Selecting Vintage and Antique Jewelry is not easy, either for us as a jeweler stocking our cases or for our clients looking for the perfect engagement ring or gift. Federal Way Custom Jewelers is particular in what we offer to our clients, and every item has to be of the highest standard available and a good value. We have our own sources of first class vintage and antique jewelry suppliers that we have dealt with for many years, as well as sourcing items from auctions and local estates. The result is an ever changing selection of antique and estate jewelry. The following is a guide to selecting antique jewelry- but it also gives sellers a glimpse into our mind when we are buying antique pieces ourselves.
There are three key things to keep in mind when considering and choosing a piece of estate or antique jewelry: the aesthetic value, the monetary value, and the condition value. The aesthetic value is the easiest to understand- you have to find the piece you think is beautiful, and buy it! But with antique jewels this can be harder than it sounds. Some clients have a particular wish list and end up having to wait for their dream ring to come on the market. Other clients fall in love with two necklaces and really struggle to choose between the two. Unlike custom jewelry, the benefit to antique items are that they are available to see in person, try on, and evaluate, but you are limited to the jeweler’s stock on hand. Sometimes we can work with our suppliers to source an item for you, or create something inspired by an antique. The fastest selling antique items are attractive, with large and/or high quality gemstones, pleasant designs, without being too bold, too dated, or too customized. We find that Art Deco items sell very well, along with Edwardian/Nouveau and Victorian pieces.
The monetary value is one of the hardest factors to analyze when choosing an antique item. Every buyer wants to find a deal- and at FWCJ, we strive to price our items below market value, and we can do so due to low overhead and aggressive buying. That said, fine antique jewels are rare, and the rarity drives the selling price. A fine antique gold necklace from a known maker will sell for 3-5x the gold value, and 2-3x the price of an unsigned version. Thus a solid percentage of the item’s value is in who made it, when it was made, and how it looks today. The same can be said of antique diamond rings, which, especially when set in the original mounting, can sell for 50% above comparable modern stones. In general, antique jewels are priced based on their components (gold, diamonds, etc.) as well as their overall rarity (known makers, rare age) and the desirability of the item in its current form. A 1ct diamond in a solitaire will sell for less than the same diamond in a Victorian Halo mounting, which adds diamond weight, rarity, and aesthetic value. Not all antiques are as rare as others, just like not all estate items were made by Tiffany. As such, we have items in our cases from $200 to $20,000 and every price in between. Every item FWCJ sells over $1500 is accompanied by a complimentary appraisal from a 3rd party gem lab- this validates the details of the item and gives you a researched value for insurance.
One of the hardest traits to determine when buying an antique is its condition, and thus its long term wear value. At FWCJ, every antique is fully inspected and restored by our master goldsmiths before being offered for sale, and as such is backed by our warranty. We still advise that clients insure their jewelry, new or old, especially those that are worn on a daily basis. Things get more complicated with antiques since they are often purchased with some wear and condition issues inherent to them. A slightly thin shank and minor wear to prongs should not detract a buyer or negatively impact value, so long as they know to expect a repair in a few years. But a cracked gallery, abraded gems, missing prongs, etc. are more serious condition issues which will lead to losses and prevent enjoyment of the piece in the near term. Even a fully restored antique is still an antique- some can be hundreds of years old- so we will work with you to learn your lifestyle and educate you as to which pieces can be worn without care, which pieces are more delicate, etc.
Even for items not purchased with us, we do offer antique jewelry advising and restoration. Did you inherit a ring that you want to wear as your engagement ring? Maybe you bought a ring elsewhere that is having repair problems? We are happy to take a look and give you honest expert advice. We can educate you as to what you have and what it is worth, it its current condition versus with a complete restoration. We know that much value is sentimental, and we are proud to keep rings on hands for many generations.
If you have an antique you are interested in selling- certainly contact us. While we do not buy everything, we can certainly take a look at your item and advise you as to its value and best ways of selling it. Sometimes selling to a jeweler is a great way to proceed, sometimes we will advise selling directly to a consumer, or having the item repaired prior to sale. A quick look through our shop will show the types of items we regularly buy and sell.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this article about how to select vintage and antique jewelry. This article really just glosses over the surface- we would love to show you our antique cases in person, and help you find the perfect antique piece. This would be a good time to check out our prices and vintage and antique products in our online store, or contact us to visit us in person.