A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Antique Jewelry

Buying old jewelry is not just for the serious antiquer anymore. More and more people are purchasing trendy, vintage pieces that are coming back in style. For these novice buyers, navigating the historical realm of antiquing can be quite difficult. If you are looking to get into antique jewelry, here are a few key things you'll need to know.

1. Look for the stamp or signature.

Though an appraisal of an antique may be helpful, the most important thing you should look for when determining value and authenticity is a stamp or signature. Any signed piece of jewelry, or any other antique, will be more expensive than an unsigned one and, depending on the signature, it may mean major value. Research the top vintage jewelry makers and brands and their stamps and signatures to be able to fish out the authentic pieces from the less valuable replicas.

2. Don't be put off by the dingy.

The thing about antique jewelry is it that is has most likely been well loved for decades—centuries—before it makes its way into your home. This means dings, dents, tarnish, and other forms of wear should be present. If a piece looks very shiny and new, then it has either been restored—which may potentially lower the value—or it is a replica or reproduction.

Most dealers will refer to an antique's "patina" when discussing these imperfections. On jewelry, patina refers to the natural coating that occurs on metals that are exposed to the elements as well as the surface texture changes it experiences over time. Though most people generally try to avoid things like tarnish and rust, finding jewelry with patina is actually a good thing.

3. Where to begin your search.

Though you may be familiar yard sales or specialty antique shops, there are a few other places you should frequent to find unique pieces and good bargains. Flea markets are a great place to peruse a lot of antiques all at once. You're also more likely to come across fine jewelry at a flea market than at your typical yard sale.

Estate sales are also great resource for finding antique jewelry. Though some people find it morbid to go through the belongings of a dead person, all antique jewelry is likely to have been worn by a now-deceased individual. Buying estate jewelry also allows you more room to haggle price than the internet, antique shows, or auctions.