Still, ‘vintage’ is another fancy word to mark-up second-hand goods. A side of caution and a vigilant eye will be necessary when checking out the array of gems laid out at the flea market or vintage boutique. Keep in mind that these pieces once belonged to someone, so signs of wear and tear are inevitable.
Shop with an open-mind and consider what ‘flaws’ you are willing to live with. After all, little nicks give unique character to jewellery and can be more comfortable to wear. Think of it as a pair of shoes that’s already been broken into.
So before you whip out your wallet, take a moment to consider these few tips. You might just save yourself from the agony of buyer’s regret.
Vintage pieces often have thin, flat prongs instead of rounded ones found in modern pieces, which means they can break off easily. It’s much harder to fix a broken prong especially if the piece is not made of gold or silver. You may also run the risk destroying the stone if it’s a natural gem.
Ensure that prongs clasp on tightly to the stone. Stray prongs may snag onto your clothing. Never attempt to push the prongs in yourself as you may break them. Instead, get a professional jeweller to secure it.
Diminutive stones, commonly marcasite, are set in vintage pieces to add accent and flair – just like on the leaves of this brooch here. Unfortunately, they do fall off quite easily. Thankfully, these are usually small enough to gloss over if you’re not too particular.
Cabochons, flat and rounded gems, often take centre stage in vintage pieces. These stones are usually set in a tight bezel cup. But, the jeweller might just do quick work with hot glue — an obvious sign is if there are gaps between cabochon and bezel.
Push the gem gently to check. If it wobbles, simply pop it out and stick it back on with hot glue or jeweller’s cement.
It’s not enough to just look out for oxidised metal or scratches to determine if a piece is really vintage.
Familiarise yourself with art deco and art nouveau styles, which are the two most common periods you’ll find in vintage jewellery. For starters, art nouveau tends towards imagery from nature, curves and enamel work while art deco sees more geometric and angular works.
Search for hallmarks in the jewellery as well, which points out to the type of precious metal used. These brandings can be found in the lower or mid shank of a ring and at the back of earrings, brooches and pendants. The two most common numbers you’ll find are 750 for 18K gold and 925 for sterling silver. If you’re lucky, you may also chance upon the jeweller’s logo which will help with dating a piece.