A touch of history by Adin Antique Jewellery: Why do we look for oak leaves on old jewellery?

A touch of history
by Adin Antique Jewellery

Why do we look for oak leaves on old jewellery?

Click the picture to get to see these extreme rare antique Dutch gold filigree long pendent earrings.
Click the picture to learn more about these rare antique Dutch filigree earrings.
We invite you to take a glance over our shoulder while we are trying to evaluate an antique piece of jewellery.

At first sight it was our guesstimation that these earrings were designed and crafted in the tradition of the Dutch "Zeeland" region around 1825. In a more thorough investigation of these fascinating jewellery pieces, we've found a mark "I & ES", what we considered to be the master mark. Then we dove into our rather large library, but couldn't find any specific information on this hallmark.

Next, we turned to the Dutch essay office, known for its large database with tons of documentation on Dutch gold- and silversmiths through the ages. They were so kind to tell us that this specific mark indeed belonged to a Dutch master based in Rotterdam, Holland, and active around 1822, but that they didn't have any further details; not even his name. So there ended our queest to find out more about these earrings. However, we were already pleased that the Dutch essay office confirmed our gut-assumption about the Dutch origin and era.

Would these earrings have been made at least some 25 years later, chances are that we would have found a hallmark representing an oak leaf. Dutch jewelry, especially 14K jewelry, has been hallmarked with an "oak leaf" since 1853 till today. Through time, the shape of this hallmark has changed from a Dutch native oak leaf with rounded lobed ends -used from 1853 until 1906- into an American oak leaf with pointed lobed ends -used from 1906 until 1953 (at the picture above you can see the difference between the two types of leaf). So by finding an oak leaf mark, we can not only determine the alloy (14K) and origin of a piece, but when looking very closely at the ends of the leaf, in what is already a minuscule mark, we can even retrieve the era it was made in.
And as an interesting footnote, there are a few reasons why it's hard for jewelry historians to determine the country of origin and the maker of Continental European jewelry made in the last 500, 600 years. One major reason is that around 1790, during the French Revolution, the guilds were abolished and all their archives, containing centuries of valuable information on gold- and silver smiths, were destroyed. And a second reason, more specific for Dutch silver and jewelry before 1940 - thus also the earrings in this picture - is that in the Second World War, Rotterdam was bombed and practically the entire archive of the essay office was destroyed. This shows just how valuable every piece of information is that can unlock the hidden history or mystery of antique jewelry.

Antiqualy yours,

The Adin team
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