As you learn more about vintage jewellery, there are a few tools that can really help you develop your knowledge and make identifying your jewelry a lot easier (I call them my basic essentials). Most of the following are inexpensive, and can be easily purchased online..
1. Jeweller’s loupe. Aim for either x20 or x30 magnification. Not just for reading hallmarks, these mega magnifiers can help you identify materials such as coral or bog oak, gold plating, inclusions in gemstones, and damage that wouldn’t be seen with the naked eye.
2. Book of gold and silver hallmarks. Beginners to United Kingdom gold and silver identification can’t go wrong with Bradburys Book of Hallmarks. An easy to use pocket size booklet, yet very concise and in-depth.
3. Diamond tester. If you want to start collecting fine jewellery a diamond tester is an absolute must. These are quite expensive to buy but are an essential investment, especially as there are so many fake diamonds around. A good quality basic one can be purchased for less than £20, though specialist Moissanite/ diamond testers cost more (Moissanites are the best quality imitation diamonds).
4. UV torch light. Some glass stones and occasional natural gemstones will glow under ultra violet light, so this special type of torch can really help you on the way to identifying objects. Also known a s a black light torch, prices start from as little as £3.
5. An unglazed white tile. Certain gemstones and materials such as jet will stain the tile when gently rubbed on it, helping you in identification.
6. A pure wool garment/ strip. Organic materials, such as amber will often create static electricity when rubbed on wool; rub the amber on the wool vigorously, then hold a human air to it – real amber attracts the hair to it like a magnet.
7. Simichrome polish. A type of old plastic called Bakelite is highly collectable and was used to make costume jewellery during the earlier part of the 20th Century. Identifying Bakelite can be tricky, but rubbing Bakelite with a small dot of Simichrome polish will normally produce a yellow stain on the cloth (check out my post Identifying jewellery materials for more tips on how to ID Bakelite).