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Tools 'N Tips: Antique & Estate Jewelry

Guide to Clasps

Early Catches and HingesSometimes you can detect the age of a piece by the catch/hinge. However, keep in mind that over the years these may have been replaced, leaving you to find other ways of dating your piece. The "C" catch is the earliest type and following that in about 1895 a safety type catch was used for a brief period of time. Sort of like the third catch you see from the right in the picture. Around the 1920's the present day type safety catch caught on even though a safety catch had been used by some since about 1912. The Trombone clasp is primarily found on European jewelry from the 1940's though it was very popular back in the 1890's as well. The clasp alone will not date a piece as you will see. As far as the hinges go... there are basically two types that are prominent in costume jewelry - the ball hinge (c 1890), which has variations; with one type you grip the pin by tightening the sides of the hinge as in the second example from the right in the picture shown. Another note: Better quality jewelry brooches usually had a small loop at the back for attaching a safety chain. On many pins I've come across, there has been the loop or even an O ring... but the safety chain was missing. These often broke over the years and weren't replaced. The tube hinge as shown in the photo is the earlier hinge - pre 1890's.


Repoussť is a method of imparting a raised design or pattern to a flat sheet of metal by punching the forms in from the back. The metal is supported on a block of pitch (sometimes made of wood) which provides a cushion for the forming of areas which have to be raised by the carefully using a series of punches with rounded tips. Since not all of the detailed work can be done this way the metal is turned over and the finer details of the design are punched in from the front, once again with the pitch supporting the metal. The use of steel punches this way is called Chasing. Repoussť is a time consuming task and was mostly used on the larger, more valuable pieces in Western Jewelry.

Jewelry Marks, Makers & Dates, and Victorian Jewelry 1837-1901, by Morning Glory Antiques. Great reference and articles.