One of the most common questions that I receive from customers is “how old is this piece of jewelry?” Sometimes the question is very easy to answer, especially if the jewelry is marked in any way. Certain markings were only used in specific time periods. However, if there are no markings on a piece, then we must turn to other methods of dating. The style of clasps will often give us a relatively good idea of how old a piece is. There are several types of clasps that were used on brooches from very early days right up to contemporary pieces. Some general styles are T bar pins, C clasps, C clasps with extended pins, Locking C clasps, Trombone clasps.
The T Bar clasp is one of the earliest styles of clasps for brooches and pins. They were used throughout the Victorian Era. The pin extended slightly over the edge and had no locking or holding mechanism.
C clasps were also popular during the Victorian era. One way to tell if it is a very early piece is to examine the pin itself. This old style C Clasp shows the pin extending quite a way beyond the brooch and held by a C piece of metal. The extra length of pin helped to secure the brooch to heavy Victorian fabrics.
Trombone clasps are named after the musical instrument that requires a push and pull to operate. This style of clasp uses this push pull method of closing. It was used from as early as the late 1800s. The clasp was mainly used by European designers and can be found on more modern pins up to the mid 20th century.
The early C clasp continued to be very popular and was used on jewelry up until the early 1900s when the safety catch was invented . Earlier C clasps had the longer pins and those used closer to the invention of the locking C clasps had shorter pins as the fabrics became less thick.
Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, the locking C clasp was invented. These clasps have a spinning locking mechanism that hold the brooch securely in place. Early locking C clasps opened downwards, and more modern ones open upwards. The locking C-Clasp was patented in 1901. It was widely used for jewelry designs in 1910 and remains popular today. Early locking clasps often had a small rounded mechanism, and later ones had a locking piece that was separate and slipped over the holding piece of the clasp.
Most modern jewelry makes use of the later style of locking C clasp. It is possible to find more contemporary pieces still using unlocking C clasps or trombone clasps but generally, they were used on earlier styles.
Antique & Vintage Jewelry