There is a lot to learn if you intend to start buying antique jewelry, from how to tell when the jewelry is really an antique to identifying different gemstones and materials. Another thing you will need to do is learn different terminology. When going to estate sales or auctions, they will use certain terminology to describe jewelry pieces. It helps to know a little more about what terms will be used.


One of the more common jewelry techniques used with antique jewelry is filigree. Filigree is a jewelry design technique that puts very small and thin pieces of metal close together to form patterns. When you see a gold ring band and notice there are intricate patterns on the band made of what looks like "dots" of gold, that is a filigree design. This was made popular after casting metal started being used. You might find filigree on ring bands and settings, earrings, and necklace pendants.

Gold-Filled Jewelry

Another term you might hear in terms of antique jewelry is "gold-filled." Gold-filled jewelry is the design process of adding a sheet of gold metal to a less expensive base metal. While it will not provide as much gold as 14k or 20k gold pieces, it contains considerably more gold than jewelry labeled as "gold-plated." Since it has a larger quantity of gold, gold-filled jewelry will be more valuable than gold-plated jewelry. A lot of antique gold jewelry is in fact gold-filled, including Victorian-era jewelry.

Old European Cut

When you start looking at antique rings, you will notice that diamonds and gemstones come in different cuts. With antique jewelry, a lot of the older rings had diamonds cut in what is called the old European cut. The diamonds or gemstones will have a round shape with deep pavilions and small tables. If you compare this to the round brilliant cut used today, you can visibly see that the tables on top of the diamond are much smaller, but the pavilions are deeper.


You might think of enamel as being something used on costume jewelry and inexpensive fashion jewelry, but it was very popular over a century ago. Enamel is a type of glass that turns into a liquid when it is heated at a high temperature. Once it becomes a liquid, it is applied to metal, often with a bright color to add interest and style to the jewelry piece. There are some intricate designs that use enamel with antique estate jewelry.

To learn more about estate jewelry, contact The Owl's Tale