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*Vintage Jewelry Values
*Vintage Jewelry As Investment
*About Our Single Earrings
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Our customers often ask us “How do you determine the value of vintage jewelry?”

Good question!

Vintage jewelry values (and values for all collectibles, for that matter) are determined by a variety of complex factors, which can often be confusing for the vintage jewelry customer. The following is the process that we go through when we price our items at Yesterdays Jewels.

  • Identification of item
    We begin with the item itself, looking for any identifying marks as to material content, which will often be important clues to its value. A piece that is marked 14K gold has more intrinsic value than a similar unmarked goldplated piece based on material content alone. Similarly, gold has more intrinsic value than silver, silver more than brass, and so on. Other materials, such as plastic, have even less intrinsic value than metals. However, as you will see, intrinsic value is not the only factor in determining the total price of an item.

    Next, we look for identifying manufacturer’s marks. But, again, a piece that is signed or marked by the manufacturer may or may not be more valuable than one that is not. This will depend on the importance of the manufacturer or designer. For instance, an unsigned Eisenberg or Schreiner is of greater value than a signed Gerry’s piece, in which lesser materials were often used.

  • plus Value Guides and Other Research Resources
    If the piece is unmarked, we must delve deeper into the identification process. At this point, we will work to determine the age, style, and manufacturing process that was used in constructing the piece. Is it from the 1800s? 1920s? 1990s? Is the style Art Deco? Retro? Antique? Vintage? Contemporary? Was the piece molded, cast, or die-stamped? Are the stones precious, semi-precious, rhinestones, or something else? Are they cut? Molded? Glued in or prong-set? Is the enamel a cold paint or fused glass? Is it a so-so piece, or does the piece have sophisticated design and flair? It is unusual? Many questions are asked as we examine the piece under a loupe. We often use acceptable testing methods to identify the materials, such as whether the piece was made from Bakelite or a lesser, more common plastic.

    Some of our information comes from visibly examining and testing the piece, and some of our information will come from the many excellent value guides and book resources that are available today. Many of them have pictures of similar pieces (sometimes of the exact piece, which we call a “book piece”), a history of the various manufacturers, general information, and, finally, what the trade calls a “book price”. Dealers are mindful that these books are only guides and that actual selling prices may vary from this “book price”, based on the author, the age of the book, and several other factors which will be discussed below. Nonetheless, value guides give us a point of comparison as we move along in the pricing process. At Yesterdays Jewels, we generally begin the pricing process at 50% - 75% of the book price, unless one of the factors below comes into play.

    plus Rarity of item
    The rarity of an item plays an important part in the value of all collectibles and antiques. The standard formula is simple—the rarer and more unique the item, the more it is worth. Age also plays into the rarity factor, since it is generally harder to find and acquire jewelry from the 1800s than the 1900s, and harder to find jewelry from the early 1900s than from the 1990s. Or, perhaps a company only manufactured 200 of their particular bracelets, while another company made theirs by the thousands. In this case, it is likely that the bracelets from the company with the lower production would be more valuable, and thus, more expensive.

    plus Condition of item
    At Yesterdays Jewels, the condition of vintage jewelry is usually ranked along the following spectrum: Mint/Like New, Excellent, Good to Very Good, Fair, and Poor.
  • Mint/Like New is reserved for jewelry that is in like-new condition, showing absolutely no signs of age or wear.
  • Excellent is for jewelry that is almost in like-new condition but shows very minor effects of wear or age (usually needs a jeweler’s loupe to see the wear).
  • Good to Very good is jewelry that shows minor effects of wear or age (ex.: slightly worn goldplating or mild foil damage that does not affect the wear of a piece and is usually visible from a distance and without a jeweler’s loupe).
  • Average describes jewelry that shows moderate wear or effects from age.
  • Poor jewelry is usually thrown away unless it is important for one of the other factors, such as rarity.
    Although it may surprise, we have sold a number of pieces in poor condition for very good prices due to their rarity and the astuteness of the customer. In general however, the better the condition of the piece, the higher the value and price will be.

    plus Desirability of item
    The desirability of a piece has a huge effect on the value and price of an item. Popular or “hot” items simply sell for more that those that are not. The trick is in knowing what is popular at any given time (there are trends in vintage jewelry, just as there are in contemporary clothing and movies), and just as important, to whom is it important?

    True, die-hard vintage jewelry collectors may look for altogether different items than a customer who is looking for a piece of jewelry to go with next week’s outfit or the customer who is buying a gift for a friend or relative. Of course, that all depends on the taste and needs of the customer, so we are sometimes surprised as well. Nonetheless, to help us determine what is “hot”, we are members of Jewel Collect, an informational email list of active jewelry dealers and collectors who often share trends in the business about what is selling at a particular time and in their particular area of geography and expertise. As an example, a “Juliana” trend surfaced recently and customers couldn’t seem to get enough of it. Tomorrow, who knows? Though “Juliana” will always be collectible, the price may change as its overall popularity (value) waxes and wanes.

    plus Market value
    What other similar dealers are selling a like item for (general market price) is a good rule of thumb in setting a fair price—fair to the customer, as well as to the dealer who has acquired and purchased, researched, cleaned, photographed and listed the item (time and overhead). At Yesterdays Jewels, we try to stay abreast of price trends by checking current prices at auctions, on the Internet, and among fellow vintage jewelry dealers, as well as at local collectibles and antiques dealers. More often than not, a fair price will be an average between the lowest and highest price.

    CONCLUSION: At this point, you have probably noticed that market prices can be different from real values. It is a fact that items of value are sometimes sold for lower prices in order to clear inventory, to increase a dealer’s cash flow, or to please a customer. As to the value of the piece, that is a factor that must be determined by the customer. If it is a good piece, in good condition, and, if it is a piece that you desire to have at the stated price, then you have probably found an item of value. My advice is to buy it!

    We hope that this article gives you a glimpse into vintage jewelry values. We would love to hear your comments—please feel free to email us through the shop about this article. We would also be interested in hearing about what other topics you would like us to offer.

    Thank you for visiting Yesterdays Jewels!

    This article is copyrighted by Linda Heberling at Yesterdays Jewels and may not be copied, duplicated, or used in any manner without the expressed or written permission of the author.
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    Yesterdays Jewels
    P. O. Box 345   Bethlehem, PA 18016-0345
    Phone: 1-610-867-3885
    Proprietor: Linda Heberling--Proud Member of JewelCollect
    All product images, descriptions and information copyrighted © 2003-2007 by Linda Heberling
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