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The Dos and Don’ts of Thrifting Jewelry

Written by Anna Currell
October 6, 2023

If you're on the hunt for interesting accessories that tell a story, thrifting jewelry can be a fun and thrilling adventure. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned second-hand shopper, there are a few essential tips and tricks to keep in mind to make sure you’re spending your money wisely and making smart purchases. In this article, we’ll take a look at some thrifting best practices and offer some valuable advice to help you strike gold – or silver – in your jewelry treasure hunt.

Do Your Research 

Before you begin thrifting jewelry, take some time to research different types of jewelry and their general value. This knowledge will empower you to spot a hidden gem once you’re elbow deep in a thrift store bargain bin. You don't need to be an expert, but understanding the basics of jewelry materials, markings, and styles can help you make sense of all the clutter. For example, if you know that karat weight is the amount of gold present in a metal, and that 24K is the purest gold available, noticing a 24K stamp on a thrifted gold ring will tell you that it’s a durable and valuable piece instead of just another piece of junk. 

Don't Rush 

Thrifting jewelry is all about patience. It might take some time to find that perfect piece that resonates with you. So set aside a weekend or a rainy day and avoid rushing through the racks; take your time to thoroughly explore each display and be willing to walk away if nothing feels quite right. There’s no need to settle for something you don’t love. The joy of thrifting comes from the unexpected discoveries, so enjoy the process.

Do Inspect Each Piece Carefully 

When you spot a potential treasure, inspect it thoroughly. Check for any missing stones, signs of wear and tear, or damaged settings. Remember, some patina can add character, but you want to ensure the piece is still functional, wearable, and won't fall apart. If you do spot any issues, be sure to bring it up in your pricing negotiations (more on that later).

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Don't Overlook Unconventional Finds 

Don’t discredit something just because it’s not something you’d usually wear. Sometimes, the best finds are the pieces that don't fit the traditional mold. Don't be afraid to explore beyond your comfort zone. That quirky brooch or unconventional necklace might just become your signature accessory. You can also work with a jeweler to turn oddball finds into more modern pieces — make a funky earring into a necklace pendant, for example, or turn the stick pin you know you’ll never wear into a ring made for your everyday rotation. 

Do Hold Out For Quality Materials 

One of the advantages of thrifting jewelry is the potential to find pieces crafted from high-quality materials. Keep an eye out for gold, silver, or platinum pieces — these metals are more rare, valuable, and durable than other common costume jewelry materials like brass, nickel, or copper. Even if they need a little cleaning when you find them in a thrift store, quality materials and precious metals make for excellent investments because they’ll withstand the test of time.

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Don't Skip Sanitizing 

Given the nature of thrifting, it's a good idea to give your newly acquired treasures a thorough cleaning before wearing them. A gentle cleaning with warm soapy water can help ensure that your fabulous finds are shining to their fullest potential, or you can visit a professional for more delicate (or dirty) pieces that need special equipment or extra attention.

Do Haggle

Many thrift stores are open to negotiation, so don't be shy to haggle — just be sure to do it wisely. Conduct your research ahead of time (or pull out your phone and do some searching while you’re shopping) so that you’re aware of the standard prices for similar pieces. Respectful and friendly bargaining can sometimes lead to a better deal. Just remember, many pieces are likely to already be priced fairly, so use your judgment and be reasonable in your offers.

Don't Forget About Repairs 

If you find a piece you adore but it needs a little TLC before you can wear it, don't toss it aside. Minor repairs and professional jewelry cleaning services can quickly bring a piece back to life. Simple clasp repair, ring resizing, or gemstone replacement services can completely transform jewelry that has been neglected or abandoned. Just be sure that the cost of repairs doesn't outweigh the value of the piece itself.

Do Trust Your Instincts 

When it comes to thrifting, your instincts are your best guide. If a piece immediately catches your eye and gives you that “have to have it” feeling, trust your gut. Those are the pieces that often become your most cherished items. On the other hand, pay attention to any warning signs that don’t feel right — if a price feels too good to be true, it probably is. Ask for appraisal or certification documents to ensure that the materials are high quality. 

Whether you're on the lookout for something vintage or want to add a touch of history to your collection, thrifting jewelry can be a rewarding way to find unique pieces. Who knows? You might just stumble upon a piece that you'll wear forever. Need an adjustment or two to get your piece in good shape? Whether you need a ring reshaped, a prong retipped, or a watch battery replaced, our team at Quick Jewelry Repairs would be thrilled to help you make a preloved piece your own.

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