This post is part of a series where I interview my favorite Esty vintage jewelry sellers.
Jessica from Trademark Antiques was kind enough to answer some questions for us! In case you don't know, Trademark Antiques 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?
My interest in all things antique and vintage comes from my family. As a child, my parents regularly took me treasure hunting to auctions and flea markets. While my friends were outside playing on the weekends I was struggling to get my paddle seen at auctions and re-finishing antique furniture in our yard.
I’ve always loved anything antique and vintage, but my special love for jewelry comes from my grandmother. My “Busha” (Polish for grandmother) was a passionate collector of costume jewelry. When she passed away at the age of 62, I inherited her large collection and still have some of her gigantic glistening rhinestone brooches.
I introduced Jason to my antique hobby back in college. In fact, I listed “antique collecting” among my interests in our freshman college directory. During our early years as a couple we frequented tag sales and auctions in search of unique treasures and jewelry. We’re both drawn to antique jewelry for its history, craftsmanship, and our shared appreciation for gemstones.
Our business began as a hobby and quickly blossomed into a robust on-line business. Today, after 10 years in business, we have a photo studio and four employees helping us with business operations and photography.
What is your favorite aspect of selling vintage jewelry?
The best part of our business is that we get to work on it together. Trademark Antiques is a shared passion for us both, yet we both gravitate towards different parts of the business. I enjoy researching and learning about antique and vintage jewelry styles and makers, putting our pieces in a larger historical context, and designing jewelry using antique and vintage components.
Jason has a particularly keen eye for product photography. He is also a chemist and GIA AJP who identifies and grades all of our gemstones. Together we both love the thrill of the hunt and traveling to find new treasures, and we have developed many wonderful new friendships along the way.
Where do you source most of your jewelry?
We source jewelry 7 days a week – we are always on the hunt. Some of our jewelry treasures come from shops and shows, some from auctions, and some from wholesale antique dealers that we have established relationships with over the years. One of our favorite buying destinations is the Brimfield Antique Market in Massachusetts. There are many different shows at the Brimfield market and a substantial number of jewelry dealers. The show is chaotic, but exhilarating, and there are always some amazing treasures waiting to be found.
What are your best-sellers?
We are best known for our conversion jewelry, and it is quite popular with our customer base. I personally design most of our conversion jewelry pieces using antique and vintage jewelry components.
These pieces are nearly always unique, one-of-a-kind creations and they generate a great deal of excitement from our customers and social media followers, sometimes selling within minutes of posting a photo on Instagram or Etsy. I think that part of the appeal of our conversion line is that these pieces offer an authentic connection with a bygone era while enabling our customers to express their own unique, fashion forward sense of style.
What is your favorite stone cut?
In diamonds I have two favorite cuts. I really love rose cut diamonds for their romantic and old-world charm. They also play beautifully with light.
Another cut that I really love in diamonds are emerald cuts. I especially love Art Deco emerald cut diamond rings. They’re always elegant and the diamonds typically have great clarity and visual appeal.
In colored gemstones, you can give me a cabochon any day of the week. For some reason, I’m really drawn to cabochons over faceted gems.
What are some of your personal favorites that you own?
I treasure my sentimental jewelry above all else. Pieces with a family connection are closest to my heart – an opal pendant gifted to me by my paternal grandmother when she was diagnosed with cancer, a bracelet that I acquired by way of a jewelry swap with my maternal grandmother, a ring that I was wearing the night my grandfather passed away, and most importantly a “Hold Fast” signet ring that I bought for my mother to buoy her spirits when she was in the midst of cancer treatments. These pieces, and my engagement ring, are definitely my personal favorites.
My favorite non-sentimental pieces are my antique stick pins because they bring me so much joy. I especially love figural stick pins and have a tough time passing them up at antique shows and in shops.
Do you have any advice for couples looking at buying a vintage ring for an engagement ring?
For couples looking for an authentic vintage or antique engagement ring you should start with knowing that when a ring is described as “Antique Style” or “Art Deco Style” this means that the ring is a reproduction made to look old, not a truly antique or vintage piece. True antique rings must be at least 100 years or older and vintage rings must be at least 25 years old.
Another important consideration is that there are many reproductions of Art Deco engagement rings on the market today that are made from the molds of original hand-carved dies that were fabricated during the Art Deco period or cast from authentic antique and vintage pieces. These rings are also “Art Deco Style” pieces and should never be sold as authentic or original Art Deco rings.
Many customers are quite happy with “Art Deco Style” or reproduction rings because they want a specific look and they are not concerned with the age of the ring. Authentic antique and period rings are typically priced at a premium over otherwise comparable reproductions because of their rarity and quality of construction and you should not pay antique pricing for reproduction jewelry. If you are seeking an authentic, period engagement ring you should try to deal with reputable sellers who stand by their jewelry and offer a full money back guarantee.
To the untrained eye, it is not always easy to determine if a piece is genuine antique or vintage or a reproduction. Consumers should generally expect to see signs of wear on antique or vintage ring settings – especially at the high points of the ring. Also, true antique and Art Deco rings were typically hand crafted or die-cast by skilled craftsman.
Today’s Art Deco or Antique reproduction diamond rings are often mass-manufactured quickly and do not show the same signs of craftsmanship that one would expect to see in an original piece. Some of the modern copies tend to have edges that are a bit raspy. Lace-like filigree often lacks polish inside of the punch work. Modern reproductions are often weightier than their antique or Art Deco counterparts and sometimes the filigree is asymmetrical and a bit sloppy looking.
Another good tip is if you are purchasing any gemstones of substantial value – you might want to request a grading certificate from an outside Gem lab like GIA or EGL to accompany your purchase.
What is the biggest mistake people make when buying vintage jewelry?
Two good rules of thumb – buy only what you love and do your homework and ask questions before making any substantial purchases – just as you would any other substantial purchase in your life like a car or piece of artwork.
The biggest mistake people make is assuming that the sellers that they are dealing with are accurately describing their merchandise. Some sellers have much more knowledge about antique and vintage jewelry than others and if you’re new to vintage jewelry, you should shop with someone reputable who will answer your questions and offer a money back guarantee.
Mistakes will happen when you’re learning jewelry, but don’t get discouraged. Mistakes are also great teachers.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jessica! I loved hearing your answers and I am sure my readers think the same.
Right now I am swooning over this antique Edwardian necklace, it is exquisite!
Remember to share this post with your vintage-loving friends, and let us know in the comments below what you are drooling over at Trademark Antiques!