Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vintage Jewelry

If you’d rather rummage through boxes at a thrift store than buy new, there are ways to make sure your piece won’t fall apart in a week. Eva Weiss, co-owner of vintage boutique Beauty Crisis, explains.

Heft says a lot. Generally, the older the piece, the heavier it will be. Twenties-era pieces were made of more substantial “pot metals” like brass and steel. After World War II, designers started to use aluminum and plastics.

Look for a name on the back of the settings. Signed pieces from well-known designers like Miriam Haskell, Hattie Carnegie, and Sarah Coventry will be better assembled than no-names. Check the back of the clasps or the balls of the rhinestones.

Learn your clasps. Many older pieces used simple hooklike C-clasps, but those came undone easily and fell out of use. Around the sixties, clasps started to get sturdier, more like the lobster-claw forms common today.

Grime should not be a deterrent. Take it to a watch cleaner—typically cheaper than jewelry specialists. You can also clean it at home with light steel wool. Buff off any surface tarnish (gently; these metals are often patinaed), or swab it with a Q-tip moistened with rubbing alcohol.

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