Monday, July 7, 2008

Antique or Born Yesterday?

Red coral amulet bracelet from Tibet, at Traders City

I got a call this morning from a lady in Santa Rosa, CA, who told me about a "fabulous" collection of oriental jewelry she was trying to get evaluated. It had belonged to the aunt of a friend of hers, now in a nursing home, who used to do extensive traveling in the Far East.

"I've taken it around to the local shops, and everyone wants it, but they all want me to name a price," says the caller, who doesn't have a clue what any of it's worth.

Hmmm, the Far East, huh? A red light went on in my head. By far the biggest, most authentic-looking supply of fakes in the world comes from those crafty reproduction factories in the Far East. And I suspect that, with its huge Asian population, the West Coast has more than its share of this beautiful but bogus bling.

Yet I know there are experts out there willing and able to open the can of worms associated with oriental jewelry, and I wanted to help this lady connect with someone reliable. Preferably more than one authority.

I also wanted to give her a quick answer, so I recommended Googling "jewelry appraisals." I also urged her to photograph the collection in good light, so she could supply photos not only to local experts but perhaps someone at a distance who might have a better idea of its value.

I urged her to get written estimates if possible. When she's got some numbers, she can go back to those dealers and hopefully negotiate from a position of strength.

Part of the problem is the distinction between "antique" and "vintage." The word "antique" is bandied about far too often, while the word "vintage" feels safer -- the silver bracelet your mom got for Christmas when she was sixteen would be considered "vintage." Unless I see a piece in a museum, I tend to cringe in disbelief when I hear the word "antique" linked to jewelry.

P.S. I added a couple of vintage costume jewelry blogs to my bloglist at right, so you can delve further into the subject.

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