Guide to Vintage Jewelry Shopping
T+L reveals its go-to sources for buying vintage jewelry around the world.
For me, a trip isn’t complete unless there is afterward something tiny and preferably sparkly in my possession. Of course, buying a new piece of jewelry is usually a wonderful experience, but when you go vintage, you are also purchasing a bit of that destination’s history, color, and character—and isn’t that what the best souvenirs are all about? Since I’ve embarked on this path, I have acquired a 19th-century bracelet from Paris decorated with the word SOUVENIR in gold script; a myriad of Victorian London lockets monogrammed for their long-departed owners; and a Grand Tour bracelet from Rome enhanced by minuscule micro-mosaics depicting views of the Eternal City. Another advantage: it’s usually possible to bargain even in the toniest vintage shops.
Vintage Jewelry Address Book
A number of antique jewelry stores line Spiegelgracht. You should window-shop at them all, and then stop in at Dekker Antiquairs (9 Spiegelgracht; 31-20/623-8992). It’s a favorite of model Lara Stone’s; she recently bought four pieces—including a Victorian diamond bracelet—in about as many minutes.
The Grand Bazaar’s winding passages have proved to be a challenge for centuries—be careful, or your path may be littered with attractive but worthless reproductions. To avoid this peril, head for Mavi Köşe (No. 11, Bedesten section; 90-212/519-0686), where Grace Kelly would shop for such items as rose-diamond drop earrings and vintage timepieces.
No trip to London is complete without a visit to Grays Antiques (58 Davies St. and 1-7 Davies Mews; 44-20/7629-7034), with two levels worth of dealers in the West End. Be sure to venture downstairs, where Jo Elton and Olly Gerrish sell glass serpents and Japanese agate bracelets.
Amid the rough-and-tumble Diamond District, Steven Herdemian (78 W. 47th St.; 212/944-2534) is a haven of calm. His booth is laden with antique diamond rings; Herdemian can also suggest surprisingly affordable Art Nouveau brooches (from $350).
Dary’s (362 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/42-60-95-23) is divided in two sections that have been enticing flaneurs since 1932. One features silver bracelets and paste brooches; the other, more rarefied—though not entirely out-of-reach—treasures, including a pair of mine-cut diamond pins for less than $700.
Indulge a taste for Midcentury works at Jacksons, where signed Scandinavian pieces like a circa-1974 silver Björn Weckström pendant are displayed next to Aalto furniture.
In contrast to San Fran’s bohemian side, the bauble-bedecked windows at Lang Antiques will transport you to a more elegant era. Though a 1929 Cartier diamond necklace might exceed the casual shopper’s budget, there are also turn-of-the-century silver stickpins and other less expensive treats.
Deep within the medina, Boutique Majid stocks historic indigenous furniture and objets d’art (armoires; birdcages) alongside oversize antique Berber jewelry. A huge silver hamsa hand dangles from a pendant, while amber and coral beads cry out to be worn layered.
Long before zombies and vampires cluttered the cultural landscape, Codognato (1295 San Marco; 39-041/522-5042) was specializing in magnificent jewelry with a vaguely sinister air. Rochas designer Marco Zanini sports one of its hard stone skull rings—it’s the envy of the fashion world.
Deep within the medina, Boutique Majid stocks historic indigenous furniture and objets d'art (armoires; birdcages) alongside oversize antique Berber jewelry. A huge silver hamsa hand dangles from a pendant, while amber and coral beads cry out to be worn layered. Pick up the exquisitely modern carpets made of bamboo and leather.
A vast selection of 20th-century Scandinavian and Italian housewares. Murano-glass vases by Gio Ponti and Bianconi line the walls, and vintage pieces, like a Swedish birchwood sofa from the 1929 Barcelona furniture World's Fair, fill the floor. Signed Scandinavian pieces like a circa-1974 silver Björn Weckström pendant are displayed next to Aalto furniture.
Even the storefront window of Lang Antiques in Union Square will make you pause in wonder at the glitter of gold and gems. Inside, the cases are overflowing with more than 7,000 pieces of heirloom jewels, from Victorian and Edwardian jewelry to Art Deco, mid-century, and contemporary styles. Lang is also known for one of the best selections of wedding rings, including such unique pieces as a 1920's diamond and emerald Art Deco ring and a marquise-cut diamond ring with platinum filigree. Since opening in 1969, Lang has been best known for its fine antique and estate jewelry, although the store also carries pocket watches, cuff links, men's jewelry, and accessories such as engraved cigarette cases and cameo boxes.