How To Tell If A Piece of Jewelry Is Vintage


As the buyer of a piece of  jewelry, it really is YOUR style that matters and what attracts you to a piece can be as unique as you are.  Not everyone is a fan of “art deco” or of 60’s “flower power & leather”.  So, if it’s a piece that you love and want to own, then that is your valuable find!

Vintage defined is something 20 years or older. (Note: antique is more than 100 years old).  That being said, there are a few tricks to remember when searching for that perfect “vintage” piece.

Tip 1:

Brand stores and shops will often label something as “vintage” when what they really mean is vintage style or inspired by a vintage piece. They are merely copies.  You will want to educate yourself on pieces from specific times and then search the flea markets, swap meets and online websites that specialize in vintage and make sure you do your research before you buy something from an online auction site like eBay.

Tip 2:

Old does not necessarily mean valuable!  Here are some things to look for when scouting out your favorite shops and markets before you spend your money:

Function: Does everything work? Are the clasps functional and hold securely? Look for bends or kinks in the piece that could be a breaking point at a future date?

Weight: Lightweight pieces typically are not as valuable as solid heavier pieces – smaller heavier pieces may indicate the age and quality of the piece.

Crafting: Plastic items that are seamless will have better quality and value. Look for rhinestones that are prong set rather than glued – they will last longer and are better made. Plating is where a gold or silver layer has been plated over another metal – look for wear points and if you can see the metal under the plating. Some of the terms used in vintage jewelry include:  gold/silver plated, gold/silver overlay, gold/silver tone, and of course if it’s made of a Karat weight of gold or sterling silver the value of the piece increases.  Stone clarity is a huge part of determining the value of a piece of jewelry. Yellow or grey stones that were once white clear have lost their luster and may affect the value of the piece – this is not a hard and fast rule, but it is something to consider when choosing whether or not to buy that piece.  Check if the stones are  scratched and dulled by aging. And, if you can, see if the stones are all matching or almost matching – this may indicate some of the stones have been replaced with newer ones.

Tip 3:

Much of what is on the vintage market will not have a size marked on it. If you’re an avid jewelry shopper and love the flea markets and swap meets, you may want to invest in a sizer tool that will help you tell the size of a ring you find that you may not want to wear, but you want to sell. Knowing the size is a must in promoting your piece for sale.

Tip 4:

Unique pieces that are not mass-produced will be of more value, but if they’re a little “too” unique you will want to share what makes the piece special! You are the one who determines if a piece of jewelry has value to you.  The more intricate a piece is may indicate the uniqueness of the piece.  Mass-produced items will be streamlined and designed in such a way as to replicate it many times with little effort – usually a less interesting piece as well.  But remember, just because a piece is different or bizarre doesn’t make it more valuable.

Here’s a video that shares the magic of vintage costume jewelry and also the history of how it came about. Hope you enjoy!

Have you found a special piece at a flea market or swap meet or even a second-hand store that turned out to be valuable?  Share here in the comments below!

We are constantly adding new pieces to our store, so be sure to stop by and check it out at CopperLeaf Treasures!


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