I would appreciate an answer I can feel secure is correct, and if it
comes from Orchid, I know it will be.
At what age can a piece of jewelry be called “Vintage?”
I am seriously considering selling off some of my personal jewelry.
I started collecting Sterling Silver from scrap silver trays given to
me by the jeweler to keep me busy while my mother conducted serious
business with him in the Jewelry Mart on Canal Street in New York
Much of the scrap came from the depression years, and the need to
raise money for necessities. I began to buy gold jewelry in 1955 when
my world traveling began. Some of this is now 50 years old. I do not
want any of this to end up as melt.
I have one son and two grandsons, no ladies in my lineage. So you
can see where I am coming from.
Well, I would seriously avoid all use of the term “Vintage” no
matter the age or vintage of the piece… particularly if it’s
something good. It’s simply become completely and irretrievably
tainted by eBay merchants who seem to think it means “anything I want
to sell for more than it’s really worth.” It now just makes me
It sounds like you very likely have some very interesting pieces
from a wide collection of design eras, geographies, and cultures.
Your best bet would be to try and find some jewelry artisans who are
attracted to the pieces from their design perspective and are likely
to use them and incorporate them into their own work. I’m a horribly
good example of that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to
the refiner to buy a blob of scrap for melting only to ooh and ahh
over pieces and end up taking the salvageable ones out for use in my
work because I can’t bear to see their artistry destroyed. I’ve
turned antique knife handles into ceiling fan pulls, various forms of
flatware into bracelets, rings, watch bands, pendants, pins, etc…
Or… go through an “estate” auctioneer / buyer (you don’t have to
be dead to have an estate, contrary to popular belief). They may have
collectors of those eras or cultures that they can place your pieces
with to live happily ever after.
And finally… even though you have all “guys” in the family,
there’s at least a chance that some of those guys are going to end up
with a gal at some point in the future… a wife or daughter who
might treasure pieces with such a rich history to help tie them
further into their family. So consider keeping a collection of your
complete favorites… the ones with stories behind them or the ones
that simply make you smile every time you look at them… just to
pass along to the future of your family. Tuck them away with a
picture of you, write their stories on a card or piece of paper that
you tuck away with them. What a treasure!
I began to buy gold jewelry in 1955 when my world traveling began.
Some of this is now 50 years old. I do not want any of this to end
up as melt.
I know what you mean, Terrie. If you figure out a good way to sell
off old pieces, please share-- I have some inherited pieces, quite
old, lots of diamonds and pearls. Not my style, nor that of my
daughters, but too nice to pillage for stones.
As for how old is vintage, in clothing it seems to be over about 30
years. I’m guessing there is no hard and fast definition, but maybe
somebody else knows better.
I don’t know the correct answer, but I have a friend who is a long
time jeweler who specializes in the sale of vintage and antique
jewelry. Her very elegant store is in Boulder, CO and I’ll bet she
would love the chance to look at your pieces and help sell them. She
is a true queen, and all her friends call her just that; Queenie.
If you would like. e-mail me off post and I will get you her info or
ask her to call you, or whatever you might wish. If nothing else,
she is a treasure trove of knowledge concerning older American and
My e-mail is @Wayne_Emery1, and glad to be of help…
I’m far from an expert, but I both collect and sell costume jewelry.
Hopefully I can speak with a little bit of authority.
The term “vintage” really doesn’t mean much in the big picture. (A
coprolite is vintage poop, for example. ;-D ) But it can help when
selling on Ebay. “Antique” generally means if an item is 100 years
old or older, but most people I know of don’t refer to jewelry as
antique. Vintage when used in reference to jewelry generally means
"of and about that time period" which helps differentiate a piece
from a recent reproduction.
Of more importance is to determine the time period in which the
piece was produced, the maker (if known) and the style. Those three
things, along with knowing the materials (silver, gold kt., type of
stone, etc.) will help you get your best price.
“Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840-1950” by C. Jeanenne
Bell, G.G. 5th ed is a wonderful resource if you need help
determining which period your pieces fit into.
If you need help identifying pieces, feel free to send me pictures
and I’ll give it my best guess. (If you have a flat bed scanner,
sometimes you can get better up-close images.)
Do you know how you are going to sell your jewelry? I can also give
you some pointers if you want to sell on Ebay.