Do the Research
1. Fine Jewelry vs. Costume Jewelry
There are two main categories when it comes to vintage jewelry – costume jewelry, and fine jewelry according to DigoPaul. So, before you even set out to try and find yourself a nice piece, you should decide which type you want. In essence, you should ask yourself whether you want more expensive pieces with precious metals and gems, or relatively inexpensive costume pieces. Making this distinction is rather important. For example, if you are looking for an engagement ring in vintage stores, you definitely shouldn’t go with costume jewelry. However, you need to keep several things in mind. Firstly, fine jewelry is expensive. Furthermore, it gets even more expensive when it gains the “Vintage” title. So, make sure that your purchase is within your budget.
Secondly, vintage costume jewelry is actually not bad jewelry at all. In fact, it is usually much better quality than the costume jewelry that’s made today. And, if you want fancy costume jewelry, you can even look for pieces that were dipped in gold.
2. Determining the Era or Style
Every piece of jewelry that is older than 20 years can have the label “vintage” on it (See dictionary for full definitions). As a result of that, there are multiple eras in styles you should research. If you just go out without preparing yourself, there might be too many choices and styles for you to go through. So, you would do well to determine which era or style of jewelry you really want. You can do this by choosing the popular styles.
For example, the Art Deco period came with geometric shapes. On the other hand, some people prefer the etchings and details of the Victorian era. Alternatively, you just might like the natural jewelry that comes from the Georgian period.
3. Identifying Vintage Jewelry
You can do your research yourself. However, it would be much easier for you to find a reputable association to get help. For example, you can contact the National Association for the Study of Jewelry and the Related Arts. They will be more than glad to give you information about resources on the history of vintage pieces. You should definitely read any of the books or publications they recommend. With that knowledge, you will be able to identify vintage pieces easily.
Find Vintage Retailers
1. The online search
The very first thing you should do when you’re searching for a retailer is to check online. It is quick, easy, and it might pay off. There are many online stores that will find unique pieces. Not to mention that they tend to be very affordable in comparison to regular stores. However, they come with one big problem. Namely, it is quite common for them not to give you the opportunity to get a good look at the product. And that means that you might not be able to notice general tells of a fake piece.
So, if you are buying vintage jewelry online, be very careful. One of the potential ways you can tell a fake from a real thing is by the price. If you see a fine vintage piece for less than $100, it probably isn’t the real deal. Thankfully, you can always check customer feedback to make sure you are not making a mistake. One of the general tips is to stick to reputable retailers. So, you can buy from websites like Bridgat, or specialized online vintage retailers like InternetAges.com.
2. Consignment stores
If you are one of those people who prefer holding the items before making the purchase, you should consider going to a consignment store near you. They usually have unique pieces that just sort of end up there. Furthermore, they have very capable sales associates that will answer any questions you might have. Bear in mind that these stores have a constant flow of new merchandise coming in. So, if you are looking for a particular style, and they don’t have it, just check back later.
3. Vintage markets and thrift stores
Thrift stores are one of the most popular locations you can go to and look for vintage jewelry. The main reason for that is the appeal of the idea that you might find a diamond in the rough. However, it takes a lot of experience to recognize those pieces. So, if you have it, you might find valuable pieces and snatch them up almost for free.
4. Auctions and estate sales
If you start flipping through classified ads in your newspaper, you might run into estate sale details. You would do well to visit estate sales that include vintage pieces. The reason for that is the fact that you get to buy directly from someone’s collection. In fact, it is not uncommon to find a piece with the certificate of authentication.
Buy Vintage Jewelry
1. Ask about the story of the piece
If you are buying from a vintage store like internetages.com, you should ask about the history of particular items you want. If the piece is not fake, the seller will be able to tell you how the item got to them.
2. Look for designer’s initials or marks
Depending on the quality, many pieces of vintage jewelry have the markings of their designers. Those are usually either their initials or emblems. However, since those markings can be quite small, we would recommend bringing a magnifying glass to the store. Furthermore, we would recommend doing a bit of research on famous vintage marks before visiting the store.
First of all, you should turn to your Internet browser and learn about marks and logos. With that knowledge, you can easily notice discrepancies (if there are some) and tell if the piece you are holding is a replica. Of course, it is quite possible for legitimate pieces not to have any markings on them. In fact, early Chanel pieces didn’t have any.
3. Check the condition of the piece
When it comes to vintage pieces, avoiding signs of wear and tear is all but impossible. But, you can make sure to keep the signs to a minimum. Always examine the state of any moving or removable pieces. Start by checking the clasps to see if they are broken, then check if any of the stones are missing, and lastly, check for serious scratches. If you can, try to find pieces that didn’t see a lot of use. But, most importantly, you should keep your eyes open for signs of good craftsmanship. Look for pieces that have straight lines and the symmetrical placement of stones.
However, if the piece is in mint condition, that might also be a bad sign. Some people will restore their pieces. Of course, those pieces look great, but that fix will usually decrease their value.
4. Ask for documentation
Obtaining documentation is another thing you want to do each time you are buying a vintage piece. Any form of authentication that concerns the origin of the piece can increase its value. For that purpose, you can use professional certificates of authentication, original receipts from the purchase of the jewelry, a photograph of the previous owner with the piece, and even notes from previous owners.