The value people assign to special pieces of jewellery is often determined by sentiment and family memories – but the market for antique pieces can upset expectations about their real dollar value. We talk with Graeme Thomson, whose antique jewellery store in Parnell Road is a destination for collectors and those wanting to buy or restore quality pieces from another era.

Fashion trends and rarity are two factors that will influence the market value of antique jewellery – and right now, Graeme Thomson says the Art Deco era is hot.

“Good quality Art Deco pieces from the 1920s, especially rings, are very popular with younger customers because they sit well with today’s more minimal fashion styles. Long gold chains are very popular, and good vintage bracelets are always sought after.

“Unfortunately, Victorian and Edwardian pieces do not attract the same interest. Despite representing the finest period of craftsmanship, they are seen as too fussy and hard to wear with contemporary styles of clothing. But hopefully, attitudes might change.”

But today’s sought-after necklace can become tomorrow’s reject, particularly if the market becomes flooded with reproductions.

“In the 1990s, old gold watch chains became very popular to wear as necklaces and were in short supply. A lot of gold reproductions were made, and now that they are not so fashionable, owners wanting to sell them will be disappointed by the lack of interest and low sale prices.

“I would not consider buying one of the gold reproductions for re-sale – it has no collectible value. But if someone brought in a genuinely old example from the early 1900s, I would be keen – they are rare, and there will always be buyers.”

Collectors and museums can send prices sky high at auctions when they compete for rare items. Recently, signed and hallmarked New Zealand jewellery made between 1900-1914 has been commanding prices well in excess of expectations, particularly pieces that have a “Kiwi” design element such as a cabbage tree.

More recent works by some of the early partners associated with Fingers, the contemporary Auckland jewellery gallery, are also beginning to attract active bidding at auctions.

Graeme advises that anyone considering having an antique collection valued should also obtain a condition appraisal to check the claws on rings, clasps on brooches, the strength of strings of pearls, and stone settings. This precautionary measure is particularly important with rings – the everyday wear and tear on them can easily dislodge a stone.

Graeme’s final words of advice: make sure you find a jeweller with a track record in the restoration of older pieces.

“If you are considering having your collection valued, restored or cleaned, it is important to go to a specialist. Restoring older pieces requires a good understanding of the era’s techniques and designs – I have seen far too many examples of people taking their precious pieces to a retail jeweller who only sells modern designs, and being disappointed with the result.”