Is that antique, vintage or new?
With the revived interest in vintage and antique jewelry, it’s getting more difficult to tell if a Philippine-made tamborin-style jewelry is antique. When I first started my online shop, I had to rely on what the antique dealers told me. They would either say, it’s an antique, at least a hundred years old or the vague answer, “Luma na yan” (meaning “That’s already old” ). Um, okay. I can’t really blame them, there are very few reference books on these things. So how do you tell?
The more seasoned sellers would say that antique tamborin beads are very smooth when you run your fingers through them. Same goes for the relicario (or reliquary pendant that usually accompany this tamborin style jewelry). While this is probably true, I’ve seen some antique tamborins that are not really smooth. Maybe they were hardly used by the previous owner or the wearer took really good care of the piece.
Another way is to look at the finish. This one refers to old gold-plated silver. They have this soft gold wash but with some gold darkening on them. They don’t have the blinged-out look of a 24K gold unless of course it’s been recently gold-plated which some collectors like. Keep in mind though that some very good reproductions are “burned” to make it look old while others are dipped in dye to achieve the rose gold finish. How sneaky.
One dealer told me that it’s hard to tell, even if they have been in the business for a long time, they still get duped even by “trusted” middlemen who would source the items for them. This is possibly due to the fact that antique Philippine jewelry is getting more difficult to source nowadays.
Another factor to consider is the size. I bought a reproduction filigree earrings before and it was much bigger than the antiques ones. Safe to say that the Filipinas from the olden days were a little more conservative and kept their bling to small size.
An antique expert told me though that it’s not the smooth texture nor the antique finish but the craftsmanship. Antique Philippine-made jewelry were very well handcrafted. Even with good reproductions, some techniques are just too hard to replicate. Or they simply don’t want to spend months working on a single piece.
Based on personal experience, I’m most comfortable with dealers who would point out which of their items are reproduction without you asking them. They will also give you tips on how to identify antique or vintage ones. You can also spot the good sellers who would take time out and talk to you about their items, it shows that they sell things they love.
But if all else fails, buy pieces that you love at a price you are comfortable with.
*Please note that I am no expert on these things. This is an interest of mine and I am only sharing what I’ve learned along the way. I too have been burned with pieces passed off as antique when in fact they were just reproductions.