No matter how modern our society grows, the appeal of the past still calls to us. Clothing, cars and toys have all become collectible items due to the memories they invoke and the fascination we have with the past. Vintage jewelry offers that same appeal.
The question may be asked, why vintage? What is it we see in a piece of the past? Some of the appeal can be found in the very fact that it is a piece of the past. Whether it was made long ago or is a part of the buyer’s own memories, a vintage piece can transport us back to a time and place we see as special. We look for the story behind the item, wondering about who made the piece, who did they make it for and why. Or we admire the skill and artistry it took to create it, wondering about the life and work of the artist.
One of the differences between what is called vintage jewelry and what is considered antique is age. Vintage pieces are generally at least 25 years old, but usually less than a hundred years old. They are of more recent memory than an antique. Another difference, however, is found in the way we react to each type. We collect antiques, but we wear vintage. Vintage pieces are less likely to spend all their time locked up in a case whereas antiques are often considered too valuable to wear or use. Likely to be more of a direct memory, a vintage piece can be considered fashionable to wear even if it is outdated. Vintage jewelry can be a highly valuable piece or what is known as retro jewelry, the type made for the average person.
There are some things to keep in mind when you’re in the market for a vintage piece. These pieces tend to be less sturdy and more vulnerable than those made with modern techniques. One example would be vintage Navajo jewelry. Navajo artists were more prevalent in the early years so vintage Navajo pieces tend to dominate the market. These pieces were made in an open fire pit with bellows and tools crude by today’s standards. The style and technique is a reflection of the age of the piece. Gas torches and more refined tools came about in the early 1900s, so pieces from those periods would reflect that development.
The value of vintage jewelry often depends on how well it has been taken care of. A bracelet, ring or necklace which has been well-maintained will have far greater value than one which has not. When it comes to Native American vintage jewelry, contradictory to commonsense, the clean polished jewelry can actually be less valuable than the tarnished pieces. Natural Patina is highly desirable and when it is removed some of the value of history is removed.
An item which comes with its “story” and information on the artist will also have more value. When purchasing vintage jewelry it is a good idea to be careful about getting as much information on the condition of the piece as possible. This is especially true when purchasing online. You should be able to view the item well in any picture so you know what you’re purchasing. Caution ahead of time can ensure you enjoy the piece you’ve bought.
Even though you may choose to wear your vintage jewelry, it is still a good idea to store and maintain it properly. You want to protect the piece so it lasts a long time. It is best to store vintage jewelry in its own case to keep it out of as much physical contact as possible. If cleaning has to be done be extremely cautious and us a delicate touch. Careful examination is required when you first purchase the piece. Clean only the parts that are necessary so no further damage is done from what has already accumulated on the piece. Investing in good maintenance will allow you to enjoy what you’ve purchased for many years and to pass the piece on, thus making it a family heirloom.