It’s fun to go out and shop for vintage jewelry, at least I think so. But sometimes, you have a pile of it thrust upon you by a friend or relative. Then what do you do? If you’re familiar with antique jewelry, then you might instinctively know how to handle it, but if you’re not someone who regularly spends time with such things, then the task can seem overwhelming.
Lots of older jewelry pieces that have been thrown in a box can end up in a tangled mess, so the first thing you need to do is sort through it. You can use something small and thin, such as tweezers or a skewer to help you separate everything.
After that, it’s best to separate everything into a pile of similar items – put earrings with earrings, necklaces with necklaces, bracelets with bracelets, and so on.
Once you have done that, you can start to make sense of what you have. Obviously, earrings are best worn in pairs, so separate out any mismatched earrings. Don’t throw them out just yet – the mate may turn up. Or the odd one may turn out to have some value.
Once you have separated everything, you can assess what you have. Separate out any pieces that have obvious damage. Some slightly damaged pieces can be repaired by a jeweler, but you need to be aware that there will be a cost associated with that, and it may or may not be worth your while to pay to have that done. In that case, you should ask yourself if the jewelry is something you’re going to wear? If so, you might want to pay to have it repaired. If it’s something you’re considering reselling, then you’ll have to find out the value of it in repaired condition, determine the cost of repairs, and then see if paying to have the piece(s) fixed will be worthwhile.
Some vintage costume jewelry can have value, and sometimes quite a lot. Make note of any jewelry that may be marked Eisenberg, Trifari, Miriam Haskell, Napier, Coro, Chanel, Joseff of Hollywood, Hobé, Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli, for example.
Be aware, too that some “costume jewelry” could actually be the real thing. Most costume jewelry is just that, with imitation gemstones, but I have heard of more than one case of someone giving away a piece that they thought was costume jewelry only to discover that they’d given away a genuine diamond! It happens, so if you’re in doubt, take the time to have the piece assessed by a professional jeweler.
Once you have everything sorted out, you can then assess whether you want to keep any of it and whether any of it is worth reselling. Sometimes, you’ll just have to throw odd or broken pieces away, but keep in mind that there are always interesting ways to repurpose vintage jewelry. They make great decorative items, and there’s always sentimental value. Remember – that jewelry once meant something to someone. It may not be you, today, but you should think twice before throwing any vintage jewelry away.