How to spot fake vintage jewellery

pootability blog
Arts & crafts

I bought a collection of nine 1950s vintage necklaces and brooches from an eBay seller. Eagerly ripping open the package, I was rather surprised to discover that the pieces weren't all vintage and, to me, obviously not so.

For your amusement, here's a game of New or Old?

I'm going to show you photos of some jewellery I've bought from two eBay sellers plus a necklace from my mother-in-law's collection that I know for sure to be vintage.

Rhinestone necklaces

Rhinestone is a general term for non-gem stones, often faceted. This could be crystal or glass or lab-created thingies such as diamante.


From top to bottom:

  1. 6g, bolt-ring clasp
  2. 21g, bolt-ring clasp, stones vary from white to yellow
  3. 19g, hook only
  4. 11g, tarnished bolt-ring clasp, pale rose gold-coloured metal
  5. 19g, box clasp
  6. 18g, hook and loop
  7. 17B, pinch box thing, push-in clasp metal different colour


Rhinestone brooches

From left to right:

  1. 11g, variation in colour of stones
  2. 7g



Marcasite brooches

From left to right:

  1. 21g
  2. 14g
  3. 14g



New or Old?

Which do you think is vintage (from the 1960s or earlier), which do you think were made recently? And why? Answers at the end.

Why it matters if it's just costume jewellery

When buying vintage costume jewellery - which has no intrinsic value - you're also buying a piece of history. Wearing a 1950s brooch or necklace would have been worn by a woman who'd lived through the second world war.

To buy a piece of jewellery that was sold on the basis of being vintage (specifically 1950s in these cases) only to find out that it was likely mass-produced within the last year or so deprives one of that connection with the past and with a certain quality of craftsmanship.

In these examples, someone has gone to the trouble of getting old rhinestones and clasps and set them into new moulded piece. Someone down the line is then passing them off as vintage. I'd like to know how they enter the market, seeing as some of these turn up at car-boot sales.

How to spot the fakes

True rhinestone jewellery will be at least 40 years old and will look it. If the jewellery looks pristine and brand new, it probably is.

Look closely at the front:

  • is there any dirt around the stones?
  • has any of the plating worn off?
  • are any of the stones missing or damaged?

Look at the back:

  • has any plating worn off?
  • is it a modern or old-style clasp?
  • is the metal textured? jewellery from the 1970s onwards tend to have textured metal

Don't be fooled by the occasional discoloured stone or old clasps. There's a lot of broken jewellery out there and these are being harvested for stones and clasps to put into new pieces to pass off as vintage.

Which are new and which are old?

Rhinestone necklaces

1. Fake: clean and pristine - no signs of wear

2. Fake: likely vintage stones in a new setting

3. Fake: new, maybe with an older loop clasp

4. Fake: old clasp on a new (v. light) necklace, odd metal colour

5. Vintage: my mother-in-laws, shows signs of age

6. Vintage: shows signs of age, the plating is worn in places

7. Fake: push-in metal doesn't match the rest, rhinestones set not to lie completely flat (i.e., to give the idea of warped through age)

The brooches

The first rhinestone brooch is modern but likely uses old stones. The metal is just the wrong colour and texture.

The big marcasite brooch on the left is the vintage one. The back metal is worn and, under a loupe, there's muck around the stones.

The right-hand leaf brooch has sharp edges and a 100% pristine back.

Why I'm buying old jewellery

In March 2009, I successfully sold my mother- and gran-in-law's fine and costume jewellery on eBay. As a result, I started to buy vintage jewellery to resell. I have looked at hundreds of jewellery items online every day and bought between one and five pieces a day.

The jewellery rhinestone necklaces and some of the brooches mentioned here came from an eBay seller who regularly goes to car-boot sales and who lists 1950s jewellery almost daily. I chose a few items from three collections she'd listed.

It always comes down to the same thing with eBay sellers in these situations: they're either ignorant or dishonest, and neither is good.