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Your Guide to Buying Vintage Jewellery
At NMJ, we believe that jewellery is an investment – something to love, wear and treasure forever. And while we are passionate about creating modern heirlooms for our clients, we also have a soft spot for vintage jewellery. Most vintage pieces have lived several lifetimes and there’s something so special about something that holds so many stories and memories. Vintage boasts creativity, craftsmanship and quality as well as a charm, history and sense of romance.
Twice a year, our founder, Natalie and head designer, Em work with a British antique jewellery specialist and make selects for the NMJ store. At NMJ, we also source a small selection of reproduction antique pieces - this essentially means pieces that are handcrafted using traditional techniques to replicate antique styling. Crafted recently, these pieces are made from new metals but often feature old stones.
If you’ve never purchased vintage before, knowing where to start or what to look for can be an overwhelming experience but at NMJ, we’ve tried to make the process as seamless as possible for you. Our team of master jewellers do all of the groundwork for you – checking, crosschecking, authenticating and restoring the pieces – so by the time it comes to making your choice, you can do so with confidence, knowing that it’s in the best possible condition for its age and it comes with the NMJ stamp of approval.
We asked Nat and Em for their top tips when it comes to purchasing vintage, how to care for vintage pieces and what they look for when selecting from NMJ.
DO: Buy what you love.
“All of the vintage pieces that we offer have been carefully considered and selected based on their condition, quality, provenance and unique design, taking out some of the guess work for our customers. Knowing that these pieces have passed through our jeweller’s hands and have been carefully restored and checked, means that our customers have a level of confidence in our pieces and can focus mainly on the aesthetic choices. A piece of vintage jewellery should be chosen because it resonates with you, and because you fall in love with it”.
DO: Ask questions about what you are buying, (but know we’ve done the work for you).
“We have a keen eye for the styles we know our customers will love - and for standout, unique designs. Being jewellers, we both have a strong eye for detail and high level craftsmanship, meaning we are often drawn to the more detailed, intricate designs which stand apart from what we often see with more contemporary jewellery.
We are stringent when checking our vintage pieces and always do our buying in the studio, where we have our team of jewellers and setters on hand to consult with. We have come across a few heartbreakers, pieces that we fall in love with but are beyond reasonable restoration. We are always committed to a level of restoration with the antique pieces we source, but we feel it’s important to select pieces with enough structural integrity to ensure they don’t need complete remodelling to become a wearable piece.
We are essentially always looking for a high quality piece with good quality stones, which may just need a little bit of care and love to bring it back to its former glory and prepare it for its new life.
Significant factors we are always on the lookout for include hallmarks and maker’s marks which help us to establish the age and provenance of a piece. These are the elements that help us bring together the story and history behind the jewellery. It can take some tricky deciphering at times to make out worn down marks on aged pieces, but it's always rewarding when we work out exactly what the symbols are telling us”.
DO: Think about how you plan to wear your piece and what your lifestyle is like.
“Vintage pieces have sometimes lived multiple previous lives, which means that they are embedded with unique histories and need to be chosen carefully with the awareness that they require special care. It’s important to be aware of your lifestyle, and how this may impact your new vintage piece before you decide to take it home with you. Do you plan to wear it every day? What do you do for work? Vintage pieces are more delicate so this should definitely be considered.
Another consideration when choosing vintage, is how you will layer and stack your piece if you intend to. For example, if you choose a vintage engagement ring, this may limit your choices when it comes to a wedding band, dependant on the design and structure of the engagement ring. Often antique designs are low set and unique in their shape, creating some challenges when trying to match back with a more standard wedding ring design. This creates a beautiful opportunity to design something bespoke to fit your engagement ring, but we always encourage customers to consider this at the outset”.
DO: Take extra care with your vintage.
“The vintage pieces we source are carefully restored by our team as necessary, but seeing as they are not crafted by our team, and most are over 100 years old, they are not covered by the standard NMJ warranty. Insurance is imperative for antique jewellery to ensure that any accidental damage or degradation of materials can be covered over the extended life of a piece. This is something our team can assist with at the time of purchase, with recommendations of a reputable and reliable jewellery insurance company. We always offer servicing, repair and maintenance of vintage pieces, as required throughout their lifetime, therefore insurance ensures this is always covered.
Vintage pieces require an extra level of care and should be treated with the respect that their age demands. Extra consideration should be taken for situations in which your piece could be damaged, either through impact or contact with chemicals, soaps and detergents, lotions and in some cases even warm water, which can cause degradation of the materials and potential structural damage. This can occur as the result of a single incident, or as a slow process over time with exposure to damaging substances or prolonged inappropriate wear, so it is of the upmost importance that the NMJ Care Guide, which is provided in hard copy with each piece and also available to read online, is strictly followed to ensure the longevity of these special pieces”.
DO: Talk to us about insurance.
“The majority of antique pieces come without any physical paper trail, which is largely due to their age and the changing of hands over the years. Once we have finalised the restoration process of any given piece, we have the piece independently checked and appraised by a specialised jewellery valuer. This provides us with a third party opinion on the piece in terms of not only its value, but also its provenance and the grading of any stones included. With this third party assurance, and the sign off from our team of jewellers, each vintage piece we sell is sold with our stamp of approval.
While these pieces do not fall under our standard warranty, we would always honour servicing and repair as required, at the relevant expense, which would always be covered by a jewellery specific insurance policy”.
Browse the latest Natalie Marie Vintage Collection Now.