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4 Simple Steps to Determine the Value of Your Vintage Jewelry

collection of vintage costume jewelries

Selling vintage jewelry you no longer use or wear is one of the best ways to earn a good amount of money. Perhaps you have a piece or two lying around the corner of your jewelry box that you want to sell. Selling antiques and vintage jewelry, however, can be daunting, especially if you don’t have experience on identifying its value. Obviously, you want to get the best value for your jewelry, but how do you exactly do that? Well, this entry will teach you how to identify vintage costume jewelry.

1. Know the terminologies

Antique vs. Vintage

They may seem similar but in the world of jewelry, they are extremely different from each other. For a piece to be considered vintage, it has to be at least 20 years old. This means Art deco, mid-20th, 70s and 80s, and retro are all considered vintage style jewelries. 

For it to be called antique, however, it has to be more than 100 years old. Both can be really valuable, but generally, well-maintained antique jewelry is worth so much more than a similar piece of the same quality. 

One way to know if it’s antique or vintage is to think about where you got the jewelry. If you remember purchasing it from a retailer in the past couple of years, then it’s definitely not vintage jewelry. If purchased from an antique shop, flea market, or an estate sale, then there’s a good chance it is vintage. In some cases, jewelry bought from these markets are rare and valuable. 

Style Eras

Learn about different styles like the art nouveau from the 1900s, Blakelite from the 1940s, the “new look” from the 1950s, etc. It pays to familiarize yourself with different styles from different eras, as this can help you quickly pinpoint the time and manufacturer a certain piece was made, and help you in knowing the item’s resale value. 

Fine vs. Costume 

Fine jewelry refers to jewelries made with precious metals like sterling silver, gold, platinum, or precious or semi-precious gemstones such as amethyst, diamond, emerald, garnet, pearl, opal, ruby, sapphire, etc. They are made with careful attention to details and with high-quality settings to secure the gemstones. 

Since it’s made with precious metals and real gemstones, they are durable and will never tarnish (with proper care and storage of course). They can be easily repaired when broken, as well.

Costume jewelries, on the other hand, are made with cheaper materials and were mass produced. The first challenge among newbies is learning how to identify vintage costume jewelry. 

Well, it’s pretty simple. Costume vintage jewelries also use precious metals, but instead of using solid precious metal, they are made with cheaper metal and plated with either silver or gold. The stones can also be rhinestones, plastic, glass, Swarovski crystals, or various inexpensive materials. Their design also tends to be bolder and louder. 

Though they were made with less expensive materials, costume vintage jewelries can also hold value over time, making them worth reselling. Many people, especially collectors like the certain vintage styles of the costume jewelry. Some designs are even considered iconic and often sold at a high price, depending on their condition. 

identify fine vs costume jewelry

2. Read the Hallmark

The “hallmark” is the stamp or tag on the metal piece of the jewelry. It indicates the type of metal and sometimes, even the designer or maker of the piece. Most, if not all fine jewelries come with hallmarks, unless the stamp has worn out. 

Costume jewelries can also come with a hallmark, but usually they are names of the manufacturer. 

For earrings, hallmarks are found in the post. For rings, it’s on the inside of the ring. For bracelets, they are placed near the clasp. For brooches, they are found at the back. Hallmarks for necklaces are often found on the tag. 

It is also important to note that having a hallmark does not automatically make a piece legitimate or real. Hallmarks can be faked, and counterfeiters have become really good at it. Obviously, a trained eye can easily spot fake hallmarks, especially from well-known jewelers like Cartier, Chanel, Dior, etc. Thus, it is always a good idea to have the jewelry appraised by a professional. 

3. Examine the jewelry

Scrutinize the jewelry piece. Turn it over and check every corner. Start with the craftsmanship. Does it show signs of being handmade or is it mass produced? While most handmade pieces are usually priced higher, mass produced pieces in mint quality condition can still be quite valuable. There were quite a lot of mass produced jewelry in the 1940s and 50s. 

Next, consider the materials used. Vintage and antique jewelries are usually made with gold, platinum, diamonds, and sapphires. Some less expensive pieces are made with silver, amethysts, and rhinestones. Look for the stamp using a magnifying glass as well. If the material is made with silver or gold, it will most likely have a stamp.

Next, check the cut of the gems and stones, as this can identify the era the jewelry was made. European and old mine cut diamonds are no longer produced, which means they can be really old and valuable. 

Then, for bracelets, necklaces, or pins, then check the clasps. Clasp styles can indicate a certain time period as well. Antique and vintage pieces mostly use box and ring clasps.  Most clasps used today were not widely used until the 70s. 

Next, look for the trademark of the designer. Jewelry designers use certain logos as an identifier of their work. Bulgari, Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Tiffany for example, place certain marks in their jewelry as their signature.

Track the paperwork of the jewelry, if possible. If it came from an estate sale or an inherited piece, then there’s a good chance it comes with a certification of authentication. Paperwork can help identify the authenticity of the jewelry. 

tips to identify vintage costume jewelry

4. Have it verified by a professional

If you believe that your jewelry is worth something, the best way to know its true value is to have it professionally appraised. Research the best appraisers in your area who specialize in vintage and antique jewelries. These people know how to identify vintage costume jewelry and help you get its maximum value.