I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but with general life getting in the way ive only recently had time to sit down and put my thoughts together on a little guide on what I consider the best places and types of joints you want to be hitting up to find the rarest jewels. You guys ask me allll the time where I find things so this is my answer to you all.
First things first, it seems obvious but one of the best places I go looking for vintage stock is second hand jewelry shops. You will find them dotted all over, sometimes in the form of a cash converters or a pawn shop, but also quaint little family run jewellers that sell a mix of secondhand and a few new bits on occasion. If you can't see any vintage charms I would go ahead and ask. There is a jeweler near me that does not display the secondhand silver charms but he has a whole tray of them in the back! I now have a few different shops I visit semi regularly to see what goodies they might have available and I've built up good enough friendships with some that they do put bits aside for me knowing I'll be coming in the week to make a purchase.
A new favourite of mine to visit for some rare gems is portobello road market in London. If your already in that sort of area it's easy enough for you to pop in but if not and you ever find yourself London bound, I highly recommend checking out the vintage arcades. Honestly, for a jewel fiend like me I really struggle to play it cool here because there is fantastic jewellery around from all eras. Be careful here, sometimes the dealers will try to over charge you if they spot an easy sale. Classic example is a lady telling me a charm was £85 and when I asked to see the ticket it transpired it was £65. I never pay the price on the ticket or the price given, but be respectful as well. A low offer of 50 for a rare piece priced at 100 is never going to go down well and you might find the dealer quickly shuts off and is no longer interested. If you see something you like and its out of budget, I like to get chatting to the person about the piece and the history and I explain that £100 is just slightly too much for me and would they consider £75? You will often find a bit of chat and honesty will get them happily meeting you in the middle .
Carboot sales cannot be overlooked for the odd gem that pops up here and there. You are unlikely to be scoring gold Victorian jewellery here but I have found many charms, key fobs and old engraved coins . There is one car boot sale not too far from me in Hertfordshire that has a few regular antiques dealers. There is always a table with a glass cased cabinet filled with a few curiosities. You won't find something every time mind you, but for the occasions you do it's definitely worth popping along every now and again.
I’ll be doing a separate post on this but auction houses are a great way to add to your vintage jewellery collection . For me it's ideal- often bulk buys come up and as vintage buyer I can afford to purchase and bid on these large lots. I do keep an eye on the smaller singular lots too because every now and again rare items or chunky loaded charm bracelets pop up and nobody bids ! Imagine if you are that one person bidding, you walk away with a set of victorian 9ct gold rings for as little as £50, or perhaps a loaded silver charm bracelet for a tenner . It's also really really fun too and pretty thrilling.
I've said it before but eBay can be a fab place to find pieces on occasion. I generally have a look once a week and see if anything worth buying has popped up, as a vintage seller it doesn't always work out beneficial for me as the items are already priced at the market value, but for other people looking to add to their collection if your willing to check every now and again and have a go at bidding it can be worth a shot. Be careful again here though, the problem with buying through eBay is the descriptions can be quite obscure sometimes and something might turn out to not in fact be made of the material you were led to believe it was. This can happen everywhere and the key is having a trusted jeweler you can take your items to for checking .
Lastly I spend a lot of time treasure hunting at antique and vintage emporiums . For any folks in Hertfordshire or Essex you MUST check out the Sawbridgeworth antiques centres. Sawbridgeworth is a bit of a hot spot for antiques and there is a place called the Herts and Essex antiques centre which is just smashing to look around. Its set over four floors and most stuff is behind glass cabinets - deffo worth a look . Right next to this is the acorn antiques centre which they also run auctions from just around the corner. I love this one it's a bit smaller but filled with more unusual jewellery pieces so its a fave for me.
You might recall the fabulous Victorian mourning locket i had up for grabs on Instagram ( gosh that sold quick!) and a couple of brooches with it . I found that one off piece in Cromwell's antiques centre. A cautionary word here, upon entering it feels like your in a really high end fancy jewellers and unfortunately the prices also reflect this. I found most stuff to be hugely overpriced however they really have a fabulous collection. For someone searching for a present or engagement ring this is 100% the place for it. For jewellery collectors and treasure hunters you will need to be popping in regularly to find the odd steal and any rarities that pop up . It's mostly rings in here, with the back cabinets filled with some charm bracelets brooches and lockets . I still think the only reason I managed to get the pieces I did was because they were tucked away and the lady didn't really realise what it was she was selling me . But I recognised the pieces for what they were immediately as I am sure you all would too.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the sorts of places I frequent to find your jewels, I would love to hear from you and where you find some of your vintage treasure. My key takeaway from this would be become a regular, because it's the regulars that spot the real jewels.