Vintage Shopping: 5 Tips for Finding Gems not Junk

Vintage fiends rejoice: Modern Vintage Chicago is October 22 and 23 at Randolph Street Market.

The event promises to be a shoppers’ paradise, offering a fabulous assortment of vintage jewelry, furniture and clothing. To score the best finds, follow these tips from local experts.

Channel Steve Jobs (Trust your Gut)
Vintage jewelry designer Tracey Burton recommends looking for pieces with personality that give you a positive visceral feeling. If an item’s too expensive or you’re just not sure about it, trust your gut. It will never steer you wrong.

Check Construction
When it comes to clothing, style guru Ramsey Jay Prince suggests inspecting the seams, lining, cuffs and buttons. Older thread can be the first thing to deteriorate in a garment, so it may look great on the outside but not hold up to everyday wear.

Don’t Buy to Get Rich
Even in the vintage world, fashion trends can be cyclical, which is why Randolph Street Market founder, Sally Schwartz, recommends only buying items you’ll either use or wear. It’s tempting to dream big, but making a fortune in the resale market is quite difficult. A good rule of thumb: If you buy what you love, it will be worth its price in gold.

Made in France or Made in China?
Very little of what we buy today is made in the U.S. or Europe, so when Schwartz spots something that hails from France or Italy, she takes notice. “Typically, vintage pieces that are made in Europe or the U.S. are great finds,” says Schwartz. “That includes china, glass, jewelry, clothing or more.” And don’t forget, if an item has a “Made in China” label, it’s not vintage!

Look for Tell-Tale Signs
When buying high-end costume jewelry, check the stones to make sure they all match and no replacements have been sneaked in. Likewise, if buying large sets of dishware or crystal, inspect every piece for chips and consistency. Watch the vendor wrap and pack each piece. Don’t walk away—even for a second—until you have your item.


Love vintage? Make It Better and Modern Vintage Chicago are giving away a VIP package to one of our lucky readers! The package includes:

  • 2 VIP Passes to Modern Vintage Chicago on Saturday, October 22, 2011.
  • A Saturday morning fashion session with style guru Ramsey Jay Prince, who will style our winner in fabulous vintage clothing.
  • Champagne, photo ops and a chance to mingle with the best and brightest designers/vendors.

Want to win? “Like” this story by visiting our Facebook page, and clicking “like.” Not on Facebook? Add a comment below and you’ll also be entered.

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