Vintage-style jewelry adds sparkle to retailers’ product offerings.
They say everything old is new again, and the resurgence of the vintage jewelry trend is proving that to be true. While jewelry might not take up a lot of room in the store, it can make up a good portion of sales — if it’s marketed correctly and on-trend.
Vintage jewelry is loosely defined as jewelry between 20 and 100 years old, with anything older than 100 years considered antique and jewelry newer than 20 years old considered contemporary. In other words, vintage jewelry cannot be made — and many people use the term loosely to refer to new jewelry made in the style of earlier eras, such as Victorian, Edwardian or Art Deco.
With that being said, “vintage-style” jewelry is what most gift and jewelry companies are promoting, to great successes, throughout the market. This style of jewelry is important for retailers to consider because of the different influences in their customers’ lives that drive them to buy.
“The reason the vintage style is thriving in today’s market is because of how the style makes you feel,” said Patrick Retzer, national sales manager for Wind & Fire Jewelry. “Invoking memories of our favorite fashionable time periods or people we admire are really just a few reasons why the vintage category is driving sales in many stores.
“The best part of the vintage trend is that a 16-year-old girl and a 75-year-old grandmother can wear the same vintage-style ring, but for very different reasons,” Retzer continued. “Vintage-style jewelry is made for every demographic and every audience, not to mention every price point, which makes it easy for any business to add the category with ease and very little monetary commitment. Showcasing even a handful of styles in your store will allow you to pique your customer’s interest in a new and exciting way.”
Jody Lyons, owner/designer of Joli Jewelry Inc., agreed, adding that perhaps with all the uncertainty in the news and the dominance of technology and computers in our lives, we need a counterbalance that grounds us to the known world of our history. There always has been a comfort in wearing heirlooms, which is helping to drive that trend.
Also driving that trend are recent television hits such as “Mad Men” and “Downton Abbey” that have reminded women of the elegance and allure of earlier styles.
“But a greater driver is, I think, a desire for items that are personal, specific and unique items that are not mass-produced,” said Susan Davis of Grandmother’s Buttons. “Real, one-of-a-kind vintage pieces provide that uniqueness perfectly, while new, vintage-style pieces suffice when budgets and time for hunting the old are limited.”
A third kind of vintage — new pieces created with old components such as buttons, beads or broken jewelry parts — provide true one-of-a-kind uniqueness with lower price points.
Davis said they’ve seen a huge response to their collections of small, jeweled post earrings created with vintage glass cabochons and buttons. Posts, especially daintier ones, seem very fresh right now, as do their sets of hairpins made with assorted antique buttons and bits of vintage glass and charm bracelets.
“There seems to be no end to the interest in charm collections that customers use to create bracelets and necklaces that tell their own stories,” Davis said. “At Grandmother’s Buttons, our best-selling items are still our mother-of-pearl button initial charms, along with our pearl pendants imprinted with colorful vintage images.”
Retzer agreed, adding that in his opinion, bracelets are the best item a store can carry in the vintage category. They allow the wearer to easily change style, color and design with ease, and often are one-size-fits-most. Bracelets also tend to make great bold displays and engage the consumer to try them on, unlike earrings and necklaces that sometime require a little more effort.
“Charm bracelets are timeless and always best-sellers — they don’t just hang there, either — they tell stories,” said John Wind of John Wind Maximal Art. “Back in the 1940s and ’50s, it was a given that your parents would start a charm bracelet for you, adding souvenirs from family travels, milestones, etc. We love this tradition and are proud to help keep it alive. Also, oversize cameos and lockets make a real modern/vintage statement.”
Lockets are like little time capsules to be customized with a special memory significant to the wearer.
“We design pieces with antique finishes for a softer look to capture the details in the aged appearance that fit within the modern world, but look like they could have been collected from another place in time,” said Jen Simon-Becker of Big Sky Carvers/DEMDACO. “Vintage style creates a connection to the past that is stylistically very versatile. It can be either classy or funky depending on your overall personal style.”
Tried and True
For many retailers and consumers alike, the most exciting aspect of vintage jewelry is that it has no boundaries, and vintage style also ties in nicely to the ever-popular concept of being eco-friendly and using what already exists. It has an unconscious comfort, the way antiques have a comfortable, soulful, familiar feel to them.
“Most of our resources are recycled or repurposed materials and we’re always looking to find the unexpected opportunities to discover elements that appear in our necklaces,” said Mary Ellen Vehlow of waldo, sluggo & ME. “Until we started making our necklaces, I had no idea how many varieties of linked, specialty and unique beads and findings are waiting at estate sales, flea markets and factory close-outs, all ready to be ‘redeemed’ in a new orientation.”
Davis said they’ve made jewelry by upcycling antique and vintage buttons for almost 30 years, long before this was a trend, and through the years they have seen an ever-increasing hunger for these types of items.
“Many customers want to feel like they are helping rather than hurting the environment with their purchases, and recycled jewelry items are a fun way for them to do that,” Davis said. “Also, for our items, customers enjoy imagining what lives our buttons lived 100 years ago, when they were actually sewed onto clothing.”
Lyons agreed that vintage also has the added benefit of creating a reference point in time of an era past, so when they are juxtaposed with something modern — like being worn on the street in today’s world — they show the sophistication or appreciation of what’s old while simultaneously implying a mastery of today’s world.
“These anachronistic reference points are like wearable antiques that ultimately have an irony,” Lyons said. “Monograms, charms and vintage jewelry all have a romanticism and speak to days gone by, perhaps a softer side of urban life. Wearing them also shows sophistication and mastery of eras past while simultaneously being on the pulse of today.”
The items themselves aren’t the only things that can reference a point in the past, as the creative ways they’re merchandised can make or break a sale. Retzer suggested going thrift store or yard sale shopping and finding unique “out of the box” items — old jewelry boxes, perfume bottles, hat boxes, records, distressed picture frames— that will help to display vintage style jewelry with a flare that will catch the attention of customers.
“Often people need a little help in starting their piece and it’s smart to create ready-made pieces as examples and for inspiration,” said Patti Hughes, CEO and founder of Natural Life. “For example, with the Natural Life Junk Market Collection, we would create a keychain, bracelet and necklace to show customers the look you could create. The variety in charms and jewelry pieces catch the eye of many different types of customers.”
And with the diverse customer base this style of jewelry attracts, vintage variety is the spice of life — and sales.