Genuine Antique or Modern Replica: Tips for jewellery buyers

How can you ensure you are buying a genuine original antique and not a replica? Many traditional antique styles are reproduced today, and some are so cleverly executed they could outwit even the most savvy of buyers. Megan Austin discusses the intricacies involved when attempting to separate an antique from a replica.

There are many factors to consider when separating a genuine antique from a replica. Unless the item is blessed with a set of good, crisp hallmarks and has no obvious signs of alteration we must rely on other clues. These include design, type of metal and carat, construction technique, quality of craftsmanship, findings, setting style, finishes, gemstone type, cutting style, and treatments.

A seller should always represent an item of jewellery accurately by stating if it’s antique, vintage, modern or a mixed marriage. Certainly, it’s preferable to buy from a trusted seller or one who offers a reasonable return period. This is trickier if you’re buying online but then if the item is not as described when you receive it, you are technically entitled to a full refund. Consumer friendly payment options such as Paypal will investigate any claims with the seller on your behalf. Otherwise, the ACCC or Office of Fair Trading should help you out in the event of any difficulties in this regard. Some sellers are unaware of the true age of the item and so I would also advise that you do your research and ask lots of questions pre-sale.

Below are some pairs of rings that might look similar in style, but only one is a genuine antique. Can you guess which one?


Crisp hallmarks found on the inside of the ring shank on the left indicate the name of the maker (S.H&C), Country (England), Town (Birmingham), the carat stamp (18ct) and a date letter that indicates the year of manufacture, which in this case is 1919, making this ring a genuine antique. Hallmarks aside, other clues that indicate this ring is an antique include the style of design, it’s high quality handmade execution and setting style that features beautifully finished and very fine claw tips. The turquoise gemstones are not exactly matched in terms of cut and shape and show some signs of discolouration that is consistent with age.

The ring on the right is of similar ‘London bridge’ style. However, this item has been manufactured using the casting technique, which is often used in modern mass production. Another red flag is the perfectly even coloured blue of the turquoise gemstones, which appear to be stabilised (a modern treatment) and perfectly symmetrical, and that lack the minor cutting inconsistencies of the first ring. Fortunately, this ring also contains hallmarks. These allow us to deduce the maker (S&K), Country (England) and Town (London), the purity as 9ct carat gold and the 1993 date letter, making this ring late 20th century, not antique. That is a whopping age difference of 74 years between the two rings.

An inexperienced buyer may not pick up these differences.

We have a similar dilemma with the two rings pictured below. Both rings have a similar style of band that contain one or more hammer set gemstones, however each ring has a distinct set of hallmarks.


The ring on the left has a hallmark which indicates it was made by E.V in England (Birmingham) in 1889 and is 18ct gold, so it’s late Victorian in age. The ring on the right has hallmarks that tell us it was made by J.H.W. in England (Birmingham) in 1928 and is 18ct rose gold. So, technically the first ring is antique, and the second is considered vintage and should be sold as such.

Have a guess about the age of these rings? Antique or modern reproduction?


Genuine Antique

This is a genuine antique early Victorian 22ct yellow gold rhodolite garnet ring, made in England in 1847. It contains a rhodolite garnet which has suffered some small chips and has some surface pits and cracks, consistent with the age of the ring. The ring is handmade and the setting contains multiple claw tips that are quite finely shaped to hold the centre gem.


Vintage Replica

This is a modern vintage replica of an antique ‘basket’ ring. It contains modern round brilliant cut synthetic rubies, brilliant cut diamonds and onyx. It is of budget cast construction that potentially could have been made in the hundreds, and is let down by poor finish.

Mixed Marriage

This is a mixed marriage of antique and modern. The antique silver topped setting contains a garnet surrounded by old cut diamonds and the band has been later added. The setting may have originally been a brooch.

If you are in doubt about the age and origin of your latest purchase, contact Megan Austin Valuations to obtain a professional opinion.

(07) 3210 1975 or email