Green Fashionista

One woman's quest toward green fashion, green design, green work, and green living

What to look for when buying vintage purses and jewelry August 30, 2008

Filed under: accessories,vintage — Anne @ 4:54 am

In the reuse, reduce, and recycle mantra, reusing is one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly options.  For every vintage piece of clothing you buy, one less product is manufactured and valuable resources are preserved.  Plus, vintage pieces can give you a unique flair!

Here are some expert tips to keep in mind when sifting and searching out those valuable treasures, straight from jewelry specialists Melody Rodgers and Leah Gordon, as well as handbag connoisseur and dealer, Carol Merkin of Treasures & Pleasures, all three are gallery owners at the Manhattan Art & Antique Center in NYC.  I know where I’ll be heading next time I’m in NYC ;0)


  • Don’t rely solely on labels to distinguish value, branding is a more modern concept and many of the top end brands from early periods did not put labels on or sign their pieces.  However, if pieces do have stamps or signatures and you aren’t familiar with the name, look it up as there are many resources available.
  • Only buy pieces that you love and will use.
  • If you are serious on becoming a collector, you should find a reputable dealer who can provide guidance and history.
  • A legitimate dealer will have pieces marked with price.
  • Vocabulary to keep in mind:
    Antique: 100+ years old
    Vintage: 50-100 years old
    Estate: previously owned, usually less than 50 years old


  • When examining handbags inspect the leather to ensure skins aren’t dry and cracked, test suede or leather for bleeding (color runs off on finger), and be cautious when purchasing textile pieces as textiles tend to disintegrate over the years if not properly stored. If the bag looks brand new, the fabric may have been replaced diminishing its value.
  • Aside from more recent designer labels, distinguishing value points can be found by looking for ornate frames that incorporate stones and/or enamel work. Better quality leather that is soft / supple and smaller and finer beads which denotes better quality and craftsmanship.
  • You cannot repair a broken frame. The only elements that you can compromise on when looking at a worn bag are handles and interior linings. A broken handle can easily be changed to a chain or a beaded handle.
  • Be wary of odors because you can’t get rid of them.


  • When searching for vintage or antique jewelry, the main focus should be on looking for pieces that you love and that exude your personal style and personality. Additionally, be sure to stay within your target price range, it is easy to get swept away.
  • Check for visible defects which include broken pieces or chips, dents, gauges, cracks, 2 pieces that don’t really fit together, soldering marks (look for soft solder which is usually made out of zinc or nickel that looks dark gray or black).
  • Always store your vintage jewelry separately in soft zipped up pouch to avoid damage.

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