How to Shop for Vintage Jewelry
Shopping for vintage jewelry, either for yourself or as a gift, can be a lot of fun. Sifting through different online shops, thrift stores, and estate sales can feel like an exciting scavenger hunt, as you attempt to track down a unique piece. In order to ensure that you are purchasing authentic vintage jewelry you should always research the type of piece you are looking for, find a reputable seller, and examine the piece thoroughly for markings and quality. Once you have found the perfect piece of vintage jewelry make sure that you give it the proper care it deserves so that you can pass it down as a valuable family heirloom.
Researching Vintage Jewelry
Determine if you want to buy fine or costume vintage jewelry.When shopping for vintage jewelry, there are two main categories: fine and costume jewelry. Before setting out to shop, you should determine whether or not you are looking for a fine piece of designer jewelry made using precious metals and gemstones, or a more reasonably priced piece of costume jewelry likely made from different types of glass, plastic, stones, and wood. For example, if you are looking for a vintage engagement ring, you will likely want to stay away from costume jewelry.
- Keep in mind that fine vintage jewelry is much more expensive than costume jewelry, so your budget may dictate which type of jewelry to shop for.
- That being said, vintage costume jewelry is often made from better quality material than modern costume jewelry and as a result these pieces last a long time. Some are even dipped in gold making them less likely to turn green or tarnish over time.
Research a particular era of jewelry.The label “vintage jewelry” covers all jewelry that is over 20 years old. As a result, this is a massive category that incorporates a lot of very different styles, fashions, and time periods. Before you begin shopping, you may want to narrow down your search to a particular era or type of jewelry. This way you can focus your research and shopping on a smaller subset of vintage jewelry.
- For example, you may be interested in the geometric shapes associated with the Art Deco period, alternatively you may like the intricate etchings of the early Victorian era, or the nature-inspired jewelry of the Georgian era.
- Research online to find out some of the common characteristics of jewelry made during the time period you are interested in.
Check with reputable jewelry associations.When researching into vintage jewelry a great place to check is reputable jewelry associations. For example, the National Association for the Study of Jewelry and the Related Arts can provide you with a number of resources on the history of jewelry and how to identify vintage pieces from different historical eras. The association also provides dates and locations of vintage jewelry exhibitions, which can help to put you in contact with jewelry collectors, appraisers, and enthusiasts.
Finding Vintage Jewelry Retailers
Search online.You can shop online for vintage jewelry and there are a number of reputable online sellers that have unique and valuable pieces. The problem with online shopping is that you do not get the opportunity to look at the item up close and it may be hard to tell if an item is fake. One way to spot a fake is in the price. If someone is selling vintage designer jewelry for under 0 it is probably fake or costume vintage jewelry. You can also read customer feedback posts before making a purchase to get a better idea of the types of products being sold.
- You can buy vintage jewelry from websites like E-bay.
- There are also reputable online vintage retailers such as The Vintage Frames Company and Erica Weiner.
Shop at consignment stores.If you would like to see the item in person before purchasing, then a consignment store is a great place to look. Consignment stores will often have unique and authentic pieces of vintage jewelry and typically the sales associates will be able to answer any questions you may have.
- If you are searching for a particular era or type of piece, you may need to check back at the consignment store frequently because they will have a steady flow of new merchandise.
Try vintage thrift stores and markets.Other places to look for vintage jewelry are thrift stores and markets. Although these retailers will often be hit or miss, you may stumble upon a diamond in the rough. If you have done your research and have an eye for valuable vintage jewelry, you may be able to spot a valuable piece at a bargain price.
Look for vintage jewelry at estate sales and auctions.You can also try shopping for vintage jewelry at an estate sale or auction. Search through the classified ads in your local newspaper to find out when and where the next estate sale will be held. Typically these ads will also provide a list of some of the items that will be available for sale. Estate sales are excellent spots to find vintage jewelry because you are purchasing the item directly from a personal collection. Some valuable items will also likely come with a certificate of authentication.
Buying Vintage Jewelry
Ask about the history of the piece.When you are shopping for vintage jewelry, one way to ensure that you are not buying fake vintage, is to ask the seller about the history of a particular item. If the piece is actually vintage the seller should be able to explain how they came across the item. For instance, it may have been passed down through the family, purchased at an estate sale or auction, or found while antique hunting.
Look for a mark or the initials of the designer.Most vintage jewelry was marked by the jewelry maker, either with initials or small emblems. Use a magnifying glass to examine the jewelry for marks before purchasing. If you notice any discrepancies between marks then the piece is likely a fake or replica.
- Search online for pictures of well-known vintage jewelers' marks.
- There may be instances when some older items of jewelry were not marked. For example, early pieces of Chanel jewelry were unmarked and different markings were used during different periods.
- If you can’t locate any markings, then ask the seller about the history of the piece.
Examine the condition of the piece.It is also important to carefully examine the condition of an item of jewelry before purchasing it. Although most vintage jewelry will have some minor signs of wear and tear, you want to make sure they are minimal. For instance, check for broken clasps, missing gems or jewels, as well as major scratches. All of these blemishes will decrease the value of the piece. Try and find gently used pieces that only have minor signs of wear.
- Most importantly check for good craftsmanship, which includes straight lines, and the symmetrical placement of stones.
- Be wary of any jewelry marketed as vintage but that appears in mint condition.
- In these instances ask the seller if the piece has been recently restored. This can decrease the value of the jewelry.
Obtain documentation and authentication.When buying vintage jewelry ask the retailer to provide you with documentation concerning the origin of the piece. This documentation can add value to the item, making it more authentic. This will also help to ensure that you are buying legitimate vintage jewelry, instead of mass produced new jewelry designed to look like vintage jewelry. Different types of documentation and authentication include:
- Certificate of authentication from a professional.
- Original receipts from when the jewelry was purchased that include the purchasers name.
- A photograph showing the piece being worn.
- Handwritten notes from previous owners.
- Other documents showing the items history.
Consider the price.You should always consider the price when you are shopping for vintage jewelry. Items that contain real diamonds and are made of gold will be pricey. If an item is being sold as a designer piece of gold jewelry, but is priced reasonably, it is likely fake. That being said, you do not have to break the bank to buy vintage jewelry. You can find very unique and beautiful pieces of vintage and antique costume jewelry that is reasonable priced.
- Take into consideration the type of piece you want and make sure that you truly love the piece before purchasing it.
Caring for Vintage Jewelry
Wear the jewelry with care.Once you have purchased a piece of vintage jewelry, especially if it is made with real gold, silver, and/or gemstones, you will want to care for and properly look after the item. Some vintage jewelry will get scratched and break if you wear it carelessly. For example, you should avoid wearing vintage pieces while gardening, cleaning, and exercising. Cleaning uses harsh chemicals that could damage the jewelry, and the vigorous nature of exercise may result in breaking the jewelry.
- Only wear vintage pieces when you are not performing any strenuous tasks or working with dirt and chemicals.
Store in soft pouches.You should also store your vintage pieces in a safe, dry, cool, and soft environment. A fabric lined jewelry box will help to prevent the piece from getting scratched. You can also use added protection by placing the jewelry in a soft pouch before putting it into your jewelry box. If you have an extremely valuable piece (either in terms of cost or sentimental value), you may want to keep it in a locked safe for additional protection from theft.
- While traveling with vintage jewelry, wrap it separately so that it does not rub up against other items. Also, keep it in your carry on so that you do not lose any valuable items.
Clean using a polishing cloth.Do not use modern jewelry cleaners on vintage items. They can be too powerful leading to corrosion that may actually damage the piece. Instead, stick to polishing with a gentle cloth. You can also research online how to clean specific materials such as gold and silver.
- If you are unsure of how to remove tarnish from your jewelry, ask a local jeweler for cleaning advice and suggestions.
Have the piece checked by a jeweler every 6 months.Another way to care for valuable vintage jewelry is to have them looked over by a jeweler once every 6 months or so. The jeweler will examine the piece and can spot any potential issues before they occur. For example, if your ring has a gem that it starting to come loose, the jeweler may be able to catch this in advance before you actually losing the vintage gem. This type of preventative care is recommended.
- If you do lose a gemstone, make sure that you replace it with another stone from the same era. This will help to maintain the value of your vintage jewelry.
Video: How To Shop For Vintage Jewelry with Dannijo
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