Top tips for buying vintage costume jewellery

Freelance auctionner Rebecca Mayhew. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Freelance auctionner Rebecca Mayhew. Picture: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The market for vintage jewellery remains buoyant and the key to buying well is quality and condition.

Vintage costume jewellery by names such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Marcel Boucher and Miriam Haskell always holds its value. There are obvious outlets for buying vintage jewellery such as specialist jewellery fairs, retro fashion markets, charity shops and car boot fairs - here are a few hints and tips to help you make your first purchases:

• Look out for corroded or worn plating, cloudy rhinestones, missing or cracked stones and chipped enamel. Though scratches in gold and silver can be repaired, blisters, cracks or holes cannot be restored.

• The fastening should always be tested to see if it still works effectively, and avoid any pieces of jewellery with obvious soldering, because this probably means it has been repaired at some point.

• Avoid more expensive items until you have developed your ‘eye’ — remember it will be a process of trial and error.

• Look for the forgotten greats – the seventies was an era of vintage jewellery design by artists such as Robert Larin and Gilles Vidal, and is still undervalued today.

• Try to anticipate future collectables, particularly catwalk collaborators such as Shaun Leane whose work graced many of Alexander McQueen’s runway shows.

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• Check for any dust around the stones that could indicate age, and look at the style of the clasp — is it compatible with the date of the piece?

• Feel the weight of the jewellery and familiarise yourself with the trademark signatures and stamps of the designers. And always question anything, particularly online, which looks like a real bargain - it most probably isn’t.

Every era has its own language of style that can be detected if you’ve done your homework and familiarised yourself with its shape and form.

Above all, when selecting a new piece of jewellery, wear it well. Coco Chanel had it right when she said ‘jewellery is not made to give women an aura of wealth, but to make them look beautiful’ — you should wear the jewellery, not the jewellery wear you.