As a culture, we are fascinated by objects that belong to a bygone era. Classic cars, first edition books, Old Master paintings and stately homes passed down through the generations are all considered to be significant, beautiful and valuable.
The British upper classes are renowned for prizing a carefully patched up, beautifully tailored suit that used to belong to a great grandfather far above a new one. “They don’t make them like they used to”, goes the saying. And it’s often true.
Jewelry is no exception. Aside from the extraordinary beauty and refined elegance of old jewelry, there is something magical about a piece of jewelry with a past and it is a very sound investment, to boot.
It is irresistable
For those who love and collect jewelry, there is a romantic, mystical beauty to vintage and antique jewelry which is virtually impossible to match these days. Very often hand-made by skilled craftsmen with extraordinary attention to detail, the subtle sparkle and old world techniques are unparalleled by modern design.
It is excellent value
Buying antique, vintage and second-hand jewelry is VAT-exempt, which means you should automatically pay 20% less than the equivalent piece made new.
There are also no manufacturing costs to factor into the price. With old jewelry you are buying the same quality gemstones and materials without paying a premium for the seller’s overheads.
What’s more, many antique jewelry dealers are small businesses which sell via stalls, showrooms or online, saving on expensive retail costs. This tends to be reflected in the price of their jewelry. and it will retain that value
Just as when buying a new car, you pay a ‘new’ price for new, modern jewelry. That purchase value then drops as soon as you buy it simply because it is no longer new. With antique and vintage jewelry the piece has already gone from ‘new’ to ‘old’ before you buy it so its purchase value remains the same.
In the same way that classic cars are always in demand and retain their value, so antique jewelry will always be collectable and desirable and retain theirs.
The quality is better
Today, most modern jewelry is cast. Antique and vintage jewelry was almost always hand-made or at the very least (in the case of newer, vintage jewelry) hand-finished.
Even in high-end bespoke modern pieces, it’s almost impossible to find the same level of quality and workmanship as we regularly see in old jewelry. In the past, jewelry was made by highly skilled artisans who took a long time creating bespoke pieces for rich clients. As a result, the workmanship is often more refined than even the best jewelry made today.
It is more sustainable
It takes significant resources to mine gemstones and precious metals which makes it hard to produce jewelry in a truly environmentally friendly way. Buying antique and vintage jewelry makes you a conservator rather than a consumer.
Conflict diamonds (also known as “blood diamonds”) only came into existence in the 1980s with civil war in Africa. Diamond jewelry created before this time are untarnished by this unpleasant and badly regulated controversy.
And finally, most antique or vintage jewelry dealers are one-man-bands or small teams and family businesses, so buying old jewelry supports small businesses as opposed to big corporations.
It is unique
Jewelry was not mass-produced (or even widely available to the masses) until recently so it is highly unlikely that you will ever find a duplicate of a piece of antique or vintage jewelry. Identical matches were more or less impossible.
When it comes to antique jewelry, many pieces will have been created as a one-off by a skilled craftsman for a member of the upper classes.
It has a story
There is something very romantic about jewelry from another era, with a story to tell. With a piece of antique or vintage jewelry, we become the next chapter of its sparkling history.
It is authentic
It’s easy to find jewelry created in the style of a bygone era, but nothing beats a piece that was actually made in that time, using the techniques, material and craftsmanship of the day. It’s a bit like having a Monet replica print on your wall instead of the real thing.
It is well made
If a piece of antique or vintage jewelry has made it intact and in good condition to this day, chances are it’s extremely well made and – with proper care – will remain robust for a long time to come.
It is a style statement
Anybody can go to a well known jewelry brand and choose a piece of modern jewelry. To go out of your way to track down a beautiful piece of antique or vintage jewelry that you fall in love with requires personal style.
The hunt is thrilling
Half the fun of buying and collecting old jewelry is the hunt. Knowing where to look and what to look for. Learning to recognise old styles and techniques and understanding the context of each era is a rich, exciting experience in itself.