I get asked fairly frequently where I get my vintage costume jewelry. Below is a list of the different sources I use to obtain jewelry. I’ve listed the sources in descending order based on my personal success in finding quality jewelry there.
1. My Contacts — over the years I have cultivated different people who I’ve met while conducting business. These people know that I am always looking to purchase jewelry. I contact these people every couple of months to see if they anything to sell me. Most often, these “pickers” are my best and most reliable source for jewelry. These pickers are often out in the market doing the same thing I’m doing…working their own contacts, attending sales and auctions and garage sales.
2. Auctions — I read the auction section of my local classifieds each week and also check a website named www.AuctionZip.com. Both of these sources advertise local auctions in my area each week. I only attend auctions which advertise a decent amount and quality of jewelry. I like www.Auctionzip.com because sometimes photos are posted that allow me to preview the auction.
3. Local Jewelers — Sometimes local jewelers (I’m talking about independently owned jewelry stores, not mall stores or chains) come across vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. I’ve fostered relationships with a few local jewelers who do not consider me to be competition and are happy to sell me costume jewelry in bulk. I try to reciprocate by telling everyone I know how wonderful these jewelers are. I respect these guys and have confidence in their honesty and am happy to refer potential business their way.
4. Pawn Shops — I’ve visited local pawn shops and have found very good deals in the past. Again, pawn shops sometimes end up with vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. The only way to find which particular shops do deal in this type jewelry is to go in and ask.
5. Scrap dealers (AKA Jewelers and Coin Dealers) — Some jeweler and coin dealers will be happy to let you pick through the scrap jewelry that they originally intended to sell at scrap value. Lots of jewelry is scrapped when there is absolutely nothing wrong with it other than scrap value has, at times, exceeded the value of the jewelry itself (but jewelers don’t know costume jewelery and will scrap a real treasure). Don’t be embarrassed to go into a store and ask if they are willing to sell you scrap jewelry. The worst thing that they can say is “no”.
6. Antique Stores/ Antique Malls — I do walk through antique stores in the hopes of finding unidentified or underpriced “treasures”. This technique takes a lot of patience since it’s typical that once something is being merchandised in a store that there’s not too much profit margin there for me. But if I have time to kill and really need jewelry, I will visit stores in my area. I have found some wonderful things over the years.
7. Craigslist — I look at Craigslist every day and most of the jewelry there is not what I’m looking for. Every once in a while, though, I’ve been successful in contacting a seller and making a good deal.
8. Goodwill — Not usually a good place in my experience but I still visit periodically. Usually low end items are there.
9. Garage Sales — I don’t attend too many because I’m not interested in getting up at the crack of dawn and fighting other people for jewelry. I haven’t found too much good jewelry at garage sales. But when I do attend a garage sale, I ask the seller if they have any additional jewelry. Surprisingly, the answer is sometimes “yes” and then they bring out the jewelry still in the house.
10. Estate Sales — I went through a spell where I attended these for a while. However, estate sales often require you to get there and line up to get a number hours before the sale starts — only to get into the house and see that there’s nothing there. It can be a crap shoot but is an option.
11. Online auction sites — there are sites that conduct auctions in real time online. I’ve had some excellent but spotty results at these auctions. Read the terms of the auctions closely so that you are aware of shipping costs and additional charges.