This post is part of a series where I interview my favorite Esty vintage jewelry sellers.
Matt from Pebble and Polish was kind enough to answer some questions for us! In case you don't know, Pebble and Polish is one of my featured Etsy shops for buying vintage jewelry. So let's get to the interview!
How did you get started selling vintage jewelry?
I knew that I wanted to propose to Shauna, but—for better or worse—she had a background in jewelry making and really knew what rings she liked. I also knew that Shauna liked antique diamonds, which blew my mind. I mean, who knows anything about antique diamonds? At the time I was supposed to have been prepping for my oral exams in the history of art and architecture, and I loosely figured that antique jewelry tied into my studies. Ever the productive procrastinator, I dove head-first into my research involving antique diamonds and jewelry. I loved it!
I discovered a macrocosm of design and materials and history that was previously unknown to me. What’s more, I came to realize that a large percentage of antique jewelry dealers use art historical terms (eg. “Art Deco”), but they don’t know art history. I saw an opportunity. I proposed (successfully), passed my orals, and said farewell to academia. With Shauna’s profound support and continued help, we then started Pebble & Polish.
What is your favorite aspect of selling vintage jewelry?
We both love the “ah ha!” moment when we find a beautiful piece. Shauna is an art conservator and we both have a grounding in art collection practices. This training has carried over into our running of Pebble & Polish and it helps guide us in the hunt, so to speak. We love sifting through dozens if not hundreds of pieces, all in hopes of finding the few items that are truly stunning and don’t have a ridiculous price tag.
Just about anyone can find a beautiful item if money is no concern, but that’s not reality. We try to discover and acquire beautiful pieces and offer them for sale at a reasonable price, and we love the process of discovery. We hope that our customers get the same satisfaction when they find a piece on our site.
Where do you source most of your jewelry?
A few years ago I would have answered, “any- and everywhere!” Now, however, we’ve tightened up our process. We’ll go to trade fairs and estate sales, but it’s really time consuming and more often than not we leave empty handed.
We prefer to work with a number of national and international collectors who acquire pieces from estate sales and the public. These collectors will then fly out to us knowing our tastes, and we’ll select from there. Being able to choose from curated selections has been more productive and fun than facing frequent letdown when buying from estate sales and auctions.
What are your best-sellers?
That’s tough to answer since we specialize in one-of-a-kind antique engagement rings, but there are always trends. Victorian diamond clusters have been pretty popular for the last couple of years. We also sell a number of Victorian pieces with rose cut diamonds and / or black enamel. Then again, that’s an aesthetic that we absolutely adore and thus we make it a point to acquire such pieces.
Our customers seem to know that and we have a hard time maintaining stock. On the other hand, there’s a big uptick in super classic Mid-century designs, such as a 1-carat diamond ring in platinum with simple shoulders.
Do you have any advice for people looking to buy vintage jewelry for the first time?
Buy what you like! Unless a person is trying to build a collection, or is acquiring antiques purely as a monetary investment, then simply buy what you like. Beyond that, condition is important. Avoid buying a delicate and well-worn item that you plan to wear everyday for decades. Said pieces are best reserved for special occasions.
What is your favorite stone cut?
Funky. Weird. Unique. Though beautiful, modern round brilliants are too clinical for us. We like to see the hand of the cutter and the passage of history. That noted, deep and pillowy old mine cuts and oddly-shaped rose cuts will forever hold special places in our hearts. Perhaps best of all, unique old stones cost less than contemporary cuts!
What are some of your personal favorites that you own?
Unique (read: weird)! We love Victorian hair pieces, Cape-colored stones, cobblestone clusters, and rose cut diamonds with outlines bearing more relation to ink blots than perfect circles. I’m also a sucker for good ol’ fashioned elegance. Some designs just do it for me. There are rings in our collection that we’ve had for years which remain unlisted simply because we like them.
Do you have any advice for couples looking at buying a vintage ring for an engagement ring?
So much! But, to keep it short, I’ll repeat: buy what you like. I find it maddening and somewhat depressing when people say “OMG I love this ring but it’s an L color and the internet says that I’m not supposed to like anything past H color,” or whatever. Since when is beauty supposed to be devoid of color and warmth? And, contrary to popular belief, warm stones are actually rarer than colorless. Try going to a jewelry shop and asking for diamonds in the L-M-N color range. I strongly believe that customers should have more faith in themselves and should buy whatever widens the eye.
What is the biggest mistake people make when buying vintage jewelry?
It might not be the biggest issue, but I do feel that customers often put too much credence in third-party certificates and appraisals. Said reports are highly subjective and add nothing but cost. If a diamond has a certificate, then great, but don’t discount diamonds lacking paperwork. Certificates are a modern concept and were designed for the wholesale distribution of mathematically derived cuts.
GIA certificates don’t offer much for antiques, which are far more organically derived. Assuming a shop has a return policy, I suggest buying a piece that you like and then taking it to a local jeweler or two. Have them verify that the materials are essentially as described. The customer should then return to the local jeweler every year or so in order to have the piece re-inspected for structural integrity. Jewelry takes upkeep!
On that, keep your engagement ring clean! A baby toothbrush, warm water, and a tiny pea of dish soap is all you need for a diamond ring. Brush lightly, rinse well, and pat dry with a paper towel. Do this once every week or two. The process will help keep your diamonds forever stunning.
Make Sure to Head Over to Pebble and Polish and Have a Browse Today!
Remember to share this post with your vintage-loving friends, and let us know in the comments below what you are drooling over at Pebble and Polish!
Happy Vintage Hunting!