The terms “Vintage”, “Antique”, and “Estate” are frequently used describe second-hand merchandise. These terms are often used incorrectly, or with intent to deceive. Here are the definitions of these terms and a few caveats:
Antiques – Antiques are items that are 100 years old, and older. This definition is accepted in the trade, but also has important legal and financial implications.
In the United States (and some other countries) no import duty is paid on antiques so you can save a lot of money if you know that your purchases are antique. This applies to items acquired on a buying trip, vacation, or online purchase so get a receipt from the seller stating that it’s an antique or, if you buy an antique online from a foreign seller, make sure they describe it as an antique on the customs form. More information can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 19 Part 10, Section 10.53.
Those of us who love vintage earrings are often frustrated to find that a newly-acquired pair is unbearably uncomfortable because of its screw-back or clip-back fitting. If this were an occasional issue it wouldn’t be a big deal; however for the first three-quarters of the 20th century pierced earrings were out of fashion in many parts of the world. For me, this time period encompasses many of my favorite styles of earrings: long, elegant Art Deco earrings; Mexican silver hoops and enameled earrings; sculptural Modernist earrings; and dangling 60’s mod earrings. While a jeweler can convert almost any pair of earrings to pierced, the cost runs at least $20-50 and sometimes higher. While this is worth doing on some earrings, it can get prohibitively expensive.
The late Christie Romero was a renowned jewelry historian and author of Warman’s Jewelry, a guide to jewelry of the 18th through 20th centuries. If I had to choose one jewelry book to recommend to a novice, out of the dozens I own, it would be Warman’s Jewelry 3rd edition because it is highly informative, covers all eras and genres in surprising detail, and contains a realistic range of prices; it also contains Romero’s invaluable timeline of jewelry history alongside landmarks of world history and industrial history. This book is out of print but can be found on Amazon. Warman’s Jewelry 5th Edition is also excellent and more widely available.
A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Los Angeles on a buying trip. I timed my trip to coincide with the Vintage Fashion Expo which is held three times a year in Los Angeles and twice a year in San Francisco (where I am a seller). The weekend of the Vintage Expo coincided with the monthly Long Beach Antique Market so I spent Sunday shopping there.
Portabello Road is the most famous street in London for antiquing and it rightly deserves its reputation. When I started going on buying trips to London a few years ago I expected that, because of its fame, prices would be outrageous and geared to the tourist trade but I was wrong.
In late 2013 there were two terrific jewelry exhibits on the work of Tony Duquette and Van Cleef and Arpels in Southern California. I wrote a post for the Ruby Lane blog about these exhibits which I link to here:
Buying at auction is a great way to furnish your home economically or acquire wonderful antiques for yourself or for resale. However, there are a lot of misconceptions that people have about buying at auction and I’ve written a Snapguide, a visual DIY guidebook, on how to shop at live auctions. Here’s the link to it: