Previously owned, or, as I like to say, previously enjoyed jewelry, is a growing interest for buyers of both bridal and fashion jewelry. In other words, your grandma’s jewelry is now cool stuff! According to Eileen McClelland of Instore Magazine, ‘”It’s important to let people know that well-made pieces are super wearable and can be worn everyday with the right care.”’ So, if you are new to buying estate or antique jewelry, here are a few very basic tips to get you started.
- Know the Definitions
You have probably seen advertisements for estate, vintage, and antique jewelry; but what do those categories mean? Estate jewelry refers to any items that were previously owned whether vintage, antique, modern, or contemporary. Even if it is a year old, if it is pre-owned, it is technically estate jewelry! For a piece of jewelry to be considered antique, it must be 100 years or older. Vintage jewelry is not old enough to be an antique but not young enough to be modern or contemporary. The accepted rule for vintage jewelry ranges from 30 to 50 years old, but under 100 years old. Modern jewelry is generally anything made in the last 30 years or so.
- Buy What Interests You
If you’re at a flea market, in a consignment shop, or in a jewelry store, go for that piece that speaks to you! Focus on the pieces that you know you would enjoy wearing. Purchasing an estate piece of jewelry is amazing because the items are unique, you aren’t likely to see anyone else wearing it, and, in many cases, you will probably pay less for that estate piece than a new piece of designer jewelry.
- Look the Piece Over
When you are considering buying a specific item that you have fallen in love with, ask the seller questions about its condition. Inspect the piece with the seller. Most pieces will and should look old since they have been worn in the past. Check the different features of the item. Look at any hallmarks or stamps on the metal. Some features to consider:
- Does the chain feel strong?
- Is the ring shank in good condition? Check the thickness!
- Are the prongs tight over the stones?
- Are there any chipped stones? Can you see abrasions on the stones?
You may still want to buy the piece but go into the purchase with your eyes wide open. In many cases, jewelers will make necessary repairs before putting an item in the case. The tag on the jewelry may contain a qualifier such as “Sold as is.” Be sure to double check!
- Other Things to Know
Steer away from buying estate pieces as an investment. Buying a piece of jewelry is not like investing in the stock market or real estate. While some jewelry pieces may appreciate over time, you should probably avoid purchasing the piece for investment purposes. Buy what you love! Also, when considering a piece, ask the seller if he/she knows the provenance or story behind the piece. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll know, and the more you will fall in love with your new acquisition!!!
Peggy Coleman, Nelson Coleman Jewelers