Want Vintage Jewelry? Shop Estate Sales

I’ve loved costume jewelry ever since I was a little girl. My grandma had jewelry boxes full of necklaces and clip-on earrings decked out in Bakelite and paste gemstones. She’s probably the No. 1 reason that I prefer costume jewelry over the real, expensive alternative. Stores like Charming Charlie really get me.
More than anything, though, I love the pieces from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. The authentic necklaces dripping with costume appeal. But it wasn’t easy to find those at a decent price. Sure, they’re available at vintage clothing stores, but you’ll pay a premium.
Then I started going to estate sales, and nearly every one had a selection of costume jewelry. Rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets. You name it.
But a lot of the pieces were broken. Considering the fact that they might be 80 years old, it’s not surprising. Thread dry-rots. Plastic line breaks. Clasps that have been opened and closed for decades no longer function.
Broken pieces didn’t deter me. I have thread and nylon line and clasps from years of making my own beaded jewelry. I also have tools like pliers to help mend any broken links.
That’s when the obsession grew to massive proportions. My fiance bought me a two-drawer filing cabinet for Christmas that was FULL of estate sale jewelry and beads. It was almost overwhelming. Lots of the pieces were broken, but there’s a lot you can do with those.
For example:


I found the lighthouse pendant at an estate sale. The chain it’s attached to was found in a tool bin at another sale. (I’m guessing that it’s for a light chain pull.). I bought the top and bottom chains at Michaels.

This is one of the broken necklaces. It was originally four strands and missing a lot of beads. So I took all the strands apart and reorganized the beads to make this three-strand necklace. It’s my mom’s now.

The beads on this one were from an estate sale. I love the green Coke glass look of them. Unfortunately, this design was a bit of a failure because, in case you didn’t know, glass beads are ridiculously heavy. They will be redesigned in the future.

I liked the concept of this one, but I executed it poorly. Again, these were all beads from sales. They weren’t attached to anything, but they were all very similar ceramic material. I tied off the thread far too tightly, so it won’t lay right.

I saw an almost identical version of this necklace at an online store. This necklace was only beads when I found it. I added the spacers and organized the beads by size into the necklace. The back part is a chain with a clasp, which were purchased at Michaels. I wish I could wear this one every day.

So how do you find out about estate sales? My two favorite sites for searching out the best sales are Craigslist.org and EstateSales.net. There are numerous estate sales every weekend in my city, so it’s not hard to find them.

My No. 1 tip: Don’t judge a sale by the photos. Some of my best finds have been at sales where the posting consisted of two sentences and no photos. One in particular ended up being a bit of a (clean) hoarding situation, with dozens upon dozens of beautiful fabrics just waiting to be made into something fabulous.

Also, when you do go to sales, add your name and email to their mailing list. Some of those sale operators don’t post as much publicly, so you have to rely on them to contact you.

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