8 Benefits to Investing In Vintage & Antique Jewelry
by Dani Chavez
I am often asked why I enjoy selling estate over modern over the years working in the antique jewelry industry. For me, antique jewelry tells a story, has a particular character, and shines just slightly differently. Unfortunately, many people in my generation do not pay attention to antique jewelry or care for it. This article outlines eight reasons why antique, vintage, and estate jewelry is worth the investment.
1. Environmentally Friendly
Commercial mining methods and techniques are enormously destructive for the Earth and scars the land’s face for generations to come. Living in Colorado, I see this first hand with the old miner’s tailings eroding into our rivers and streams, adding hazardous heavy metals to the waterways. Buying antique and vintage jewelry promotes precious metals and gemstones and is the most eco-friendly option in the jewelry market.
2. Better Quality Gemstones
Mollusks are the “canary in the coal mine” concerning oceans and pollution. The more polluted the oceans become, the lower the value of the pearl. The oceans were less polluted in the past, which produces a better quality pearl and cultured pearl. In the past, pearl farmers kept their oysters in the water for up to 7 years to get a nice, thick nacre coating on the seed bead.
“The probable reason that nobody at Mikimoto wanted a writer to go to the pearl farms of Ago…was because something terrible was happening in that bay. Since the 1990s, pollution has been pouring into the water, partly as a result of careless husbandry but also from untreated sewage from all the hotels that bring people in to enjoy the ‘unspoiled wilderness’. No wonder the Japanese farmers were pulling out their oysters after just nine months: any longer than that and they risked losing most of their stock to the effluent in the water—it was killing the akoya oysters… Similar things are happening in Lake Biwa… Thanks to the pollution in the area, production at Lake Biwa has now declined almost to the point of nonexistence.”
Legendary gemstone mines played out or under strict trade embargos still produced impeccable stones of the highest color and caliber. In 1871, the discovery of diamonds in the Kimberley fields in South Africa led to a diamond rush, which resulted in lower prices for consumers, and a broader audience to procure a diamond of their own.
The gemstone cutting methods also differed, with old mine and old European cuts dominating the market until the 20th century.
3. Crafted by Skilled Artisans
Before the Industrial Revolution, all gemstones were cut and set by candlelight. Each piece was conceived and manufactured by highly skilled jewelers who were often 5th, 6th, or 7th generation in the industry. Jewelers often apprenticed for years until they acquired the skills to become master jewelers and create independently.
The opulence of the 20th century led to matching parure sets adorned with incredible gemstones. Each stone was meticulously set and showcased the talent of the artist. Modern commercial jewelry is mass-produced and lacks the durability of vintage pieces. If an item of jewelry lasts 100 years, you know it was made to last!
4. Art History
Antique and vintage jewelry are time-capsules of each era’s aesthetic sensibilities. Every detail on a piece of jewelry tells a tale; every nuance is a story. Most gemstones have ancient lore or mythology associated with their abilities to heal, inspire, protect, and attract. The construction of a piece of jewelry gives you clues to a piece’s birth year and heritage. Every time someone melts down their ancestor’s jewelry, they are destroying a part of art history!
Heirlooms are becoming less frequent, with the younger generations not desiring the gifts from ages long gone. There is something special about holding a piece owned by your great-grandmother and envisioning all it has gone through to end up in your hands. Jewelry is one of the few items that are easy to pass along and survive for generations to come.
6. Unique Pieces for Unique People
Many pieces of antique or vintage jewelry are one-of-a-kind or at least rare. If a particular piece is manufactured for the masses, many are lost over time, which increases the rarity. This issue is genuine for antique earrings; it is easy to misplace one earring over the centuries. Jewelry before the industrial revolution was crafted by hand, so only a few remain from the original runs.
7. Conflict Free
Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are sourced from regions that capitalize on mining diamonds’ negative aspects to fund warlords, insurgents, and invading armies in war-torn areas. Conflict resources are the equivalent of conflict diamonds but involving other resources like gold and colored gemstones. These are recent conflicts and a current issue, so buying an antique almost guarantees you are not funding the conflict. This is not to say that all mining past and present is without problems; I am focusing on this specific issue.
8. Appreciation Over Time
In a world filled with uncertainty, especially when it comes to the global economy, investing in precious metals and gemstones is not a bad idea. For the most part, antique and vintage jewelry appreciate the time, especially if they are high caliber or designer.