Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“What Do You Wish You’d Known When You First Started Selling Vintage Jewelry?”

Guest Writer:  
Gayla Esch owner of The Jewel Seeker:

Every once in a while I will say, "Gee, I sure wished I would have known that when I first started selling vintage jewelry."  I was lucky, because I collected vintage jewelry for several years, and had a favorite dealer in Oregon that would introduce names of designers from years gone by.  After a few years, I began to recognize those names as I was on my week-end hunts at estate and garage sales for jewelry I wanted to add to my personal collection.  When I took them to the dealer, she said, "why don't you sell them."  So, I started selling on eBay and another online selling venue.   

One of the things that I wished that I would have known before I started selling is that there are online discussion groups about collecting  vintage jewelry.  I had sold jewelry online for several years before I ran into a group called "The Jewelry Ring" on Yahoo.  It's a group of collectors, sellers and writers of jewelry collector books that discuss vintage jewelry, how to build a nice collection and how to be a credible seller.  I have included a link to their sites at the bottom of this article.

I asked several members of the Vintage Jewelry Sellers on Etsy Team (VJSE Team) what they wished they had known when they first started selling vintage jewelry.  Here are their responses:


Judi Bollan owner of                                                                                                       VintageTreasures4U:
I wish I had been more observant when choosing jewelry to purchase for resale. In the early days I would look at one earring instead of both of them...not realizing the other one could have a different clipback that had been replaced, missing rhinestones etc..made a few bad buys due to not checking both earrings..But when you are new at the game there are many things you have to learn by personal experience.  You have to check the rhinestones out through your loupe to make sure they are not starting to darken, look for missing prongs and sometimes the safety catch is broken.  You might think it is a simple C catch but upon closer examination you see the little part is missing that locks it.

I wish I had not purchased so many goldtone and silvertone pins just because they were signed, and simple pieces that are very hard to resell.  Now I look each and every piece over,  (front, side and back).  I look for cracks or chips in the plating and make sure the rhinestones are all intact with no chips.  I also make sure all the strands of a necklace are present.  I say this because one time I found a beautiful Miriam Haskell baroque pearl necklace...I was so excited about finding a signed Haskell that I failed to notice one entire strand of pearls was missing.  I was so disappointed, but it taught me a lesson.  I am more selective now in how I spend my money; and, am not afraid to ask for a dealer discount.  Generally you get at least 10% off and sometimes more...

Amy Baker owner of  

What I wished I had known when I first started selling vintage jewelry was that there were valuable resource books on vintage jewelry out there., Costume Jewelry 101 by Julia Carroll, unfortunately, did not come out till 2004.   I started on E-bay in 1999,  pretty clueless... I learned by watching what others were selling which was not the best way.  If I had realized  books were available I would have taken the time to soak up as much information as I could before selling.  If I would have gone to shows and asked questions, then maybe I would  not have made the mistakes I made.  

Leslie Weinstock owns
I wish I would have know how much hard work it would take to run an online business!!!! LOL!

Seriously though, I think one of the hardest lessons has been enduring the ebbs and flows of sales. When starting out I was a bit starry eyed and a little naive as to how much competition there is in this business. Now with the onset of so many television shows illustrating the underbelly of the antique business...EVERYONE seems to be jumping on the bandwagon!

I have learned there are many factors that go into getting sales, not just a great piece at a great price, but active marketing!! You cant expect to list a piece of jewelry in an online shop and see it get great attention or bet yet sold if you are not busting your hump making sure that piece of jewelry is SEEN. 

Another key thing I have learned is to brand yourself. It is important to be a consistent "brand" so to speak. For instance I use the same logo for etsy, ruby plaza, twitter, facebook, pinterest, etc. It builds recognition and potentially repeat customers.

Andie Haynes owner of 

I wish I would have known about taking better (more interesting) photographs. Now I stagger the background colors (black, white, red, blue sky) and take my photos at odd angles/close ups, etc. I also wish I would have known about renewing my items on a regular basis so they are "seen" as Leslie points out.

 Dianne Lavenburg owns 
Vintage Jewelry Meadows:

I wish I would have spent more time reviewing and understanding the Etsy marketplace.  I sort of plunged into it head first without any research on what type of marketplace Etsy really was and who the customers were.  I have paid a lot more attention to this in the past year.  I think diversifying your shop is very important...different styles...different price ranges, etc.  

No matter my venture in life, I have almost always set goals for myself, but I didn't do it with Etsy.  I knew I didn't want it to be a full time venture, but I just listed some stuff and sat back and "let it happen."  That was probably my biggest mistake.  I have goals now, modest though they may be because this is still not a full time venture for me, but at least I know what I want out of Etsy and steps to get there.  I believe belonging to a good team is literally indispensable when selling on Etsy, and I sure am glad I hooked up with this one.

Photos.  You must know your camera and I didn't.  I finally broke down and read my manual..lol...and what a difference in quality of  pictures.  Also, unlike some other on-line communities, Etsy is very artsy and I think it helps to throw in some props and items of interest once in a while without obscuring your piece of jewelry.  Side shots, half shots, on and on - it all adds to the interest.  The better my pictures, the better the sales.  Never fails.

Bill Guest owns
I wish I knew which designer names were the best names to look for, and how important it is to have near mint items. Jewelry is not like any other antiques, customers want all stones in place, and as perfect as possible, I bought alot of stinkers when I first started.

Charlene Gould owner of 

I wished I knew more of the designers and their styles... Also that some costume jewelry was as expensive as gold... Overall I wished I knew more about the jewelry and the stories behind them... 

What the heck I have an inquisitive mind and wanted to know everything...lol... That comes from being a History buff.

Tiffani Ortiz owns 
Fifi's Frou Frou:

A few years ago I was at an antique shop for the first time in probably 15 years.  There was one seller who had probably 20 different displays full of jewelry and over half of it was priced way lower than any normal shopper would pay and needless to say I saw dollar signs!  I purchased about 20 pairs of rhinestone earrings that first day and was in business online within a week.  I had my first sale within hours of my first listing.  Wow!  This is going to be a cinch!  Then of course I realized that I needed more so I convinced my hubby to spend a few hundred on some estate lots and wallah I had stock.  I have to say,  vintage jewelry is so fabulous that it almost sells itself.  THAT IS, as long as the right people are seeing what you have to offer.  I really wished I had known in the beginning about all the work that marketing takes!  It's not just about finding and knowing about vintage jewelry,  it's not all about pretty sparkly things,  it's not enough to have the perfect collection of items to sell.  If the ones looking for it don't know you exist,  all you have is a pile of sparkly pretties.       

Nothing is ever as easy as it looks.  But I have learned that patience, hard work, and a flexible and willing attitude toward learning what needs to be done to market you're items to the right audience, together with the time it takes to do it, can truly work wonders for any business.  

Kathy Ciaccio owner of 

I agree with Leslie about the ebbs and flows (and the hard work)! I'd say the most important thing I've learned about selling online is how important the pictures of your items are. I know that it's common advice, both for newbies and more experienced shop owners, to take the best pictures you can, but by trial and error I've found that if a piece of jewelry is going nowhere, changing the picture will sometimes result in a sale. This is true even if I think the original picture is a good one.

One of the most difficult areas for me is trying to set a price on my items - I think I've gotten better at this, but that's probably just from having more experience than I did when I started.

Debi Reed owner of 

I started selling on eBay in 2005 and didn’t have a clue about what I was doing.  I wanted to rid myself of some old dolls that I had carried around with me since I was a small child – so that’s what I started with.  I ended up having pretty good success for that, so I went on to looking through my old boxes to see what else I might find to sell.  I have to add here that the auction venue has always been pretty exciting to me – it was always a kick to see what sold and for how much when it came to the last bid on the closing day!

I went on to start selling some old jewelry – some of which was given to me by my husband, Bill’s aunt.  Of course when I look back now, I wish I would have hung on to some of it, but in selling the jewelry I found that it was much easier to ship a pair of earrings or a bracelet, then to ship a silver serving dish!  My son is the one who introduced me to Etsy, and once I opened my shop, I was hooked.  I have only sold an occasional item on eBay since.

I opened my Etsy shop in 2008, so I had had three prior years of experience behind me where I researched, researched, and researched some more.  I started learning who the jewelry manufacturers were, and what made their jewelry special.  This is still something I work on – one can never have too much knowledge regarding the items they sell…

Over time, I have begun to learn the value of vintage jewelry, and the collectability value of many of the old designers.  Again, this has called for more research.  This is probably one of the most important things I wish I had known when I first started selling vintage jewelry.  Belonging to the VJSE team has really helped me in this regard! 

I’ve also found out that like any business, selling vintage jewelry can be hard work.  
But at least, it is work that I love!

Deb Bliss owns  

Additionally, had I known about JR early into my selling, I would have benefited greatly. Learning about construction, dating of jewels, stones, styles all would have been beneficial in marketing items and determining the value. I can only shake my head when I think of the incredible pieces I sold for $10 - $20. Live and learn!

Lisa Witmer owns 

I wish I had realized how much of an impact being active on Twitter and using things like Tweet generators have on your shop. It's nice that Etsy has continued to improve their site for sellers to make it easier to get our items out in the world of social networks. I have had  a Twitter account for a while but really just recently started using it to promote my shop. I have only been selling for about 2-1/2 years so I still have tons to learn!

Beth Carlson owns 

I wish I'd known about Etsy earlier, as I like that format much better, otherwise, I have had a pretty positive experience and learning curve, and can't think of much else.


In conclusion, my thought would be that it is never too late to learn!  

A HUGE THANK YOU to the busy shop owners above who took the time to provide a statement about what they wished they had known before starting to sell vintage jewelry!  Thanks so much!

If your interested in learning more about the Jewelry Ring Group on Yahoo, click here:
The Jewelry Ring

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