Sometimes when we get so close to something we forget how others see things. This brings me to the topic of what I call ‘Myths About Vintage Jewelry”. So, today I thought I would address some of the questions I get from people regarding vintage jewelry condition and how to wear it.
Here’s my list of the top myths regarding vintage jewelry:
1. Vintage jewelry is dirty. Okay, it can be dirty. And sticky and well, icky. But, you can easily clean vintage costume jewelry. The best way to clean it is in an Ultra Sonic cleaner. A good, small one runs about $60. Check out some ultra sonic cleaners over on JewelrySupply here. You can also use warm water and mild soap and an old toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly, dry it off as best you can and then set it on a terry cloth towel for a few hours or over night so it can dry completely. Like any second hand or found object sometimes things need a little love and attention. I also want to share that I clean ALL the jewelry I sell to make sure that it is clean, shiny, sparkly and feels nice to the hand. So, that way when you buy it, it’s clean and ready to wear.2. Vintage jewelry is broken. Yes, this is another one that can be true. However, most of the jewelry I find is in perfectly good working order. Often times women discard jewelry because their taste has changed or its out of style. I like to come in and rescue the well made pieces that are timeless or iconic of a particular era or decade. I take great joy in assessing a piece of jewelry and saying “Oh that’s so 70s and Studio 54!”, or “Doesn’t this look just like something the Betty Draper character of MadMen would have worn in the early episodes?” Occasionally I find a piece that needs a repair, but I love to fix things and make them wearable again. It seems so senseless to discard something because it needs a clasp or a couple of rhinestones.And the other thing to consider, when you buy vintage jewelry you’re being green and keeping things in use and out of land fills.3. Vintage Jewelry is old. Old is good in my book. That saying, “they just don’t make them like they used to” applies here. Vintage costume jewelry was well made. Did you know the most of the US costume jewelry manufacturers were based in Providence Rhode Island? They employed skill artisans and designers and looked to fine jewelry and couture fashion trends for inspiration. Many of these pieces were triple plated and that’s why they hold up so well. And let me ask you this: Do you have antique or vintage home furnishings or decorative accessories in your home? If you do, than think about how including a few vintage jewelry pieces in your wardrobe in the same way that your add antiques and vintage when you decorate your home. Mixing old and new in home furnishings is considered a very good way to decorate and allows your to truly put your personal stamp on your home and reflect your taste and style. The same strategy applies to including vintage jewelry in your wardrobe. A few well selected pieces will compliment both your costume and/or fine jewelry. When your friends and family visit your home I bet they gravitate more to your antique and vintage furniture and home decorative accessories than they do to say, your IKEA furniture. Questions like, “Hey this bar cart is really cool, where did you find that?” or “I love this mid mod mirror, where did you get it?”. It’s the same with vintage jewelry. People will ask similar questions. And you will get compliments regarding how you put together your wardrobe and how you have such great style. It’s because you have a nice outfit that is complimented with interesting and complimentary jewelry that reflects your style and makes you feel good. I read and interview with Burberry designer, Christopher Bailey,a few years ago and in it he talked about how he likes to design pieces for the collection that give the feeling of being previously owned. He likes that things look like they have a little bit of history whether it be a scarf or a leather jacket. I agree with Christopher! For example, the juxtaposition of a piece of vintage jewelry with a bit of patina against a silk satin jewel tone blouse or dress is really great.
4. Vintage Jewelry is outdated and out of style. Good style is always IN style. Good stuff goes with good stuff. Fashion is cyclical and trends come and go. Almost everything comes back in style at some point. Fashion typically runs in a 20ish year cycle. So, the next hot collectible is the late 1980s and early 90s jewelry. In fact I just did a blog post on why costume jewelry of this era is back, check it out here. There are certain pieces of jewelry that are timeless. For example a gold chain necklace, hoop earrings, simple bangles. Depending on your style, you should have some pieces of jewelry you love, that make you feel good and happy when your wear them. As your taste evolves or changes you can store pieces that you love, or donate those that no longer feel excited about. The great thing about vintage jewelry is that it can enhance your existing jewelry and help create the effect, vibe or feeling you want to achieve for a particular outfit. Or maybe you just saw a period movie, say the Great Gatsby and you want to bring a little touch of Art Deco into your wardrobe for the holidays. Vintage is a great way to go because you can get authentic piece, that is well made and most likely a better value than anything brand new.
5. Vintage Jewelry is cheaply or poorly made. A lot of vintage costume jewelry was well made. In fact today’s costume jewelry designers, for example Stella & Dot, actively search flea markets for vintage pieces because they were well made. Exceptional clasps, settings, color combinations. prong set rhinestones. linking structures, triple plating and quality of stones are all details that make a good piece of jewelry. There are some brands that are nicer than others, but you can learn to look for key details that I mentioned above. Just make sure that when you are considering buying a a piece that you love it, and you will wear it (at least occasionally!) and that you are paying a fair price for it. Almost always a vintage piece of costume jewelry will be better made and better priced than a brand new piece of costume jewelry. Even high end costume jewelry from collectible brands such as Chanel will almost always be less expensive than a brand new piece.
6. If I wear vintage jewelry I have to dress head to toe in vintage clothing from that time period. Um, no. And please, never take this approach to getting dressed unless it’s Halloween or you are an actor in a movie.
The most modern and contemporary way to wear vintage jewelry is to mix it. This means mixing high/low or fine/costume. I need to reference the home decor example from earlier. Collect and buy jewelry with the same approach that you would take is decorating your living room. Mixing in a few vintage or antique pieces will elevate the whole look or in the case of clothing, your entire outfit. In order to create and enhance your own style you will most likely want to select items and pieces that you love, that compliment and flatter you and your clothing. It’s great to have a good variety of pieces that work well on their own or mixed in a suite. For example 2 or 3 necklaces that work well together or on their own. Again with vintage you will have lots of great choices at a good price to help you really assemble and curate a terrific jewelry wardrobe that makes you feel and look great.
Did I debunk any myths regarding vintage jewelry that have ever crossed your mind? If so, I would love to hear them. Or did I miss a concern that you have about vintage jewelry? Email me here.