We all know what they say about gold and diamonds. And – while you should never make investment decisions based on song lyrics, proverbs, or engagement ring adverts – antique or vintage jewellery can be a brilliant place to put your money.
“A specific sort of jewellery has always stood the test of time and been a good investment: the best quality of any period, particularly [pieces with] fine coloured stones and fine diamonds,” says jewellery dealer Anthea Gesua of Anthea AG Antiques.
Good quality older jewellery has some inherent advantages as an investment. First, by choosing this over modern pieces you are not paying a maker or wholesaler markup, or much in the way of marketing costs.
Then consider the fact that the craftsmanship involved in making jewellery in the past was often of a higher standard and cheaper than that of today. This means you are almost certainly getting excellent value for your cash.
With that in mind, here are some things to consider as you embark on building a jewellery collection.
Where to go
Where you look for your jewellery investments is important. This is because prices for pieces differ significantly, affecting your potential future profit.
Start somewhere that gives you an opportunity to talk to trustworthy registered jewellery dealers, which you should do a lot of before investing, says Gesua. She recommends those from the LAPADA and BADA antiques trade associations, both of which hold fairs every year in London.
Once you have a bit more knowledge, you can then try to find bargains at antiques markets and auctions, she suggests.
To be certain of a good return, it is a good idea to go for pieces from a well-known maker, says Gesua. If your budget will stretch to it, look for the likes of Tiffany or Van Cleef & Arpels. Otherwise, try less well-known but still highly respected brands, such as Boucheron.
When investing in a classic jewellery brand, the ideal – though sometimes very costly – approach is to choose something from a period during which it produced some of its most famous pieces. One example is Cartier pieces from the Art Deco era, such as Trinity rings and the Tutti Frutti collection.
If a piece is “signed” (has the name of the brand that produced it engraved on it) this can enhance its value considerably.
Good as gold
All precious and semi-precious metals and gems can be the basis of a valuable piece of jewellery. But the higher the quality of the materials used, the more valuable your piece is likely to be. Trading top tip: buy gold jewellery when gold bullion prices are low as you are likely to get a better deal.
Some types of pieces are more popular – and so make better investments – than others, says Gesua. “Every woman wants a ring on her finger, then it is earrings because they dress the face. You can pop them on and it makes a lot of difference.” Sales of brooches are slowest because they have “never been that fashionable”, she adds.
Eras and design styles tend to move in and out of fashion. Right now, the market is digging the groovy jewellery of the 70s, Gesua says.
Wearing it well
Pick jewellery that appeals to you and that you see as wearable, avoiding anything too delicate, uncomfortable, impractical or dated. “Buy something that you like, [and] someone else is going to feel the same way about it. That is its saleability and where the investment comes,” says Gesua.
Wearing the piece while you own it will not usually reduce value, provided you do so with care. “Always look after jewellery. For instance, rings do not like gardening or washing-up, so take these off when you get home,” advises Gesua.
If a piece has spent time on the hand or head of a famous (or infamous ) person in the past, this can add significantly to its value. “If it is royal, or [has been] owned by a writer or artist, it becomes more interesting,” says Gesua.
Before you part with any money for a piece of jewellery, there are some important checks you should make. These include looking carefully at the piece’s front and back, testing fastenings or hinges, and making sure any gemstones are secured with strong claws and not at risk of falling out.
Get authenticity certificates for pieces with valuable gemstones, both to make sure you are buying what you think you are, and to help you sell the piece in the future. Find out whether gemstones have been heat-treated, as this can affect their value.
Then ask as many extra questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable about your potential purchase. “You need to demand a few things, particularly if the item is expensive,” says Gesua.
Clutching your pearls
How long you need to hold your jewellery to see an investment “depends on the piece”, says Gesua. “You can find a bargain and tomorrow it is worth twice as much”, but it may take years for some pieces to increase enough in value to make a sale worthwhile.
During this time, make sure that you care for your jewellery, and note that some types of jewellery (for example, pearls) may need special attention.
“You can always take [the piece] back to the person you bought it from to make sure everything is in order – for example, to check there are no loose stones,” says Gesua. “If you buy from a reputable dealer they will look after you.”
One of Gesua’s top tips, especially for those of us who do not have tens of thousands of pounds to put into jewellery, is to buy a mint-condition specimen of “something unusual and quirky”. Animal-shaped 1960s dress clips are one example she gives.
“If you can’t walk along the street and find six others [like it], it has an edge and will hold its value,” she says.
Or, she says, “buy a very good pair of diamond earrings”. You “can wear them anywhere you please and will always have pleasure from them – you cannot go wrong”. That should hold whether you decide diamonds are forever, or simply an excellent investment.