Vintage & antique jewelry has been gaining popularity in the last few years and people often start their journey to collecting with the question "where do I find vintage jewelry?".
The options for finding vintage jewelry are numerous and definitely not limited to "antique stores near you". The problem comes in that the more popular an item becomes, the more unscrupulous "dealers" will start to try and take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. This is especially evident on places like Etsy and Ebay where items will be listed as "VINTAGE STYLE" or "ANTIQUE STYLE" but are modern, poorly made, replicas of beautiful hand-made pieces from bygone eras.
To start with, think of the item or items you are most wanting to collect. You can change or update these ideas at any time, but this will give you the best chance to find what you need by narrowing down the search terms you use. For instance, if you are looking for a vintage Art Deco Engagement Ring, you are likely to find innumerable replicas online that can cost you more than the actual vintage item would. Use specific search terms when applicable to help your searches bring up better options - use specific karats of gold, types of diamond cut or other details like wheat sheaf and filigree. This will hopefully eliminate some of the items like silver replicas. You can also use the "-" before words you don't want in a lot of search engines, like "-silver" or "-style" to remove silver and style from the titles of the search results.
The following are some great places to look at for your vintage jewelry searches but remember to do your research. Ask questions, ask for more pictures, engage the sellers to see what they know about their pieces and make sure the pieces they are showing on their website or listing are actually the pieces they have in their possession. Many times you might come across a gorgeous picture of a genuine vintage piece but it is actually a stolen image and the item is being poorly recreated in another area of the world. If that seller cannot produce a video or more photos of that exact item upon request, look elsewhere.
1) Rubylane (rubylane.com)
Rubylane is a great place to do some searching as it is based entirely on vintage and antique pieces. The sellers there are held more accountable for their items, their listings and descriptions with the ability to report information or items that don't fit. Look for sellers with a longer term here and good reviews - this will help you narrow down the ones you might want to work with. Rubylane also allows you to have wish lists, send some sellers offers on items you are interested in, favourite shops you want to come back to and more.
2) Etsy (etsy.com)
Etsy used to be known as the handmade market but in recent years it has expanded immensely to include a huge variety of vintage and antique items as well. There tends to be a bit more variation in allowances here, so you need to use caution when searching Etsy but again, look for sellers that have been there awhile and have great reviews. Ask questions, get more photos if you like, see if they have videos of the items as well. Etsy allows video uploads to the listings now which adds even more detail. Always read descriptions thoroughly to ensure you understand the condition of the item as true vintage and antique items typically have some wear from use.
3) Ebay (ebay.com)
Ebay can have amazing finds and every collector or dealer that has been around awhile probably has a story of something cool they stumbled upon on Ebay. They will also have, likely numerous, stories of how they were scammed or items weren't as described. This is also where you might run into more scam items, such as stolen photos from other websites or social media and reproduction items posed as authentic. Be very careful with Ebay purchases and check reviews, time in business and even where the items are coming from. Never spend more than you are comfortable with, especially on auctions where you can get caught up in a bidding war. Check refund/return policies before purchasing as well, but Ebay does tend to stand behind customers a lot of the time, so as long as you are being diligent and cautious, you may find something amazing here.
4) Google Image Search (image.google.com)
Google images, Google Shopping and Google Searching in general can actually produce a ton of useful information when you are starting out. Even if you aren't looking to buy from these platforms, use them to familiarize yourself with the pricing, the look and texture of the pieces you are interested in and the information those sellers or bloggers are providing about those pieces. This will help you down the road to find exactly what you are looking for and the knowledge to feel more confident in your purchases. The best part here is that you might actually stumble on the piece that you love in the searches and it could lead to websites you might not have thought to try before. Always check return policies on websites and research them before purchasing - do they have social media profiles you can view? Are there reviews somewhere else you can review? Don't hesitate to reach out the contact on that website before purchasing to ask questions as well - it is easier to gauge their customer service this way as well.
5) Local Pawn Shops & Auctions
Collecting vintage & antique jewelry is not just limited to searching the internet. Places like pawn shops, local auctions, even Facebook Marketplace can have some amazing finds. These are a bit harder though since most of them won't have any background information or paperwork and the people selling likely don't have any expertise. Be cautious and go in with some knowledge of what you are looking for and what you are willing to pay. Ask questions if you can and most Pawn Shops will at least have testers for gold content and diamonds to confirm the validity of any markings. If you are unsure, ask to take pictures or use available pictures to do some more research online or ask someone you trust with more expertise for their opinion.
6) Flea Markets, Vintage Markets & Antique Stores
Don't forget the old but trusty local markets & antique stores. Similar to the pawn shops and auctions, there may not be a lot of information about these pieces but the sellers here tend to have a better idea of how to date items and useful tips and tricks for identifying what you are looking for. It is still recommended to do your research because sellers don't always know the solid facts about items, but reputable ones should be able to answer questions about items you are interested in and explain why they feel the way they do about those pieces. When in doubt, walk away and think about it or ask for their contact information to follow up with another time.
Keep in mind that while antique and vintage pieces may be one-of-a-kind, they often followed the styles of that era and you are likely to find similar pieces in the future if you ever miss out on one now. Ask yourself if that piece you are interested in sold to someone else before you decided to buy it, how would you feel? If it is devastated, consider purchasing and asking about return policies if it isn't as described. In a lot of cases, in person purchases will ALWAYS be buyer beware, so tread with caution regardless, but do your research, understand your wants/needs in regards to your comfort level and ask questions.
Feel free to reach out to us if we can assist - we are happy to help answer questions about our pieces or offer resources that may help you in your search.