Monday, March 30, 2009

Collecting Vintage Jewelry Part 10 - How to shop for and value vintage jewelry

This is another chapter in my ongoing series about various aspects of vintage jewelry. Today we'll discuss how to shop for vintage jewelry, how to value it and where to start in your search.

Bellini Art Deco Rhinestone Bracelet

The prices on vintage jewelry are not static. They change with the passage of time, and they also change with current trends and popular designers. A few years ago, I could pick up Trifari pieces relatively cheaply. Now, even on ebay, the prices of good pieces are very expensive. It appears the Italians want Trifari jewelry back in their country and they have discovered the internet for jewelry buying.

There are lots of places to aquire vintage jewelry. eBay has a fantastic range of it. But be careful. Although there are undeniably bargains there, there are also many pitfalls. Many sellers do not use good clear photos of their jewelry and may have undisclosed faults that you won't discover until you have paid for the item and have received it. Also, you may have a big cleaning program in store for your piece. Many sellers on ebay do not clean their jewelry at all. So, buyer beware. Choose your sellers wisely, ask questions when you are unsure, and know your values.

I prefer to use ebay as good place to see how the market values jewelry. You can search completed listings for two weeks for your search term and get a good idea of what certain designers and types of jewelry is going for. It will give you a very good idea of the "wholesale" price of vintage jewelry.

Going to live auctions can often result in wonderful jewelry finds. And don't forget flea markets and antique shops as you head out for vacations later this summer. These are all good places for vintage jewelry. Scour the local papers for news of upcoming auctions. Often they will tell you whether jewelry will be part of the estate. If you don't mind doing the leg work and then polishing and cleaning the jewelry, all of these could be means for procuring jewelry.

Eisenberg Milk Glass Brooch with Rhinestones

If you don't want to do the legwork and the cleaning process, then you usually will have better luck with quality buying from a well known and established vintage jewelry seller online. There are a multitude of vintage jewelry sellers. Some of them have been established for years, and some may be new and just starting out. You can usually find this information on their websites.

Established sellers know the market well, and normally offer vintage jewelry with good clear photos and the pieces are in good condition. Always, always look for back photos of jewelry that you are buying. The back of a piece can tell you many things about it (including fakes, and undisclosed damage.) If you don't see a back of a jewelry item that you like, move on to another seller. In my experiece, it only takes a little more time to write up an add and give complete photos of it, so not putting them in is lazy at best and deceptive at worst.

Now - suppose you find a vintage jewelry item that you like. There are several factors to consider before parting with your money.
  • Do you have a good idea of the current market price?
  • Is the jewelry clean and in good condition?
  • Is the piece signed by the designer? This will add value to the jewelry. (an exception is Juliana Jewelry which was never signed on the piece, but had paper hang tags only)
  • Is the jewelry piece a "book piece" featured in some of the popular vintage jewelry reference books? This sometimes can add value as it makes them particularly desirable. I've been trying to buy a set of the Har Coolieman jewelry for months with no luck. Every time I find them, the price goes through the roof. They are a much sought after book piece.
  • Are there any extras included?
There are many extras that can make a piece of vintage jewelry worth more.
  • Many designers made sets or parures. Is this piece a part of a set and are all of the pieces included here?
  • Does it come in the original box? This always adds value, and particularly so when the box is in very good condition. They also indicate that the jewelry has been stored well over the years.
  • Does it have original tags? This is a special find. Many designers used paper tags on their jewelry, when were often discarded on the first wearing. Finding original tags on vintage jewelry can easily add 20-30% to the value.
  • Popular designers who are highly collectible will make the piece more expensive and valuable. Many designers such as Hattie Carnegie, Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg, Juliana, and the like were not prolific designers, so the pieces are more rare than the average jewelry pieces. And designers such as McLelland Barclay, Boucher, Jomaz are very sought after.
B.David Aurora Borealis Rhinestone Parure

Armed with these facts and a few tools (magnifying glass, and loupes are helpful to see small details if you can see the piece in person), it is time to start out on your first vintage jewelry buying tip. Have fun!!
All of the items pictured are available for sale on Vintage Jewelry Lane. Just click on the pictures to go to the item pages for the description and prices.

This finishes the series on collecting vintage jewelry. Over the next few months, I'll be discussing various vintage jewelry designers in great detail. Past issues of this series can be found here:

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