I shared an IG poll on whether or not anyone would be interested in this post, and turns out way more people were interested than I assumed would be, so here we are! I’m obviously a home design/thrifting blogger, but one of my equal passions has become jewelry; specifically fine jewelry.
To me, jewelry is like wearing art. Having struggled with body image post-partum, it’s one of the few things that makes me feel better when I put it on. It’s become a way to express myself in a way that’s meaningful, because there’s usually a “why” behind most of the pieces I buy.
It’s also about the thrill of the hunt; finding a quality, solid piece of fine jewelry for a great price gives me the same high that finding a piece of furniture does. And for the record, I’m not hunting for Zales quality jewelry.
As I sat down to write this, it became abundantly clear that my secondhand furniture shopping tips also translate to jewelry, with a few nuances.
Obviously everyone is on a budget, and I’m not encouraging anyone to spend more than they have. But I do want to emphasize that if you know what to look for, and if you’re patient and persistent (sound familiar?), you can find quality FINE jewelry for not that much more than gold plated/gold filled. Whether it’s for my home or jewelry, I’m all about buying quality products that will last.
just like with furniture, most modern made fine jewelry brands designs’ are evolutions of vintage designs
Which means if you know what you’re hunting for, you can get SO MUCH MORE bang for your buck on vintage/estate jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, I love modern made jewelry and I’m consistently hunting for deals on my favorite modern brands, but I *mostly* shop for secondhand jewelry.
Out of respect for smaller name modern designers, I’ll only show prices and not brands, but here are some examples of modern made vs. vintage designs that I stumbled upon recently:
this modern ring:
this vintage ring:
Specs are similar to the top ring, but the biggest difference is 9K vs 14k gold. Obviously 14k is ideal, but 9k isn’t something I’d pass up if the rest of the design was exactly what I wanted.
newly made item:
Nearly the exact same item, but the secondhand charm is actually bigger and has a larger diamond!
Just like with sifting through furniture on Facebook Marketplace, it’s a lot of sifting through pages of online retailers to find a piece of jewelry that speaks to you. I’ve bought most of my jewelry from TheRealReal, eBay and Etsy. I’ve found some great stuff at Auction (LiveAuctioneers, EBTH), but haven’t won anything yet.
TheRealReal is great for estate/vintage jewelry but you can also find some amazing deals on modern made brands too. Just like with my home, I like to mix modern and vintage jewelry. Some of my favorite modern brands (that are $$$$$ buying new) to keep an eye out for on TRR are:
- Marlo Laz
You can get great deals on unnamed brands on TRR. The Marlo Laz charm I bought on TRR was labeled as “pendant” and NOT as Marlo Laz. Not sure why, but it definitely would have cost more if they labeled it properly.
TRR has two “drops” a day where they add new items to their site: 10 am and 7 pm, so I don’t really use keywords there because they’re just always refreshing with new items. But since I’m addicted to a good deal, I’m always checking the jewelry section during those times. Their rule is that you can add something to your cart, but you have 20 minutes to make a decision – either buy it or it’s taken out of your cart to give someone else the opportunity to buy.
I’ve gotten some great deals on items that otherwise definitely would have been snatched up had I not acted quickly during their “drop” times. Here are some of my fave finds from TRR:
eBay and Etsy
Because estate items are usually acquired for less money from someone who didn’t want it anymore, so some stores are more willing to discount. And the quality is usually better than modern made. If something has survived 50 years of wear, it’s obviously made well.
I always ask eBay and Etsy sellers if they can do x price, and most of the time they are wiling to give a discount (usually between 10-20%). My life motto is can’t hurt to ask!
Google Image Search is your friend. If I’m on the hunt for something, I’m constantly Google Image searching jewelry to see what new + vintage items show up, and then start comparing specs + pricing from there. For example, if I found something on TRR and threw it in my cart, I’ll quickly GIS to see if there’s a similar but cheaper on eBay.
I found both of these lovely vintage blue topaz rings on Etsy
Keywords are very subjective when it comes to jewelry, because everyone has their own style. Here are a few keywords I personally use, specifically when searching eBay and Etsy. I tweaked my keyword formula to fit jewelry!
You can find bigger diamonds, pieces that are heavier/made at a higher quality and with more interesting designs from a jeweler that sells vintage and estate items. When I find an item I like on Etsy or eBay, I follow/save that seller.
There are plenty of sellers on eBay that sell newly made fine jewelry whom I’ve purchased from and I’ve been very pleased with their products. They have thousands of positive reviews. Some of those shops are:
Be cautious of Etsy sellers who mislabel newly made jewelry. I’ve seen plenty of Etsy sellers label something as “14k Gold ring,” even though it’s not gold, it’s gold plated.
Similar things happen when jewelry is misrepresented in other ways; carat of diamonds, diamond grades, whether they are real or lab grown or a diamond imitation and so on. It’s good to get an item inspected by a jeweler once you receive it if you’re unsure. And always buy from sellers who accept returns.
GIA, the world authority on gemstones, is one of the best resources to learn more. They also have a lot of information on metals and jewelry in general
When it comes to shopping for jewelry with gemstones:
Moissanite is a good alternative if real diamonds are out of budget. I personally don’t own any Moissanite, but I’ve heard that it wears well.
Cubic zirconia is crap. It yellows, breaks, scratches and won’t last.
Diamonds, sapphires and rubies are good for every day wear. My personal favorite gemstones are diamonds, sapphires (pink or green), tourmalines and pink opals.
Sapphires come in every color of the rainbow, so if you like the idea of a colored diamond ring, this option might be perfect for you. However, sapphires can be just as expensive as diamonds at times, and like diamonds, there’s a massive range of different qualities and therefore, prices.
The karat of gold does make a difference. It’s helpful to be aware of current gold prices. Though many sellers cringe at the ‘price per gram’ question, it’s worth being aware so you know if you’re paying a reasonable price.
18k gold has more pure gold in the mixture, which means that it is softer overall, so the ring will scratch easier with wear. I personally don’t mind scratches, it’s part of the patina.
14k gold is really the sweet spot for jewelry, and I tend to purchase my own jewelry in 14k.
9k and 10k has less pure gold in the metal. It’s cheaper but can be more brittle.
You won’t really find jewelry made with over 18k gold, and on the other end of the spectrum, 8k or under isn’t allowed to be sold as gold.
Also, know that gold comes in different arrays of hues. Just because something is 14K or 18K gold, the variations in color will differ, especially in vintage jewelry. Undertones in gold can range from rosy to very yellow and cooler to warmer.
TAKING PRECAUTION WITH JEWELRY
I don’t recommend wearing jewelry to sleep. Or to workout.
Don’t spray your jewelry with perfume, keep it away from cleaning chemicals
Chlorine in pool water can break down alloys in gold and make it brittle.
TL;DR: when in doubt, take it off.
Your local jeweler will usually inspect and clean for free (even if you didn’t purchase it from them).
Jewelry insurance is great!
Even if you don’t have a super expensive piece, it can be worth it to insure. However, don’t insure with your homeowners insurance because they often have coverage that’s not so great.
I personally use Jewelers Mutual; they’re reasonably priced but also cover some repairs like broken prongs or missing side stones.
My biggest jewelry tip:
Only buy what you absolutely love. And with jewelry, you’re better off saving for the one big piece you love vs. buying small versions that you aren’t head over heels for. Just my two cents!
Hope this was helpful!
SHOP NEW AND SECONDHAND JEWELRY FAVORITES: