On Vintage and Antique Jewelry

Hello and thank you for visiting Marika Gems. The pieces of jewelry offered here are hand-selected by a graduate gemologist with a lifetime love of vintage and antique fine jewelry.

What follows are a few notes which may be helpful if you aren't familiar with vintage and antique jewelry identification, description and care.

Gemstones & Precious Metals

A gemologist is a gem expert: qualified to identify, grade and evaluate rare and precious gemstones by employing a combination of knowledge and skillful use of gemological equipment (including microscopes, refractometers, polariscopes, dichroscopes, spectroscopes, et. al.) Each gem in each piece of jewelry in my shop is thoroughly and carefully identified and evaluated prior to listing. I am very happy to answer any questions you may have, not just about a specific piece of jewelry but general queries about the gem material itself.

Gemstone weights, where present, are calculated using a millimeter gauge and by applying standard accepted formulas for weight determination.

Precious metals (gold, silver and platinum) are typically hallmarked or assayed when a piece of jewelry is produced. However, on occasion, they are not. Sometimes a mark is cut away when a piece of jewelry is sized or reworked. Rarely, a dishonest person stamps a hallmark into a piece of jewelry that does not accurately reflect its fineness. Items of jewelry in my shop represented as gold, silver and platinum are acid tested to identify their fineness when no mark is present as well as to confirm the hallmarks that do exist.

Condition Guide

From one perspective, vintage and antique jewels are little time capsules; in their most elevated form, they can be historical artifacts. These fine pieces are special not just because of the inherently valuable gems and precious metals involved in their construction but also in part because of their rarity: these jewels have weathered a lifetime – sometimes more than one – of ownership, remaining intact, oftentimes in nearly pristine condition. They have managed to arrive here, with all their history and mystique, without being scrapped, pulled apart or majorly reworked. It can feel a little magical unearthing treasures like this, cleaning them up and presenting them for a new lifetime of loving ownership.

I have been purchasing vintage and antique jewelry for myself on the internet for nearly twenty years, and have been burned on more than one occasion by sellers who either hid major condition issues or didn't seem to realize they existed. Unfriendly return policies in these situations are the icing on a terrible cake and can make the entire situation even more of a dissatisfying headache.

This is decidedly not the experience I ever want for any customer in my shop.

I thoroughly document the condition and imperfections of each item in the text copy of the item's listing page. I also rely heavily on my photography, which shows each item in a "larger than life" scale to fully and completely convey condition information. Please be aware that any piece of vintage or antique jewelry is likely to show at least some signs of wear. It is an exception, rather than a rule, when one of these jewels finds its way to market unworn as the day it was finished.

For your peace of mind, I offer a buyer-friendly, no-questions-asked return policy which can be read in full by clicking the link. 

Photography Conditions & Matters of Scale

Images of jewelry having black backgrounds are taken using a DSLR camera in a light box with 5500K LED lighting. This lighting condition is "pure white" with no color tint or color cast. 

As is the case for all jewelry sold online, images on a screen can look larger than in real life. To present an accurate sense of scale, I include photographs of jewelry being worn, so that you may have an idea of the size of each piece of jewelry in real life. This second category of pictures are primarily taken using natural daylight. 

Please be aware that different computer monitor settings can alter the perceived color of an item on the screen vs. in real life. 

How to Care for Vintage and Antique Jewelry

These pieces have been on their way to you for a long time – some of them over 100 years. The fact that these jewels have survived so long is a sort of kismet, as well as a testament to their design and craft. However, vintage and antique jewelry is not indestructible, and jewelry should be treated with care in order to preserve it for a full lifetime of enjoyment.

You can determine your own risk assessment, but as a benchmark, I remove my jewelry to garden, work out, wash dishes or do heavy duty projects around the house, as well as when I bathe, swim, sit in a hot tub or sauna. This is especially true when it comes to more delicate gems: opal, emerald, coral and pearls are a few examples and pieces of jewelry with these gems should be treated with particular care. Enamel jewelry, foiled back gems and very old pieces of antique jewelry should be treated with similar care and caution in both wear and cleaning.

Most jewelry can be cleaned using an old soft-bristled toothbrush, gentle dish soap and water and a bit of elbow grease. Some people like to use ultrasonic machines and steam cleaners to clean their jewelry. These are the typical pieces of equipment a jeweler would use if you brought your jewelry in for a professional cleaning. There are ultrasonics and steam cleaners available on the market for home use, but they should be used with caution. Not all jewelry and gemstones are suitable for these heavy duty cleaners and in fact, some delicate pieces can be destroyed if run through an ultrasonic or steam cleaned. This is also the case for jewelry with enamel and foiled-back gems, which should always be carefully cleaned by hand and never be submerged in water.

Feel free to contact me at any time with questions about the care and keeping of your vintage and antique jewelry. I am happy to answer questions of this regard whether the piece(s) in question are from my shop or elsewhere.

Rings and Ring Size:

Ring size information is determined by placing each ring on a standard sizing mandrel as well as confirming fit by physically trying the piece on. Certain rings register one size (for example, a size 4 1/2) but comfortably fit on a larger size finger (for example, a size 5.) In this case, sizing notes in the product listing reflect how a ring accurately fits a human finger rather than on a ring mandrel. Certain rings between sizes (even between quarter sizes) are noted as "a snug size 7" or "a loose size 6."

The wider a ring's band is, the more "snug" it can feel when on the finger. If you are purchasing a wide ring in your "typical" size, do be aware that it might feel smaller than a thinner ring of the same size.

If you do not know your ring size, a sizer may be purchased easily online (you can do an internet search for "plastic ring sizer.") A brick and mortar jewelry repair shop can also assist you in determining the correct ring size.

Most rings can be resized within reason. Certain rings cannot. I do my best to offer this information in each product listing and encourage every customer to work with their preferred jeweler on alterations. In the case of sizing, your jeweler will be able to determine what is within their means and possible to execute.

Should you bring a ring purchased from Marika Gems to your jeweler and receive word that the sizing you would like is not possible, I will happy accept the piece back unaltered for a full refund within the two week return window of your receipt. Rings that have been worked on by customer's jeweler do not qualify for return or exchange.