U.S. Men Now Wearing More Jewelry – Welcome to the Party Guys!

man wearing rings jewelry

The New York Times ran an intriguing piece this week on the uptick in consumption of Jewelry by American and European men. I can’t speak for our brothers across the pond, but it doesn’t take a sleuth to see that dudes here are wearing more jewelry today than they were a few years ago. Rings, Bracelets and Cufflinks have made a killer come back  — which can be evidenced by the anecdotal fact that I ran into my mechanic (the scrubbiest, non-metro, manliest man I know) at dinner with his fiance last week (in a part of Western NJ that might as well be a wormhole to Kalamazoo) and he was sporting a pair of blue guilloche enamel links -with jeans no less.

I’m sure there’s a dozen reasons why jewelry has resurfaced as an “acceptable” male accessory, but we’ve got our own take on it. Consider the fact that in many cultures men regularly wear jewelry that might be considered too feminine in the West (just take a long hard look at the hands and wrists of your male Indian friends and acquaintances). And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? We Westerners have been putting jewelry and femininity in the same box for decades. But things they are “a’changin” my friend.

The later 90’s to early 2000’s rise-of-the-metro-man combined with: continued growth and progress of the women’s movements; the mainstreaming of what were formerly American subcultures (hip-hop culture, gay culture); and the ever present desire to push boundaries – have all come together to soften our collective projection of Western maleness.

cutesy guys

 

 

Assuming you’re in the “art imitates life camp”, just look at the 21st century’s Hollywood leading male heroes — Chris Pine, Ryan Gosling, Zac Efron, Ryan Reynolds — all cutsie-bootsey boyish heroes that wouldn’t hold a flame to the rough masculine heroes of yesteryear (epitomized by the likes of Bogart and perhaps Eastwood) — but we love them and keep flopping down $20.00 a ticket to see them save the world. Why? Because we can live with the idea of a hero who isn’t 100% manly-man 24 hours per day. (Consider the evolution of Clancy’s  Jack Ryan from Baldwin to Ford to Affleck to, you guessed it, Pine.)

In addition to undoubtedly saving countless American men from feelings of inadequacy (except perhaps for that whole abs thing), this increasing comfort with softer masculinity allows Western men to wear some jewelry without fearing the repercussions they might have suffered a few decades ago. The reluctance to wear jewelry (other than the obvious personal preference) stems from a fear of appearing less-masculine, but if we live in a world wear its acceptable (if not desireable) to appear less masculine, but still be a man, then there’s no risk to the wearer. In fact. many would argue that wearing jewelry is simply an expression of how comfortable you are with your own interpretation of masculinity.

Now, that’s not to say we expect to see your average Joe flaunting pearl lavalieres anytime soon, but keep your eyes peeled just in case. In the meantime, welcome to the party, guys, and take a look at the hundreds of pieces of vintage men’s jewelry we’re currently offering. (as a welcome gift – use the code “MENS18” to take 18% off any men’s item in our Etsy store – now through June 1, 2015)

Shop Men’s Jewelry on Ebay

Shop Men’s Jewelry on Etsy

 

How to Spot Counterfeit Fake Tiffany & Co. Jewelry – How to tell if it’s authentic Tiffany

Mimicry is often labeled the ultimate form of flattery. I can assure you, however, that Tiffany & Co. is not flattered by the small number of con-artists who manufacture cheap jewelry and then stamp it with the T & Co. name in order to capitalize on Tiffany’s hard earned reputation. The purpose of this guide is to help you sort out the real McCoy from the wannabees.

The surest way to buy authentic T & Co. jewelry is go directly to Tiffany’s website, a Tiffany Authorized re-seller or a Tiffany Boutique. For those of us who cannot afford to buy new pieces, or simply choose to buy estate pieces, it can be difficult to know when we are getting the real thing and when we’re being duped. Experienced Tiffany buyers will tell you that there is simply no comparison between the feel and look of the real thing versus the cheap copies being hocked at street bazaars and shady online stores. However, if you don’t have a lot of hands on experience, you can be fooled by some of the clever fakes. What you need is a quick guide to help you identify the tell-tale signs of a counterfeit piece.

1. Soldered Links:

Links on Tiffany Jewelry should be soldered continuous links. There should not be a line where the link can be separated. This is a very common give-away on fakes. In the photos below you can see a counterfeit Tiffany heart toggle necklace and a close-up of the links. This necklace was sold to us by a silver dealer.

T1Capture1

Compare the links in the necklace above to the links in the authentic Tiffany heart toggle piece below. Note how the smooth perfectly round links on the real one have no seams:

RealClose RealLinks

2. Perfection:

All stamps, logos and lines on a piece of modern Tiffany jewelry should be perfect. Below, take a look at the bangle in the top two photos. While it might look convincing from a distance, the Cartouche around the 1837 logo is off center and crooked. We purchased this bracelet from a website for $190.00. The site refunded our money without question when we complained that it was not authentic. You would never see a crooked logo like this on an authentic Tiffany bangle like the one on the bottom. Also – you can actually see the brass coming through the engraving on the top photo. Like most fakes, it is silver plated brass (sometimes copper or zinc as well). Note that on vintage and antique pieces, the Tiffany logo will appear on the back of the piece – these back marks are sometimes less than perfect.

Tiffany 1837 Fake1837 fake2

1837 Real

3. Font:

Newer authentic Tiffany pieces that actually use the full name “Tiffany & Co.” will almost always use a larger T and larger C.  If the piece has all uniform letters, you should investigate it further because it may be a fake. For vintage pieces, this rule goes out the window. The marks TIFFANY & CO. and even just “TIFFANY 18K” were used on genuine vintage Tiffany pieces.

4.  Silver Content:

Authentic Tiffany jewelry will always be marked with a fineness mark (aka “purity mark” and sometimes mistakenly called a “hallmark”). For sterling silver pieces the purity mark will be either “925” or “Sterling”, the latter being more common on vintage pieces.  The content of the piece will be 92.5% silver.  While Tiffany did make some large silver plated tea platters in the early part of the 20th century, Tiffany jewelry, especially modern pieces, is all solid silver. If you have a test kit, you can safely perform a touchstone test. If not, inspect the piece closely with a magnifying glass for wear. Pay particular attention to stamped and engraved areas as well as joints. As you can see the fake 1837 bracelet above, it is sometimes possible to see the base metal coming through the silver. Look at the 1827 ingot necklace below. We used sand paper to remove the outer silver layer and expose the underlying brass. IMPORTANTLY — magnets will not distinguish between sterling silver and silver plated brass — magnets are in fact rarely ever a reliable test for silver.

ingot

SUPER FAKES

Though not common, you might sometimes encounter what we call “super fakes”. These pieces will fool even an experienced jeweler. We recently came across a heart tag “super fake” which appears below.

SuperFake1

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike the examples described above, this bracelet is made from solid sterling silver. It also features soldered links, which can be seen in the photo below.

 

 

SuperFake2

 

 

 

 

 

There are still some details which give it away as a fake. Let’s start with the Back of the donut loop. The 925 mark is askew, uneven and off strike.

Superfake3

 

 

 

 

 

The letters on the heart tag bleed into the top surface.

SuperFakeBleed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The welds and joints are generally sloppy. See photos below.

Sloppy3 Sloppy2 Sloppy1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart tag is also domed, has a grainy texture and varies in thickness. It is also not signed on the back — which is not always fatal — but in this case, seals the deal.

Conclusion

When in doubt — don’t buy it.  Always ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for more pictures / closeups  if you are buying online.  Never buy a piece if the seller is representing it as “I was told” “I think this is authentic” or “Buy at your own risk”. It’s just not worth the headache. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have. Thanks as always for reading our jewelry blog! Please also visit our ebay store if you are in the market for jewelry today!

WWII Era Sweetheart Jewelry

WWII Sweetheart Bracelet

Today is Veteran’s Day – a day on which we all recognize the sacrifice and burden borne by those men and women who put their Country and its people before themselves. Anyone with a close family member in the service knows that the commitment of our soldiers, sailors and airmen (hereafter “service members”) effects not just the service member, but the families who stay home waiting and hoping for a safe return.

Fortunately, advances in communication technology during the last several decades have made it somewhat easier for service members to communicate with their families and friends– when time and circumstances permit. During the WWII era, however, the overwhelming majority of communication with the folks back home was by written letter.

It was not uncommon for service members to send small gifts back home along with their letters or to bring these gifts home. These gifts often consisted of jewelry items that corresponded with the member’s branch of service, specialty or posts. The jewelry was then worn at home as a memento, a display of patriotism, and an acknowledgment of the pride derived from a having a family member in the service. Recipients included mothers, sisters, wives, fiances, friends and of course – sweethearts!

Nowadays, these special items are collected by military collectors, jewelry enthusiasts and regular people who just appreciate them for the special items they are.

We like to divide jewelry items of this type into two broad categories: handicrafts made by service members (sometimes called trenchart) and manufactured items that were purchased by service members for the purpose of gift giving. Most of the Sweetheart Items we carry from the WWII era are of the manufactured type. We have not yet come up with a good system for verifying the authenticity of trench art pieces and are thus refraining from carrying them at the moment.

Many pieces of sweetheart jewelry, like the “Jump Wings” bracelet at the top of this article (from our ebay store – sold) are crafted from sterling silver. This bracelet uses the paratrooper’s symbol of a parachute between two gothic wings. The clasp is a classic 1940’s fanning hook clasp. It is marked sterling but bears no maker’s mark.

It is not uncommon for Sweetheart pieces to be engraved, wither by the service member, or the dealer from the member acquired the piece. Below is an example of 1943 West Point sweet hear bracelet that is engraved on the back.

WWII Sweetheart Bracelet 2West Point Bracelet from our ebay store

Authenticating WWII Sweetheart Jewelry

Unlike trench-art, there is not a lot of manufactured WWII era sweet heart jewelry being counterfeited. It is more common to run into a later piece that is wrongly attributed to the WWII era.

WWII ran from 1939-1945 – but there is some disagreement in the community as to what items can fairly be said to be from WWII. The United States did not enter WWII until December of 1941. Thus, arguably, U.S. pieces from before 1941 are not “WWII pieces”. Likewise, because the War ended in 1945, pieces manufactured after that date are also not “WWII pieces”.  But this date range – 1941-1945 – does not consider the first few years of reconstruction or the fact that a brutal war was raging in 1939 and 1940. Because we are jewelers, rather than military collectors, we prefer to use the catchall “WWII ERA” when describing military items that date from 1939-1947.

Authenticating items from this period requires close examination. We rely on three approaches. First – ask the current owner. Personal prevenance is one of the best ways to authenticate an item. If it was sent by your friend’s grandfather from the front line – you’re pretty much done.  Second, we look at general (non-military specific) jewelry construction and markings:

1. U.S. Sterling Silver Jewelry from the WWII Era should be stamped “Sterling” “Ster.” “Silver” or “SS”. We have not encountered any U.S., British or Australian pieces marked 925. If the piece was made in continental europe, or from materials derived from continental Europe, this rule goes out the window.

2. Clasps and catches should be fanning hooks, spring clasps, fold over hooks or custom safety clasps. Be weary of lobster clasps and lightbulb shaped clasps.  At this point, safety (aka helmet) clasps were already common on most pins and brooches. Pin hinge construction was also modern.

3. Electric welding was uncommon and Laser Welding was  not used.

WWII Sweetheart Bracelet Clasp

Example of a Fanning Hook Clasp on a WWII Era Bracelet

Third, we look at the symbols, military insignia and any dates (obviously dates can be a huge help)

1. It is imporant to identify, at a minmum, the branch of serivice that the member was serving in. Hopefully you will also be able to determine his unit / division etc. If like me, you’re not an avid military historian or collector – this can be very tough. If you don’t have one of the many guidebooks available, you can try to describe the insignia and google it. For example “WWII Parachute between two wings”.

In general – Anchors indicates Navy. Wings indicates U.S. Army Air Forces (USAF’s predecessor). Keep in mind that there are hundreds of unit specific insignia. I like to use the website of “War Dog Militaria” – this site provides good color examples of authentic WWII era patches http://wardogmilitaria.com/index.php?main_page=index

 2. Look for Dates! While they can be faked – it’s uncommon.

 3. Ask for help. Most military collectors I’ve encountered are happy to help identify items for non-collectors, as long as you don’t abuse their willingness to help. If you frequently rely on a particular forum for assistance, you should make a contribution to that forum. 

WWII Sweetheart EarringsWWII Prop and Wings Sweetheart Earrings from our ebay store

Finally – all of us here at Hunter Ridge would like to express our deep gratitude to all service members and their families.

Vintage and Antique Mexican Silver Jewelry

Deco

Following up on Marjorie’s post last week, I thought I would take a moment to share my take on Vintage and Antique Mexican Silver Jewelry as well as some of the pieces we have recently encountered. Mexico has long produced some of the finest Artisan jewelry in the world.

Through most of the major 20th century movements, from Art Deco to Post Modern to Pop — Mexico’s silversmiths have been putting out gorgeous pieces. We are fans of Mexican silver and buy and sell it on a pretty much daily basis.

I generally separate Mexican jewelry into two categories: Tourist pieces and art pieces.

donkey 1. The Tourist pieces are often figural and usually depict traditional Mexican themes of aboriginal and modern origin. Donkeys, Aztec Designs (calendars etc), Sombreros and Masks are quite popular today and have been for the last 75 years. These pieces are usually crafted from Sterling Silver and often incorporate semi-precious mosaic work (turquoise and coral) as well as carved stones (quartz, obsidian, turquoise etc). Many of the more modern tourist piece rely heavily on dyed turquoise and fabricated coral.  I have mixed feelings on the tourist pieces. Some of them (especially pieces from the 70’s) are so kitschy that they are irresistible. Others are outright garish. The quality ranges from student work to master crafted and everything in-between. We feature many of the nicer tourist pieces in our eBay store.Mask

2. The art pieces are of course a completely different ball game. While often incorporating some of the same motifs as the tourist pieces (both aboriginal and traditional) these items are reflective of artistic movements and personal artistic inspiration. Modernism seems to have flourished particularly well in Mexico. We’ve sold a number of mid-century Taxco pieces that easily meet or exceed the quality of modernist Danish and American works. Several studios, owned by both Mexicans and Gringos, operated during this era and thus there is an abundance of representative pieces available in the marketplace.

bracelet

Dating Mexican Silver

Dating Mexican silver can be a bit tricky. 925-1000.com has a useful primer on the subject and a great break-down of particular artists’ marks. We use the following rules of thumb:

1. “Silver” “Silver Mexico” “980 Mexico” “980” Generally pre-1950

Taxco 980

2.  Eagle Marks –  1950’s-1970’s

Mask Taxco Mark

3.  Coded  (for example “TH-121 925 Mexico”) or Just 925MEXICO = Late 1970’s to Present.  The coding system was introduced  by legislation and used the first initial of the City (e.g. T for Taxco) followed by the first initial of the registrant’s last name (e.g. “H” Hernandez) and the a number indicating how many people before the smith registered in the same city with the same name. A lot of jewelry coming out of Mexico right now (especially from the big manufacturers like ATI) is just marked “925 MEXICO”.

In addition to these marking rules, you can rely on dating techniques that apply to all jewelry (see our article on the subject). For example, screw back earrings are going to generally pre-date butterfly nut posts. Laser welding marks = modern. However, keep in mind that a lot of Mexican art jewelry and tourist jewelry is made exactly as it was 50-100 years ago and thus it can be difficult to pin down an age.

A note on Fakes: There is an increasing amount of non-silver jewelry in the marketplace that is stamped 925 Mexico. It is usually very easy to spot based on weight and quality and is not nearly as prevalent as the general junk silver around that is just marked 925. Alpaca is also sometimes mistaken or intentionally misrepresented as Silver. There is no silver in Alpaca, but it is quite lovely in its own right. We will be doing a post on Alpaca in the coming weeks.

Collecting Vintage & Antique Silver Jewelry – Life Lessons Learned

Collecting Vintage & Antique Silver Jewelry – Life Lessons Learned

by Marjorie

It would require several lifetimes to complete a truly representative collection of Vintage Silver Jewelry – I know because after 25 years of avid collecting, I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available in the marketplace. I hope that my early experience in this hobby (read obsession) will be of some benefit to those just starting out.

My Feeding Frenzy

Initially, I had no focus. If it was silver and it was vintage – I bought it. Within a year or two I had amassed a sizeable collection of brooches, rings, necklaces, chatelaines, bracelets of every type and enough earrings to decorate the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. But – the collection was severely lacking. Common brands like Beau and CarlArt were over represented. I had too many thoughtless, gaudy leaf brooches and an unjust supply of once vermeil, but now “spotty” rings.  The euphoria of “buying” had worn off  – It was a real crisis and the diagnosis was grim.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t buy everything!

My Deco Delusion

The only solution was to liquidate the bulk of the collection and get some focus. I re-engaged by visiting my favorite antique stores and limiting my purchases to one essential piece a month. There was an early inclination to target Deco pieces – but I know now that was just because it seemed like the “sophisticated” answer to my earlier mistakes. I bought a classic 800 silver and black French paste bracelet, a marcasite studded Raven (which turned out to be a reproduction) and a pair of matching geometric bangles. I wasn’t happy.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t focus on eras, cultures or brands just because they sound cool. Don’t worry about whether other people will be impressed by your taste.

I get in touch with my inner Taxco

I kept the Deco pieces – as a reminder to never buy anything again that I wouldn’t wear if I was just spending the day at home and to instead focus on the pieces that made me happy. The only piece from my early collecting days that I wore regularly was a stark green quartz and 980 silver Taxco brooch. It incorporated a mix of modernistic lines and more naturalistic swirls in striking to contrast to each other. I loved this piece (I left in an airport bathroom along with my jacket). How stupid I was not to recognize that this was MY STYLE! – and should be the focus of the collection. It was easy to find like minded folks at the growing number of flea markets and swap meets in here in the North East. I got to know quality dealers and learned to identify periods, styles and even individual designers without having to remove a piece from a display case. My collection was smaller – and I was happier for it.

LESSON LEARNED: Figure out what you honestly like and stick with that to start. Find other people who share your passion and try to learn as much as you can from them.

The Dawn of the Information Age (at least for me!)

Then came the growth of online shopping ….. suddenly every imaginable piece was at my fingertips. I was in grave danger of again entering a remorseless feeding frenzy – but I though back on my CarlArt days and focused on disciplined buying. I learned that some of my prized possessions were not quite as rare as I’d thought and that others were far more valuable than I believed. Most importantly – I learned more than I ever could have even if I travelled to every flea market and antique store in the country. By prudently shopping on eBay and Etsy, I was able to put together a museum worthy collection. I am hoping to share some photos with all of you in the next time I contribute to the Hunter Ridge blog.

LESSON LEARNED: The internet is evil! (Just kidding). Stay focused on quality even when the market and / or your access to it changes.

Thanks – and best of luck in your collecting endeavors.