Collecting Vintage & Antique Silver Jewelry – Life Lessons Learned
It would require several lifetimes to complete a truly representative collection of Vintage Silver Jewelry – I know because after 25 years of avid collecting, I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available in the marketplace. I hope that my early experience in this hobby (read obsession) will be of some benefit to those just starting out.
My Feeding Frenzy
Initially, I had no focus. If it was silver and it was vintage – I bought it. Within a year or two I had amassed a sizeable collection of brooches, rings, necklaces, chatelaines, bracelets of every type and enough earrings to decorate the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. But – the collection was severely lacking. Common brands like Beau and CarlArt were over represented. I had too many thoughtless, gaudy leaf brooches and an unjust supply of once vermeil, but now “spotty” rings. The euphoria of “buying” had worn off – It was a real crisis and the diagnosis was grim.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t buy everything!
My Deco Delusion
The only solution was to liquidate the bulk of the collection and get some focus. I re-engaged by visiting my favorite antique stores and limiting my purchases to one essential piece a month. There was an early inclination to target Deco pieces – but I know now that was just because it seemed like the “sophisticated” answer to my earlier mistakes. I bought a classic 800 silver and black French paste bracelet, a marcasite studded Raven (which turned out to be a reproduction) and a pair of matching geometric bangles. I wasn’t happy.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t focus on eras, cultures or brands just because they sound cool. Don’t worry about whether other people will be impressed by your taste.
I get in touch with my inner Taxco
I kept the Deco pieces – as a reminder to never buy anything again that I wouldn’t wear if I was just spending the day at home and to instead focus on the pieces that made me happy. The only piece from my early collecting days that I wore regularly was a stark green quartz and 980 silver Taxco brooch. It incorporated a mix of modernistic lines and more naturalistic swirls in striking to contrast to each other. I loved this piece (I left in an airport bathroom along with my jacket). How stupid I was not to recognize that this was MY STYLE! – and should be the focus of the collection. It was easy to find like minded folks at the growing number of flea markets and swap meets in here in the North East. I got to know quality dealers and learned to identify periods, styles and even individual designers without having to remove a piece from a display case. My collection was smaller – and I was happier for it.
LESSON LEARNED: Figure out what you honestly like and stick with that to start. Find other people who share your passion and try to learn as much as you can from them.
The Dawn of the Information Age (at least for me!)
Then came the growth of online shopping ….. suddenly every imaginable piece was at my fingertips. I was in grave danger of again entering a remorseless feeding frenzy – but I though back on my CarlArt days and focused on disciplined buying. I learned that some of my prized possessions were not quite as rare as I’d thought and that others were far more valuable than I believed. Most importantly – I learned more than I ever could have even if I travelled to every flea market and antique store in the country. By prudently shopping on eBay and Etsy, I was able to put together a museum worthy collection. I am hoping to share some photos with all of you in the next time I contribute to the Hunter Ridge blog.
LESSON LEARNED: The internet is evil! (Just kidding). Stay focused on quality even when the market and / or your access to it changes.
Thanks – and best of luck in your collecting endeavors.