8 Tips for Buying a Vintage
Buying jewelry at a pawn shop can be a scavenger hunt. Just like shopping at any secondhand or thrift-type store, the inventory is ever-changing and you never know what you might find.
That's the double-edged sword of jewelry shopping at estate sales, pawn shops, and the like.
If you have a Pinterest board full of dream rings and a style already in mind, rummaging through secondhand stores with limited inventory isn't your best bet.
But if you enjoy the thrill of a treasure hunt, really want something unique, or love the idea of recycling a piece of vintage jewelry, buying jewelry at a pawn shop could be super fun for you.
Before you set foot in the pawn shop, read these tips:
Research, research, research. Google the vintage shops you're considering. Read all the reviews you can find. Ask your friends and family. Give special preference to pawn shops that specialize in jewelry. Do enough research that you feel confident walking into the shop, not wondering if they're going to pull one over on you.
Also, learn as much as you can about jewelry. Start your shopping armed with jewelry knowledge so you already know what a quality diamond looks like, what the market price for gold currently is, and how heavy true 14K gold should feel in your hand. (Or bring along a knowledgeable friend!)
2. Think Outside the Box
Maybe you're looking for a ring. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider necklaces. You could find the perfect stone set inside an old pendant, take it to your jeweler and have it re-set into your dream ring.
With jewelry, be less concerned with the aesthetic and more with the quality. Something may appear outdated and not your taste, but if it's made of high-quality materials at a steal of a price, you may be able to afford to have your jeweler re-create it.
3. Ask for Credentials
How do you know if a jewelry piece is of good quality? Ask for certifications or appraisals. Hopefully, they have documentation to prove the make-up of the jewelry and quality of any stones. If not, plan to take it to an appraiser yourself.
While you may not be able to take it to an independent appraiser prior to purchasing, if you get a description of the jewelry in writing from the pawn shop, you should (hopefully) have no issue returning it if the appraisal doesn't match up.
If you go in prepared and confident, buying jewelry at a pawn shop can be a lot of fun, and very successful. If you find something great, we'd love to hear about it in the comments. (And, remember, secondhand jewelry needs insurance, too!)
4. Heirloom Jewelry: Making it Your Own
Whether it’s the gift of “something old” for your wedding, or inheritance from a relative, you may find yourself the new caretaker of a piece of heirloom jewelry.
While the gift of a family memento is an honor, it can also become a sticky subject.
Before you decide whether to keep your new-to-you jewelry in its original state, sell it, or redesign it into something that better fits your style, read through The Knot’s etiquette advice on resetting an heirloom stone or diamond.
Ready to make your decision? Here’s a quick guide on how to successfully navigate all three options.
5. Getting an Appraisal
Regardless of which option you choose, the first step in the process should be getting a professional appraisal.
The purpose of an appraisal is to identify or authenticate the item and to assign an appropriate value. A complete appraisal should include:
- A description of the item type (ring, necklace, bracelet, etc.)
- The type of metal
- Center and side stone information, if applicable (cut, color, clarity, carat weight)
- Value of the jewelry
If your appraisal doesn’t include a photo of the item, snap one yourself and keep it with your appraisal document.
6. Finding Qualified Appraisers
While most appraisers do have training in gemstone grading, appraising is more comprehensive than just evaluating the gemstone. A qualified appraiser should have top gemological credentials as well as additional training in appraising.
Your jeweler is a good starting point. Inquire about their appraisal services, and what credentials their in-house appraisers have, or where they send items out to be appraised.
If your jeweler doesn’t offer appraisals, or you don’t feel comfortable with their appraisal process, independent appraisers are a great option. These are appraisers who don’t sell jewelry at all and have no vested interest in the outcome of the appraisal. Search for independent appraisers by state.
An appraisal is especially important if you’re insuring your jewelry or if you’re looking to sell it for a fair value. Read more about the specifics to look for when securing an appraisal for insurance purposes.
7. Selling Your Jewelry
Maybe there’s nothing about your inherited piece that appeals to you, or maybe it carries some bad memories. Whatever the motivation for selling, CIRCA is a great company to research.
The jewelry buyers at CIRCA are some of the foremost experts in estate jewelry. They will give you an accurate price with unparalleled service, making your selling experience effortless.
Here’s what Lauren S., from Greenwich, Conn., had to say about her experience:
“I had a brooch my grandmother gave me, a bracelet my ex-husband gave me, and a necklace I was given on the occasion of my 40th birthday and I wasn’t wearing any of it. It was all sitting in a drawer, collecting dust. With the money I got from CIRCA, I can finally go out and buy a piece of jewelry for myself!”
Learn more about selling your heirloom jewelry through CIRCA.
8. Redesigning Your Jewelry
If you want to honor the memory of the original piece, but it just doesn’t suit your style, redesigning is the perfect choice. Chances are the previous owner wants the piece to be worn and cherished, not locked away or sold to a stranger.
- Consider all the options when deciding how to recreate your piece:
- Place the original gemstones in a new setting
- Keep the setting, but change the stones
- Create a completely different type of jewelry
A quick search on Pinterest for “redesigned jewelry” will give you tons of inspiration for creative new ways to upcycle your old jewelry.
Check with your favorite jeweler to see what redesign capabilities they have, or who they might recommend. There are a couple online resources that specialize in redesigning jewelry, too, like Gemvara and The Perfect Setting.
This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Jewelers Mutual Insurance.