Camphor Glass Jewelry: Spotting an Affordable Treasure

If you haven't seen camphor glass before, get ready for an Art Deco treat.

Published June 20, 2023
Transparent jewelry boxes with gold ornaments

With its gorgeous soft glow and delicate designs (not to mention its affordable price tag), vintage and antique camphor glass jewelry can spark your imagination and inspire you to begin a love affair with Art Deco-era accessories. If you've ever seen these gorgeous pieces, you can totally understand the magical appeal. And if you haven't...well, get ready to be impressed.

What Is Camphor Glass Jewelry?

Vintage Camphor Glass Diamond 14k White Gold Ring

Camphor glass gets its name from the matte surface of the glass, which mimicked a resin called gum camphor. The 1930s were a time when semi-precious stones were super popular in jewelry but were definitely not something everyone could afford (hello, Great Depression, we see you there). Frosted glass was the way more accessible option. To make the jewelry, an artist would cut the glass to the desired shape and then treat it with hydrofluoric acid to etch the surface, often in rays, lines, or other delicate patterns.

You'll mostly see vintage and antique pieces in white or clear shades, but there are sometimes other colors too. These pieces were supposed to look like quartz rock crystal (and they actually really do). You'll see them in lots of different sizes for earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and basically anything else you could want.

How to Tell Camphor Glass From Rock Crystal

If camphor glass was made to look like rock crystal, how can you tell the two apart?

  • Look at it with a magnifying glass to see if there are any swirls or bubbles, which is more common with glass.
  • Touch it to your skin. Rock crystal feels noticeably cool, while glass may not.
  • Hold it to the light to see if any facets show a rainbow pattern. Rock crystal casts more rainbows than glass.

What to Know About the Value of Camphor Glass

Rare 14K Art Deco Era Camphor Glass Diamond Pendant Necklace

If you're browsing online or in an antique store, you'll notice most camphor glass jewelry sells in the $50 to $150 range. You may be asking yourself why camphor glass jewelry is so expensive if it's not actual rock crystal, but the truth is, a lot of these pieces have incredible workmanship and precious metals like sterling silver. The quality and materials can definitely impact the value.

What's more, even the most valuable camphor glass is almost always less expensive than a similar piece made of rock crystal. It's a pretty affordable thing to start collecting if you're into that super beautiful Art Deco look (and who isn't?).

Factors Affecting Camphor Glass Jewelry Values

Antique sterling silver camphor glass diamond

The actual value of this type of jewelry depends on a number of factors, but these are the big ones to keep in mind if you're shopping or considering selling a piece you own:

  • Materials - Besides the camphor glass, what materials are used in the jewelry? Sterling silver, white gold, and platinum can all be valuable, and so can gems like tiny diamonds.
  • Condition - Like all antiques, the condition of camphor glass matters. If the glass is chipped or cracked, it's not going to be worth as much.
  • Quality - You might think that something that uses glass instead of gems would not be high quality, but these pieces can be beautifully crafted. If it's well made, it's worth more.
  • Charm - It's hard to quantify, but a piece of jewelry you want to wear is worth way more than one that sits in a jewelry box. Wearability and beauty matter a lot.
Quick Tip

How can you tell if jewelry has real silver or gold? Look at the back. Most pieces have silver hallmarks or stamps to indicate their metal content.

Example Values of Jewelry Made With Camphor Glass

The best way to get a sense of the value of a piece of glass jewelry is to compare it to similar examples that have already sold. These are a few recently sold camphor glass pieces to help you get started.

  • A white gold, diamond, and carved camphor glass pendant sold for about $480 in June of 2023. It featured precious materials and intricate carving and was in beautiful condition.
  • A camphor glass and diamond ring with a white gold setting sold for about $180 in April of 2023. It was beautiful but did not feature hand carving.
  • Also selling for about $180 was a pink camphor glass necklace set in sterling silver. It was missing a small stone but was otherwise in good condition.
  • A camphor glass necklace with an onyx and small marcasite gem sold for about $70. It was set in sterling silver.

Gorgeous and Affordable Antique Jewelry

If you love the delicate geometric shapes of Art Deco jewelry, take some time to look at camphor glass. It's absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly affordable for this level of vintage style.

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Camphor Glass Jewelry: Spotting an Affordable Treasure