Grandma's Jewelry Box: Vintage Puffy Heart
It doesn't look like much and would be easy to skip by, but this little charm is worth a second look.
Sterling silver tarnishes with age and can sometimes be mistaken for 'junk jewelry,' especially on a piece as tiny as this little vintage puffy heart I found in a box lot from an estate auction. Victorians loved symbolism in their jewelry and the heart was a motif used often for love, chastity and kindness. This particular charm also features a peacock. A very Art Nouveau design which, when polished, is simply amazing! A good friend who collects these sweet charms let me know this one was made in the 1940s - a time of Victorian revival here in the United States.
When going through piles of Grandma's jewelry, be sure to check out the backs and, if possible, use a magnifying lens or jeweler's loupe to look for identifying marks. On this charm, there is a 'STERLING' stamp on the back which was difficult to see with the naked eye. This identifying mark was typically used on American jewelry from this time period (or 925 as a purity mark which began in the US in 1906). There is an entire system of identifying silver purity, location and maker in Britain and some other European countries.
If you have a piece you believe to be silver with markings, a great place to start researching is 925-1000. It is an excellent resource with photographs of location and maker's marks for US, British, European, Canadian and South American jewelry. If you have narrowed down a specific location but aren't finding exactly what you are looking for, another option is to look at location specific assay office websites. An assay office is responsible for defining the grading standards of metal production in their location.
Vintage puffy hearts are very collectible items in today's market, not to be overlooked. They come in a variety of metals including sterling silver, gold and brass. Often times, they are engraved like this one or include gems embedded within their intricate designs. If you are planning to re-sell these hearts, be sure to leave the patina in place as it lends value to collectors.