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Fine vs. Costume Jewelry

The number one question I get asked is how to determine the value of jewelry. With the recent launch of our fine jewelry collection with Gold West Vintage, I wanted to explain the difference between fine and costume vintage jewelry.

Vintage Costume Jewelry

Value of Vintage Costume JewelrySince we've been in business we’ve seen thousands of pieces of jewelry and only about 1% makes it into our collection! Identifying the rarity of each piece keeps our one-of-a-kind collection incredibly exciting. 

The best thing about vintage costume jewelry, is that they used to triple plate the finish of each piece so it’s been able to stand up to the test of time, much unlike today’s costume jewelry which tarnishes quickly and will likely never live long enough to become heirloom pieces. Evaluating the history of each piece to determine it's specific value is both challenging and fun. 

There are a number of factors that have to be taken into account including age, materials used and the craftsmanship of each designer. Most vintage costume pieces are stamped by the designer's name which is helpful in starting the identification process. However, just because a piece is not signed, does not mean it is lower quality. Some of the most exclusive vintage designers, including Juliana, did not sign their pieces. 

Next to be determined is age. Our vintage costume jewelry collection spans from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. The earlier decades were filled with delicate, feminine pieces, glam glass rhinestones/crystals and the most beautiful plastic florals, many of which were hand finished. The attention to detail in the design of these pieces are some of the most fascinating. These styles, from 50-60 years ago, are harder to find in excellent vintage condition.

My dad and I are proud to be incredibly picky buyers. We weed out anything broken, overly tarnished or altered from its original design. One of our favorite things about the history of vintage jewelry is the craftsmanship, which the production of the jewelry was predominately made in the United States. We've seen so much innovation in the industry's manufacturing process throughout the back half of the 20th century. Some designers even patented their own clasps and clip-on earring backings. However, with the rise of fast fashion, the attention to detail in the design of today's fashion jewelry continues to fade along with the likelihood of them lasting in your collection. 

Want to learn more about vintage costume jewelry? Read this quick overview of the vintage industry here

Fine Vintage Jewelry

Fine Vintage Costume Jewelry In order to be considered fine jewelry, a piece must be constructed with either gold, sterling silver, platinum or precious stones. So with fine jewelry, the answer to determining value is different because precious stones and gold have an actual market value. From here, the evaluation of fine vintage jewelry is the determined by factoring in the same things as costume jewelry; age, craftsmanship and rarity.

Determining the value of sterling silver and gold is based off of its weight. The value of gold is also based on its purity, which is indicated by 10- 24K. Manufacturing pieces with 18 karats or higher is becoming less common and therefore are more valuable. The higher the gold count, the yellower the color. In the 70’s when gold prices were inflated, women started wearing costume pieces because to the naked eye, you cannot tell the difference. Since then, women are comfortable wearing costume pieces, especially those that are vintage because it is well known that they are better quality.

Precious stones are evaluated for value based on size, cut and clarity. Sometimes you’ll find a manufactured stone in a real setting, and vice versa. Usually, whichever is predominant in the design, the metal or the stone, is what determines whether it falls into the costume or fine jewelry category. 

The rings in our Gold West Vintage jewelry collection have a much higher karat count than today’s fine jewelry and are intricate vintage finds that you won't find anywhere else. Lynn, the owner, has an incredible eye and network around the country, giving her access to the most unique fine jewelry. Don't you agree, the attention to detail in this ring is unmatched?

At the end of the day, you cannot put a price tag on memories. My hope is that your collection grows to reflect the moments along your path and bring you joy for many years to come!

xx, Jillian