So you think that you have found an amazing piece of jewelry at the Flea Market for a bargain.  Is it a steal or a deal? So, how do you tell what you have?
The term fine jewelry is defined as jewelry using fine or precious metals with precious, semi-precious or synthetic gemstones.  The assumption that all fine jewelry is more expensive than costume jewelry is incorrect.  There are numerous collectible costume jewelry pieces that have exceptionally high values due to their makers, condition and age.  Many outrageously expensive jewelry items were made in glass or enamel. Costume jewelry is considered to be trendier and made with plastics or rhinestones to be.  Costume jewelry is crafted to be worn for a short time period.  Fine jewelry is considered to be something precious that may be passed to the next generation or sold for the value of its components.

The first clue when shopping that we always look for is the heft of the piece.  This will take some practice.  Often while we are on a buying trip we will pick up a piece to examine and then without looking, quickly hand it back.  But as always, caution should be exercised.  Fine Edwardian Jewelry is very light to the touch, but very real and a true find!  We encourage you to practice picking up jewelry just for the weight.

First, let us look at a couple of small, inexpensive tools that will help you.  We recommend that you carry a magnet and a loupe for your shopping excursion.
The quick test of using a magnet will let you know right away if the metal is definitely not gold or platinum.  If the jewelry item is attracted to the magnet, you have found an item that is not fine jewelry.
A jewelry loupe is a great tool and it is very small and easy to carry. 
We recommend that you take a close look at the back of the jewelry piece.  Usually you will find more secrets to the jewelry on the back.  The construction of the jewelry item will tell you most all the answers you want.  Also, you may find the marks that will give you the answers such as if the item is plated, 14kt gold, platinum or 18kt gold.  But a word of caution, not all hallmarks are accurate.
Look at the how the stones or gemstones are held.  Do the “diamonds” have openings at their back? Most all jewelry makers, with the exception of some antique makers, will have the diamonds mounted with open backs so that light reflection will be enhanced.  Open backs only indicate a possibility of precious stones. A smooth backed diamond or stone would make me think the piece is costume.  Rhinestones are glued into the jewelry, not diamonds.  A close back with a loupe may reveal that a stone is set in a gold foil back, which was popular in the 1930s-1940s. A close look may reveal that the foil is darkened or pealing.
Jewelry prongs will provide a great amount of information.  Prongs on fine jewelry are usually made with round straight prongs and a notched out seat for the girdle of the stone.    The prongs will go up and cradle or bend over the stone.  Prongs on costume jewelry are flatter.

Enjoy your shopping with caution.  With every jewelry rule there are five exceptions and even the best trained, most experienced jewelry collector may be fooled.

Estate Jewelry Bargain Shopping Tips
By: E. Montgomery
Ten Two Three Estate Jewelry
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