How To Buy, Restore and Modernize Grandma's Jewelry

by Doreen, Manager, Product Management Group, Exclusive for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Shop for your "treasures" at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores or raid grandma's jewelry box!

Be prepared! In antique shops, the prices on items will be more expensive. The reason being that they have done the research, and many times authenticated the items for sale.

Don't be afraid to buy it. We're not talking about investment antiques here, just the fun stuff that may have value or may be just a shiny beauty. If you like anything about it, color, texture, stone, style, price ... BUY IT. If your inclination is to buy it, don't pass it up. It may not be there, if and when you go back.

Even if it's not intended for wear as originally designed, hold it up to your neck, ear, finger and hair.

Maybe you can redesign and invent a different use.

Your first investment should be a loupe--your best friend--It's a great practice to have a jeweler's loupe in your pocket or purse for shopping expeditions. In different lighting and environments the 10 times magnification is worth a million bucks.

You'll use it by placing the loupe to your eye. If you have glasses, normally you will take them off. Slowly bring the object towards the loupe and into focus, usually about 3-6 inches away, dependent on your eyesight.

A metal purity stamp is how you'll know if what you're buying is genuine metal or costume. Know what to look for.

Most common purity markings:
  1. 925--SS--Sterling silver
  2. 585--14Kt--14Kt gold
  3. 10Kt--10Kt gold
Some others are:
  1. 900--coin silver (old term, not very common)
  2. GF, or 14/20GF= 14Kt Gold-Filled, 12/20GF= 12Kt Gold-Filled, 10/20GF= 10Kt Gold-Filled
  3. 300--8kt gold
  4. 750--18Kt--18Kt gold
  5. 999--24Kt--24Kt--24Kt gold
  6. Company hallmark--Mostly on antiques and larger manufacturers. This will look like a logo or initials, and can be researched on-line.
Know where to look for purity stamping:
  1. Rings--Look inside of ring shank (band) or on back of setting
  2. Ear studs--Normally stamped on the stud portion
  3. Chains--Look for a quality tag or on side of clasp
  4. Clasps--Look on side of clasp
  5. Pendants--Generally artists stamp on the back of the pendant or on the pendant bail
If it's not stamped, it still may be precious metal. In the USA precious metal can't be sold as such without a stamped purity designation, however on some old pieces, the stamp has worn off or simply is not there.

Beads--Most beads generally are not stamped. It can ruin the design of the bead.

Cameos--Pink plastic or coral?
  1. Coral will have a tight grain and natural voids.
  2. Cameos are carved from a shell. The back will be curved, following the contour of the shell.
Many of the "old" styles are in vogue right now, but with a different twist. Like clothing, accessory jewelry styles tend to recycle themselves as well. It's fun and easy to take these "found" treasures and re-fashion them into usable accessories.
  1. Broken necklace or bracelet found in mom's jewelry box. Add lapis and turquoise beads to create a stunning "new" necklace.
  2. Ear clip to hair clip--Originally a single clip on earring. Make it into something unique and sparkly for the hair. Use two-part epoxy, flat backed crystals and a barrette clip. Glue them all together and have a glistening hair ornament.
  3. Crystal brooch to hair stick--Same thing here. Neat brooch to use to fancy a normal bun up.
  4. Crystal brooch to bobby pin--Originally a brooch. Cut the back off of it and use epoxy to bond it to a specialty bobby pin with pad finding. It creates an elegant hair accessory, suitable for day or evening wear.
  5. Button--mother-of-pearl with sterling silver. According to a local Chinese restaurant the word in Chinese means Happiness. By simply bending over the button loop and using 5 minute epoxy to bond on this domed pendant finding, it can be transformed into a super centerpiece, strung mother-of-pearl, turquoise, silver and amber.
  6. Turquoise pin to bola tie--In vogue right now are bola cords for both men and women. Bond a bola back onto the pin, attach a leather braided cord, polish the pin and finish it with sterling silver tips. A lady's bola can be created using a crystal brooch.
  7. Black crystal flower brooch to necklace--Clean it with warm soapy water (and a soft toothbrush), tighten the pin back and add the brooch converter bail and string with some black crystal beads.
  8. Brooch-Tin--Paint this breath mint box and bond a costume brooch to it. A few more jewels to top it off, and it makes a pretty gift or collector box.
Keep stuff! Odd and end pieces can be a wealth of materials and replacement parts. Remember ... Search those flea markets and yard sales!

Look carefully to find those rare, exotic or just plain beautiful accessory potentials. The side treasure is developing a fun hobby that'll get you out meeting people, as well as exploring new places. Use a keen, imaginative eye; you'll never know what you'll find!

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