Buying Antique Jewelry: 6 Tips for Beginners

When you shop online for antique jewelry, your array of choices can be almost dizzying. Estate jewelry companies, online auction sites and even some online stores continually jockey for position in search engines and will often overwhelm those buying antique jewelry online. Don’t let hesitation stop you from finding beautiful gems to add to your collection; Follow these 6 tips to keep your eye on the prize and get the items you’ve been looking for.

1.) Make sure your dealer is trustworthy.

Victorian Lava Cameo in Gold

As you shop online for antique jewelry, keep your browsing narrowed to smaller sites with a following. Hillary’s Antiques is a great place, as they are one of the antique jewelry stores that have been online the longest. A site that doesn’t offer product descriptions or doesn’t offer a secure checkout page is a red flag, as well as sites located overseas. Do a little research before you buy, and take the time to read reviews from past clients if they are available. If you suspect the picture you’re looking at may have been stolen from a legitimate site, do a Google search using the image url – this handy tool will tell you if that must-have ring you’re coveting was originally posted elsewhere.

2.) Look for larger selections.

A site with a wide variety of items and a frequent stock rotation is a good indication of a steady, honest business. Estate jewelry companies are an excellent place to start: these companies liquidate large collections for families when the original owner passes away. Estate jewelry collections are also an excellent way to find several pieces from the same maker or time period at once. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, email or call the seller offering similar designs & styles and request they contact you if they find your ideal piece.

3.)More photos mean less uncertainty.

Early gold & Moonstone bracelet

Buying antique jewelry means you’ll be dealing with more variables than modern pieces. General age, material breakdown and even method of storage can all affect the condition of antique jewelry over the years. Sticking to sellers that offer many pictures with every item for sale is a good way to minimize disappointment. Ideally, there should be a photo of each directional surface of the antique jewelry piece you’re looking over – front, back, left and right – as well as closeups of any unique marks or potential damage. Most honest dealers will list any wear or damage of the antique jewelry piece as they know it is part of the antique estate jewelry business. If a seller uses a stock photo, such as a picture taken from a research site or other seller, steer clear: you won’t know what kinds of flaws they’re hiding until it’s too late.

4.) Know where your item is.

As with any digital purchase, when you shop online for antique jewelry it will most likely be shipped through the post office or a package delivery service. As estate jewelry and even vintage jewelry are considered valuable items, getting a tracking number is a smart move. A tracking number not only reduces the potential for seller fraud, it also prevents theft at your door by predetermining a delivery time.

5.) Do your homework.

Buying antique jewelry is an investment. These pieces will only increase in value with age, which makes research a vital component to buying antique jewelry. Educate yourself in the particular hallmarks of your favorite pieces, as well as the most common techniques favored by forgers. When you know what to look for and what to avoid, you’ll be considerably more likely to select genuine pieces that will hold value. For more expensive pieces and collections, finding a local appraiser you can trust is important; The documentation these appraisers provide make it easier to insure your collection against theft or damage.

6.) Stay in your price range.

Art Deco filigree diamond ring

Shopping online is easy, fun and addicting – all the more reason to stay grounded when shopping for antique pins & brooches, antique rings and other antique jewelry pieces. When you begin your search, have a price range in mind and don’t be discouraged if a particular item is a little outside of it. If you find estate jewelry that you simply can’t pass up but pushes your price range, a quick email to the seller with an offer might just surprise you. Sellers don’t want stock sitting around indefinitely, and may just take the sure bet of a firm offer over the uncertainty of continuing to wait for full price.

Ultimately, buying antique jewelry, estate jewelry, Victorian jewelry and vintage jewelry is a rewarding hobby that combines the best of both sleuthing and accessorizing. With these six tips, you’ll be well prepared to single out the best online shops and sidestep potential problems before they occur.

Buying Antique Vintage Jewelry Online

Buying antique jewelry online can be much more difficult than buying antique jewelry from a store or an auction. Unlike physical sales where you can actually see the estate jewelry, you have to rely on the seller to properly describe the vintage jewelry or victorian jewelry in the listing. While it can be a harder to shop online for antique jewelry, it isn’t entirely impossible. This guide will show you what you should do and what you should look out for when buying antique jewelry online.

Search for Jewelry

Georgian Blue Enamel with mine cut Diamond & Seed Pearls

Perhaps the easiest part about buying antique jewelry online is finding listings. While more research needs to be done after finding a listing, the first step is just finding people online who are selling the jewelry you want.
While there are many websites that have antique jewelry, such as Hillary’s Antiques, the best way to find jewelry is by just typing in a certain name of a piece like a Georgian Blue Enamel mine cut Diamond ring with seed pearls or another particular keyword in Google, Yahoo or Bing. This allows you to search through all the major websites to find the piece you are looking for. You may find a valuable ring on a website you have never heard of before.

Some major sellers of vintage jewelry have websites that separate the pieces into by categories, such as victorian jewelry, costume jewelry, or art deco jewelry. These websites can make the task of finding a particular piece easier.

Read the Description

Carefully read the description before buying vintage jewelry online. Some people have a title that says, “Rare Victorian Diamond Ring,” but the description will say that the ring is a reproduction. While reproductions give people the feeling of owning antique jewelry, they are far from the real thing in terms of quality and value.

If the person says that the piece is real, then ask for a certificate of authenticity or any type of verification to ensure the piece actually is real. Most sellers will have some sort of proof, but there are others that do not have any proof. While it is a red flag, some sellers are selling real antique jewelry and vintage jewelry without any type of verification.

Read the description to find out the antique jewelry’s condition. You probably don’t want a piece of jewelry that is broken or full of cracks. A good seller will be honest about the piece’s condition because he or she knows customers will be unhappy if they buy broken jewelry.

Return Policies

Along with reading the description, you should also look for a return policy. Buying jewelry online can sometimes be risky, and you don’t want to be caught with a reproduction, a fake or a bad piece of estate jewelry if the piece is not what you thought it would be.

Most good sellers have return policies. This normally gives you about 30 to 60 days to return the estate jewelry if you are unhappy for any reason. It is normally best to act on this quickly because you don’t want to forget about returning the antique estate jewelry.


The first thing you want to do after getting the piece is go to an appraiser. It doesn’t matter if you have a certificate of authenticity, you will want to get the item appraised and verified. Make sure you didn’t pay too much for it, and make sure that the piece is real.

If the piece turns out to be fake or if it is worth much less than you originally thought, then you should return the jewelry. This is why a return policy is important. You may lose some money by returning the piece, usually the shipping costs, but you should regain most of the money you spent.

Victorian Diamond & Sapphire Enamel Ring

Finding estate jewelry isn’t difficult, but buying it and ensuring the piece is real is slightly more difficult than buying the jewelry from a physical dealer. You don’t have the chance to look at the piece for obvious imperfections or reproduction marks.

While there are a few extra steps you should follow, such as carefully looking through the description and getting the piece independently appraised, buying antique jewelry online gives you a great way to find new pieces that you cannot find anywhere else.

Buying is easy, and most sellers are dependable and have a good return policy if any problems do occur. Just follow these tips, and you should have no problems find the one of a kind piece you are looking for.

Caring For Antique Costume Jewelry

If you own antique costume jewelry, it is important to properly care for it. Costume jewelry can prove to be a good investment, but worn, broken, or otherwise damaged pieces are not worth the expense. You’ll get more return on your investment later if you buy costume jewelry in good condition. There is some types of costume antique jewelry that is valuable even though it is plastic jewelry.

Goldette of New York Slide Bracelet

Properly storing anything that is of value is important to many people. Cleaning antique jewelry should hold the same importance. Prior to cleaning, inspect your antique jewelry carefully for signs of damage, such as loose stones, broken clasps or damaged chains. Get these items repaired and cleaned by a professional that has past experience dealing with all types of antique and estate jewelry.

Take good care of your costume jewelry. Many pieces of costume antique jewelry have the stones glue and with their age the jewelry becomes even more delicate. Take care not to use chemicals or lots of water in an attempt to clean your costume jewelry. Wiping it down with a damp, warm cloth and then drying it with another cloth is the best care for it. You will be able to maintain its nice appearance with this method.

Make sure there is a good drain strainer in the sink before you start cleaning your costume or antique jewelry there. Too often, a precious piece of jewelry can easily slip out of your hands when it is covered in soap. The simple precaution of putting a plug over the drain opening will ensure that your valuable pieces will not slip down into the city’s sewer system and be forever lost.

Rare Spratling Agate Flower Brooch circa 1940's

Use a polishing cloth for all of your jewelry pieces. This is a fairly simple way to achieve shine without dealing with solvents and chemicals. Use the two-sided cloth to polish your estate jewelry, such as antique bracelets or antique necklaces as if you were cleaning glass. Use the one side designated for polish, and the other for making it shine.

You never want to use bleach, ammonia, or any other cleaning solvents that are not designed specifically for cleaning antique jewelry. Chemicals can eat away the stones or enamel on your stones.

Prevent your jewelry from tarnishing so that it keeps looking great. Never wear your jewelry when you are going to be near water. Water can dull and rust some types of metal if it is exposed to it too often. If you must take your jewelry somewhere wet, prepare it by adding some clear nail polish on the surface. But this is only recommended after you speak with a jeweler and hey give you the okay.

Be sure to always remove your jewelry before going for a swim. Chlorine is a very strong and harsh chemical that can damage and dull your precious pieces. Even ocean swimming is not good for antique estate jewelry. The salt is damaging. Taking all types of your jewelry off before getting in the water will protect it and extend the life of the jewelry.

How To Select Jewelry For That Special Someone

Many people are passionate about jewelry, either for themselves or for those they love. It’s good to know a little bit about jewelry, especially since there are so many types of jewelry pieces such as costume antique jewelry, antique rings, and victorian jewelry. Antique jewelry is always an ideal choice when trying to decide what gift to buy for a woman. Here are some suggestions for selecting and purchasing antique jewelry as a gift or even for yourself.

It does not necessarily have to be some type of occasion to give a present. Show your sweetheart how much you love her by surprising her with a beautiful piece of silver antique jewelry. It’s great to get surprise gifts, especially those as meaningful as antique jewelry. You also get the added benefit of watching how that little box you hand her lights up her entire face and fills her eyes with tears of gratitude as she beams you a radiant smile.

If you are looking for costume antique jewelry as a gift, consider a set rather than an individual piece. You may be able to find some really great deals when you purchase sets of antique costume jewelry. You can then give a piece of the set to a loved one on several different occasions. It will not only ensure you will always have a gift ready, it will also show the person that you care a lot about them.

If you are buying jewelry for someone who values her individuality, find a one-of-a-kind piece specifically for her. A unique victorian jewelry piece is a great way to show someone how much they mean to you. Antique jewelry and victorian jewelry can often be unique and distinctive. Sometimes the jeweler may have some knowledge of the piece’s history. You can relay this information when you give the gift making it more special and a moment to remember. A one of a kind gift will make her heart skip a beat and definitely make an impact!

Special occasions, such as anniversaries or birthdays, are a great opportunity to buy the antique diamond ring you couldn’t afford earlier in life when the two of you were just getting started. Many jewelers will buy back rings and other jewelry. Use this money to put towards a new purchase and trade up to a larger diamond or more expensive estate diamond ring.

When you are buying new jewelry, think about the stones you want to see your partner wear. Any stones that you choose should go with their skin tone and reflect their personality. Also take time to think about what clothes the antique jewelry will be worn with. Neutral colored stones go well with many different outfits. If you take the time to match stones to their skin and body it will show how thoughtful you are. With the following few tidbits of information you will certainly impress her with your knowledge. Neutral colored stones go well with many different outfits. If it isn’t a functional piece, she will not use it and it is pointless to purchase it.

Antique estate jewelry can be a testament to celebrations in a person’s life and will serve as a memorial to the relationships between two loving people. Victorian jewelry can also help you express your feelings of pride and love, and can be wonderful when commemorating an important achievement. Even a small piece of antique jewelry can get a wonderful reaction and will be cherished for years to come.

Buying Estate Jewelry Auction Style


We here love antiques. Classic items, often hand made, that are high quality and unique to everything else. While we love antique jewelry the most, we also love other antiques like art and furniture. That is why we thought this article about Discovery Auctions was excellent. Check out a little bit of the article below to get more information!

People love a treasure hunt, and that’s what you get when you come to a Skinner Discovery auction. Country Americana is highlighted in our monthly Discovery auction three times each year, and we had such a variety of great inventory waiting for this sale. Both Country Americana and Jewelry are very popular collecting areas in New England, and it’s exciting to have them both featured in a Discovery sale in the same month.

We have over 1,600 lots in this week’s sale. With such a huge stock of art and antiques to browse through, there’s definitely going to be something for everyone. I overheard one woman who was browsing the preview say, “Oh look—these are the dishes we grew up with!”…

More at Meet the Experts: Cara Elmslie, Director of Discovery Auctions

We visited their website and despite our efforts to not spend money a few of us have already checked out some cool looking products that we want. Their is a set of cups I have to have! Check out their website for more information, like finding your childhood dishes! We also have more reading below for you to check out and to see another link about a company that offers a decent selection of stuff to browse.

More Reading


Understanding the Difference between Carat and Karat


Carat and Karat – How their Meanings Differ

Sometimes people confuse carat with karat and vice versa when it comes to jewelry. However both words do not mean the same thing although they were derived from the same word source, which is carob. That’s because, in earlier times, the consistent size of carob beans were used as standard units of weight. First to use this method were the Greeks, with the process passed eventually along to alchemists in the 16th century. So, although the two words share the same origin, their meanings are not synonymous in the jewelry trade. A karat measures the amount of gold in a piece of jewelry while a carat is used determine the weight of a gemstone.

The Weight of a Carat

If you have an antique jewelry piece that is dated before 1913 then, carat weight was measured as 205.3 milligrams at that time. After 1913, carat weight was changed to 200 milligrams.

Carats do not Indicate a Gem’s Size

Some people think that the number of carats in a gem is indicative of a stone’s size. However, that assumption is incorrect. A carat, again, is a measure of weight. The misunderstanding comes about because you also have to account for a stone’s density when you are looking at the carat weight of a specific gem. For example, a ruby is denser than a diamond. So, if both stones have a weight of one carat, the ruby will be smaller than the diamond. The same holds true for a sapphire. Because the stone is more condensed, it will always be smaller than a diamond with the same carat weight.

The Karat – A Measure of Gold Content

A karat, on the other hand, measures the gold content in a piece of jewelry. As gold is soft, it is often combined with other metals to increase its durability, thereby creating a gold alloy. Metals used that reduce the karat content of gold include copper, nickel, silver, and zinc. Karat content then is indicated by 9k, 10k, 12k, 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k. In the U.S., jewelry is not considered gold though unless it contains at least 10 karats. Only items that are stamped with a mark of 24k are acknowledged as 100% gold.


One Final Note

Abbreviations for carat are c or ct while the symbols for karat are k or kt.



Appraising your Antique Jewelry

For Purposes of Insurance, Obtain an Appraisal for Valuable Pieces of Antique Jewelry

For some of your antique jewelry pieces, you may have to take out insurance to make sure they are adequately protected financially. In order to do this, you’ll need to obtain an appraisal. Appraisals are costly but well worth the investment if you have a valuable, highly prized piece of vintage jewelry. Therefore, the appraiser you retain should be credentialed and in good standing with an appraisal organization, such as the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or International Society of Appraisers (ISA).

What an Appraisal Report Contains

The appraisal you receive will provide all the relevant appraisal information concerning your antique jewelry, describing the item, the type of metal, the age of the jewelry, its source, whether or not the jewelry is for a man or woman, the credentials of the appraiser, and date of the appraisal. Photographs will be included in the appraisal report as well.

Consult a Jeweler before Having an Appraisal Made

Not only is an appraisal necessary for reasons of insurance, it is also a good idea to obtain one if you wish to sell the jewelry at a future date. However, before you seek out the services of a jewelry appraiser, you may want to show your jewelry to a jeweler to make sure that it is worth having it appraised. He or she can provide you with the quality of the gems, metal content and the carat weight of the stones.

Checking the Metal Content

In addition, you can get a good idea of the intrinsic worth of your jewelry by conducting an online search. Or, if you have several pieces of antique jewelry, it may prove to be beneficial to invest in a metal testing kit, especially if you have older pieces that do not provide any mark as to their content. If your jewelry is a precious metal, then it should include some type of marking. For example, pieces made of sterling silver should be indicated with marks such as sterling, ster, or 925.

Looking for the Purity Mark

Stamps or purity marks giving the metal content should be featured on the inside of rings and should be visible on the clasp of bracelets or necklaces. In the U.S., all gold jewelry must be at least 10 karats, which equates to a little over 40% of gold. Only 24 karat jewelry items are considered to be pure gold.



Maintaining Antique Jewelry at Home


Cleaning Diamonds at Home

The gems used in most antique jewelry pieces are typically diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls. Most of these gemstones, if you don’t have any other adornments made of fabric, wood, or hair, can be cleaned at home with regular household products and water. For example, diamonds can be cleaned and polished with a solution that contains one part ammonia to six parts water. A soft toothbrush can be used for scrubbing the surface. Rinse the gem with lukewarm water after you are through cleaning the stone.

Making Rubies and Sapphires Gleam

You can also use the same solution for cleaning you vintage pieces that feature rubies or sapphires. Use a stiffer brush to gently clean the surface, such as a bristle brush. Or, a solution containing a mild detergent and warm water can be used as well. Rinse the gem after you are done cleaning it and dry gently with a soft cloth.

Caring for Pearls

Pearls, which are often featured in Edwardian jewelry creations, will not lose their luster if they are property maintained. To keep your pearls looking their best, never wear them with other pieces of jewelry as doing so can cause scratches. Never apply any makeup, scents, or creams when you are wearing your pearls either. The jewelry should be put on after you are done dressing and removed first thing when you change your clothes.

Keep your Pearls Separate from other Pieces of Jewelry

Pearls should be treated singularly. In other words, do not store them with your vintage jewelry. Keep the precious gems away from chlorinated water or saltwater too. Never use harsher solvents or ammonia to clean pearls as the solutions can destroy the nacre or the iridescent patina on the natural beads. Instead, use a mild detergent mixed in warm water and a soft cloth to wipe away any accumulated dirt. Avoid using a steam cleaner or ultrasonic cleaner on your pearls too.


Diamonds Used in Antique Jewelry


The Diamond – A Gemstone Used a Good Deal in Antique Jewelry

Antique jewelry is well-represented by diamonds, especially jewelry designs of Victorian, Art Deco, and Edwardian styling. Indeed, the diamond is the perfect stone to choose when picking out antique jewelry as the gem is well-recognized for its clarity and unparalleled resilience.

Diamonds Come in Every Color of the Rainbow

While you may believe diamonds are colorless or white, they actually can be naturally tinted in such colors as green, pink, purple, yellow, blue, or red, all the hues termed as fancy colors and the colored gemstones referred to as fancy diamonds. White diamonds are considered to be of less worth if they carry a yellowy cast while diamonds that are washed with blue or pink tints are considered to hold a higher value. Typically, fancy diamonds are considered to be worth more than white diamonds as they are rarer gemstones.

Mary of Burgundy – The First Woman to Receive a Diamond Engagement Ring

Jewelers especially liked using diamonds in jewelry during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Maybe it’s because the gem was considered a good-luck charm as far back as 800 BC. Diamonds also gained regal standing as well, especially when Louis IX France banned the wearing of diamonds by women, stating that the gem was only a suitable adornment for kings. However, that proclamation did not prevent Mary of Burgundy from receiving the first diamond engagement ring, given to her by Maximilian in the late 15th century.

Brazil and South Africa – Major Diamond Sources for Antique Diamonds

While India was the only supplier of diamonds for over a couple thousand years, Brazil became the recognized diamond source in the 18th century. Diamonds were also discovered in South Africa in 1866. So, many of the diamonds found in antique jewelry were derived from diamond mines in Brazil and South Africa.

Buy a Vintage Piece of Diamond Jewelry for Someone with an April Birthday

As the diamond is the birthstone for April and also is the symbolic gemstone for 10th wedding anniversaries, buying an antique diamond bracelet, pendant, necklace, or ring is a perfect gift for one of these diamond-worthy occasions. If you like diamonds, there’s no doubt you’ll like antique jewelry to give as a present to others as well as yourself.

Caring for Antique Jewelry

Have the Condition of your Antique Jewelry Checked Twice a Year

To keep your vintage jewelry pieces looking great, it’s important to establish a pattern of regular cleaning and care. For example, it’s advisable that you have your antique jewelry pieces checked twice annually to make sure that the gems are intact and that the clasps are functioning and not broken. Better to repair a loose gem, such as a ruby, than to find out later that the stone has “disappeared.”

Making your Jewelry Sparkle

Cleaning is essential too if you want to maintain the value and appearance of your vintage pieces. Usually, you can clean most gem stones with a soft toothbrush and mild detergent and water. If they aren’t fractured, diamonds can be ultrasonically cleaned or cleaned with a steamer. However, in some instances, it may not be a good idea to clean the jewelry yourself, particularly if it is older or somewhat fragile. Therefore, when you have your jewelry checked, you can also arrange to have it cleaned at that time as well. Again, it just depends on the age and design of your jewelry.

Don’t Wear your Rings while Working out in the Yard

Rings, especially, need special attention as they can be impacted by the activities of the user. So, keep your vintage rings in good condition by refraining from wearing them while you are gardening, doing yard work, or cleaning the house. Also, you’ll keep you rings better maintained if you take them off before you retire at night.

Antique Jewelry – Unique Cleaning Considerations

Take into consideration that antique-styled jewelry can be made with a variety of materials, so you must consider the delicacy of the designs, some which feature ornamentation made from wood, ivory, hair, or fabric. Also, adornments that involve intricate cleaning, such as butterfly and insect wings, deserve special care and attention as well.