What Sells: Vintage Jewelry

The vintage jewelry market online is strong; buyers from around the world turn to auction sites to augment their collections, and bidding wars for prized pieces are a common occurrence.

What Sells

Popular styles and materials include:
  • Bakelite and celluloid items
  • Victorian and Edwardian styles
  • Flashy rhinestone sets from the 1950s
  • Native American jewelry made of silver and turquoise

Collectible designers include:

  • Coro and Corocraft
  • Eisenberg
  • Elsa Schiaparelli
  • Hattie Carnegie
  • Miriam Haskell
  • Weiss
Research Resources

The Antique & Collectible Exchange has an online guide to vintage jewelry styles and motifs. Visit the website at http://www.tace.com/reference/periods/.

IndyGem offers a jewelry glossary and timeline. Visit the website at http://www.indygem.com/productinfo_glossary.htm.

Plastic Fantastic has pictures and historical information about celluloid, bakelite and lucite jewelry, plus a glossary and tips for testing pieces to determine what they’re made of. Visit the website at http://www.plasticfantastic.com/.

Illusion Jewels has an extensive gallery of vintage jewelry logos and marks. Visit the website at http://www.illusionjewels.com/costumejewelrymarks.html.

This following online article describes hairwork jewelry, worn by Victorians to remember their loved ones:
http://www.collectingchannel.com/cdsDetArt.asp?CID=24&PID=3661 .


Look for these signs of wear and tear:

  • Scratches and scuffs in metal
  • Chipped, cracked or missing stones
  • Tarnish or patina on metal
  • Dirt and grime
  • Clouded or darkened rhinestones
  • Chipped enamel
  • Bent or broken clasps and closures
  • Inscriptions (can add or detract from the value, depending on what it says)

Damage will be easier to spot with a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass. If the item is particularly dirty, suggest to the owner that they clean the item or take it to a jeweler to be cleaned (Do NOT clean it yourself).

Ask the owner how they’ve cared for the item during the time it’s been in their possession and for any information they might have about the care and frequency of use during prior ownership, if applicable.

Jewelry cleaner, ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaning are not recommended for emeralds or opals. Blue Topaz should not be boiled or cleaned via ultrasonic cleaner, either. Pearls should not be worn while applying cosmetics, hair sprays or perfume. Never clean cultured pearls with chemicals, abrasives or jewelry cleaner. For gold jewelry, avoid using brushes, which can scratch the finish. Never boil gold, and avoid using ammonia, toothpaste, powder cleansers or scouring pads. Keep gold away from chlorine, lotions, cosmetics and perm solutions, since these products can discolor or dissolve gold alloys.

If any of these cleaning techniques have been applied regularly to a piece you are evaluating for sale, examine the stones carefully with your naked eye and with a jeweler’s loupe to identify any unintended damage the piece might have sustained. Discuss visible flaws with the owner and document them for potential buyers.

Key Details

Include these details in your listing:
  • Name of designer (if known)
  • Name of style or line (if known)
  • Type of item (cocktail ring, cuff bracelet, brooch, parure, etc.)
  • Materials (bakelite, lucite, cameo, rhinestones, jet, etc.)
  • Ring size
  • Necklace length
  • Age (if known)
  • Description of colors, patterns, motifs, etc.
  • The words “vintage” or “estate” (if the item came from an estate)

Vintage jewelry collectors love details, so be sure to describe and include close-up photos of hallmarks, stamps, logos, and other markings in your listing.

Demi-parures are sets with two matching pieces (bracelet and earrings, necklace and earrings, etc.). A parure is a set with three or more matching pieces (necklace, bracelet and earrings).

Storage and Shipping

Jewelry should be kept in a fabric-lined case or a box that has individual compartments. If an ordinary box is used for storage, such as department store gift box, wrap each piece of jewelry in tissue paper. Do NOT store diamond pieces with other jewelry. Diamonds can scratch other gemstones, precious metals and even other diamonds.

Use the original packaging whenever possible to store and ship an item. Otherwise, wrap jewelry pieces individually in bubble wrap and cushion with crumpled tissue paper or packing peanuts. Padded envelopes and poly mailers will not prevent items from being crushed, so use a sturdy corrugated box to ship an item. Expensive items should always be insured and shipped with tracking information.

Now Hiring in Your Area