The expectations of a customer buying antique jewellery have increased significantly over the last few decades and I’m sure this is, in part, due to the increased popularity of antiques programmes on TV.

This is a development from 30 years ago when buyers just accepted what the retailer was selling without question. Now, customers want reassurance about its authenticity and the quality and origin of the gemstones. This is because the jewellery industry as a whole has developed and now synthetic stones such as diamonds and emeralds are commonplace. They were not 30 years ago.

When you visit Heirlooms, you will usually meet me, Amy, the owner. I know each piece in the shop inside out and I am able to tell you all about the piece, even information about where it came from and any history it has.

Knowledge can be learned about antique jewellery from the internet and TV shows but it doesn’t replace qualifications and years of experience from a specialist. Buyers expect to be reassured by this service.

I am lucky enough to work as a valuer on ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal. TV shows based on the subject of antiques have really helped to grow the jewellery industry because they have made customers aware of exactly what they may have and the potential value of their items.  This has allowed more variety to appear on the market and has improved awareness of:

  • The affordability and good value in buying antique and secondhand jewellery
  • The styles and periods of antique jewellery which present something completely different to much of the modern jewellery on the High Street
  • The investment potential in buying old jewellery versus modern jewellery where there is huge depreciation and VAT to pay.

Not every item I value on a filming day gets put forward to one of the four on-screen dealers. I am part of the team that decides what is filmed or not.

Some of the interesting pieces of jewellery I have valued on Dickinson’s Real Deal:

  • A Regency mourning pendant, made from hand cut pieces of paper carefully mounted in a gold glazed frame – the owner had no idea how old it was or what it symbolised. I was able to explain to her the significance of the use of white paper (peace), how and why the piece of jewellery was used (mourning) and who the pendant was intended for (there was a small inscription hidden on the pattern on the paper that the owner had never realised was there). It transpired the piece was actually made to mark the mourning period of her Great Great Great Uncle – she had no idea!
  • A ruby and diamond flag brooch – the owner didn’t even think it was set with real gemstones. We were able to tell her that it was made by Benzie of the Isle of Wight and was worth over £1000. A small number on the brooch allowed us to identify when the piece was made and sold and to whom, through the Benzie archive. We could tell her the piece was actually called a Burgee and was a flag used to denote a yacht club.

Time and time again, it is the jewellery pieces that are filmed because the stories behind the jewels are so interesting and they are so visually attractive but most of all wearable. Viewers love to hear about jewellery on these programmes because it is something we can relate to instantly – most people own a piece of jewellery that is special to them – and that is an immediate link between the viewer and what they are watching on screen. Therefore, the TV show has earned your loyalty immediately and you will keep watching, episode after episode. And I love being part of it!