Let’s imagine a scenario that actually occurs quite frequently. Following the untimely death of an elderly relative, you find yourself in possession of their old, heirloom jewelry through a will. When you see these pieces, they are beautiful and appear to be quite old. While you may not be able to keep each one, you do want to determine the value of the jewelry before selling or giving away to other family members. Seeking a local (say, Phoenix or Scottsdale?) jewelry appraisal completed immediately is recommended in most cases in case of unexpected damage or loss to the items.

So, if you find this situation relates to you and you have come across some of your grandmother’s heirloom jewelry, we would like to offer some tips to help you make informed decisions if you do choose to sell. There is some information about older jewelry that is important to understand before a price can be set.

Seeking an Appraisal

As stated previously, one of the first steps is seeking an appraisal for your old jewelry. We recommend contacting a gemologist in Scottsdale for a jewelry appraisal; based on clientele, they see a little more in the way of pricier, more valuable items. This appraisal will help in determining a number of key factors about your jewelry: the types of materials used and their quality, unique identification marks, inscriptions, and the value of the item.

When it comes to evaluating old jewelry, an experienced appraiser will also determine the age of each item. This can be determined by style, workmanship, and any identifying marks made by the initial maker. When considering these elements of a Scottsdale jewelry appraisal, you can imagine why not every old item is worth a lot of money.

Antique vs. Vintage

These are two words many jewelry customers tend to use interchangeably with any heirloom jewelry that may be more than a couple of decades old. However, this doesn’t mean they indicate similar types of jewelry. The Federal Trade Commission has established some terminology and laws about how jewelry (and other valuable collectible items) are to be labeled.

Vintage jewelry is generally any piece that is less than 100 years old but older than 30 to 50 years old (an exact younger age may vary by appraiser). These may also be called retro or collectible. While there is some value established in these items, the recent age means they are generally easy to come across and often were created for average consumers. Antique jewelry, on the other hand, is by law always older than 100 years. Today this means that any piece dated from 1915 or earlier would be considered an antique. Likewise, any piece dated from around the World War I era is right on the cusp and will be considered antique in a matter of years.

What does this mean for you and your apparent heirloom jewelry? Your mother’s wedding ring is definitely vintage but your grandmother’s may not be considered antique by federal standards. By visiting a Scottsdale jewelry appraisal shop, you can find out if grandma’s old ring is actually as old as you thought.

Antique vs. Reproduction or Costume

Before you head down to Scottsdale for a jewelry appraisal, you may want to take a closer look at your heirloom jewelry for a few minutes. A lot of people tend to assume that because an item’s design appears to be antique, that the item is as well. However, the jewelry reproduction business is, in fact, quite lucrative and Grandma may have purchased her old brooches as less-expensive costume jewelry. While an appraiser will be able to confirm this information, it doesn’t hurt for you to go in with some realistic expectations.

Workmanship can be one giveaway if a jewelry item is antique or not. Since antique jewelry pieces were more decadent and made in smaller quantities, the production quality was higher. Reproductions and costume jewelry may have less attention to detail, such as misaligned stones.

Also check for how the quality of the materials appear. Reproduction and costume jewelry often uses lower quality materials and can feel more lightweight than the item’s appearance suggests. Scuff marks and scratches are general signs of wear but beware of metals with peeling (this can indicate a poor job in gold or silver plating) and stones that either lack visual brilliance or appear too perfect (these may instead be glass or plastic imitations).

If you’re still unsure about the authenticity of an old heirloom jewelry, we still suggest you contact us for a Scottsdale jewelry appraisal for some peace of mind.