Follow the clues
One of my dearest friends is a retired master goldsmith/platinumsmith. He trained in England in the late 1950s and learned traditional techniques of making jewellery. He is also quite the history buff; this article benefits from several hours of conversation between us. Whenever I am stumped by a piece, I call him. His thorough understanding and unique way of looking at jewellery never fail to ultimately make me comfortable with my decision on the way a piece was put together. He worked for many years at one of the stores where I was employed as a salesperson. When I could sneak off the sales floor, I would pepper him with questions: Why was this cast? How old do you think this is? What is the difference between stamping and die-striking? What are the methods of choice for a goldsmith? And on and on. He was all too happy to answer my questions and was ever-patient in showing me what he was doing and why. When my shift was over, he’d let me sit at the bench and give me things to do like sawing Abraham Lincoln out of a penny. Then he’d tell me to examine the marks the saw made and remember what that looked like.
Years later, I took a jewellery fabrication course at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco.
I learned to file, forge, form, anneal, and solder. (I found out soldering is not my forté, as I’m not really all that comfortable around a highly combustible pressurized tank of gas and oxygen!) Even though it is certain
I will never make a living as a goldsmith, the course was invaluable for helping me recognize the telltale signs of the various methods used to make jewellery.
Where to start? First, turn the piece over! The back of a brooch, the underside of a ring or bracelet, the inside of a locket. This is where your search for clues begins.