eBay Tips: Shopping for Vintage Costume Jewelry


Some of my pre-owned jewelry (also shown in video)

I love vintage costume jewelry. These pieces can be scored at price points similar to F21 and H&M;, but are much more unique and have more character. Also, buying pre-owned means you don’t have to wonder about the quality and whether or not the jewelry will oxidize, turn green, or fall apart after a few wears. I realize not everyone has a fun Savers thrift store nearby (where I found much of my loot), but eBay can be just as fruitful. Here is my shopping /browsing method (tips are at the end of this post):

1. Go on eBay and type in your search. Here I used “gold chain necklace,” but the options are endless. Other things on my wish list include “collar necklace,” “locket,” “cuff bracelet,” “stone ring,” “pierced earrings” (tons of clip options too), etc.

46,786 results? No thank you, not tonight…

2. Next, I select the category “Vintage & Antique Jewelry.” Unfortunately, this may filter out a lot of nice vintage pieces that were just not categorized under here. I accept this in exchange for having to weed through 40,000 less listings. And unless I am searching with specific keywords like brand names, I keep the “include description” box unchecked so eBay only searches listing titles. Otherwise, you may get numerous irrelevant results.

3. If you’re under a budget, put in a max price (you may have to scroll down to find this field), then hit enter. Now I’m left with 542 listings. At this point, patient scrolling is key. Add potential items to your “watchlist,” and check back in a day or two to see if you’re still in love with it.

Here are some pieces that came up in my above search, each under $10….

If you’re quick, some of the above listings may still be out there on eBay. Strangely, when I started writing this post two days ago there was a plethora of gold chain necklaces, yet today I could only find a handful. There’s plenty other treasures out there, though.

Some more online jewelry-shopping tips:

– Have a measuring tape (or ruler + piece of string) handy. Drape it around your neck to see where a necklace would hit. If the measurements of the piece are not listed, ask for them. Jewelry can often look deceptively-sized in photos, especially earrings.
– Buy (or find in a bf/hubby’s toolkit) some tiny pliers. Chain jewelry is easy to re-size to the perfect length.
– If you want to buy from a known brand, common vintage costume jewelry labels include Monet, Napier, and Avon. My gold chain necklace is signed by Monet and bracelet is by Napier.
– To reduce risk, stick with domestic sellers who have high feedback (98%+)
– Be sure to wash pre-owned purchases thoroughly. I clean thrifted jewelry with rubbing alcohol from CVS.

Happy shopping! Readers, please share some of your own shopping tips and favorite vintage jewelry finds!
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  1. lewis wrote:

    That is so cute, I would of never thought of that. I am definitely making me one or maybe a few! Lol

    Posted 8.22.14 Reply
  2. Love your collection. Thanks for the tips!

    Posted 4.3.14 Reply
  3. I am really impressed by the work you did in this article. It’s great enough to pull my attention and in reading this article for once to understand that your pen is really mightier than the sword.

    Posted 9.4.13 Reply
  4. Thanks for this post. I really learned a lot since I'm not familiar with eBay. It really helped boost my confidence level buying jewellery online. Thank you again for your tips.

    Posted 5.24.13 Reply
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    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  6. Joe wrote:

    Really great tips for finding jewelry on Ebay.

    Posted 11.21.12 Reply
  7. James wrote:

    A must read article for every one who wants to shop jewelry in ebay. Great Stuff!!! Very informative tips.

    Posted 10.31.12 Reply
  8. kataraleo wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 2.11.12 Reply
  9. Just found your blog via Pinterest! Great find! I, too, like the look of vintage as well as the "green" aspect, but it's also good to keep in mind that some older and/or inexpensively-made pieces have lead in them unfortunately. 🙁

    Posted 1.8.12 Reply
  10. Now a day easy way to purchase online jewelery. So we can given order vintage costume jewelery in site like as eBay. We can many product jewelery image available in site. So we can easily purchase this collection and less time taken in manually shopping.

    Posted 12.9.11 Reply
  11. Great tips yeah. Can you recommend an alternative to rubbing alcohol for cleaning jewellery?


    Posted 12.6.11 Reply
  12. Carolyn wrote:

    Thanks so much for this! I've always been a little wary buying pre-owned jewelry because of the somewhat "creepy" history of wearing someone else's valuables but I'll definitely give it a shot again. There's just so many unique pieces out there waiting to be worn!

    Posted 12.1.11 Reply
  13. Michelle wrote:

    I love your thoughtful and useful posts as well as the links to current sale items. You are one of the best bloggers out there!

    Posted 12.1.11 Reply
  14. Joy wrote:

    Love vintage jewelry. Always nervous about purchasing from eBay, but will definitely look into it now 🙂

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  15. faye lu wrote:

    thank you for this article jean – the step by step guide is super helpful. as an regular eBay lover – i have been looking for the perfect sleek gold chains for months … but all my searches end up with ghetto jewelry. this is very very very helpful. will let you know if i find that perfect piece =)

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  16. Jean, can I pay you to hunt down these beautiful pieces for me LOL =) Shopping for jewelry on eBay is so overwhelming. Thank you so much for the tips, I'll definitely give it a try.

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  17. Thanks for sharing these tips! It really helps an ebay newbie! 🙂

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  18. yuni.k wrote:

    And here I thought my eBay rampage was over. Going back again to check for some new pieces!

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  19. JJ wrote:

    Thank you for this! I love vintage jewelry that I see on other bloggers, but have never been sure how you all go about buying quality pieces. I'm definitely going to keep this in mind when hunting for my own. 🙂

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  20. Tori wrote:

    Thank You for sharing!!! I too am an Ebay advocate! I am always telling people that Ebay is amazing! Please stop by and read what I have to say about ebay too 🙂


    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  21. Wow love these tips!! I have to start looking around ebay!


    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  22. This is one of the reasons I loveeee ebay. No need to waste gas & time walking through thrift stores. I absolutely love finding unique vintage jewelry pieces! I have a gold Monet one that I ALWAYS wear! So fun 😀

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  23. lin wrote:

    great tips. thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  24. Michelle wrote:

    Love these tips! I have never purchased from ebay, but will be referring back to this post if I ever do! 🙂

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  25. Melody wrote:

    I would also like to add that antique stores are phenomenal places to find vintage jewelry. One of the local antique stores I frequent always has a large table of random costume jewelry for $1. Its so fun to dig through the piles and I've found so many treasures there!

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  26. 1to24 wrote:

    I've always loved your jewlery – Ebay is something I've usually stayed away from for some reason but I'll try it again.

    Not to self-promote my blog, but I think it's a pretty relevant post and I'd like to share it with you! I wrote a tutorial blog on cleaning silver jewelry that has been oxidized using baking soda, water, and aluminum foil. It's actually really fun to do and watch as the science behind the cleaning works to remove the oxidation before your eyes. Seriously!

    I'll post the direct link here so it's easier to find: http://1to24.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/bling-bling/


    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  27. JM wrote:

    I like how organized your posts are! Etsy is another good source for vintage finds – and very easy to get sucked into for hours and hours… My favorite pieces come from my late Grandma; she was a single mom who raised three kids, but would treat herself once a year to a special pair of earrings or a necklace. I love wearing her black oval drop earrings with diamond flecks because she was an amazing lady with fabulous taste! When you buy lovely vintage pieces, you're also gaining the story of the woman who wore this jewelry before you 🙂

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  28. tinymum wrote:

    Ooh great tips! Thanks much!:)

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Oh no…I am going to be doing this for hours at work, I love the chain link pieces you found.

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  30. Nice tips. eBay is definitely a different arena.


    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  31. Wow, what a great post. I know what I'll spend the rest of my night doing…

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  32. rolala wrote:

    Great tips esp. on the cleaning! When looking for vintage pieces on eBay, I find it's also helpful to know the era of the type of style you're interested in. I've scored some great inexpensive pieces at my local Salvation Army store 🙂

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply
  33. Thank you so much! this post is extremely helpful. I love buying costume jewelry on eBay.

    Posted 11.29.11 Reply

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