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 Jewelry, and $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.
Is James Avery Jewelry Good Quality?
Yes. All James Avery jewelry is produced with superior techniques in jewelry making including casting, cutting, finishing, and polishing.
- The candelabra from James’s first sign with “J” and “A” incorporated into the design, the copyright symbol and either “925 585” or “STER.”
- “AVERY STER”
- “James Avery”
Is James Avery Jewelry Marked?
Yes. All James Avery jewelry pieces are marked with hallmarks indicating the maker and the metal it was created with.
How to Tell if James Avery Jewelry is Real
Check for the hallmarks on James Avery jewelry. Of course, always buy from a reputable dealer.
- Sterling silver
- Birthstones (semi-precious or lab-created)
- Blue topaz
- Mother of pearl
- Green agate
- Art glass
What is James Avery Jewelry Made of?
James Avery charms are mainly crafted in sterling silver, but you will also find some in 14-karat gold, or a mix of the two metals. Some designs also add copper or bronze. Semi-precious gems and pearls are also incorporated into the jewelry. Some pieces even include tiny diamonds. Others work incorporates glass and enamel.
What does 925 Mean on James Avery Jewelry?
The mark 925 indicates that a piece of jewelry is made with sterling silver. Crafted with 92.5% pure silver and a small percentage of another material, sterling silver is the standard for jewelry making. If jewelry were made from 100 percent silver, it would be too soft to work with and bend upon wearing. Pure silver is mixed with an alloy using copper or zinc for added strength and durability. It’s important to note that anything made with less than 92.5 % pure silver is not considered sterling silver in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Favorite Collectibles: Vintage James Avery Jewelry
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.
1990s. Sterling silver.
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
- BBQ Grill
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.
Most Expensive James Avery Charms
The most expensive charms are those of animals. These are vintage, retired pieces such as the boxer puppy dog in sterling silver that sells for more than $700 on Etsy or eBay. Gold animal charms fetch an even better price. The vintage kangaroo charm with joey, made from 14-karat gold, is priced at over 1200 dollars.
List of Retired James Avery Charms
James Avery has produced an extensive list of charms for holidays, celebrations, and religious symbols. Look for charms representing anniversary or birthday years and those with birthstones. There are numerous heart symbols and crosses in the designs, as well as motifs that represent the state of Texas. Numerous miscellaneous pieces were also crafted such as the highly collectible animal charms. Wear these charms on chain bracelets, necklaces, and even rings.
- State of Texas charm in sterling silver
- State of Georgia with cut-out peach charm in sterling silver
- Dove descending downward charm in sterling silver
- Easter egg charm in sterling silver and enamel
- Cowboy boot with star and spur in sterling silver
- Cross and candle circle charm in 14-karat gold
- Grand Piano charm in sterling silver
- Floating angel charm in 14-karat gold
- Praying angel charm in sterling silver
- Heart with the words “I Love You” in sterling silver
- Hair dryer charm in sterling silver
- Tennis racket charm with the word LOVE in sterling silver
- Roadrunner bird charm in 14-karat gold
- Ballet dancer charm in sterling silver
- Flower of Hope charm in sterling silver
- Flowerpot with tulip charm in sterling silver
- Turkey charm in sterling silver
- Poinsettia flower charm in sterling silver
- Snowflake Charm in sterling silver
- Snowman charm with hat and scarf in sterling silver
- Sterling silver heart charm with hanging pink glass bead
- St. Francis Loves the Animals charm in sterling silver
- Acorn charm in sterling silver and copper
- Yoga exercise charm in sterling silver
- Boxer puppy dog charm in sterling silver
- Child’s baptism charm in sterling silver
- High heeled closed toe shoe charm in sterling silver
- Balloon bouquet charm in sterling silver
- Wisdom, Serenity, and Courage charm in sterling silver
- Crucifix cross in sterling silver
- Religious cross with ornate detailing in 14-karat gold
- Kitten charm in sterling silver
- Santa’s holiday sleigh charm in sterling silver
- Holly Jolly Christmas sterling silver and glass bead charm
- Baby hand sterling silver charm
- Four-leaf clover charm in sterling silver
- Graduation cap charm in sterling silver
- Five-point star charm in sterling silver
- Faith charm in sterling silver
- Sparkle Blue Hope Anchor in glass and sterling silver
- Acoustic guitar charm in sterling silver
- Verona lock heart charm in bronze and sterling silver
- 60th anniversary tree charm in sterling silver
- Love is Timeless heart-clock charm in sterling silver
- Teddy bear charm in sterling silver
- Horned toad charm in sterling silver
- Violin charm in sterling silver
- Love seven hearts flower pendant in silver
- Twin giraffe charm in sterling silver
List of Retired James Avery Rings
- Five-petal flower ring in sterling silver
- Pansy ring in sterling silver with citrine gemstone center
- Resting cat ring in sterling silver
- Sleeping cat ring in sterling silver
- Tiny pearl with slim textured band ring
- Radiant cross ring in 14-karat gold
- Scroll dome open work ring in sterling silver
- Birds of a Feather ring in sterling silver
- Adriana ring in sterling silver with a blue topaz
- True Love Waits chastity purity band in sterling silver
- Sand dollar dangle charm ring in 14-karat gold
- Believe ring in sterling silver
- Angels holding hands and flying ring in sterling silver
- Fleur de Lys ring in sterling silver
- Des Flores ring in turquoise and silver
- Friends Family Faith ring in sterling silver
- Basket weave ring in sterling silver
- Lover’s knot band in sterling silver
- Christian Ichthus ring in sterling silver
- St. Teresa cross ring in sterling silver
- Hugs and kisses ring in sterling silver
- Buckle ring with leaf and flower pattern in sterling silver
- Honeybee ring in sterling silver
- Spanish swirl ring in sterling silver
- Twisted heart ring in sterling silver
- Children holding hands and dog ring in sterling silver
- Ring with three daisies in sterling silver
- Cut out cross on a plain band in sterling silver
- Bowtie ring in sterling silver
- Song of Solomon band ring
- True heart ring in silver with a golden heart
- Love ring with a silver ring and engraved central heart
- Patted cross ring in sterling silver and 14-karat gold
How much is James Avery Jewelry Worth?
James Avery vintage jewelry pieces are collector’s items today and therefore fetch a good price. Silver charms are available through resale at $120 or more. Rarer charms in silver are priced over $700. Rare 14- karat gold charms are priced over $1000. Silver charm bracelets are sold for over $1000 each depending on the number and rarity of charms it contains. Retired pieces are often worth more than those available in James Avery stores at retail prices.
Why is James Avery Gold so Expensive?
Collectors of James Avery jewelry will find more pieces crafted in silver than gold. As with all James Avery jewelry each piece is meticulously crafted. Gold is a more expensive precious metal than silver. This fact combined with the rarity of James Avery gold works makes these pieces more expensive.
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.
23 thoughts on “Vintage James Avery Jewelry Buying Guide”
Do you know where I could find the Martin Luther wedding ring?
Hi Heather, I am sorry I don’t! I looked on Etsy but they didn’t have any wedding bands, but they did have some other martin Luther rings.
Do You know what James Avery made a tinker bell? Are there more than one design?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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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I want to sell my retired James Avery charms. WhTs the best way?
We recommend you take pictures of the charms clearly showing any hallmarks, signatures etc, with any authenticating paperwork you have. Of course, we recommend Etsy as a great sales platform, but there is also a Facebook community called James Avery Connoisseurs. You may be able to connect with other James Avery fans and find buyers for your charms there.
Nice site! Thank you
Have you seen the hallmark Avery Sterling ?
I found Avery Ster on your hallmark list but hesitant to call my piece Avery since the word Sterling is written out rather than abbreviated Ster as you listed.
It does appear to be Sterling over copper like other Avery pieces.
We have not seen the written out Avery Sterling hallmark. As you may know, the company was founded in 1954 in Texas, and the hallmark was a candelabra with the letter JA and STER underneath. That is not to say that there may have been some pieces made with your hallmark. To verify authenticity, we recommend you contact one of the following websites:
whatsitworthartappraisals.com, valuemystuff.com. or drloriv.com.
Best of luck!
Hi! Would you happen to have any info on a brass Indian chief key ring? I haven’t been able to find any info at all on it.
I’ve looked online and seen many different kinds of Indian chief keyrings. Some of them are biker types, others are more native Indian related. I think the best way to find out about yours is to either send me a picture or contact one of the following websites who may be able to help you further.
Best of luck!
hi there I would like to know more information about the Wilford Hall medical center charm. I’m interested in finding the date it was made, and it’s value.
Can you send me a picture of it? James Avery made a number of medical and nurses’ charms, so I’d need to see which one you have.