By Sara Jordan-Heintz
For Veronica Zielinski Staudt, vintage jewelry isn’t just a styling option. Rather, it's a means in which to help women cultivate a not-to-be-copied personal look. She's the proprietor of the online jewelry store, Vintage Meet Modern, based in Homer Glen, Illinois, a town situated 40 miles outside of Chicago. She not only buys and sells retro wares, but also shows her shoppers (and social media followers) ways in which to bridge the gap between decades-old jewelry pieces and present-day sensibilities.
Big Name Brands and Much More
Avon, Ciner, Coro, Crown Trifari, Joan Rivers, Judy Lee, Juliana, Kenneth Lay Lane, Lisner, Monet, Napier, Oleg Cassini, Sarah Coventry, and Yves Saint Laurent are just some of the brands to be had.
“We strive to find pieces in excellent condition, rich in fashion history and tradition. Plus, we seek items perfectly suited to complement today’s modern styles. We’re very much hoping to change this industry in all the right ways. In addition, we hope to educate a younger generation of women to see the value in collecting something that is vintage. And to know jewelry is the perfect place to start,” Staudt said. “It always fits, it retains its value, it starts conversations and gives women the confidence they want in their personal style.”
Staudt isn’t merely buying and selling these retro finds; she wants to help the modern woman feel confident in wearing them. She offers online tutorials and does Facebook live presentations.
Versatile Vintage Choices
“I ask myself these questions: Who is going to wear it, and how,” she said. “I have to think of at least three ways that woman could wear the piece over and over again.”
Vintage Meet Modern began in 2011. It is a culmination of Staudt’s 20 years of experience in the fashion, retail, styling and design industries. Her love affair with vintage bling began like most women — from playing dress-up using pieces from her grandmother’s jewelry box. The passion developed during her employment with Neiman Marcus, specializing in designer jewelry, and evolved into launching her own company.
“My vision was to create an upscale shopping experience online, focusing on the needs of clients who want to accessorize their life with something unique, historical, and completely wearable — today, tomorrow, forever,” Staudt explained. “Our careful curation debunks the myth that vintage is old, out-of-date, unusable, or unattainable.”
Variety Aids Vintage Meet Modern
Staudt is aided by her husband Christopher, who photographs all items in her inventory; Claudia Bixler, who handles image styling and videography; Mary Anne Bixler, who helps with inventory management and general assistance; and Heidi Daoud, who serves as creative content contributor. New pieces appear in th store on a daily basis.
“I buy simple estates, complicated estates, and designer and couture pieces,” she said. “People can absolutely contact me if they have pieces to sell. I mainly buy out-right, but I do take commissions.”
Her clientele ranges from wealthy and avid collectors, to folks just starting to navigate the world of vintage jewelry, to people merely seeking unique, affordable accessories.
Rewriting Misconceptions of Classic Equaling Costly
“Some people collect to collect. Some just wear it. And some wear it and then become collectors,”
Staudt noted. “We work with a lot of young women — entrepreneurs — who travel frequently, and they like to change their look by changing their jewelry, because it’s hard to change their outfits when they’re traveling. They have absolutely fallen in love with vintage and antique jewelry because their colleagues notice they’re wearing something different than other people have.”
The inventory spans the 1920s-1980s, and includes: bracelets, rings (sized and adjustable), earrings (clip, screw-on and pierced), brooches, pendants, necklaces (including chokers and medallions), scarves, stick pins, and handbags. On the lower end of the price spectrum, pieces begin at $30 to $55. Designer pieces fetch $150 to $300, and couture pieces pricing extends to $1,000.
“We don’t want anyone to be intimidated by price, so that’s why we keep prices low,” Staudt said. “The pricier couture items, such as Chanel and Gucci, almost never make it to our website, because they are pieces people request through our Wish List.”
Appeal of Exclusivity
While many items Staudt sells were mass-produced at one time (or even for just a season), only one piece is ever in stock at any given time, adding to the exclusivity of the look. Doing inventory on the store takes a trained eye and a reference book close at hand — including the tome “Collecting Costume Jewelry” in editions 101, 202 and 303.
“We are very thorough in our research. If we can attribute a piece to a designer, we do,” Staudt said. “We read the books and attend vintage jewelry conventions, including ones hosted by Costume Jewelry Collectors International (CJCI).”
If an item bears no mark or signature, various traits can help determine its age and designer, such as its setting or clasp.
“And sometimes we find an unmarked piece was part of a set, and [a different piece in the set] had the hallmark instead, or it was only marked on the box,” she explained.
Understanding Impact of Age and Condition
Damage such as tarnish, bent prawns, stone discoloration, and missing parts can all impact a piece’s monetary value and wearability.
“From a collectors’ standpoint, a piece that has damage is going to affect collectibility, in terms of value, but from a retail standpoint, if something is not going to be harmed by being lightly repaired, we work with several excellent jewelers to make very simple repairs,” Staudt noted. “We would never put anything on the public market we wouldn’t find to be in A-plus condition.”
However, enamel work is an exception to the rule. Enamel by definition is an opaque or semi-transparent glossy substance type of glass. Application is vitrification to metallic or other hard surfaces. Staudt notes that enamel wear is fairly common on vintage pieces, specifically floral enamel designs.
“If the damage is not overly dramatic, we will offer it for sale. There are actually some people that like to see the charm of the patina or a tiny bit of enamel wear; they’ll say that it gives it a little bit of character,” she said.
Open to Uncommon
“In addition, there are some very rare pot metal brooches out there. We don’t touch any small damages those may have, even if that drops the value,” she explained. “Having value slightly go down is worth it versus changing the integrity of the piece.”
How does one care for vintage jewelry? Staudt noted a specific list of do’s and don’ts. She recommends never spraying perfume or hairspray on one’s person while wearing vintage pieces. In addition, remove pieces before applying lotion or using soap.
“Vintage, costume and designer jewelry is different from other jewelry that you own,” Staudt said. “You do not put it in ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Don’t submerge it. Most settings are excellent, but that doesn’t mean it’d be good to expose the jewelry to chemicals that would change the compound.”
She suggests using a toothbrush with some light dish detergent.
Understanding Essentials of Care
“Moisture is the enemy of rhinestones. It turns them cloudy, it works with the foil backs, and that’s
how you start getting those green, dark, cloudy stones. Wipe off moisture immediately,” she said.
Storing pieces in small, ziplock baggies or closed velvet pouches helps to keep out dust and dander.
“Try not to hang necklaces on long bars or those types of things. While it does keep them from tangling, doing that stretches them out and puts unnecessary wear on the tension and the cords, which decreases stability,” she noted.
Vintage jewelry can also present unique challenges to the wearer. That’s why Staudt helps her customers maximize comfort and style.
“I show you how to wear a brooch, on clothing or in your hair — how to use a makeup sponge behind a brooch to help it lay flat,” Staudt explained. “If clip earrings hurt, I show you how to loosen them up. I also sell earring pads that really work. I offer ring guards to help adjust the size. If there is a jewelry solution to discover, I will find it.”
Explore Vintage Meet Modern
To see Staudt’s current inventory, visit vintagemeetmodern.com. Every order is hand packaged and accompanied by a card bearing the company’s signature turquoise lady silhouette. For Wish List requests, contact Staudt at firstname.lastname@example.org.