Vintage jewellery is valued as much for its design as for history, writes Zuhaila Sedek
THERE is something so current and so big about vintage style that it can be considered a fashion movement. And part of that movement is Alicia Chan, who sells vintage jewellery.
The entrepreneur, 36, is among the few who understand the meaning of vintage in fashion. She has been selling authentic vintage jewellery for a living for the past seven years.
“I love vintage jewellery because the older the piece, the more valuable it is,” says the petite Chan.
Vintage jewellery are those produced in the 1920s to the 70s. Anything before the 20s is referred to as antiques.
A lot of jewellery is not vintage but vintage-inspired. “Vintage pieces have elaborate designs,” say Chan, who runs her business with her sister.
SPARK OF INTEREST
Eight years ago, Chan received a gift, a vintage necklace, from her pen pal Muna in Peru. She was struck by its beauty.
“I spoke to my pen pals in the United States about running an online business selling vintage accessories. They all encouraged me and gave ideas. One told me about her aunt’s stock of vintage jewellery.
“Apparently, her aunt used to have a jewellery store in the 1940s but has retired now. My friend suggested that I sell the stock,” says Chan who also collects other vintage fashion items for personal use.
When the jewellery arrived, Chan was surprised that the items were in good condition and hadn’t oxidised at all.
She says: “When I sell the jewellery, I show the original catalogues that featured the pieces to prove their age. If not, no one will believe that some of the pieces are at least 40 years old.”
The items comprise of rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, earrings, brooches, scarf clips, sweater guards, anklets, hair accessories and items for men. Among the brands are Avon and Sarah Coventry. One of her oldest pieces is a Coro choker from 1956, in tip-top condition.
She also has a vintage dress clip from the Art Deco era in the 20s, when eclectic and artistic design hailed supreme.
She sells Mod jewellery from the 1960s and 70s. “These pieces are in bright colours. Some examples of Mod jewellery are large enamel floral brooches and big and colourful plastic earrings.” The clasps of the pieces differ from one period to another.
“A vintage piece has a J-hook, barrel clasp and even other types of clasp that I myself sometimes find difficult to figure out.”
Her vintage earrings are clip-ons, use screw clip and hook.
On whether these old pieces have any “energy” connected to previous owners, Chan says: “Some of the collections are not pre-owned. In Asia, a lot of people are superstitious. But my American friend tells me that if the current owner loves the vintage jewellery, the previous owner should be happy.”
So far, none of her customer has complained of untoward incidents while wearing vintage jewellery.
She loves jewellery from the 1970s. “I was born in the 70s and I love the designs to bits!” she says excitedly, adding that she has sold a set of Egyptian-style jewellery from the 70s, which was a sample set used by a salesman.
“Sometimes it is so difficult for me to part with the jewellery because I want them all!” she says with a laugh.
One of her most popular vintage pieces is tassel necklaces. The designs are so distinctive that many jewellery stores are starting to showcase more of this style.
Chan cleans the jewellery by wiping the pieces with a wet towel to get rid of sweat and dust. Then she air-dries them before keeping them in airtight containers to prevent oxidation.
But some of her customers prefer to see some signs of oxidation. “They love the ‘old’ look,” she says.
Prices, which range from RM20 to RM68, depend on the brand, style and age of the pieces. Rare items cost a few hundred ringgit. The items are available on her website www.jewelrina.com as well as at booths in e@Curve and Tropicana City Mall bazaar.
Authentic vintage jewellery is hard to find. Each piece has a story about its previous owner, bringing the wearer back in time.
When buying vintage jewellery
• Always ask for authenticity documentation.
• Look for brand marks on the pieces.
• Some vintage pieces are slightly heavier compared to modern ones because they are made of metal.
• You can tell whether a pair of earrings are vintage or not from the type of clip used.
• A bit of oxidation is fine because it adds character to the pieces.
• Some vintage pieces are made of nickel too, so check with the seller first because it may cause allergy.