One thing I know for sure is that trends always come back. I can see firsthand from retailers across the country that estate and vintage jewelry are stronger than ever. The stories and tales surrounding these types of pieces make them fun to sell. Teach your clients about the history and time period of each piece, as they may be even more drawn to buy because of that. Clients also love the idea that a piece is one of a kind and won’t be seen anywhere else.
Vintage and estate jewelry can be enticing to young shoppers looking for something different. Many young shoppers are shying away from mined stones - plus, estate and vintage jewelry is considered recycled.
Personally, I’m drawn to vintage engagement rings. Many of them have filigree work and are just beautiful works of art. The designs are elegant, made by hand, and focus on the center stone with smaller melee diamonds. Classic yet on trend.
Given the economic times, I think there will be an increase in consumers buying these pieces as well as selling these pieces. Typically if a client needs resources, they may be in the market to sell. If they are buying, they may want to utilize the proceeds from the sale of an estate or vintage piece to make a purchase that they may not have been able to afford.
Many retailers are able to convert a client's piece to make it more wearable if the client feels the piece is outdated. There are ways to update pieces without ruining their estate appeal while allowing the owner to enjoy what they own. Some pieces, such as pins and brooches, are not as desirable as they used to be. So, instead of completely melting a pin or brooch, you can refashion it to be a ring or pendant.
Many of the older jewelry pieces also include old, mine-cut diamonds. It’s amazing to see how much beauty these stones offer! They are very different from the round, modern, brilliant-cut diamonds of today. Old, mine-cut diamonds have become harder to find, so you may have something more valuable than you think.
If you need help evaluating pieces that come in from your clients, don’t hesitate to contact K. Rosengart for help. We are happy to assist you in appraising any fine jewelry items - old or new. And, should you need to add a little more sparkle when redesigning old rings, pins, brooches, necklaces, and other heirloom jewelry items to make them more wearable, our diamond melee may be exactly what your looking for!
Now, onto discussing vintage jewelry exclusively.
The Enduring Beauty of Vintage Jewelry
The cyclical nature of trend means that styles of the past are certain to come into style again. Vintage may be on trend, but for many there is something more timeless and evergreen about vintage styles, and particularly, vintage jewelry. Whether your love for all things vintage comes from a desire to reduce consumption and the extraction of new precious resources, or vintage simply speaks to your creativity and style, there is a lot to love about vintage jewelry.
Vintage jewelry enthusiasts appreciate the fact that vintage jewelry predates machine-made pieces and offers a beautiful one-of-a-kind look. Owning and enjoying a uniquely crafted piece can feel really special. Knowing that there is nothing quite like your jewelry is an appealing thing for many people who desire something that offers a certain special charm that is all their own.
Vintage jewelry is as unique as its owner. Whether you’ve acquired your new-to-you piece from a retailer, thrift store or it is a family heirloom, your vintage jewelry has its own story to tell. That unique story is important in identifying your jewelry. Diving into that story with a bit of detective work is one of the best ways to identify vintage jewelry.
What Is Considered Vintage Jewelry?
Any vintage jewelry lover should be familiar with the ways to identify vintage jewelry. So, what do we mean when we say vintage?
4 Ways to Identify Vintage Jewelry
What is considered vintage jewelry? As a general rule, vintage jewelry is any jewelry that is 30 years old or older. What is considered vintage jewelry is not to be mistaken with what is considered antique jewelry. While vintage jewelry is at least 30 years old, antique jewelry is 100 years old or older!
Just as trends come in and out of favor now, the same is true for vintage and antique periods. Thus, there are myriad types of vintage and antique jewelry that were created and favored based on current trends of the times. Part of this trend is pushed and shaped by manufacturing styles, popular materials and, of course, jewelry stamps. Understanding the specific style trend for a moment in time is helpful in terms of being one of the ways to identify vintage jewelry.
All of this to say, one of the most clear ways to identify vintage jewelry is by its style. Each style connects to a specific moment in time where that style was in favor, or, as we say, on trend. Some of the most popular styles in jewelry can be defined in a specific era. Following are two of the time periods that speak to me the most as someone whose grandmother would have been wearing these styles.
Since we know that vintage jewelry must be at least 30 years old we will begin with the Art Deco period, which spanned from 1915 to 1935. Art Deco jewelry was considered to be bold and modern in their day. This time period evokes images of the flapper. Women with short hair cuts, gorgeous metallics, fringe dresses, furs all come to mind. The Art Deco era is responsible for jewelry that has sharp, geometric shapes and utilities bright gemstones like sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
Next we have what is now known as the Retro era of jewelry making. The Retro period extends from the 1930s to the 1940s - a decade during which the U.S. economy is shaped by war and the consumer economy all but halts as Americans experience the Great Depression. As styles do, the jewelry of this era reflects the economy surrounding it.
Materials were difficult to secure during the war and as such synthetic and cheaper materials came into fashion. Plastic, rhinestones and glass were newly employed materials in jewelry making during this era. High-end jewelry makers turned to these materials, and they were adored and worn by elites and socialites. We now know this trend as costume jewelry.
3. Manufacturing Details
Style is one of the ways to identify vintage jewelry, but it is also essential to consider manufacturing details when identifying what is considered vintage jewelry. A wide variety of manufacturing techniques have been employed throughout the decades when it comes to producing fine jewelry. And although those methods vary so widely, they can be very telling when it comes to identifying the era your jewelry was manufactured in.
Hand engraving indicates a piece was created in the 1900s or early. Stones also give us information about the date of the jewelry itself. For example, if the stone was machine cut, we know that it was produced in the early 1900s or later. Round cuts, which are extremely popular in today’s diamond market, are a product of machine stone cutting. Jewelry from eras predating machine cut, were all hand-cut in accordance with the technology that was available at the time.
It is also possible to identify jewelry in terms of its country of origin based on the metals the jewelry maker used in the piece. It is not widely known that the standard for what is considered gold jewelry actually varies from country to country. The United States, for example, considers anything 10k and above to be gold jewelry. Anything less than 10k is not identified and sold as gold jewelry by reputable jewelers. The UK, however, uses 9k for its standard. Thus, 9k gold is indicative of a piece originating in the UK.
I sincerely hope these ways to identify vintage jewelry and the knowledge of what is considered vintage jewelry will inspire and empower you to expand your collection or inventory!