While price shouldn’t be your primary consideration when purchasing any jewelry, be it old or new, it is going to be a factor, regardless. The price is determined by a number or things, of course, such as whether the piece contains precious metals or gemstones.
The age is also a factor, though a bit of a vague one. Many sellers think that “older is better” and will price their pieces accordingly. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but some sellers attempt to pass off newer pieces, or even reproductions, as vintage items. Then they price them as though they are really older or more valuable than they really are.
With online shopping, you can’t really examine a piece before buying, which just adds to the likelihood that you may not be getting what you think you’re buying. Here are a few tips to help you be a smarter shopper when you’re looking to buy vintage jewelry.
Who is the seller? Do they have a good reputation? If you’re on a site such as eBay, you can check their feedback and see how long they’ve been selling, what buyers had to say about them, and see what else they have for sale. Is it all one-of-a-kind pieces? Do they have the item you’re thinking about buying in quantity? That might raise an eyebrow if you think you’re buying a vintage item.
Where did they get it? Questions about sourcing can usually give you an idea about an item. Lots of sellers routinely scour yard sales and estate sales and those are generally good places to find vintage pieces. It never hurts to ask the seller where they got it. Obviously, “a wholesaler in China” is not the answer you’re looking for.
Older pieces often have a mark or signature on them, as it was quite common in the early to the middle part of the 2oth century for makers to put a mark of some kind on their products. While it wasn’t universal, it was common at one time and if you find such a mark, it could be an indicator that the piece is indeed a vintage one.
Check the condition. Does the piece have dents, scratches or some other indication that it’s seen actual use. True vintage pieces rarely look brand new. Most have some signs of aging to them. If you can examine the piece in person, pay attention to its heft and the materials used. Older pieces tend to be both sturdier and heavier than more modern ones, especially with costume jewelry, which is made to be sold at a relatively low price. Modern examples are usually quite cheaply made, while older ones, even if they aren’t gold or silver, are usually pretty solid in construction.
What about the price? Vintage pieces will often bring higher prices than newer pieces. If the piece is surprisingly inexpensive, that may be an indication that it’s not what it pretends to be. True, sometimes bargains are out there, but you should be cautious when you see something that just seems like it’s a whole lot less expensive than it should be.
It’s unfortunate that it’s necessary to be cautious when spending money on vintage jewelry. But the last thing you want is to spend both your time and money on something that turns out to be a modern reproduction. It’s better to be safe than sorry.