If you’re just starting to collect vintage costume jewelry and you’re on a fixed budget, some good places to start your collection are at thrift stores and antique shops/flea markets and even garage sales. However, be forewarned and armed with the right informational tools to help you scour the shelves and booths for that amazing “find.” Prior to purchasing, begin by browsing online costume jewelry sites to familiarize yourself with designer jewelry, hallmarks (designer signatures), prices, and time periods (Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, Art Nouveau…). Secondly, while on the sites, identify jewelry styles and designs you particularly like, and conduct in-depth research on these specific pieces.
Its also good to familiarize yourself with jewelry terminology (types of stones: chatons, keystones, rivoli, cabochons) and settings (dog tooth, cupcake, prong set) which describe the findings. Being an informed shopper helps ensure that you can identify the key components of an item. Knowing the characteristics, designer (if signed), construction, time period (40s, 50s, 80s), and quality will help you to make informed purchases.
Some great online sites that provide in-depth resource information are: