As I think you know if you’ve read this blog (or followed my Instagram) for any length of time, I love antique jewelry shows. Love love love love love them. They are like visiting a museum + treasure hunting + shopping + antique jewelry lovers’ club all rolled into one. They’re the best thing.
However, I’ve learned from chatting with some of you that antique jewelry shows can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. Therefore: I’m about to tell you what to expect so that you can go forth and discover the wonder of antique jewelry shows for yourself!
Antique Jewelry Shows 101: an introduction.
Most antique jewelry shows are in places like convention centers or hotels, in a one or two large rooms set up as aisles of little stalls. Each little stall or booth is an individual dealer; these are all unconnected businesses and you should think of them as separate stores.
You may need a ticket for the show, or entrance may be free – it’s a good idea to check the event’s website before you go to make sure. (Also, if you sign up for dealers’ mailing lists, they’ll probably send you free tickets.)
Most antique shows are mixed antiques, meaning you’ll have to hunt for the jewelry dealers among other kinds of antiques (which are always cool to see) but a few shows are ALL jewelry.
What you need to know at an antique jewelry show.
Antique jewelry shows are glorious, but they can be intimidating if you haven’t been before. Here are some tips to make your antique jewelry experience as spectacular and seamless as possible:
It’s okay to touch, but you need to ask.
Dealers come to antique jewelry shows so that the public can see their wares. If something catches your eye, it’s extremely reasonable to ask to take a closer look or to try it on, even if you don’t know if you’ll be able to afford it.
Asking to see a piece of jewelry is not the same as committing to buy a piece of jewelry. If you don’t want something – or if you do, but you can’t afford it or need time to think – just say “thank you” and hand it back to the dealer.
Don’t Instagram without permission.
Many antique dealers will be okay with you photographing a piece of jewelry if you’re thinking about buying it or if you want to show it to a friend, but they may NOT be okay with that picture ending up on the internet.
This is hard for those of us who love IG to understand, but the concerns are valid: some dealers are looking out for collectors who wouldn’t be interested in a buying piece that’s already gone viral, or they’re concerned that having the specifics of their stock made public could attract danger by giving potential thieves too much information.
But the reasoning doesn’t even matter: the dealer owns the jewelry you’re playing with and it’s their call whether or not those pieces become Instafamous.
Have a budget plan.
It is SO easy to get swept up in the excitement of an antique jewelry show and end up spending more than you should have. I know I’ve done it.
It really helps to make a plan before you go in: think about how much money you’re willing to spend, what would be worth spending it on, and whether or not you’d consider breaking that ceiling for a Holy Grail piece (and what would be good enough to deserve such a splurge).
Not all dealers at antique jewelry shows accept credit cards, but most will take a check. If you have cash, though, you might find that some dealers will offer you a discount. Every little bit helps!
It’s completely fine to ask questions about the merchandise, especially if you’re considering buying.
Remember that you can ask “how” as well as “what.” If a dealer tells you the ring you’re looking at was made in England in 1839 and features Burmese rubies, it’s fine to ask them how they know that. Ideally you’ll learn something new about jewelry in general and that piece in particular.
If the dealer can’t answer simple questions about how they came to the information they’re giving you, you might want to think twice about buying from them.
Asking questions is also the best way to learn at antique jewelry shows. Many of my favorite antique jewelry show moments have been when dealers took the time to teach me about the interesting pieces in their collections, just for the joy of sharing knowledge. There’s no better way to learn about jewelry than holding in in your hand while a more experienced jewelry lover teaches you about the specific piece in front of you.
If it looks too good to be true, it is.
Many antique jewelry dealers are spectacularly knowledgeable experts with hearts of gold and unimpeachable moral compasses…but some are not.
It’s also a sad truth that reproduction pieces are rampant in the antique jewelry market right now. There are a lot of dealers out there selling fake new pieces as antiques: whether it’s intentional fraud, laziness, or ignorance, it could still lead to you paying antique jewelry prices for a meaningless copy.Read More