Bold Gold has been a trend for many years and it seems like it is here to stay. When looking for these gold items, Antique Gold Jewelry is a great option to find something unique and bold to add to your collection!
What is Gold?
Gold is a chemical element that is both bright and malleable, making it perfect for jewelry manufacturing. It is measured in carat weight, which varies from 8K to 24K. With the addition of base metals such as copper and silver, you get different colors and softness. It’s purest form is 24K, which is a richer yellow color and softer, too soft for everyday wear. As you go lower in number, there are more alloys present, making the color less rich but also harder.
History of Gold in Jewelry
- Likely, gold was first used in jewelry in 3000 B.C. What drew people to gold was the malleability of the product. As it is beaten, whether hot or cold, it’s molecules move and change position, allowing it to loosen it’s thickness and produces thin sheets.
- In Ancient times, we see gold jewelry that has been embossed. This is where a raised pattern, a relief, is produced on these thin gold sheets.
- Egyptians were known for their goldsmiths and the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun reveals many of these spectacular pieces. In fact, his innermost coffin was made entirely of gold! There were jewels and gold jewelry found in boxes throughout the rooms in the tombs. All of the items found were of high quality with the use of gold seen throughout. Symmetry was an important feature during this time, so you will see many gold bangles and hooped earrings.
- The Minoan civilization amassed a great deal of wealth, leading to their use of gold. Filigree beads, large necklaces and even gold mask were found in burial sites. They are also credited with the production of the first cable chain, likely made of gold.
- The Etruscans were skilled goldsmiths and their preferred method for jewelry making was repousse. Similar to embossing, a relief is raised from the back or inside of the item. They would take two pieces, curve them with repousse designs and create beautiful gold beads full of intricate designs.
- Imperial Rome became a central meeting point for goldsmiths and lapidaries, with people coming from Greece and Asia to study. During this flourish, you’ll start to see gold rings being worn by lower class society and soldiers, instead of just the upper class. The upper class had increased their gold usage by having household objects made of gold!
- Italy, during the Renaissance, also saw in increase in the skill of goldsmiths. Famous artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Filippo Brunelleschi all started at goldsmiths’ workshops as apprentices. They worked with gold medallions and jewelry setting. You’ll see gold jewelry in famous paintings from this time as well, with society women showing off their collections.
- We jump ahead to the Retro Era, where we see the most use of gold in modern history. The 1940's marks a change in jewelry as World War II puts a halt on the use of precious metals, platinum being one of them. Platinum was the primary metal of choice for jewelry in the early 1900's, until the Retro Era. Trying to stretch gold as far as it could, a low karat gold alloy was used with a higher copper percentage, thus resulting in a gold with a reddish color to it. During this time you’ll start to see various colors of gold such as rose, pink and even greenish gold.
- Jewelers started getting creative during this time by braiding and coiling gold. You’ll see gold tassels and fringes, both as the main component of say a necklace, but also an accessory to the piece. Gold was no longer just part of the setting, but part of the design and decoration. Chunky gold bracelets were a huge trend during this time.
- You’ll also start to see the rise of gold in accessories, such as compact cases, lipstick holders, cigarette holders, lighters and purses.
What to Look for in Antique Gold Jewelry
When looking to purchase Antique Gold Jewelry, the most important things to look for are hallmarks.
These come in various forms, such as purity marks and makers marks.
- Purity marks are especially important in gold, as these denote what karatage the item is. You’ll see marks from 8K-24K in both this format and the metric format. Metric system will express purity as part of thousands. 14K gold will be stamped 585, 18K gold will be stamped 750 and 24K gold will be stamped 1000. 1000/1000 is the purest gold in this metric system.
- Maker’s marks can help you figure out where an item is from, such as France versus Italy. Some will be symbols, such as crowns, while others will be letters that stand for the jeweler or jewelry firm responsible for the piece.
The study of hallmarks is very extensive as there were many different markers used. There are few databases out there that have compiled as many hallmarks as they know. One top site is Lang Antiques.
Where to Buy Antique Gold Jewelry
Antique Gold Jewelry can be purchased at Antique Stores or retailers who have an Estate Section. Online is a great source for these items as well. Be sure to use our tips above and ask for many images. You’ll want to see images of all hallmarks the item has. The person you purchase from should be a reputable and reliable source.
Two reputable shops we recommend are on Etsy.
Antique Gold Jewelry has stood the test of time, allowing you to wear a piece that has both character and charm. These pieces are not only rich in color, but in history. We hope you’ll be able to use this blog as a guideline to find a piece you will truly cherish.
Please leave any questions you have in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them!