If you have read a single one of my blog posts there are some key things that you will know about me, mainly that ageing is my nemesis. I do not want to grow old gracefully and embrace the ageing process. I have lied about my age for years, to the point that I sometimes surprise myself when I have to complete my date of birth on an official document. It is also worth me sharing a little tip here too, when you are pulled over the by the police and you tell them your ‘vanity age’ (false date of birth) they radio in your license and when their ‘official’ information does match what you have said, they then breathalyse you, outside of work, at 5pm. However, there is a caveat to my rule regarding ageing and that fashionistas, is jewellery.
As a child many Saturday afternoons were spent in the second-hand jewellery sections of local jewellers or in John Lewis, Newcastle, nose pressed up against the glass looking at the range of gold, silver and big sparkly stones. This was a better- alternative to Sunday afternoons, which almost always involved a trip to the garden centre and a show home. I always remember my Mum having different pieces that she had inherited, many of them low-value monetarily, but high in sentiment and stories. Out of her vintage jewellery, the most memorable purchase is what I consider to be the most amazing piece, a rose gold curb link heavy chain with a rose gold t-bar with a beautiful fob. I regularly suggest that she would get so much more pleasure out of seeing me wear it now rather than have it as my inheritance, she’s not buying it, but God loves a trier.
There are so many advantages to buying a second-hand piece, the main reasons for most people is that you get more for your money, a new piece of jewellery will see a price depreciation of 20-40%, whereas with second-hand you are buying what is the genuine price and you are in a position that you can spend a little more for a much higher-grade of stone or weight of metal. There’s also the choice, styles of jewellery follow trends and have a limited range in terms of a ‘collection’ just like clothes, second-hand is such an eclectic mix of styles and there is constantly new pieces coming into circulation. Also, for those environmentally aware amongst us, you are doing your bit for the environment as buying second-hand reduces the demand for new, this means that there is less need and pressure to mine new materials and stones. Champion.
All of the above is wonderful, but none of those reasons come close to why I love to buy second-hand. I love the thought that I am wearing a piece of history. I like to look at the piece and wonder what stories it could tell about the life that it led before it got to be on the gilded velvet display pouch behind a pane of glass. Especially the really old pieces, that may have had not one but two or three owners in its lifetime. A bracelet may have attended the most glamorous parties, travelled the world, been an observer to war or have been passed on through a family, or be a token of love. I mean there is every chance of course that it was removed from a dead body or stolen, but let's try to look at the romantic side of it for now.
See below for my favourite haunts both near and far, in these stores I have found some of the most beautiful pieces, some of them I have been fortunate enough to own but many I have just lusted after from afar. Always remember to ensure that you have done your research so a piece is authenticated as much as it can be, for example, precious metals should be hallmarked and any reputable dealer will be more than happy to share this information with you.
Newcastle Jewellery Co, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.
This has been a real staple in Newcastle in terms of vintage jewellery. A pawnbroker that buys and sells jewellery as well as some precious metal household items and has also diversified into piercing upstairs. As famous for its extensive window display as the treasure trove inside the store you’re best wrapping up warm if you really want to have a good look and cannot wait for summer! The staff are really knowledgeable and from what I have seen, discreet should you be coming in to sell an item. Try and avoid on a Saturday afternoon, you need to spend a lot of time in here and then you still won’t actually see everything. Rings are grouped by size and metal and bracelets and necklaces the same. If alterations can take place then they are likely to be done in-store by the special jewellery man that sits in the glass box (if you know it you will have seen him). I love it here, I could spend hours admiring and getting lost in the history of the pieces, like an art curator enjoys the Louvre, but with a lot more shiny things and the thrill of additional debt!
John Lewis - Newcastle and Manchester
An unlikely contender, but if you find the size and scale of somewhere like Newcastle Jewellers a little overwhelming, then John Lewis is a really good starting point. The turnover of pieces is a lot slower but it does give you a lot more ‘think time’. Items are specially selected by John Lewis and there is a broad range of choice although not too much choice, if that makes sense. I have a beautiful white gold diamond ring from here, 1920’s that John Lewis also resized for me, the customer care is personal and what you would expect from your local John Lewis store. I personally find the Newcastle Eldon Square and Trafford Centre counters (both part of the Intu group) my favourites.
Sunny Dunes Antique Mall, Palm Springs, California
Not an easy one to pop into unless you are already in the area, if you are in Palm Springs then you are crazy not to go here. The jewellery here is interspersed among every possible thing that you could imagine, from sideboards, glassware to comics. This place is fantastic for costume jewellery rather than precious metals. I got a gentleman’s lion ring from here way before Gucci was sporting them and I love it! Also a fantastic place for brooches, some of the insect and animal styles are amongst the best I have seen.
Platt boutique jewellery, Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, California (previously West Hollywood)
This is somewhere I have never had the chance to actually purchase anything from as it is bloody expensive but it is like walking into 1940’s Hollywood. The cocktail rings themselves are so exquisite and intricate one can live in hope. If you are in that area of town you must go and look just to see the pieces themselves.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to buy a huge piece of second-hand vintage, that is fantastic, however, if it is from Platt, don’t let me know, I will not be happy for you, I will be foaming and so jealous that we could never be friends…. Unless you tell me I look young, then let’s face it you can say whatever the hell you want to me if youth precedes the sentence and I will come running.