• Walt Kolenda

Antique Jewelry Collecting: Tips for Beginners

Updated: May 4


Antique Jewelry Collecting: Tips for Beginners


Contact me, if you have a large collection to sell, or one your thinking of buying one.


Costume jewelry, fine jewelry, gold jewelry. These are all terms that we commonly hear in the world of antiques & collectibles. But what do they really mean? And more importantly, how can you tell the difference between them? In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of jewelry and provide tips for beginners who are interested in starting a collection.


If you're interested in learning about vintage jewelry, the first thing you'll need is a loupe. This is a small magnifying glass that jewelers use to examine diamonds and other gemstones. A loupe will allow you to see the details of a piece of jewelry more clearly, and will help you to identify any flaws or damage. You can purchase a loupe at most jewelry stores, or online.


In addition to a loupe, you'll also need some basic knowledge about the different types of antique jewelry collecting. There are three main categories: Victorian - Art Nouveau and Art Deco Like all collectibles, there’s a lot of overlap in dates, and traits of each style influenced and were used in other styles. However, each period has its own distinctive style, and knowing the difference between them will help you to identify pieces more easily.


Vintage jewelry, a generic term for basically anything after the Art Deco period, spans a wide range of styles, starting from the post WWII era, expanding to hippie-chic to bohemian to modern. But what all vintage jewelry has in common is a sense of nostalgia. These pieces harken back to a simpler time, when pop culture wasn't so bling-centric and people took more time to appreciate the little things in life. Whether you're looking for a funky statement piece or a simple, elegant pair of earrings, you're sure to find it in the world of vintage jewelry.


Simply because it's more recent, there's a lot more vintage jewelry available on the market than actual antique jewelry, although with a keen eye, antique jewelry can be found, and at bargain prices!


As you become more familiar with antique and vintage jewelry, you'll also start to develop your own personal taste. With time and patience, you'll be able to develop the perfect collection of jewelry to suit your taste!


Recognizing Styles


Victorian (1830s - 1901)


Nearly everyone who has begun antique jewelry collecting is familiar with Victorian style. In the Victorian era, jewelry was often more than just a pretty accessory. It was also a way to communicate mourning, grief, and even love. mourning jewelry was particularly popular, with many people wearing rings, necklaces, and brooches made from jet glass or jewelry made with hair. While some of the mourning jewelry could be quite delicate and beautiful, much of it was incredibly gaudy. Gold and silver were often used in mourning jewelry, as they were believed to represent the purity of the deceased. Today, Victorian jewelry is highly sought after by collectors. While some people find it morbid or over-the-top, others appreciate the history and sentimentality behind it.


Art Nouveau (1890-1910)


Art Nouveau jewelry is an elegant and enchanting style that perfectly embodies the romantic spirit of the early 20th century. With flowing lines, delicate curves, and intricate details, these pieces evoke a sense of movement and vitality, resembling plant life as it grows and flourishes in the natural world.

Striking designs feature flowing hair, elaborate patterns, and often depict semi-naked women striking sensual poses. One of the most celebrated Art Nouveau jewelers was Raymond Lalique, whose work combined artistry with technical expertise to create uniquely beautiful pieces. Other iconic designers such as Tiffany also embraced this style and produced iconic jewelry that remains popular today. With its timeless beauty and alluring charm, Art Nouveau jewelry is truly a classic reflection of feminine grace.


Art Deco (1920-1939)


Art Deco jewelry is the perfect way to add a touch of glamor to any outfit. Characterized by geometric patterns and sleek lines, Art Deco jewelry has a distinctly modern appeal. However, many Art Deco pieces are also highly collectible, due to their use of rare materials and painstaking craftsmanship. For example, Bakelite was a popular material during the Art Deco period, but it is now very difficult to find. Similarly, Cartier and J.E. Caldwell were two of the most prominent jewelers of the time, and their pieces commanded high prices at auction. However, there are also some more affordable options available, such as Buccellati jewelry. No matter what your budget may be, there is an Art Deco piece out there that is sure to capture your heart.


Vintage (1940s -1980s)


Vintage jewelry is a fashion lover's dream come true. Whether you're into plastic beads and bright colors, or retro rhinestone pieces adorned with images of Marilyn Monroe, there's something for everyone in the world of vintage jewelry. For those who favor a more bohemian style, plastic earrings and colored stone bracelets make the perfect accessories. And who can resist a piece of vintage gold chain with an adorable round charm, like those worn by Goldie Hawn in the hit '70s movie "Butterflies are Free"? Whatever your personal style may be, you're sure to find it captured in vintage jewelry. So go on, channel your inner trendsetter and start shopping today!


Other Styles


When it comes to old jewelry, there are many different sub-niches and styles that have emerged over the years. One particularly popular style is Native American jewelry, which often features turquoise stones and handcrafted motifs that are unique to various Native American tribes. Another trend in older jewelry is called Brutalist, a style that features geometric shapes and raw, unfinished metals. There are many other niche categories of antique and vintage jewelry, including Victorian revival pieces and postmodern designs from the 20th century. If you do any kind of treasure hunting, you’re going to run into styles that don’t seem to fit. Don’t worry about that, it’s all part of the learning process!


How to Find Old Jewelry


No tips for beginners article would be helpful if it didn't include advice on how to find old jewelry. If you are looking for old or unique pieces of jewelry, there are a lot of different places to scour! Here are a few that you might want to try. One option is to attend auctions and estate sales, where you can often find high-quality vintage pieces at affordable prices. Another great option is to ask your aunts and grandmothers if they have any old pieces tucked away in their jewelry boxes.

Additionally, many churches and other community groups hold special sales or auctions to raise funds, so be sure to keep an eye out for those events as well. In general, the best place to look for antique jewelry is somewhere that has regular auctions or other events where people may be selling off their old collections. Whether you're searching for a rare gem or just looking for something unique, following these tips should help you find exactly what you're looking for!


How to Buy


Buying in bulk is the way to go. You'll be able to learn quicker, find more diamonds in the rough, and build your collection faster. Plus, buying in big lots will save you money. So if you're just starting out, buying in big collections if you can, is the way to go. Diversity is key when it comes to investing in collectibles, so this type of buying is the smartest way to build your collection quickly and efficiently. It’s also the fastest way to learn about antique jewelry.


How to Inspect Your Loot!


There’s so much to learn here, that it will require other blog posts. But when inspecting old jewelry, there are a few things the beginner can start to look for with a loupe. First, check for gold and silver marks. These marks indicate the purity of the metal and can be found on the clasp or inside the band. Second, look for signs of base metal showing through. This is an indication that the gold or silver plating has worn away, exposing the lower quality metal beneath. Sterling silver should be marked Sterling, or .925. This indicates that it is 92.5% pure silver, and is the highest quality sterling silver available. By keeping these few things in mind, you can ensure that you are going to start gettin the best quality jewelry possible as you start the learning process.


What to Do With the Excess


Did you quickly accumulate a drawer, jewelry chest, laundry bag full of jewelry that you never wear?! Or maybe just a box of costume jewelry that you've outgrown? If so, it's time to clear out the clutter and make some money in the process. Here are a few ideas for getting rid of your excess jewelry:

- auction: auction houses are always looking for new items to sell, and your jewelry could be just what they're looking for. Check with local auction houses to see if they're interested in your pieces.

- wholesale to a dealer: if you have vintage or antique jewelry, you may be able to sell it wholesale to a dealer. They'll then either sell it themselves or use it in their own inventory.

- etsy: opening an Etsy shop is a great way to sell handmade or unique jewelry. You'll need to take good photos and write compelling descriptions, but it's a great way to reach a global audience.

- Maxsold: Maxsold is an online auction platform that makes it easy to sell your unwanted items. simply create an account, list your items, and wait for buyers to start bidding. (If you want to run your own Maxsold auction, you’ll need a sizable amount of lots to make it worth your while.) The author is a paid consultant for Maxsold and can help you with that process if you’re interested.


If you've gone through all or any of these steps and ended up selling off a cache, you'll most likely want to use some of the proceeds to re-invest. If you agree, or have already done that, congratulations, or condolences you're in the Antique Jewelry Business!





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