Vintage, Handmade, Custom, Unique: How to Pick Non-Traditional, Independent Jewelry

For those of us with an artistic flair, where we shop and what we buy isn’t always straightforward. After all, what we choose to adorn ourselves in is just as much about style and personality expression as it is about utility and function. This is especially true when it comes to accessories, from handbags and glasses to hats and jewelry.

But shopping for these sorts of things – especially if you’re looking for something a bit less mainstream and a bit more independent and unique – can be especially challenging, particularly if you’re looking to buy real precious metals and gemstones from an independent craftsman, artist, or shop owner. If you’re not buying from a mainstream retailer, how can you be sure what you’re purchasing is authentic? Or of the expected quality?

Fear not. Here are some quick tips to ensure you’re getting what you pay for when you choose to go vintage, custom, handmade, or independent.

Get measurements

You should begin by making sure you’re buying a piece in the right size, whether it’s for you, a significant other, a friend, or a family member. Short of going in person and trying everything on (who has the time for that these days, anyway?), you’ll need to figure out another way to ensure you’re buying something that fits.

Welcome to the world wide web. There are plenty of sizing tools, charts, and diagrams to help guide you, particularly if you’re shopping for a ring. A quick Google search will pull up about a dozen different ways for you to easily size the perfect necklace, ring, earrings, or bracelet. Just be sure to follow the instructions closely.

Get educated

Not all of us are certified gemmologists. Yes, that includes the indy store owner or artist you’re buying from. That means that you could unknowingly overpay for a piece or, worse, pay for something that’s inauthentic or fraudulent that’s being passed off as the real thing.

First, talk to the owner or the artist. Pick his or her brain. Ask about the materials they use, where they source them from, how they’ve crafted it, and more. This serves two purposes. For one, the piece will hold a lot more meaning for you if you know the origin and story behind its creation. Second, you’ll get an understanding of the quality of the materials used, and you’ll also see if any red flags are raised in the process.

And again, you can use a variety of online guides and tools to learn more about the characteristics and quality of what you’re shopping for.

Pick your stone (or metal)

Diamonds, especially among younger generations, are falling a bit out of style for a number of reasons. For one, how many of them are sourced have become an ethical, moral, and sustainability problem. Two, tastes have changed. That’s why we see people on the hunt for less traditional, custom, handcrafted jewelry. Popular gemstone options include pearls, opal, emerald, morganite, smoky quartz, and more.

No matter your style, just be sure you read up on the stone of your choice. Know the ins and outs of what makes a particular gemstone higher quality.

Note the price

It’s the golden rule when buying jewelry: If the price looks too good to be true, it’s probably is. Nobody is going to sell you precious metals or gemstones and half of their fair market value. It’s just not going to happen. In fact, depending on who and where you buy from, you should expect to pay a 20 percent markup – at minimum.

Big caveat: If you’re buying from an independent artist (or one that’s very well known) you can throw your pricing guide out the window. Like a painting or sculpture, a lot of what you’re paying for when you buy handcrafted jewelry from an artist is, well, the art. Sure, there’s a fixed cost for the materials, but just as you wouldn’t expect to pay only for the oil paint and canvas when buying a painting, the same is true for vintage or handcrafted jewelry.

No matter your style, there’s a look out there for you. Use these tips wisely to find the perfect piece.