Vintage jewelry has a timeless appeal but finding authentic pieces at affordable prices can be intimidating for the amateur. Fine jewelry that is considered vintage comes in many forms, whether that be an antique engagement ring or a cameo to match the one from your grandmother that was lost. Without knowing exactly what you are looking at, you could end up overspending or with a major case of buyer's remorse. Here's what you need to know about how and where to buy vintage jewelry like a pro.
Purchasing a piece of fine second-hand jewelry isn't your standard “go to a yard sale and haggle over a $5 bracelet” type of purchase. It takes a bit of skillful hunting in locations where you're likely to stumble across more than one piece.
Yard sales aren't conducive to shopping for fine jewelry, and it's likely the seller knows less than you about what they're selling. They're best avoided at all costs.
A flea market is basically like a glorified yard sale where various dealers come together to sell their weekly treasures. Most cities have at least one and some venues host markets annually or on a semi-regular basis. The difference between a flea market and a yard sale is that there is more of a chance you will find a piece of fine jewelry here. Also, dealers tend to know more about the jewelry they are selling.
You do have to beware if you choose to shop at a flea market for fine jewelry! For starters, you should be confident in your ability to tell the difference between gold and gold plated items. While it is a great place to find a bargain, it's also a great place to get ripped off since some dealers come to a flea market once and are never spotted again.
Antique Shops and Shows
If you are lucky enough to live around some local antique shops, especially ones that specialize in jewelry, this is a great place to shop! Not only are the dealers knowledgeable, but they also generally take great pride in their shop. There are more antique shops than there are antique jewelry shops and both are fun to visit, offering a chance to score a stunning fine jewelry heirloom. You will spend more money at shops than you will at a flea market. To offset the cost, consider using a layaway plan to purchase that fine jewelry heirloom you've always wanted.
Every year there are large gatherings of antique dealers from across the country who set up in fields and buildings to showcase their collections. Not only are these a lot of fun to travel to, the better shows only allow quality dealers in. This means that you are more likely to find a good piece of fine jewelry. Gather some friends, find some shows worth visiting, and plan a road trip!
The internet is teeming with deals on antique jewelry. Three places that come to mind immediately are Etsy, Ruby Lane, and eBay—in that order. Each is filled with thousands of pieces you could literally spend hours pining over. While Etsy is primarily known for their handmade items, many people forget that almost half of their website is filled with vintage items.
This recommendation is for the more experienced antique hunter, since high dealer premiums apply, and it is really easy to overpay on items that are up for auction.
The dynamic of an in-person auction is even more intense than its online counterparts like eBay, since it all happens very fast, leaving you little time to think. It is important to familiarize yourself with auction best practices, then show up early. This gives you time to personally inspect any item you plan to bid on very thoroughly to make note of any condition issues.
Now you know some of the best places to shop for vintage fine jewelry. Remember to always have a jeweler's loupe handy as well as ask any dealer lots of questions. If you don't feel comfortable with the dealer for any reason, avoid making the purchase!