If you’re ready to make a big jewelry purchase, you better get all of your ducks in a row. Walking into a store to purchase a diamond stacking ring is one thing, but if you’re in the market to invest in vintage jewelry, there are a few things you should educate yourself on beforehand. If you’re like me and don’t know the first thing about the ins and outs of the vintage jewelry business, the whole idea of figuring out what kind of pieces are worth investing in, where to look, what to look for, and so on and so forth is all very overwhelming, but that’s what Jill Heller is here for.
Heller is the expert when it comes to all things vintage jewelry. And by expert, I mean people like Rihanna and Cardi B hit her up when they need an epic array of bling for a night out. Heller works with jewelry in many capacities ranging from designing it to working with private collectors internationally to help curate their array of vintage gems. You could imagine that after working in the jewelry industry for quite some time, Heller has built up quite a wealth of knowledge, and I was itching for her to share all of her secrets. Lucky for me, she obliged and spilled her dos and don’ts when it comes to shopping for vintage jewelry.
Everything from what to look for to what to fully avoid is listed ahead, and all of the best vintage pieces are shoppable for you in between (including Heller’s own collection). If you’re a jewelry fanatic, I would brace yourself—the content ahead is a recipe for a major shopping spree.
DO: Buy what you love while also considering whether or not it’ll stand the test of time.
DON’T: Buy pieces just because they’re trending at the moment. This is literally the antithesis of collecting vintage.
“Figure out what you love. What do you really see yourself wearing? Scour auctions and catalogs, 1stdibs, and other sites that specialize in vintage. Once you know what you like, you can really begin collecting. If it’s trend and fun that you’re after, look into less expensive pieces, even vintage Mexican silver and turquoise (one of my favorites to collect) or unsigned chunky gold hoops from the ’70s.”
DO: Look at your collection as an investment.
DON’T: Buy pieces that won’t increase (or at least hold their value) over time.
“Buying vintage jewelry can be a lot like buying art; think of it as another asset class to invest your money. Purchasing iconic styles from designers such as Marina B., Cartier, Bulgari, and David Webb is a way to make sure your collection’s value will stand the test of time since the pieces will always be in demand.”
DO: Research what you are buying before you commit.
DON’T: Buy pieces that have no information or background info.
“Do a lot of research before you purchase anything; there are so many fakes on the market, so you want to be as thorough as possible. If you know anyone in the vintage world, it can’t hurt to consult with them prior to making any purchases. An excellent vintage dealer will send you a piece to look at on approval. If it’s not what you expected it to be, you can send it back. Always ask questions and ask for paperwork like a provenance and damage report.”
DO: Be open to buying unsigned pieces. Again, just do your research.
DON’T: Buy a brand just to buy a brand. If it’s not an iconic or signature piece from that designer, you may be better off buying something else.
“If it’s unsigned, make sure it’s at least 18-karat gold, and you can truly feel the weight of it.”
DO: Be patient; collect slowly. You can’t build a well-rounded, beautiful, and unique vintage collection in no time. It takes research and honing your eye to find the right pieces for you.
DON’T: Rush to buy as many pieces as possible. Less is more.
“I’d rather see you buy one outstanding piece every year than more pieces of less quality. Save up for that major VCA zipper necklace, and don’t buy 15 pairs of random unsigned earrings.”
DO: Take advantage of visiting all of the auction houses when they have sales going on, as well as vintage/antique shows.
DON’T: Don’t limit yourself to shopping for vintage online only. It’s a great place to get inspired, but there’s nothing like seeing and feeling an old Bulgari coin necklace in person.
“I feel like not everyone realizes these things are open to the public. Go, try things on, ask questions, go back, and visit it again. But if it’s a really strong piece, don’t take too long on your decision. These things go quickly.”