When buying vintage jewelry at an antique mall, second hand shop or even online, you will want to inspect the piece carefully for damage. Seems like common sense, but I can't tell you how many times I've purchased a piece just to realize it was actually damaged.
Here's just a few helpful tips for inspecting vintage jewelry:
Flip it over. That's one of the very first things I do when considering a piece. Flip that baby over!
1. Holding it in your hands, feel the weight of it. Does it have some heft, and feel well made? Or is it flimsy?
|Vintage Weiss Butterfly Brooch from CarriersCozyCottage on Etsy|
A wonderful example of a well made piece with "heft" from a high end designer!
2. Now inspect the back of the piece for metal wear. How does the metal look? If the plating is chipped off revealing the dull metal underneath, I say pass. If there is some light rubbing wear, sometimes this is acceptable and comes with age and use. A long as it's not extensive... continue on.
3. Verdigris? That's the green gunky or greenish crusty stuff that currently gives the Statue of Liberty it's iconic hue. It's bad on jewelry, it's corrosive and will slowly dissolve metals like copper and bronze. If you find it on your jewelry, know that a small amount of corrosion has already begun. It's not the end of the world, and it can likely be cleaned as long as it's not too extensive on the piece. But take heed... if you buy this piece, you will want to quarantine it in a plastic seal-able bag until you have properly cleaned it. **note** If verdigris is present, you can be certain that the piece is not gold or silver!
Click here to read all about getting rid of Verdigris
|When Verdigris is done on purpose, it creates a lovely effect, but it is also|
toxic, so you don't want it on your skin for a long duration.
4. Make sure all the hardware works like it's supposed to. This is something I will typically overlook! Make sure the earring backings are present and working nicely. Pin backs, catches, hooks on necklaces, check the clasps on bracelets to be sure they secure correctly. While you are examining the hardware, it's a good time to look for soldering repairs, gluing jobs, anything that says, "I was once broken, and someone fixed me, poorly..."
Flip the piece back over to the front (aka the sparkly side)
5. If there are rhinestones, are any missing?? If there is a stone missing, this won't deter me unless it's an unusual or art glass stone, which can be much harder to track down a replacement. Round rhinestones in more common colors or crystal are easy to replace if you want to spend the time, and isn't too expensive. Same goes for faux pearls and other "stones"
|Gorgeous Egyptian Revival Necklace by TheDeeps on Etsy|
If the center stone was damaged or missing, consider it irreplaceable!
6. How are the stones set? Are they glue set, prong set, bezel, channel... Make sure the settings look good. Sometimes little prongs can break off, and eventually the stone will fall out.
7. Are the stones dark? Rhinestones usually have foil backs to enhance the light and color (unless they are open backed settings, in which it is common to see unfoiled stones). Now when a piece ages and has been worn, handled, sprayed with perfumes, sweated on, dropped in a sink of dishwater, etc. these foil backing will start to corrode. That show up as dark spots and dullness in the rhinestone. I can't tell you how many times my mom will say, "Look at these smokey rhinestones!" when usually they are just darkened from corrosion.
|A Smokey and Clear Rhinestone Brooch by PinkAstilbe on Etsy|
This is an example of "smokey rhinestones"... mom.
**A Special Note On Figurals**
Check for missing arms, legs, tails, etc. I once bought a frog brooch that I loved and wore for days, before it donned on me something didn't look right. He was missing a foot! I couldn't believe I'd missed that! Oh well. It happens. My mom, Queen of Smokey Rhinestones, showed me a fish pin she bought. She asks, "Can you fix this for me? It's missing a couple tiny AB rhinestones." I told her it was missing a lot more than that! It was missing it's tail! It was stylized enough, that she didn't realize it was broken until I showed her the sheared metal where it would have been. Word to the wise, y'all... check for anatomical correctness.