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What Are the Best Tips to Sell Vintage Jewelry?

Lauren Romano
Lauren Romano

Researching each piece is the first and most important step when trying to sell vintage jewelry. It's essential to learn more about the items, and help you determine a good selling price. Cleaning the jewelry allows the best features of each piece to stand out. as will taking quality photographs using appropriate backgrounds and lighting. Choose the right dealer to work with, but never seem too eager to sell or it may encourage the dealer to try to take advantage.

Spend time doing as much research as possible about each item. Check for a mark or signature on the jewelry, then look up what designer it represents. This can help you learn about the popularity of the designer, how rare the pieces are, and the years the designer was, or is, in business. Search through websites that showcase the designer's pieces, then look for the specific ones in your possession to learn about what increases or decreases the value, what the pieces are comprised of, and how to clean them.

Cleaning vintage jewelry may help produce a quick sale.
Cleaning vintage jewelry may help produce a quick sale.

Apply the various cleaning techniques to make the pieces sparkle; in some cases, all it will take is a little water. Use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at each piece and clean any dirt that's nearly invisible to the naked eye. Never sell vintage jewelry that hasn't been cleaned — the less work the dealer has to do and the more impressive the pieces look, the more money it could mean in your pocket. Doing a thorough cleaning also makes it possible to get a better idea of how to price the items; it removes the dirt and leaves the flaws, such as scratches or discolorations. Be very careful during the cleaning to not cause new damage to the jewelry.

It can be difficult to sell vintage jewelry that has quite a few imperfections, considering the value typically decreases with each flaw found. Take note of the condition of every part of the jewelry, including any marks or signatures, the setting, clarity, design, prongs, and surface flaws, as well as whether the stones are real and whether all of them are there. To price each item, start with how much it is valued at in nearly perfect condition, then deduct money depending on the severity of each imperfection. Finally, choose a selling price that's substantial enough while still leaving room for negotiation should the customer make a lower offer.

Taking photographs is typically necessary to sell vintage jewelry online or while communicating with a potential customer via the Internet. Photographing the jewelry on a white or black background will showcase the colors and design of the pieces. Take pictures in natural light and from all angles — the front and back of each item, a diagonal shot of the front, and close photos of elaborate features as well as flaws. If possible, also take a photograph of someone wearing the piece.

Research the reputation of various jewelry stores, individual sellers, and websites to determine where to sell the jewelry. Individuals and many jewelry stores typically prefer to purchase multiple pieces at once rather than singles. After choosing several potential customers, call or email and let them know how much you want for the items and send them pictures if necessary. Although the goal is to sell vintage jewelry, it doesn't mean taking the first offer — wait for the best offer instead.

Discussion Comments


What kinds of books or other source material tell you about the history of a piece of jewelry which doesn't have a maker's mark on it? How else can you research jewelry?


anon204876: I would suggest taking the buckle to a jeweler specializing in vintage and antique jewelry if you want to know more about it. A regular jeweler will be able to appraise the price of the item as if it were new, but doesn't know about the added value of its antiquity. Most jewelers will charge 5 - 10 percent of its value for the appraisal; some might "eyeball" the piece for free.

You are correct in not cleaning the buckle. Some pieces are more valuable if they have the marks of age on them. Aged copper, for example, will have a greenish patina which is prized by some as a sign of its antiquity.

Auction houses will also appraise the piece for you, for about the same cost as a jeweler.


I know this will sound scary to many people, but I clean some of my jewelry in a mesh tea-ball in the dishwasher. The things that can be cleaned this way are silver and gold (not silver- or or gold-plated) and hard stones such as rubies, diamonds, sapphires. I put the closed tea-ball with the jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, chains, rings) in the utensil compartment by itself. Run the dishwasher on its normal cycle with dishwasher detergent and no heat drying.

Sometimes a piece will be so dirty that it will have to be "scrubbed" over with a soft toothbrush and put through the dishwasher a second time. The only "hard" gemstone that cannot be cleaned this way is emerald.

Soft gem stones and semi-precious stones such as opals, pearls, jade, and turquoise should not be cleaned this way, regardless of the metal surrounding them.

If the prongs are loose around a stone, the mesh tea ball will capture the gem if it comes out of its setting. It's important to know if the prongs are loose before showing a piece for sale, or for wearing it yourself. Loose prongs can cause distressing loss.


I have a belt buckle from Kuwait and was told specifically not to clean it. It was dated as being (hundreds) of years old. All this one guy knew was hundreds of years. He wanted to buy it for $300 dollars but I did not trust him. He was too fast with wanting to buy. What is my next step? A museum? Mostly I just want it dated. --Plaisham

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    • Cleaning vintage jewelry may help produce a quick sale.
      Cleaning vintage jewelry may help produce a quick sale.