Jewellery Outlook

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Market Commentary
  Vintage jewellery market seen robust despite financial turmoil

By Amanda Grateley


  Van Cleef & Arpels

LONDON, October 5, 2008 - The retail market for vintage jewellery appears extremely robust despite the global financial meltdown.

Antique jewels can be better investments than modern ones.Classical vintage jewels have the advantage of being much scarcer than contemporary branded jewellery.

Vintage jewellery investment appears to be weathering the storm of the global financial crisis, the worst in almost 80 years, jewellers say. It remains to be seen what impact the U.S. financial bill passed by Congress will have on the global economy and whether or not the world will enter recession.

Buyers from rapidly industrialising emerging markets, such as the Gulf, Russia, India and China, where wealth has mushroomed in recent years, are developing a taste for antique jewels and are appreciating them as an art form.

The immediate outlook for the U.S. dollar could be to strengthen especially if euro and sterling interest rates fall to stave off recession risks, making returns on holding dollars relatively more attractive.


A stronger dollar could encourage cash-rich Americans to buy more antique jewels, although the outlook for the contemporary jewellery market in the United States in the run-up to Christmas is discouraging because of the economic downturn and credit crunch.

Arabs, flush with dollar-denominated oil wealth, should also have more to spend on vintage jewels.

Russians, emboldened by their commodity riches, are becoming important players in the antique jewellery market.

There is huge demand for original Faberge pieces from Russian collectors looking to repatriate their heritage.

Just as newly wealthy Russian collectors snap up the best examples of Russian contemporary art at record prices, so they are paying extraordinary prices for Faberge items, from bell-pushes to pencils.  

Good quality Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Victorian jewels are harder to find these days, and their rarity adds to their allure.

Signed, classic Art Deco Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels pieces are amongst the most prized assets, but they are very elusive. Cartier buy back some of their antique jewels for their museum, tightening supply.

Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery represents the biggest turnover among estate jewellery pieces sold by auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

As governments pump vast sums of money into the financial system to salvage stricken banks, the appeal of rare, collectable investments like antique jewellery as a hedge against inflation may grow.

Good investments are much harder to find nowadays as share prices slide and property prices slump while food and fuel prices soar, so investing cash in high-quality vintage jewels can make sense.

Value added tax and import tax breaks for antique jewellery sales can also boost the appeal of such investments.

And the provenance of jewellery may greatly add to its value.

If it can be shown that an item of jewellery is closely connected with a well-known public figure from the past -- like the Duchess of Windsor or Princess Margaret – then it can command a far higher price.

However, there are dangers when investing in antique jewels.

Be wary of fakes. Sometimes stones have been changed and replaced with cheaper semi-precious stones.

Ask the retailer or auction house for their opinion.
Van Cleef & Arpels