Vintage jewelry is hot and getting hotter. What does this mean for those who covet unique costume pieces? The good stuff is getting harder to find and prices are rising. Many fashion retail sites are offering limited selections of vintage pieces to complement their contemporary clothing inventory. While vintage jewelry collectors intuitively understand the value in owning both designer and unmarked items, a lot of customers are reluctant to pay what they perceive to be a high price point when retailers like H&M provide an endless array of vintage-inspired, inexpensive alternatives. It's funny how a young, fashion forward shopper thinks nothing of dropping $300+ for a pair of shoes but balks at paying comparable (or less!) for a nice piece of vintage jewelry. If you are on the fence about buying vintage versus Banana Republic, here are a few reasons why you should reconsider:
Ever wonder why the cute bracelet you bought at a department store turned black after six months? It was probably made in China. While Chinese manufacturers are absolutely brilliantly at adeptly and quickly producing an enormous output of jewelry that looks good and wearable, the reality is the quality of the materials utilized in making those items is generally sub par when compared to the superior metal alloys, real glass stones and crystals that typify vintage costume jewelry. The litmus test? Well-made pieces rarely lose their metal tone, tarnish or fade. I think of earrings and bracelets from my grandmother's jewelry box that I have worn since high school. They look as good today as when I first started wearing them. And she wore them while shimmying at jazz clubs all over the country. Can a pair of H&M earrings make it through one long night of NYC clubbing?
Made in America
Call me sentimental, but I appreciate the rare but increasing phenomena of picking up a piece of contemporary jewelry and seeing a "Made in New York", "Made in Los Angeles", or any other American city tag. I cringe when I see "Made in China" and worse yet, deplore when designers feel that putting their production info in French with "Fait en Chine" will delude shoppers or add some cachet. Rhode Island used to be the epicenter of costume jewelry manufacturing, at its height accounting for about 75% of the world’s costume jewelry production. The good news is that the domestic costume jewelry industry is witnessing a second coming -- perhaps not on its former scale -- as contemporary brands such as Alex & Ani produce their inventory in the United States. With shifting economic dynamics, smaller outlets are embracing the trend as it becomes cost-effective to make jewelry here rather than China.
I am guilty as much as the next vintage jewelry lover of wanting bold, iconic pieces from Chanel, Trifari, YSL, and countless others. Let’s face it: Good design transcends time. While anyone can go into Neiman Marcus or a Chanel boutique and purchase the current season’s bracelet, there is something so alluring about walking into a party and having everyone ask you where you got that stunning necklace and knowing that they will have to work really hard to find the same one. Score one for the vintage girls! Just be careful that you are not buying counterfeit designer goods. Know your brands and their attributes and buy from reputable dealers -- like Vintage Nectar ;).
And in direct contradiction of the above point, you don’t need a designer label to be beautiful, unique and well constructed. Many of my favorite pieces have no trademark, but it does not diminish their place in my personal cache of beloved gems. That is the beauty of vintage: mysterious origins often make it more interesting as jewelry becomes a conversation piece.
These are just a few musings on why I prefer jewelry with some age and experience in lieu of today’s hot young trend that will feel dated in a short period – fashion can be so fleeting. Feel free to add your comments.