​How To Buy Vintage And Antique Jewelry

May 6th 2016

Whether you decide to buy vintage and antique jewelry for fun or profit, it’s important to ensure what you get is worth what you spend on it. As a seller of vintage and antique pieces, we encourage buyers to understand these specific criteria in order to get their money’s worth.

Fortunately, there are some fairly easy ways to ensure the value of your purchase.

What We Do To Ensure the Best Shopping Experience For Our Customers

Antiques and Jewelry by the Sea, we take the guess work out of jewelry identification.

  • We verify all of our items with X-Ray, even if a metal hallmark is not present on an item.
  • We clearly note if the item is signed or unsigned. We do the research for you and list the manufacture or designer’s name.
  • We always verify the authenticity of our vintage jewelry brands so you can buy from us with confidence.
  • We use state-of-the-art testing methods to guarantee the authenticity and value of every fine jewelry item we sell.

Look For Marks, Brands and Signatures

Certain marks can differentiate antique jewelry, which is defined as being at least 100 years old, from vintage and newer pieces. Other marks or stamps tell you the fineness of the metal. Here are two you should look for.

  • Metal Content Stamp - Though it’s not required, pieces made of precious metals (gold, silver or platinum) often have a stamp indicating the type of metal and/or the content of metal in the piece. If this mark is present, the manufacturer’s or retailer’s trademark stamp should be right next to the content stamp.
  • Maker’s Marks/Trademarks – Look for a small icon, name, or initials somewhere on the item. If a maker’s mark is present, the item is considered signed. If not, the item is considered unsigned. If you’re partial to vintage jewelry, made from the 1940s to the 1980s, you can find wonderful items if you know the brands that have been producing it. These include Versace, Chanel, Prada, Dior and many more. Researching brands before you shop increases your odds of buying the genuine item versus a copy. Counterfeit pieces can look amazingly like the real thing.

A maker’s signature, particularly on antique pieces, can add value but an unsigned item can still be quite significant if there are other marks and/or you can confirm its history.

We’re always happy to help you verify any of this information before you purchase a piece from us.

Differentiate Fine Jewelry from Costume Pieces

There are a few ways to differentiate fine jewelry from a costume production.

First, fine jewelry is generally made of precious metal: gold, silver, or platinum. As noted above, most fine jewelry will have a mark or stamp indicating the type and content of precious metal in the item.

Some costume vintage jewelry can also be valuable and beautiful, but it’s good to know how to spot it so you get what you pay for. Here are some things to look for when purchasing costume jewelry:

  • Costume pieces often use adhesive vs. prongs or bezels to set stones.
  • They’re made of alloy metals which will flake and chip, particularly on the back of the piece.
  • Some costume pieces use plastic which can discolor and break.
  • The item may have missing or discolored stones.

Know How Condition Affects Value

When it comes to the condition antique and vintage jewelry, less is sometimes more. Older items should actually show signs of wear and tear, which means that dents, scratches, and chips indicate a genuine item. Anything that looks too new might have been restored but is more likely a fake.

Another good indicator of value is “patina,” which is the discoloration of metal that’s been produced over many years. Unless cleaned, most true antique jewelry will have this.

However, if you see worn plating, dark, cloudy, or missing stones, broken clasps, missing parts, and chipped or scratched enamel, you might want to avoid buying that piece until you know more about it as the value could be dramatically affected.

Finally, pay attention to price. Most good vintage and antique pieces have high costs to match their high value. When it seems like the price of an item you’re buying is just too good to be true—it probably is.

Buy From A Reputable Seller

Any good seller of antique and vintage jewelry will welcome questions from customers, and buyers owe it to themselves to get as much information as possible. We love it when customers want to know how we acquired a piece, what we know of its history, and what other customers say about us.

When you’re in the market for vintage and antique jewelry, feel free to contact Antiques and Jewelry by the Sea for help, advice, and support.

Sell to Us

If you have antique or vintage jewelry you want to sell, stop by our store. If you’re not local or can’t visit us in person, call or email us. We’ll make arrangements to help you make the most from the items you have to offer.