glass and plastic can been used to copy lapis lazuli too. Here are some quick tips to hopefully help you spot genuine good quality lapis Lazuli (and avoid the fakes) …….

    • Firstly, look at the price. The best lapis lazuli commands very high prices, and tends to be set in gold. So if you see a string of lapis lazuli beads for only a couple of pounds/dollers, they could be fakes or very poor quality dyed stones. In my own personal experience, a standard nice quality lapis lazuli undyed natural bead necklace tends to cost from around £30 upwards.
    • Poor quality Lapis lazuli can be dyed. Lapis lazuli is made up of a mix of minerals: lazurite (which gives it that distinctive blue colour), white calcite, dark grey-blue sodalite and golden ‘fools gold’ flecks of iron pyrites. Too much white in the gemstone means it classed as a cheaper calcite, too much dark blue-grey means it’s a cheaper sodalite. Poor quality lapis lazuli can be dyed to make it appear more desirable (see below photo).
    • To test if your lapis lazuli has been dyed, simply wipe your stone with acetone or alcohol. If it loses its colour it’s either a fake, or a poor quality lazuli dyed to imitate better quality lazuli.

    Lapis lazuli silver bracelet identify info how to test lapis lazuli for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

    A blue-dyed lapis lazuli braclet – parts of the rock are far too dark blue (a good giveaway) of over dye. There’s also a lot of ‘fools gold’ glitter flecks in the stones – this isn’t desirable, and good quality lazuli has very little in it.

    • Genuine lapis lazuli is around 5.5 on the MOHS gemstone hardness scale (diamonds are 10) which means it will just about scratch glass, though can itself be scratched with a knife.
    • Look for the ‘fool’s gold’ (a.k.a iron pyrites) in your lazuli. These are little random golden flecks and tiny lines of dark metallic gold in the gemstone. Genuine ‘fools gold’ is surprisingly difficult to imitate – it usually ends up looking far too uniform and ‘perfect’ for it to be real.
    vintage lazuli faux lapis glass gold brooch jewellery

    A faux lapis lazuli vintage costume jewellery brooch circa 1970s, made with glass stones. Notice how the faux lapis lazuli  is quite artificially blue and too perfectly ‘dappled’. The gold-flecks are overly perfect and uniform as well.

    vintage gold lapis lazuli faux fake glass paste clip on earrings jewellery

    Vintage circa 1970s clip on costume jewellery earrings, made with faux lapis lazuli stones (actually made from glass). The blue markings are giveaway – no graduation of colours, too ‘hard’ an edges, and only 2 colours (light blue and dark blue). Handle and look at as much natural undyed lapis lazuli as possible – go to proper antiques fairs and jewellers, study gemstone books and magazines. I’ve often found museums can unexpectedly turn up great examples of gemstones and jewellery – check out the one’s near to you (or venture out further and make a day of it) – they are often literally hiding hidden gems in there, waiting for you to discover them*.

    • lapis lazuli necklace

      A nice average quality undyed lapis lazuli gemstone bead necklace – note that a couple of the beads show white calcite; more expensive lazuli beads would not have this.

    • ‘Reconstructed Lapis Lazuli means that bits of the leftover lazuli gemstone have been ground up and then binded together to make a new stone or bead. It’s not really a fake as it does contain lazuli… but then it’s not the true real thing either. Re-constituted lapis lazuli often has an unatural pebble dash feel and look to it.
    • If the Lapis Lazuli is simply too uniformly blue, and is cheap to buy, then it’s probably fake. Only the very best top quality Lazuli is a uniform blue colour, with virtually no fools gold. It is incredibly rare, deeply sought after and costs an absolute fortune; this is the type of lazuli you only see set into the finest 18k or 22k gold settings.
    1. Lapis lazuli bracelet gemstone identify info how to test lapis lazuli for fakes genuine real gemstones tips

      Vintage genuine lapis lazuli bracelet.

    • Plastic faux Lapis Lazuli can be identified by holding it and tapping it on your teeth. Plastics will feel almost ‘warm’ (ie not cold like glass or gemstone), and will make a dull quiet clink when gently tapped against your teeth (gemstones and glass make a cold hard higher pitched ‘clink’ on the teeth).
    • As with a lot of gemstones, lapis lazuli can be very cold to the touch. Although glass imitations  are cold as well, they will quickly warm up when held – real gemstones often remain cool even after fairly prolonged holding.
    • Glass faux Lapis Lazuli often has no gold specks in it, although some top quality imitations do. However, the flecks are too smooth and uniformly patterned to be real, and the blue colour is too ‘blue’, shiny and even.
    • Real lapis lazuli will leave a blue-ish mark on a rough surface, such as an unglazed tile. When it’s cut in half, lazuli emits a foul odour; it contains sulfur, and this oxides (and smells foul) on reaction to the air. Both of these tests will of course completely ruin your stone, so I don’t recommend them! (Dyed inferior lapis lazuli will also stain a rough surface).
    Lapis Lazuli 925 silver earrings

    Lapis Lazuli should be a lovely rich blue colour, as in these fine earrings.

     

    Hope these tips help 🙂

    Are doublets & triplets real gemstones?

    Doublets and triplets opal gem info at the Jewellery Muse jewelry BlogWhen you are purchasing gemstone jewellery you may sometimes come across the word doublet, or triplet.  The seller should explain to you what this means, but I’ve noticed that this isn’t always happening, and only a lightning-quick run through of the term is given, if at all.

    Doublets and triplet gemstones aren’t fake gemstones, but they aren’t solid gemstones either. They are a mixture of both genuine gemstone and man-made materials.

    A doublet is a genuine gemstone which has been thinly sliced and glued on top of another material such as glass.  It’s done mainly to make use of small flat pieces of gemstone (opals especially), and to save money.

     

    A triplet is similar to a doublet, however the triplet also has a clear protective ‘cover’ glued over the gemstone (usually made from glass or clear cheaper gemstone, or even plastic).  Some gemstones such as ammolite or black opal are so soft that triplets are the most effective way to set some specimens into jewellery.  Though be a little wary with black opal doublets/ triplets – they are sometimes inexpensive white or clear opals set onto a black backing of glass.

    The website www.opalsdownunder.com has a fantastic page on the subject, with some good photos to help you identify a doublet/ triplet gemstone.