Humans have been wearing jewelry since far before we started writing things down. In fact, one of the oldest pieces of jewelry in existence wasn’t made by humans at all.
Found in Croatia, it is believed that Neanderthals had strung eagle talons together to wear as either a bracelet or a necklace over 130,000 years ago.
While you’re not likely to find something quite that old while hunting for estate jewelry, there are countless pieces that have a fascinating history that only adds to their beauty.
Are you planning on buying estate jewelry soon but aren’t sure what to look for? Here are 5 tips to help guide you through the process.
1. Try It On
It’s easy to see estate jewelry pieces in magazines or online and fall in love. However, how things look on your screen or on page doesn’t always translate into what jewelry piece is right for you. Everyone’s hand is shaped differently, and some pieces might look better on your hands than others.
Even though it can sometimes feel out of your comfort zone, put yourself out there and try a lot of different pieces on. It’s possible that you will completely fall in love with something that you never would have thought you would like.
Buying estate jewelry from a business that has professional appraisers or gemologists on staff can mean that you have the opportunity to ask whatever questions you might have before you make the purchase. If you are going to be buying estate jewelry online, look into their return period and make sure it’s reasonable. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to try it on and make sure that you love it with enough time to send it back if necessary.
2. Look at It From Every Angle
One of the most important factors when buying estate jewelry is making sure that the pieces are well made. While not everyone is going to carry a jewelers’ loupe around with them, the best place to start with is your gut.
Turn the piece over in your hand and inspect it from every angle. Shake the piece a little bit to get a feel for the piece. If it seems like the stone or the diamond might be a bit loose, then it’s probably not the right piece to buy.
You can also take a look at the prongs to ensure that they are gripping the stone strongly. You can also inspect the stone to see if there are any scratches on it. You’ll also want to take note of whether it is dingy or dirty at all.
Looking at the jewelry piece closely can give you a sense of whether or not the previous owner took good care of it. Of course, for pieces that are over a hundred years old, you do have to adjust your expectations. But for newer pieces you should expect the condition to be fairly good, otherwise, you probably want to move on.
3. Learn About the Four Cs
The four Cs is the universal standard for assessing the quality of diamonds. Established in the mid-20th century by the Gemological Institute of America, the method is still used to this day.
When you’re buying diamonds, you want to ask about color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.
Most antique diamond pieces you find will have been hand-cut by artisans. These days, diamonds are typically cut by machines.
You typically don’t find jewelry that’s from the Georgian era or earlier. This is because it was common for people to take inherited jewelry to the goldsmith in their town to be melted down and recast. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was common to recycle jewelry in this way, so pieces that do exist from this era are in incredibly high demand.
Are you looking for engagement rings or wedding rings? You can take a look at our collection here.
4. Make Sure You’re Buying From a Reputable Dealer
One of the most important things you want to do when buying estate jewelry is to make sure you’re buying it from a reputable dealer. Knowing that a piece of jewelry was vetted by a certified gemologist can help you know what you’re buying.
A lot of times, people selling estate jewelry aren’t exactly sure what they have. They might have been told stories by their parents or grandparents about the type of gem or who made the jewelry. However, it’s common for stories to get warped over time.
Even if a piece is sentimentally valuable to someone else, that doesn’t mean that it has the actual value they’re trying to sell it for. Making sure that the piece has been professionally appraised or looked at by a gemologist is extra insurance that you’re buying what you think you’re buying.
5. Learn the History
One of the most interesting things about estate jewelry is the history behind each piece. Owning and wearing estate jewelry can be like having a window into another time and place.
The jewelry that you wear is one of the ways you can express who you are. Learning about the pieces can help you understand what styles, eras, and stones you’re drawn to.
Are You Looking to Add More Estate Jewelry to Your Collection?
There is something so special about estate jewelry. A window into the past, buying estate jewelry for yourself or for your loved one is a tremendous and special way to show your appreciation.
At Garner Wallace, our graduate gemologist selects only the finest diamond jewelry. Here to help you during the selection process, we can help you find the absolutely perfect piece for any occasion.
Looking to add more estate jewelry to your collection? Check out our jewelry selection here!