Trend Watch: Honoring the Sentiment: Vintage & Antique Jewelry

This past Friday, January 23, 2009, on The View on ABC-TV, to the delight of the viewing audience, Barbara Walters talked a bit about her jewelry. She is well-known for wearing some extraordinary pieces, and Friday’s choices did not disappoint.


The subject of her jewelry came up because earlier in the week, she had lost the top of an antique ring from the 1800’s, a favorite ring that she professed to wearing all the time. When she got home one day, she found she was inexplicably wearing a flat, ugly ring, and it was only when she returned to the television studio and found the dazzling top of the ring sitting on the edge of a dressing table that she realized her ring had come apart and some thoughtful individual had set the ring top on the table rather than pocketing it. This goes into the category of “people are good,” noted Walters.


The ring top itself, in the close-up flashed on the screen, looked like a dazzling diamond-encrusted round floral design. While Walters did not discuss the composition of the ring, she noted that the top needed to be glued back on.


She then commented on the jewelry she was wearing – an exquisite, huge rectangular brooch with center floral motif and a chunky stone-encrusted cuff. She identified these pieces as dating to the 1940’s and having belonged to her mother. These pieces, and many of these pieces she loves to wear, she said, are mid-Century costume jewelry, some of which belonged to her mother and grandmother. 


[An undated publicity shot of Barbara Walters wearing an interesting brooch and earrings]

In this economy, mixing high and low-priced items in fashion is practically de rigueur, and it shouldn’t be surprising to see this relative mix of real and costume jewelry.


If you’re a jeweler, you can grumble, or you can revel in this trend.


Why not encourage your customers to go back through their family jewelry, real and costume, and give some care to pieces that have been languishing in boxes and drawers because they need a minor repair or a simple cleaning. Have a special vintage jewelry cleaning & repairs event. Perhaps include a contest, giving your customers a chance to share their special stories that relate to pieces in their collections. Encourage them to locate photos of their mothers, grandmothers and other ancestors wearing sentimental favorites of jewelry.


Help your customers find earrings or other pieces of jewelry from your inventory to wear along with their vintage favorites, resulting in suites of pieces that work together in color and style and immediately make the vintage pieces more wearable. Of course, showcase the antique jewelry you have in your inventory.


Perhaps offer an opportunity for your more knowledgeable staff members to play jewelry detective with pieces and provide insights as to the estimated date the pieces were created, identifying makers’ marks, dating pieces by patent numbers. Offer a special on appraisals.


And when a piece is unsalvageable, utilize your jewelry bench skills to take something broken and incorporate it into something that once again can be worn and cherished. Combining recycling with sentimentality is a beautiful way to provide a valuable service to your customers and to tap into two of the most significant trends of our times.

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