If you’re looking for an exceptional piece of jewelry, something special that sets you apart from the crowd, consider purchasing a piece of estate jewelry or antique jewelry. Unlike the mass produced jewelry you will find displayed in most retail shops, estate jewelry or antique jewelry is often one-of-a-kind or extremely rare. Estate and antique jewelry pieces are unique in that each has its own rich history and symbolism such as Victorian snake jewelry, which symbolized eternal love. These pieces often display handiwork and design indicative of a specific period of time, such as the beautiful and highly desirable geometry of Art Deco jewelry. Furthermore, when purchasing signed designer estate jewelry, you will often obtain high-demand pieces that are usually at a price significantly lower than retail.
Estate jewelry is jewelry that is purchased second-hand, and can refer to any period of jewelry history. The definition of antique jewelry is narrower — antique jewelry must be at least 100 years old. When purchasing a piece of estate or antique jewelry, there are a number of factors you should consider:
Condition: As the majority of estate and antique jewelry has been previously worn, it is important to determine the condition of the item. Inspect for scratches and dents in metal, chips on enamel, and fractures in the gemstones. When purchasing online, look at the product description for information on the condition of the piece and take care to find out the seller’s return and exchange policy.
Cut: The types of cuts you will find in gemstones varies according to the period in which the piece was created. Advances in technology allowed for increasingly intricate cuts that more effectively refracted light and resulted in a more dazzling look. Many prefer the more subtle glitter of vintage cuts. The rose cut, for example, gets its name because it is shaped in a way that resembles the petals of a rose. This cut was popular in the early 20th century, and during various antique periods. The old mine cut was the predecessor of the modern brilliant cut, and is also sometimes referred to as cushion cut. Others prefer the modern brilliant cut, designed to maximize the amount of light refracted by the diamond — giving it more “fire” than vintage cuts.
Karat: The type of metal used in crafting estate and antique jewelry varies depending on the designer and design period of the piece. For example, Edwardian period jewelry was often crafted in platinum, the only metal guaranteed to be strong enough to hold gemstones in the lace-like designs that were popular during this period. In contrast, platinum was not used in Retro period jewelry due to war-time restrictions on non-military use of this metal. Instead, alloys of yellow, green and rose gold were often used in Retro period jewelry. Pieces are often stamped to indicate the gold content. All else being equal, aim to buy pieces in platinum or with a high gold content to maximize the intrinsic value of the piece.
Authenticity: Unfortunately there are sellers who either intentionally or unwittingly sell inauthentic estate and antique jewelry. Therefore, it is important to purchase estate jewelry and antique jewelry from a reputable seller, preferably where the jewelry is authenticated and appraised by a GIA certified gemologist with an extensive background in purchasing estate jewelry and antique jewelry.
Hallmark: Signed designer estate jewelry pieces make great purchases as they retain much of their value and often become highly collectible designs. A designer hallmark is an indication of quality and authenticity, and if you choose to resell your signed designer estate jewelry you will find that potential buyers are willing to pay a premium for signed designer estate jewelry.