Jewellery lasts, and with time, only becomes more valuable. With all other factors being equal, vintage and antique jewellery by their nature hold more value than brand new jewellery. Compared to a piece that has just been made, a vintage or antique piece also won’t have its markup significantly affected by the retailer and manufacturer.
However, simply buying any kind of old jewellery does not make for a good investment. Take into account the following when looking to invest in vintage and antique jewellery to get the best possible returns.
Differentiating Vintage from Antique
Vintage jewellery is generally considered to be pieces that were made 20 to 100 years ago. Antique jewellery, on the other hand, is jewellery that is much older, dating a century or more; all the way back to ancient times.
This is an important distinction as generally, the older the piece, the more it costs.
Designer Labels and Hallmarks
Like with jewellery of any age, having a famous designer’s signature on a vintage or antique piece exponentially increases its value.
The difference is that designer jewellery pieces of old had their signatures in places where they aren’t immediately apparent. Some didn’t even have a signature at all, with barely visible motifs or maker’s marks as the only indicators of their uniqueness. The casual jewellery buyer, of course, can’t be faulted for missing these.
It’s crucial then that you get an expert jeweller to thoroughly examine vintage or antique jewellery for designer labels that might be in discreet positions. As with the case of an old necklace valued by auction house Bonham, the discovery of a Chanel engraving raised its valuation of £6,000 to £68,500 when it was sold.
The presence of hallmarks is also solid proof of a piece’s great value. The Birmingham Assay Office website has a basic hallmarking guide you can consult.
Gold Jewellery Valuation
Gold has long been reliably valuable, so it’s not a bad idea to buy antique or vintage gold jewellery for investment. Selling pieces for their gold content is also much simpler than selling jewellery for their overall quality. It all comes down to the purity of the gold used in the piece. Broken and damaged gold jewellery can still be sold for a high price, as the gold content is all that matters when these pieces are scrapped.
24 carat gold is the purest it can be, measuring in at 999 parts of pure gold per thousand. However, this level of purity isn’t achieved for gold jewellery, as pieces would be too soft to wear. The highest for gold jewellery is 22 carats, which can be sold for more than twice the value of more common 9 carat gold jewellery.
The value of gemstones is such that some aged jewellery have their good gemstones removed and set into new jewellery. This makes vintage and antique jewellery that still have their original gemstones rarer and all the more valuable.
All the elements of evaluating gemstones in modern jewellery still matter for antique and vintage jewellery. The 4 C’s (colour, cut, clarity, and carat) also need to be considered. Diamonds remain the most sought after gemstones, and in their case, size matters.
The other major precious stones like Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald can bump up the asking price of jewellery, as long as they have been maintained properly. If the stone is cracked, faded, or loose, which is not so uncommon for stones set in vintage and antique jewellery, you can haggle for a better deal. That said, we would always suggest sticking to piece in top condition!
The unfortunate reality of buying vintage and antique jewellery is that not every piece advertised as such is actually legitimate.
It can be a situation where counterfeit stones are set in the aged piece. It can even be as nefarious as the whole piece being newly made jewellery that has been treated to look like it’s old. If you are not intimately familiar with the defining characteristics of jewellery across the ages to tell what’s genuine from what’s fake, you are at risk of being duped by opportunistic sellers.
It’s of the utmost importance then that you only go to a certified jeweller or trusted auction house if you plan on investing in antique or vintage jewellery. If the price sounds too good to be true for an item, then that is most likely the case.
When buying from a traditional or an online auction, take the time to review how much comparable items have been sold for.
You can look up auction prices for past lots sold at Christie’s or Sotheby’s website to get a good estimate for the piece of jewellery you are interested in. By checking the history of previously auctioned antique and vintage jewellery, you can use that information to predict value appreciation.
Thinking Global and Long-Term
While there is merit to investing in antique and vintage jewellery that is particularly sought after in one region, you will be limiting the markets you can sell such pieces in the future. Designs that have a more global appeal are more reliable investments. When they appreciate in value, you can expect similarly high selling prices across different regions.
It might seem obvious, but investing in antique and vintage jewellery requires thinking long term as well. What this means is that you shouldn’t base your purchases solely on prestige and high prices. If the jewellery you are buying has a striking design and excellent craftsmanship, its beauty will justify it being passed down through generations and accumulate value. While it might not set records in auctions, a unique antique or vintage piece can be a dependable investment.
Types of Vintage and Antique Jewellery to Invest in Today
- Art Deco jewellery —As we are heading into a new decade in the 2020s, Art Deco jewellery will soon be considered antiques and become even more valuable. The bold, Cubism-inspired designs that evoke a hopefulness for the future will resonate with buyers in these turbulent times.
- Natural pearls — The introduction of cultivated pearls in the 1920s saw a downward trend in natural pearl prices. Today’s markets, however, now greatly value the amount of time necessary to make natural pearl jewellery, with prices doubling over the past decade.
- Jewellery from contemporary designers — If you plan on playing the long game, as any smart investor should, the pieces made by up-and-coming designers will grow into prized investments. Look for promising jewellers in events like the Goldsmiths Fair, and pick the best new jewellery they have to offer. In time, their offerings will be the most wanted antique and vintage jewellery.
This is an opinion article. You invest at your own risk, so do your own research before taking the plunge. If you have doubts about the merits of an investment then seek advice from an independent financial advisor. We are not responsible for your investment decisions!