This question has to be up there with our most asked and requested information share; How do you find your jewellery ? Where do you shop for your jewels? Can you tell me where you go to find your treasures?
We are going to dish the secrets and break it down for you, where and how to shop for your jewels and what we look for when we shop.
As self confessed curators, magpies and keepers of history, its safe to say we know a thing or two about shopping for the best of the best. It goes without saying that we consider ourselves to be up there with your top jewellery shopping destinations, but we understand that variety is the spice of the life and we want to share with you some of our favourite haunts for treasure seekers.
We are also going to be giving you a few pointers on how to efficiently and and carefully shop with a keen eye, but also just as importantly how to ensure that you remain safe while you shop.
Online Treasure Hunting
Over the last two decades the online shopping world has become a force to be reckoned with. There are a few online places that we enjoy perusing both professionally as well as personally, and there is no better place than to start with Etsy.
Etsy is an online selling platform that brings together sellers across the world, you can find sellers in every country offering vintage and antique goods which can be purchased instantly. We ourselves also sell on etsy, and find it to be a unique platform that has an pleasing aesthetic and easy to navigate search bar.
A word of caution about using Etsy however, is their fee structure. Seller's may choose to inflate their prices to cover the very high fees charged by Etsy which can mean you are paying slightly over the odds when shopping on this platform.
Etsy also does not guarantee the authenticity of their seller's items, and it is possible to be duped or purchase items that are not as described. We would always recommend carefully reading the descriptions, examining photos and ensuring you are confident in the seller's experience and knowledge before you purchase.
Ebay can be a wonderful place to pick up treasures as bargain prices. The calibre of Ebay's market place has dwindled over the years, and it can take some time to sift through to find the gems, but there are still good purchases to be made. Essential things to look out for when using ebay is descriptions, photos and reviews.
We ourselves occasionally shop on ebay to find pieces to add to our shop, and we are confident using this platform due to our experience testing jewellery. Ebay is the number one place where we return items more than any of places we shop from, and it is down to items not being as described, or sellers trying to pass items off as pieces they aren't.
A good background in jewellery and being able to test your metals and gemstones is essential for shopping on eBay, to avoid getting duped or realising what you purchased as a diamond ring, is actually a white sapphire.
Online auctioneers are another great option for those who prefer to shop online for their jewellery. This world can be a bit harder and more daunting to navigate, so here are a few of our top tips.
The main thing to keep in mind when using an online auctioneer is the VAT premiums and platform fees; a piece that sells at the hammer price of £150, sounds initially like a great price, but many have been caught out by the additional fees which can range from 25%-35% on the hammer price.
A piece of jewellery that might be worth £150 and feel like a well purchased buy, can quickly become overpriced at £195 if the fees are 30%, which is an average premium.
You also should be aware of steep postage fees which can range from the cost of royal mail special delivery right up to £50 just for one item. You can see quite quickly that you could be paying almost £100 more on top of a piece that was originally a fair price.
It takes experience, a bit of risk and getting used to each auctioneer to start picking up some proper wins .
In person Treasure Hunting
We have a couple of favourite places we love visiting in person to hunt for jewellery, and they may be places you are already familiar with .
The Brighton Lanes will always be top on our list of treasure seeker's destinations. Oldy woldy lanes tucked out of sight, not an easy find, and just getting to the lanes feels like a treasure hunt in itself.
You will find here, many jewellery shops offering vintage, antique, designer, new items and all with window displays that will have the jewel addict's head in a spin.
Our only note about the lanes would be the pricing and clever layout of the window displays; You need to be very savvy to shop in this tourist destination as the prices are going to be steep.
When we visit here, we go with the expectation of finding something rare, but not walking away with a bag full of gems. You may also note that brand new vintage 'style' pieces are sitting side by side the real deal, and it can be hard to distinguish which is which when faced with such a layout.
Portobello market has always been a well known destination to discover vintage treasure, and have a day out in London antiques hunting. With a long stretch of road with sellers both outside directly in the street and also within the galleries and emporiums, you are guaranteed to see some exquisite pieces and get a feel for what its really like to treasure hunt.
Antiques centres are also well worth a visit! Dotted around the UK you will probably stumble across these by chance and you should always pop in for a rummage.
Filled with glass cabinets that sport an array of curios alongside jewels, this style of treasure hunting is slightly less uniform that heading directly to a jewellery dealer's stall at a market, but promises the chances to find pieces tucked away that the seller likely has undervalued for their worth.
Pawn shops can be fabulous for finding a deal, they offer a huge range so it requires some sifting through the modern pandora pieces to find anything close to worth looking at, but a worthy pursuit nonetheless.
Solid gold chains can be found here, alongside gold charms and lovely vintage rings. While you may be hard pushed to find antique items, they will always have vintage and secondhand items for offer.
The risk with buying vintage & Antique Jewellery
All deals carry a certain amount of risk, but we are here to help you make an informed choice and limit that risk when shopping for jewellery. The risk is there whether you shop online or in person, although one offers a bit more protection for a purchase gone wrong than the other.
Online When you shop online you need to be aware that not all sellers will be honest about what they are offering. There are sellers out there that will leave out important details regarding the item, whether intentionally or they simply lack the knowledge and experience to spot these things. It is really important that who you are purchasing from is a trusted member of the jewellery community and has good policies in place to protect their buyers. Some encouraging things to look our for is a solid return policy, if a seller states they do not accept returns and that sales are final we would steer clear. Why does this seller not accept returns? Any serious jewellery retailer would comply with the consumer regulations and offer their buyers a safe purchasing experience. Online reviews are also encouraging to see, real words from real people that advocate for this seller and their brand are great to help you when deciding if this seller can be trusted. The odd negative review from a disgruntled customer isn't a reason to run for the hills, but if several unhappy customers are expressing concern or there are no reviews at all, this can be a warning that you may want to look elsewhere to shop.
Clear photography and descriptions help you make a decision on your purchase, if a seller lacks these basic things we would recommend asking for additional images, videos, or leaving the purchase all together. We include condition reports and full specifications on all our listings as standard, something a lot of other dealers also offer which is great to see when shopping online.
Buying in person is a completely different experience to shopping online, and requires a certain amount of confidence and ability to spot when you are being lied to. We all have that common image that springs to mind when you say the word wheeler dealer; A dodgy dealer flogging items to the unaware general public that are unfortunately, about to get stung !
The first thing to note is you have much less protection when shopping at an antiques market compared to online or a physical retail shop.
You could pick up an item, get home and discover it is not as described - It can be tricky finding the same dealer again if the market isn't a monthly regular occurring event. By shopping online you have a clear trail from start to finish of who you purchased from, the cost and even paypal or credit card protection.
You will encounter dealers that with all the confidence in the world, tell you a ring is solid 18ct gold and they can tell by the colour, only to grab a closer look with a jewellers loupe and you discover a clear stamp inside for 9ct gold.
A final thing to note with in person shopping is the potential for theft and pick pocketing.
Antiques markets are a prime environment for theft to occur, and we hear about it every time we shop. You also need to be aware of your surroundings and make sure nobody is following you, or keeping an eye on what you are purchasing
It does happen, where dealers are followed home after markets and become a victim of theft or mugging. Going with a friend is ideal, and being discreet with what you are picking up.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to shopping for jewels! It can be such a fun day out to shop in person but definitely comes with some risks, what are your thoughts - Do you prefer to shop in person for your jewels or online? Let us know in the comment section.