One thing everyone wants to know about their antique and vintage jewellery is : What’s it worth? The one question I always get asked and try not to answer for people is: Can you value antique and vintage jewellery? The reason I don’t like valuing is what occurs when you tell someone its worth little. Either they are very disappointed or they think I am trying to defraud them in some way. So instead of offering a valuation, I will tell you how to work out the approximate value of old jewellery for yourself……..
To Value Antique and Vintage Jewellery:
Firstly answer the following questions:
- – What materials is it made of ?
- – How old is it ?
- – What condition is it in?
- – Who made it?
- – How fashionable / pretty is it ?
- – How scarce is it ?
Once we have all this information we can then make a comparison with the price other pieces have sold for in the marketplace recently and value our piece from there.
You may noticed that in the first paragraph I said the approximate value. This is because antiques including vintage and antique jewellery do not have an exact value . There are also several different types of value for example retail value and insurance values are different sums I will discuss another day. Also the price of something changes depending upon where you are selling it – think of the difference you can get for an item on a car boot vs a high street store.
When we are valuing antique and vintage jewellery one of the first things we need to consider is the materials it is made of. Jewellery can be made out of so many different things some such as precious stones and metals have a value all of their own and the jewellery has value even if it is broken or damaged. Other materials such as plastics or shell are worthless unless they have been made into something special.
So the first step to Value Antique and Vintage Jewellery is to work out what material it is made of. Here is a rough guide to what jewellery materials are valuable. This is in some sort of order with the most valuable materials first ( all other things being equal)
Precious metals – gold, silver, platinum
If you are sure that you have a piece of jewellery made of one of the precious metals gold, silver or platinum then it will have some value with the absolute minimum it is worth being the scrap value of the metal even if it is bent and broken.
The scrap value of precious metal is what you will be offered if you take your jewellery along to one of the many companies offering you cash for your jewellery. They will:
- weigh the jewellery to determine how much of the metal there is, normally in grams
- Test the metal or read the hallmarks to determine the grade eg 9 or 18 carat gold
- Multiply the weight by the daily price they are paying for that grade of metal
- Offer you the amount. So if a nine carat gold ring weighs 3 grams and the daily price is £10 a gram for nine carat you will be offered £30 for the ring
The scrap price is the minimum a piece of jewellery made of precious metals is worth. If it is set with large precious gemstones, it is a desirable piece and in good condition it might be worth a lot more. If it is a plain gold, silver or platinum piece or is damaged then the scrap value is often the best you can expect.
Some precious gemstones can add to the value of a piece of jewellery especially if the stones are large and of good quality.
Diamonds. A large, good quality diamond will add a lot of value antique and vintage jewellery. A small poor quality one will not add much at all if anything. Diamonds are valued on the 4 c’s. Carat, cut, clarity and colour. Other things being equal bigger is better as is how white a diamond is and how clear it is and how well the diamond has been cut. This needs more explanation than I have room here today for.
For now get a jewellers eye glass ( loupe) or strong magnifying glass and look at the diamond.
- Can you see bits in it or is it crystal clear like glass? Bits are bad, clear is good
- Is it white like glass or a bit yellowish or brownish? White is good
- Measure it in mm across. If it is more than a couple of mm across the top its worth getting a professional opinion from your local jeweller or auction house. No one can value a diamond without seeing it in person
A piece of diamond jewellery can be worth anything
As with all antiques, if you have two identical pieces of jewellery where one is perfect and the other has damage of any kind then the perfect piece will be worth more. What is different to other antiques such as a table or a vase is, if a piece of jewellery has been smashed up it can still have value – the value of the materials from which it has been made ( I discussed this in my post on the value of materials).
Check the condition of your jewellery carefully if you are trying to value it. Missing stones, broken catches and hinges and scratching can all reduce what its worth.
But what about jewellery which is slightly less than perfect but better than scrap value? These affect the value in different ways
- Patina Patina is the affect of age on materials and is quite prized. In wood it is the build up of wax and lots of polishing over the years. A patina develops on quality bronze statures and is highly prized. Silver can also develop a patina and many collectors of antique silver jewellery like their pieces to have patina. On silver this is not where it has gone black but a softness to the colour rather than hard and bright. AntiquesAvenue sells its antique silver jewellery with any patina retained although we will always clean up a piece if it is too dirty to wear. So patina is good and a piece with its natural patina is likely to be more sought after than a piece of silver jewellery which has been over cleaned.
- Age related wear Age related wear is not the same as patina, it is wear that is not desirable. It may be in the form of minor rubs and chips . It is used when an items is not ready for repair but you can tell its had a life. This is more acceptable the older a piece of jewellery is. These days it is difficult to sell 1970s jewellery with age related wear but that is the normal state for a piece of jewellery from 1800 and would not make as much difference.
- Repairs Many jewellery repairs are invisible, it is not possible for us to see that good repair have been carried out. In this case we do not know about them and they don’t affect the value. What does affect the value of a piece of jewellery is where it has been badly repaired and looks ugly. Old repairs may have been carried out with lead solder and have effectively reduced the piece to scrap as this cannot be rectified.
- Re-purposing Much antique and vintage jewellery is being repurposed – changed from a brooch into a pendant for example. This has been happening for centuries with tiaras being made into brooches, earrings into rings and so on. Sometimes you can see this and it would certainly reduce its cost over an original piece which has not been changed. There is also a trend to re-purpose costume jewellery., this can turnout pretty pieces but they do not have value antique and vintage jewellery.
Who made it?
Take a look at the back can you see any makers markings? Take a magnifying glass and take a closer look. If you find a name then try Google. You may be surprised at what some makers names make a vintage piece work this even applies when you value Antique and Vintage Jewellery costume pieces.
Now you can Value Antique and Vintage Jewellery 🙂