Antique Jewellery Collection

Pretty Trinkets, Astute Investment or both? Julie Carter compares old to new...

I have a friend who loves jewellery – the new kind, not antique. She has an agreement with her husband; every time he buys himself a new and expensive ‘toy’, she’s entitled to 10% of his outlay in a new item of jewellery designed especially for her. Often that means the jewellery is in the five-figure sum. But what if she wanted to sell it? How much would she get back?

A lot less than she paid. The cost of modern jewellery includes the outlay of raw materials at the current market value, the full expense of manufacture, and at least three profit margins: the maker, the wholesaler and the retailer.

On the other hand, when you buy a piece of antique jewellery, the raw materials, design and manufacturing costs have been paid for about a century ago.

In The Independent Newspaper in London, January 2004, journalist John Andrew noted that: ‘Typically, a new solitaire ring costing around £5000 would sell for less than half that at auction. New jewellery retailing at less than £1000 depreciates even faster. It can take twenty-five years for such pieces to fetch their original retail prices on the secondary market.’

Someone, somewhere has to be making a considerable amount of profit when modern jewellery retailers can afford to slash their prices by fifty percent, as they have been doing this May and June, and still make a living.

My friend likes modern jewellery because she can have it made to her own design. Obviously that’s not possible with antique jewellery. But then, it doesn’t need to be; hand made by talented designers and craftsmen, antique jewellery is already unique. You won’t find someone with an identical piece. But does it hold its value?

In a recent online investment article about buying jewellery, the author suggested that if you want to buy antique jewellery as a cold, hard investment, you should be sure about the following two points: You want to make a good profit; and you’ll be able to sell it when the time is right, with no regrets. His point is that if you’re buying antique jewellery purely to invest, there should be no emotion or sentiment attached to any of your purchases. Decisions should be made in the same calculating way as they would if you were buying property or shares.

The problem here is that antique jewellery is an emotional commodity, as are antiques in general. They are unique, with their own individual histories. They were hand made by craftsmen working more than a century ago, often using skills long forgotten.

For most of us, buying a piece of antique jewellery is based almost entirely on sentiment and emotion. Luckily, it can also be a good investment. Broadly speaking, if you keep your antique jewellery for more than ten years, you can expect to make at least its purchase price if you decide to sell it. Compare that to the automatic decrease in the value of new jewellery the second it leaves the shop, and you wonder why anyone would buy anything other than vintage.

Caring for your jewellery

Perfume and hair lacquer can dissolve some gems (particularly pearls), and stain gold and silver settings. Make sure any hair lacquer is sprayed BEFORE you add any jewellery, and give perfume time to dry. Even jewellery that’s stored on a dressing table with hair lacquer on the surface can be affected.

This article is courtesy of Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure & Profit magazine. A year’s subscription (that’s four issues: spring, summer, autumn and winter) is $48. To subscribe visit

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