Vintage James Avery Jewelry Buying Guide

If you are looking for vintage James Avery jewelry, then you have come to the right place. Here you will learn about the history, materials, most collectible pieces, and where to buy.

James Avery Jewelry is high quality and meticulously crafted in sterling silver, gold and gemstones with unique, meaningful designs cherished by customers across this country.

Brief History of James Avery Jewelry

James Avery was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 7, 1921, and was raised in the Chicago area. Pearl Harbor was bombed on his 20th birthday, and he joined the Army Air Force shortly after. He was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, thus beginning his lifelong love of the Texas Hill Country.

After serving proudly in World War II, flying 44 missions over Germany, he earned a degree in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois and went on to teach at the University of Iowa and the University of Colorado. At Colorado, he became interested in applying his designing skills to jewelry and created some “just for fun” pieces in his free time.

In 1954, a confluence of events changed the course of James’s life. He returned to the Christian religion of his youth; he stopped teaching; and he spent the summer at his in-laws’ house in Kerrville, Texas. What did not change was his fascination with jewelry making. He set up shop in his in-laws’ two-car garage with a small work bench, a few tools, scraps of silver and copper, a book How to Make Modern Jewelryand $250 in working capital. Outside of the garage, he hung his sign, "James Avery Craftsman," with the candelabra logo that remains a hallmark of the jewelry still. 

He wanted his jewelry to have meaning, both for him and his customers—items that had lasting value. He created pieces that reflected his Christian beliefs, such as crosses, fish, angels, doves, and sold them on consignment in church gift shops and local boutiques. He worked in silver to keep the pieces affordable. His first year in business, James’s sales came to $5,500 (about $53,000 today).

For three years, he worked alone, designing, sawing, polishing, and selling. In 1957, he hired Fred Garcia to work with him, and he issued his first catalog with 39 handmade items. His business continued to grow, and in 1965, he made “James Avery Craftsman, Inc.” official and not long after, bought 20 acres in Kerrville, not far from the garage, to build the company’s headquarters. Fittingly, the first retail store was established in Kerrville. By the 1970s, he employed 35 people and generated $400,000 in sales (more than $2 ½ million today).

James Avery Jewelry is meticulously crafted in sterling silver, 14K and 18K yellow and white gold, and gemstones. The designs honor the things that are important in life and are, therefore, timeless with a universal appeal. James never wanted to produce anything complicated, faddish or “cute.” And to this day, the company never has.

In 1987, the Archdiocese of San Antonio commissioned James to make four vessels for Pope John II to use at Mass while he was visiting the city.

James’s business grew to include 5 manufacturing plants, 80 retail stores, and 3,500 employees. The 1,100 designs are created by the skilled artisans in the Texas Hill Country. The pieces are also sold on the company’s website and in Dillard’s, an apparel, cosmetics, and home-furnishing retailer in the southwest, southeast, and mid-west regions of the United States.

In 2007, James retired (though he continued to design) and his son Chris became CEO/President and his son Paul Director of James Avery Craftsman and Executive Vice President.

In late 2014, the company opened up a showroom/museum next to its headquarters. The displays include James’s earliest designs as well as his original work bench and tools.

In 2017, the company began a relationship with Whataburger, a Texas-based fast food franchise known for its burgers. They honored their Texan roots with a James Avery charm with the Whataburger logo on it. The charm sold out in one day. In 2018, they released a charm of the Whataburger cup. And in 2019, a charm of French fries. The charms are real treasures to collectors.

James died on April 30, 2018, but his spirit lives on in the values of the company.

In 2019, Chris retired and, for the first time, a non-family member was CEO, John McCullough. John had been part of the company family for 14 years in increasingly responsible positions. Chris had no qualms handing over the reins to him. Chris is Chairman of the Board, and James’s granddaughter, Lindsey Avery Tognietti, is Manager of Strategic Initiatives.

James Avery Open Leaf Sterling Silver Brooch from BellasSilverShop on Etsy

James Avery Open Leaf Sterling Silver Brooch from BellasSilverShop on Etsy

Jewelry marks

  • The candelabra from James’s first sign with “J” and “A” incorporated into the design, the copyright symbol and either “925 585” or “STER.”
  • “James Avery”

Materials Used

  • Sterling silver
  • Gold
  • Bronze
  • Birthstones (semi-precious or lab-created)
  • Citrine
  • Topaz
  • Blue topaz
  • Amazonite
  • Labradorite
  • Mother of pearl
  • Quartz
  • Green agate
  • Turquoise
  • Chalcedony
  • Art glass
  • Prasiolite
  • Enamel
  • Leather
Sterling Silver Signed JAMES AVERY Four Seasons Charm from MiscELENAeous on Etsy

Sterling Silver Signed JAMES AVERY Four Seasons Charm from MiscELENAeous on Etsy

Favorite Collectibles: Vintage James Avery Jewelry

Angel Charm

1970s. Sterling silver charm, angel with hands folded in prayer, ¾ inch. Includes jump ring to wear on a bracelet or as a pendant.

Butterflies and Flowers Bracelet

Vintage. Sterling silver, 6.5 inches long.

Apogean Blue Topaz Tear Drop Ring

Retired. V-shaped ring in sterling silver with pear-shaped blue topaz stone.

Teddy Bear Ring Band

1990s. Sterling silver.

Adorned Hearts Ring

1980s. Sterling silver.

Ichthus & Musical Note Necklace

1960s. Sterling silver necklace (16 ½ inches) with ichthus, an early and secret symbol of Christianity, and a musical note (1 inch long). 

Tips for Buying James Avery Jewelry

Keep your eye out for retired charms, such as:

  • 3D armadillo
  • Phoenix
  • BBQ Grill
  • Laptop
  • Snowflake

Retired charm bracelets

  • Heart Knot bracelet
  • Double Heart Link bracelet

Retired charm necklace

  • Riata leather charm necklace available in multiple colors and multiple lengths
  • Also, find out what pieces are being retired here.
  • The James Avery website provides a very helpful glossary. The more you understand about jewelry in general and James Avery jewelry in particular the better a collector you will be.


Even with all the retired designs, the market is not flooded with vintage James Avery jewelry. It could be that pieces become family heirlooms and get passed from generation to generation. Even so, it is worth the hunt! James Avery pages on Etsy have a generous selection. Ebay has a huge selection of James Avery charms.

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13 thoughts on “Vintage James Avery Jewelry Buying Guide”

    • Hi Mary, I am not sure if James Avery made a tinkerbell design. I would look at the piece and see if it is marked. I did find a James Avery Tinkerbell charm that sold on Rubylane, so it is possible he made it. I haven’t found any other examples, however.

  1. What do you know about a vintage horned toad charm by James Avery? It is stamped on the bottom with the original candelabra with the J and A to each side with the word ster on the bottom. It appears to be in the original off white paper box with the gold logo on the lid. This horned toad has a very pointy tail and looks very different than the newer ones. Price? Age?

    • Hi Terri, I did some looking around and I am seeing that this is a rare James Avery charm and they are selling for $150 – $275 a piece. I am not sure on age.

  2. I have a sterling silver chain that is on a (vintage looking) JA (with candelabra) card. Along with the JA it says 24", sterling silver, soldered links.
    When examining the actual chain, all of that information matches up!
    However, when I looked at the mark on the chain, it is not the *typical JA, candelabra OR AVERY. (I could send a photo, but it basically looks kind of like a M in a circle)
    Any thoughts on the authenticity?

    • Hi Robyn, thanks for your question. I am not sure about that mark, it doesn’t sound like a James Avery mark. Most of the necklaces I have seen are marked, “Avery”

      Maybe what you are seeing is the candelabra inside a circle? Otherwise, I am unsure it is a real James Avery chain.

  3. Thanks for also talking about how birthstones are quite popular as jewelry nowadays. I'd like to look for a jewelry store soon because my best friend will be having her bridal shower soon. I'd like to buy her a present that she would keep for a long time.

  4. I have a grape cluster stamped with AVERY STER on the back. Do you happen to know what years James Avery used this? The store seems to think the charm is counterfeit.

    • Hi Jennifer, I found this information on Worthpoint:

      James Avery jewelry can be identified by its distinctive maker’s mark, a three-branched candelabrum flanked by the initials JA. It was the company’s original logo. The three flames represent the light of the artist, the fire of the craftsman, and the beauty of the world around us. Pieces lacking sufficient surface area to bear the candelabrum stamp are simply marked AVERY along with STER, 925, 585,14K, 750, and/or 18K.

      A few pieces over the years were made in Mexico; if so, they are marked accordingly.

  5. Did JA ever only mark 14K? I have a 14K gold charm "Holy Spirit Dove" It feels like a JA charm but I cannot find the normal hallmark JA uses. Any help appreciated.

    • Hi Monica,
      The James Avery (JA) hallmark is a candelabra design with JA at the bottom and STER underneath. If the piece is 14k gold, it should have the 585 gold stamp, meaning it contains 58.3% gold. Does it have a number stamped on it anywhere?



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