I can’t even begin to count the many reason I love vintage and antique jewelry! And there are many of you out there like me who are hunting for treasure. Sometimes you strike gold and sometimes you miss the mark completely. When something is popular…. and valuable, you can be sure that clever reproductions are hiding in the market place, just waiting for an unsuspecting shopper to show up. It’s so important to do your research so that you don’t overpay or worse, purchase a reproduction made just a short time ago. Below are a few tips to follow to help keep your shopping adventures happy and fruitful.
#1 - Ask for details - When I find a special treasure, I want to know everything I can about it. Where did it come from? Who owned it? What’s the history of this piece? Contact the seller or talk to the dealer. A good seller should be able to tell you something about the item such as where they purchased it from, what the materials are, etc. If you are buying online with eBay, Etsy, Ruby Lane, etc., take a moment to check out the seller and also checkout what other type of items they are selling and their feedback ratings. That can give you a clue to their reputation and the type of items they sell the most of. Be on the lookout for sellers with multiple listings of the same type/style of antique/vintage jewel. Most antique and vintage pieces are one-of-a-kinds, so finding multiples of the same antique jewel should be a red flag.
#2 -Look for Hallmarks - Most often antique and vintage jewelry carry hallmarks. Hallmarks can be traced online so do some research to track down the age, country of origin and other bits of information you can learn about the jewel.
#3 - Look at the style details - Different types of styles were popular during different eras, so learn what style is appropriate for the time period of the jewel you are looking at. Clasps and closures on necklaces, bracelets and brooches differ thru the years, as well as earring backs or hooks. Metals and KT gold weights all have popular eras. The cuts on gemstones can also be another clue. The more you know about the styles of different time periods, the better trained your eye will become at spotting the real deal and not being tricked by a reproduction posing as something it’s not.
#4 - Look for signs of age - Antique and vintage jewels often have signs of wear along with tarnish, dents, and other imperfections. Most dealers will not restore pieces and they are sold in as-is condition. Which can be a good thing. The wrong method of cleaning a piece can damage the gold, silver or other metals or gemstones in the piece. If it looks too perfect, it may be a clue that it’s not the real deal.
#5 - And the price is? - You know the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it really is too good to be true! True antiques have value and proceed with caution if the price seems really low.
When buying antique, estate or vintage jewelry, always evaluate the condition, craftsmanship, design, rarity and value of the piece. Don’t be afraid to pull out a loupe or at the very least a good pair of magnifying reading glasses to take a closer look. It’s easy to overlook something in the shop only to then get home and find something pretty disappointing under closer inspection. Look for damage or replacement parts from past repair jobs. There are clues there! Like anything else in life, the more you practice (shop!) and the more time you spend doing some research, the better armed you will be for your treasure hunting adventures. Good Luck!
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