6 Beginner Tips for Vintage Jewelry Hunting

Author Lynelle Schmidt
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Date Jul 16, 2014

6 Beginner Tips for Vintage Jewelry HuntingBuying vintage, or estate, jewelry is like buying a piece of history. Each piece is unique and has its very own story. Plus, it can make a serious fashion statement.

Sometimes beginning the search can be a little intimidating, especially when you don't have know much or have much experience. Here are our 7 tips for beginners when it comes to hunting for that perfect piece of estate jewelry.

1. Know the different jewelry eras

One of the most helpful things to do when you first start hunting for vintage jewelry is to understand the different periods and trends of jewelry throughout the years. There are online resources available that can explain the different eras and show examples of the types of pieces that were prevalent during those times.

By knowing these different jewelry eras, you can understand why different pieces look a certain way or which era they came from. You also will want to study some of the jewelry trends throughout the years so that you are aware of the differences you will inevitably see from modern jewelry. For instance, you won't find many vintage earrings that are like the ones you see today. Having your ears pierced did not become popular until the late 1970's, so most earrings before that were clip-ons (Source: Lucky Magazine).

Knowing about the different jewelry eras will also help you identify which types of pieces will be more in line with your style. If you find an era that you really like, then you can talk intelligently to any estate seller to find pieces that fall within that category. Without this knowledge, it can be hard sometimes to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for.

2. Mark your calendar for local events

An easy way to browse an entire inventory of estate jewelry pieces is to attend a local vintage jewelry event. There are many events that happen throughout the year that will allow you to look at many vintage pieces all in one place.

For example, every year Long's holds a traveling estate jewelry show in all of our stores throughout Massachusetts. We collect all of our vintage pieces from all five stores and feature the entire collection in one store. This allows people the chance to see every piece of estate jewelry we own instead of having to travel from store to store.

These types of shows allow you to see more variety, and there will always be experts there that specialize in vintage jewelry who can help you. These events are perfect for novices in the industry.

3. Look for a designer's mark

Before you go to look at vintage jewelry in person, you should consider bringing an eyeglass loop to see the jewelry up close. The reason behind this is that many antique jewelers used to sign their jewelry and leave their personal mark on the piece. This is often true for something created before the 1950s. With your eyeglass loop or the help of someone in the store, you will be able to see the initial of the maker.

While a signed vintage piece if often desirable, it is not necessary to buy a piece that has a mark on it. You can still find a great piece before the 1950s that was not signed. You'll want to decide if this mark is important to you before shopping.

4. Make sure there is a clear return policy

Just like when buying many different pieces of jewelry, it is important that you always ask about the different policies that the seller has before committing to buy. In particular, make sure to ask about a possible return policy.

If there is no clear return policy or they do not allow returns, you can almost bet it's because they expect returns on their products (which indicates low quality). A jeweler who stands behind the quality of their products and what they are selling will gladly offer a return policy. This also shows that the seller cares about customer satisfaction.

5. Don't settle for broken or dirty pieces

There is nothing wrong with a little wear or tear on a vintage piece. Sometimes this even adds to the character of it and also shows that it is authentic. However, there is a fine line between a broken and dirty piece as opposed to a gently worn piece of jewelry.

The seller should stand behind the quality of their jewelry. There should not be any green gunk on the jewelry or missing stones. It should also not be damaged. These are all signs of low quality vintage pieces and should be avoided at all costs. The cost of fixing these is often not worth the price you pay for them, even if you think you are getting a great bargain.

6. Be smart when buying online

There are many advantages to buying a vintage piece online. It is convenient, and you do not have to travel anywhere to see or evaluate it. But, there are also many things to be weary of, especially when it comes to buying vintage jewelry.

Make sure to never buy vintage when the pictures online are blurry or out of focus. A good, quality jeweler will always post clear pieces of each of their pieces from multiple angles. They understand that there may be flaws, but they should be more concerned about accurately representing the piece online instead of stretching the truth about it.

There are also many scams that occur through eBay and other jewelry selling sites that happen every day. If you are buying online, make sure to look into the seller first and see if their ratings are legitimate.

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