The Ultimate Guide To Buying Vintage Jewelry
Here’s the thing about quality vintage accessories: they’re hard to find and worse, they could have been owned by some dead guy. We get it—it doesn’t appeal to everyone. But trust us; sometimes the best gems are vintage. How else are you going to find a dope Cartier bracelet from the 1970s, similar to the one Pharrell owns?
But we feel your frustration! Shopping for vintage is easier said than done. There are a lot of fakes out there, and some counterfeiters have gotten so good, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Then there’s eBay, and we all know that’s a hit or miss. Well we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know from where, what, and how to shop for rap’s latest obsession:
The Ultimate Guide To Buying Vintage Jewelry.
Know Your Brands
There’s vintage jewelry and then there’s vintage designer jewelry. Sure, there’s value in your old man’s gold accessories, but there’s nothing like a quality chain from one of your favorite luxury brands. Of course you have your go-to Chanel and Versace jewelry, but keep in mind that’s not all that’s out there.
Know The History of The Designs
Just like you wouldn’t date a chick without doing some background research on her, you’ve got to know the history of the design of the jewelry you’re buying. Designs change depending on when the piece was made or sold.
Chanel, for instance, has used many different markings since the 1960s, including both round and oval cartouche signature plates and sometimes stamping CHANEL directly into the piece. The earliest pieces of Chanel jewelry were unmarked. Most pieces from the 1930 all the way to the ’50s rarely come up for sale on the secondary market. These design markings obviously change the value of the piece, with older pieces being pricier as most are often harder to find. The more you know, the less chance you’ll be ripped off.
Look For Signature Markings
This one’s a no-brainer. When buying vintage jewelry, as with any designer piece, you’ve got to look for a few important markings. This includes any logos and writing on the outside or inside of the piece. Knowledge of the brand’s signature will be useful, but just basic common sense is enough. Obviously if “Versace” looks more like “Vorsace” the jewelry isn’t authentic. Make sure you look out for the small details because counterfeiters are getting better at making these less noticeable.
Read The Manufacturing Location
You might think this is common sense but you’d be surprise by how many actually overlook this important detail. Similar to a misspelled logo, the manufacturing location can easily tell you if the piece is authentic or not. This means you’ve got to be aware of where the brand does most of its manufacturing. Authentic Versace is always made in Italy. Fake Versacewill often read “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan.”
Condition, Condition, Condition
You wouldn’t buy a used car for the original retail price, right? Same rule should apply to copping vintage jewelry. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you’ve got to pay attention to the condition of the piece. Extremely worn plating, missing parts, and chipped or scratched enamel lower the value of the piece. So don’t be quick to pull out your credit card for a Chanel chain just because it’s Chanel. Besides, your girl won’t think you’re stunting if you’ve got a rusty chain.
Shop Online For Vintage Jewelry
When you’ve got all those details on lock, it’s time to figure out where to shop. The Internet is a great place to cop all your favorite pieces from the comfort of your home. But you should be aware of all the fake websites claiming they sell the best vintage—you know those hustlers. Sometimes it’s easy to spot an illegitimate site from its name, other times it’s not. The biggest give is the price of the vintage “designer” jewelry. If you spot a Cartier watch for less than $100, you’re definitely shopping on the wrong website.
The Vintage Frames Company and Dope Couture both carry a ton of vintage designer jewelry—celebs go here to cop theirs. You can also go to eBay. There are reputable sellers on the site; you just need to do your research and check their feedback before making the purchase.
Shop At Consignment Stores
If you want to physically see the jewelry before you buy it, consignment stores, such as Tokio 7 in New York City, are your go-to spots. Most of these retailers have staff members who are knowledgeable and can answer your questions.
The vintage jewelry you find at consignment shops are most likely going to be pricier than what you might spot at thrift stores. The upside is they’re almost always authentic.
Shop At Vintage/Thrift Stores And Markets
image by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Don’t sleep on vintage, thrift stores, and markets. Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t realize the value of what they’re selling. You might just find vintage designer jewelry at your local thrift store or weekend market for a fraction of the price at consignment stores or online. The only downfall is that it’ll be harder to make sure the piece is authentic. So to repeat: do your research before shopping at these places. But then again, so what if you spend $4 on a fake Versace chain?
Comparing prices is important for two reasons: it’s a great way to determine if a piece is fake and if you’re being ripped off. Go to a few different websites and consignment stores to see how much they’re selling the jewelry for. If it’s the exact same piece, in the same condition, and the price seems too good to be true—we’re talking a difference of at least a few hundred dollars—you’re probably getting ripped off. You never know, you might even be able to haggle that sales associate into matching the price you saw at another shop.
Know How To Take Care Of Your Jewelry
When you purchase vintage jewelry, you’ll want to take good care of it and preserve its value. The methods vary according to the piece but there are a few basics you should know.
Vintage jewelry is difficult to repair, so wear it with care. We know you want to impress the ladies and stunt on the guys, but do yourself a favor and don’t wear it while you play any sports. Make sure you also store it in soft, zipped-up pouches, if you can.
Here’s where it gets tricky: not all cleaners work on every type of jewelry. So keep it simple and just use a special jewelry polishing cloth. Oh, and don’t even think about placing it directly under running water. There’s nothing worse than a beat-up-looking chain.