Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jewelry Fakes - A Few Examples

I wanted to write today about something that happens from time to time to dealers-- even with pretty sharp eyes.  Fakes.  The fact is that almost all dealers have bought fakes.  You won't see that many articles, because it's embarrassing and dealers think telling people about screw ups might hurt the reputation.  The fact is, publishing these images may help others who are about to get burned or who will remember these examples in the future.  Have a good image of a fake?  Send it along and I will add it to this post.

Fake 1736 Spanish 8 Escudo
Sometimes you get burned by a counterfeit-- or other times just valueless items that lend an appearance of being a good score.  Sometimes these fakes are intentionally fake and sometimes they are not.  But either way, if you have integrity you should never pass them along even as "replicas" and it would be better if you spotted them before you plunked down your cash and didn't buy them at all.  No one's perfect and I bet the most experienced dealer would regale you with the ingenious fakes they have bought through the years over a nice glass of something.

I keep fakes so that I can use them to remind myself of the mistakes and to motivate me to learn.  Some of these are actually quite common while others may be new to even a moderately experienced dealer.  I learn as I go, so I am not an expert and the items I will describe aren't exhaustive of fakes.

The first one came from a church flea market sale in a bad neighborhood.  I bought a jumble of a keychain from a lady that seemed to know very little about jewelry.  I purchased a couple of sterling silver Taxco bracelets and this keychain in a $40 lot.

This is a strategy that I use at yard sales.  Sometimes, I buy a handful of items together and usually throw in something horribly and obviously cheap in the mix.  Then I say, "How much for this stuff?"  Sometimes this works wonders because by casually putting  a bunch of items together you devalue the individuals by association.  Anyhow, back to the keychain.  It's got a bunch of gaudy nonsense on it and then there's a little pendant.  I'm just learning coins, so at first glance, it looks pretty good to be a Spanish coin to an amateur like me.  The item feels very heavy and it has elements of Spanish silver.  It has the cross, pillars, crowns, and some numbers which make it appear to be a 1736 Spanish 8 Escudo coin.  There's not much time to Google or hyper analyze when you are in this situations.  Sometimes you pull the trigger and you know you'll sort it out later.  This one is a fake.  And a common one probably originating from a tourist area in South America.  Any coin collector knows the 1736 was a tourist item meant to deceive.  I'm out about $13 on this piece (probably make up for it with the other items in the lot).  It's important to remember that sometimes you get burned.  Know that this is the price of getting into the business-- you pay your dues.  When you get burned, try to make it a $13 yard sale buy and not a $2.5M Renoir.

Fake Chinese Medallion with Dragon and Phoenix
Fake 14K Hallmark
The second piece I will show you is one I bought online.  I have reason to believe the seller had not noticed the hallmark.  And this happens a lot.  People get busy.  They miss stuff.  It even happens to me and I think of myself as careful.  Most of the time, when something is hallmarked, this is accurate.  But when you are buying online, spotting fakes can be tough.  I think I paid about $20 for this piece.  It appears to be a Chinese medallion (big at about 3" across).  Highly detailed of a phoenix and a dragon.  The detail really lends to the believability  It's a typical Chinese feng shui marriage harmony motif.  It also happens to be hallmarked 14K and the mark actually looks pretty old and Chinese.  It would have been a pretty good find.  Unfortunately, a 2 minute test in the shop showed this to be a fake-- and you could tell it was from plating wear under 10X magnification anyhow.  It probably was made in China-- just not of gold and definitely made to deceive.

The Chinese and Peruvians aren't the only ones to fake things for tourists on vacation (in fact there are scammers around the globe).  Fakes show up in particular genres very frequently.  Sports memorabilia, purses, shoes, and sunglasses have the highest number of counterfeits of any.  Jewelry is actually not that commonly faked.  Mostly because in person, it's easy to detect counterfeit gold and why bother with silver.  There are easier ways to make a living.  This piece is probably from Mexico.  Yes, it looks a bit thuggish, but you'd be amazed at some of the items I've found in gold that you would think-- woah, who would make this stupid item out of gold?  But they frequently do.  It pays to buy tacky garbage sometimes.  I bought this piece for $12 online.  The seller clearly stated they believed it was a fake.  Look, sometimes people make mistakes and I thought it was worth the gamble.  This piece is heavy (like 15 grams+).  And, an acid test was not conclusive.  I took it to my jeweler and he puzzled over it, believing it was real.  But after a few tests, he came to the same conclusion as me saying, "I think this is not real".  I took it to a second jeweler just to be on the safe side and yes, confirmed it was fake.


Autobahngold
I have managed to collect another fake item in the course of my business, and this one has an interesting history in Europe. While less frequently encountered in the United States, this particular line of fakes is well known across the pond, especially in Germany where they describe it as 'Autobahngold'. According to the website I've linked to, this gold is frequently exchanged by a purportedly stranded motorist on the side of the highway as a deposit for repayment of some bail out cash provided by an unsuspecting fellow traveler. There are numerous examples of marks and these have been located both in the original scams and now in secondary markets, EBay being one with numerous examples. The mark 0,750 appears to be particularly spurious and is described here in quite a few photographs. I can't say I feel fortunate to have one of my own, but so goes the trade in antique and vintage jewelry. You live and learn, and hopefully my mistakes will save you from one.

One more thing.  Salvador Dali etchings that are sometimes real may have no real value.  Some, such as the Don Quixote print here were printed in the tens of thousands in so-called "open editions".  The frame may be more valuable than the paper and I would recommend against buying Salvador Dali prints unless you really know what you're doing.  The market is simply flooded with these items.  There are also many many Dali prints with forged signatures.  If a print says "AP" on it or "EA", the signature is almost always faked and added later by an unscrupulous dealer.  So be very wary of these supposed artist proofs.


Happy hunting and may all that glitters for you be gold.  Want to see some stuff that didn't turn out to be fake?  Check out the shop here for beautiful gold and silver jewelry.

Fake Chinese Brooch Hallmarked 'China Silver'.
Note the base metal showing through in the left hand image.