The antique jewelry market has a counterfeit problem – JCK

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As a famous jewelry historian, Dr Jack Ogden (pictured) can see some of the most impressive pieces in the world. But lately he’s been spending a lot of his time looking at equally awesome fakes.

When people think of counterfeit jewelry, they usually imagine fake watches or Chinese counterfeits, like the transport recently seized by United States Customs and Border Protection officers in Louisville, Ky.

But Ogden, the founder and current president of the Society of Jewelery Historians, estimates that about half of the “antique” gold jewelry on the market is in fact fake. And while he’s able to capture most of them, he also suspects that well-crafted counterfeits have landed in auction houses, high-end collections, and even museums. Ogden saw objects that allegedly came from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire; if one person did, there’s a good chance another faked it.

“It’s a huge business,” he says. “Some of these articles make hundreds and thousands of pounds. Over the past 20 years, it has grown exponentially. You think they use maybe £ 20,000 in raw materials and get maybe £ 200,000 on the other end.

The quality of counterfeits varies enormously, he says. “I’ve seen silly things. But very beautiful.

Why has the fake market exploded? On the one hand, the antique jewelry market is hot, and where there is money, there is usually theft.

In a recent New York Times Reporting on the growing popularity of the antiques segment, the newspaper noted that collectors appreciate the idea of ​​wearing pieces that were individually shaped by artisans long ago.

So it’s a bitter irony that some of these “antique” pieces have in fact been mass-produced relatively recently by 3D printers, which have become the preferred tool of counterfeiters, Ogden says.

Another problem: museums have reduced the staff of experts, which makes it easy for well-designed dupes to pass.

In fact, Ogden admits that while he’s a notorious authority who authenticates himself for museums, he’s probably been duped too.

“I think I choose around 90%,” he says. “Some of the really good ones are almost indistinguishable from the originals. They are made by amazing craftsmen. [The forgers] know the materials, they know what technology to use. They can easily search for all of this information online.

cicada brooches
A pair of fake cicada brooches. When similar items start to appear on the market, it can be a sign that they are bogus.

The traditional way to determine the authenticity of a piece was to look for evidence of provenance, including supporting documents. But it can also be falsified. Ogden has heard of criminal networks, usually thought to be based in Eastern Europe, buying old typewriters on eBay, as well as old paper, to create realistic provenance documents.

So, over the years, he has developed a few false spotting tricks. For example, when many examples of a specific item from a certain period appear on the market, it’s usually a sign that something is brewing.

“Scythes hunt in packs,” he said. “Once they have set up a laboratory, [the counterfeiters] won’t make just one fake, they’ll make a bunch of them. You are therefore looking for certain peculiarities. You see one thing, and then all of a sudden you see a bunch of more by the same hand.

Of course, even when a fake is spotted, it is not easy to catch the perpetrator.

“It’s very delicate, legally. The dealer will say he didn’t know it was a fake, and it’s hard to prove he didn’t. It becomes very difficult to find these people.

So how do people protect themselves? Ogden says there is no easy way other than buying from reputable people and making sure the items you buy have been inspected by experts.

“No one really set up a gemstone lab to make antique jewelry. It is a difficult subject. People will say the style is right, it has to be genuine. But you have to do analyzes, you have to do microscopic studies.

Otherwise, as he said Antiqvv magazine, “Openly acknowledge that much of the ancient art on the market or exhibited in a public or private collection is there on the basis of one or more opinions which [it is] true. An opinion is only an educated guess. As the quote says, “Don’t assume anything, question everything. “

“For the inexperienced buyer,” he continued, “wise advice is probably still what Italian antique dealer Ricardo Nobili said almost exactly a century ago – buy old jewelry as if it were modern and be pleasantly surprised if they turn out to be old. “

Jack Ogden
Jack Ogden

Ogden mainly deals with the very high end of the market, but there is also an issue with cheaper items, especially on online platforms like eBay.

Becky Stone, who blogs at Diamonds in the library, recently wrote 11 tips to avoid getting stuck with fakes. She recommends doing your research, investigating sellers, making sure there is a return policy, and asking questions.

“If a seller says he is offering a rare 9k gold French mourning ring that an earl’s daughter wore in memory of her father in the late 1700s, that person should be able to explain the facts behind this description. How do they know it’s French?… How do they know who wore it? How did they date him?

“If someone is offering rare and expensive antiques for sale,” she continued, “they should be able to explain to any buyer how they value their merchandise. If a seller doesn’t take the time to answer your questions or cannot provide satisfactory answers, it does not deserve your trust (or your money). ”

This problem is not limited to antique jewelry: recently, experts accused the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, of exhibiting fake Faberge eggs. Counterfeiting has also long been a problem in the art world.

The fake jewelry issue hasn’t been so well publicized, but make no mistake: it’s real.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” says Ogden. “I am learning all the time.

Top: A faux Hellenistic Greek style earring (all images courtesy of Jack Ogden)

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