Antique and vintage jewellery has an allure all of its own! When you think of antique jewellery, you tend to think of the sort of thing that turns up on the Antique Road Show, the Faberge jewellery that is valued in the thousands of pounds, but of course the majority of vintage pieces are far more modest and affordable. I started in antique fairs some years ago, and jewellery was always popular, whether rings, brooches, or necklaces or bracelets.
Antique jewellery is normally defined as being 100 years old or more, whereas vintage is often defined as older pieces made after the Retro Modern period of the 1940s and up to and including the 1980s. It is a very wide field, and often the terms are interchangeable.
Indeed, for those of you on a budget, pre-owned, or pre-loved jewellery as the trade prefers to call it, is a great alternative to buying new jewellery. I found that vintage jewellery is usually well-made and attractive, especially since, with the rising price of gold and other precious metals, the more unattractive and/or damaged pieces are now melted down for their scrap metal value, leaving the better pieces intact. The thought of owning an unusual engagement ring or wedding ring that is vintage or pre-loved is something that can be considered as very often these rings will be cheaper than the modern equivalent but just as good quality if not better. I think that it’s nice to perhaps reflect on the past history of a vintage piece and speculate on the history behind it!
So where do you find antique and vintage jewellery? Some jewellery shops sell second-hand jewellery, and you can buy online. eBay is a popular source, but be careful – it’s easy to get carried away and bid more than you intended! And the rule of caveat emptor applies – that means ‘buyer beware’ and I find that if something looks too good to be true, then generally it is!
When buying antiques, you need to make sure of what it is you are buying, so always get a proper receipt from the vendor which shows that the item is genuine. It should state the gems used, and that any diamonds are genuine and not substitutes such as cubic zirconium. Gold and silver should be hallmarked – all British silver and gold is, but foreign items such as Indian jewellery may not be. An independent appraisal may be worth obtaining in the case of valuable items.
My advice to anyone interested in buying antique or vintage jewellery is to learn as much as you possibly can. Read up about it and get to know what you are looking for. Knowledge is power. It’s also fun!
Another idea is to consider vintage-style. New jewellery that has been made in a retro style is also very popular and often good value. On my website, are many retailers who do lovely ranges of attractive jewellery and watches in traditional and antique styles to suit any taste, whether Victorian, Art Nouveau or Art Deco, so feel free to take a look, and remember, buying from these retailers is safe and easy.
Written by Michelle Michaelis, who used to deal in antique jewellery and still has a soft spot for a bit of retro jewellery!