Sometimes when I am looking at Vintage Jewelry Team Members’ Shops, one will stand out. Our member Sally’s shop, Jewel Bird Vintage, got my immediate interest. I think it was because her items are just lovely.
It is our pleasure to introduce you to Sally.
Margie: Hi, Sally. What got you started collecting vintage jewelry?
Sally: Well, I’ve always loved jewellery, especially the handcrafted unique kind, but it was a while before I became a passionate collector. Fifteen years ago I started to think about collecting and owning vintage.
My first love was the designs of the Art Deco period. By buying costume jewellery, I realized that I could afford beautiful Art Deco items from a well-known auction site. The whole bidding process excited me and I amassed quite a large collection. My main passion was dress clips and brooches. I started to research and learned about jewellery. As I began to absorb knowledge, I found out that a lot of jewellery that is labeled as Art Deco really isn’t.
I became interested in vintage from other periods. Later, I started to think about becoming a dealer. It was a way to make a little extra money from something I really enjoyed.
Margie: What pathways led you from being a collector to opening Jewel Bird Vintage on Etsy?
Sally: I started selling on eBay and had a shop there for a couple of years. Then I discovered Etsy as a place to shop for handmade and vintage items. It seemed like a more appropriate niche market for my items with better terms for sellers and a friendly community. I opened my shop just over five years ago.
Margie: Sally, please tell us more about you and/or Jewel Bird Vintage?
Sally: I sell mostly 20th Century vintage costume jewellery rather than fine jewellery. When I started out buying, I loved the items that were beautifully designed, yet were very affordable and wearable. I guess my target customers are looking for a unique piece and a reasonable price. Occasionally finer or antique pieces do come my way and though not my area of expertise, I do enjoy researching them. I do, however, love silver and am finding more silver pieces for my shop. I’m still learning, all the time!
I’m from the United Kingdom and live in rural England near one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world – Oxford. In 2015, after thirty years of working in admin/HR roles mostly in local government, my job was made redundant. I decided that I wanted to do something very different and be my own boss. I already had the Etsy shop and decided to focus on that more. In addition, I also became a professional dog walker. It gets me fresh air and exercise so I’m not staring at a computer screen all day. Not very glam; I don’t wear much jewellery when I’m out with the doggies!
Margie: Sally, in your shop, you have lovely jewelry, but it is the bird brooches that get my notice. Tell us the story about how you named your shop Jewel Bird Vintage?
Sally: I love birds and bird imagery. At the time I started my shop, I was a keen bird watcher. It was natural for me to combine jewellery and birds when naming my shop. I’m still always on the lookout for beautiful bird jewels!
Margie: You have such beautiful items in your shop. What is your favorite piece of jewelry in Jewel Bird Vintage and why?
Sally: I love this Hans Myhre’s yellow enamel and silver leaf brooch. It is a beautifully made, elegant mid-century Scandi style. Also, this Art Deco necklace with gorgeous deep red glass beads and dropper pendant is one of my favorites. Again, it is just simple and elegant.
Margie: We know you started collecting Art Deco items. As your collection grew, did your interests change? What is your favorite type of jewelry, period of jewelry and/or designer? Why does it inspire you?
Sally: Well, I started out loving the styles of the 1920s and 1930s in particular and still do. But I’ve discovered so much more since I first started. I love art glass, especially Venetian and Czech. Mid-century Scandinavian silver and enamel pieces are so stylish, simple and beautifully crafted. I’m also fascinated by jewellery inspired by ancient European cultures: Celtic, Anglo Saxon, and Viking. (See Sally’s article on this blog about Celtic jewelry). I used to be an archaeologist and still get a thrill from seeing actual pieces of jewellery from these periods.
Margie: Have you ever found any surprises after you bought something for Jewel Bird Vintage?
Sally: Often I have bought things that are more interesting than there appeared to be at first. Silver, in particular, is often grubby, tarnished, and you can’t see the marks.
I once bought a weird looking silver creature pendant in a charity sale. It was a frog, I thought. I asked Vintage Jewelry Team members if they could help me identify it. A member, Mayweather, pointed out that it was a mythical Hattula bird from Finland – who would have guessed?
Margie: Every collector has stories about collecting. What is your best funny or heartwarming story that happened on Jewel Bird Vintage?
Sally: I don’t have one particular story but I love it when someone buys an item from me that is perfect for a very special occasion such as a wedding. I have a Facebook friend who got married in a necklace from my shop and I have a customer who is an Instagram follower that is about to do the same thing. I provided 80s blingy earrings for an American lady who wanted to be a character from Dynasty at a theme party. Another lady bought a brooch in her high school colors for a special reunion. When this happens it’s wonderful when the customer gives great feedback and even sends pictures. I like to see my pieces go to happy homes.
Margie: When you look for an item for Jewel Bird Vintage, what are you looking for and where do you look?
Sally: Sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it! I like to find quirky and unusual things such as this Sphinx Lucite frog. I like pieces that are signed or have a company’s maker mark. It can be either one I know or something new I have to research. Most of all, I want the pieces I buy to be in very good condition.
When I first set out on this path I found a wholesale vintage jewellery provider who supplied me with my core stock. She introduced me to 1950s rhinestones and 1980s cloisonné enamel, to aurora borealis crystals and carnival glass. Armed with the knowledge of these things I started to go out and find my own stuff. Nowadays I obtain most of my items from collectors/antique fairs, flea markets, charity shops, car boot sales (that’s a particularly British thing!), online auctions and from individuals who have items or estate collections they want to sell.
Margie: Sally, do you have any items that you buy to keep for yourself?
Sally: Though I’m sometimes tempted, I usually let the items go! My lifestyle these days means I don’t get to wear a lot of jewellery and I’d much rather the nice things were worn and appreciated by a buyer.
Margie: Where do you find most of your best items?
Sally: Often from unexpected places. A few years ago, I stayed in the house of a friend of a friend in a local village while I was waiting to find somewhere more permanent to live. He had boxes of jewellery that belonged to his late mother-in-law who had lived into her 90s. Since all the best items had been sold off, he thought the leftovers were junk.
I bought the whole lot from him for a modest price and it turned out to be a really fruitful collection of “junk” and one that was an education for me. There were some very lovely Edwardian gold and gemstone pieces, Scandinavian and Scottish silver, Art Deco dress clips and an extraordinary antique Japanese button that took some serious detective work. There was something interesting from every decade of the 20th Century. I have yet to find another random lot quite like it.
Margie: Do you specialize in one area of vintage? If so, which area is it? And can you tell us something you find interesting in this area?
Sally: Although I am happy to have something of everything in my shop, I now seek out pieces that are specifically from the UK and Europe. A very high proportion of my buyers are from the US and I want to offer them something that may not be so commonplace in the US. I look out for costume pieces by companies such as Sphinx and Miracle and silver by makers in Scotland and Scandinavia. I look for genuine Spanish damascene, Czech glass and filigree and gorgeous enamel pieces by Austrian Michaela Frey. This is not really a specializing, more of a tendency!
Margie: What do you like about having Jewel Bird Vintage on Etsy?
Sally: Despite the sometimes trying changes that Etsy has put us all through recently, I do still enjoy selling on Etsy. I like that I can sell to people all over the world. Etsy takes care of the payments. Also, on Etsy, there is a huge community of other vintage sellers to tap for information and help.
Margie: What have you found is your best source for information when you are researching an item?
Sally: These days – the internet. I do have some reference books but the range of resources online is huge. I find Etsy itself to be incredibly valuable whether it’s the shared knowledge of the VJT or simply how other sellers are showing, describing and pricing their items. It’s great to have that ‘Eureka’ moment when you suddenly discover what it is you actually have after hours of googling.
Margie: Promotion and marketing is such a big part of internet success. How do you market Jewel Bird Vintage?
Sally: I have a Facebook page and use Instagram. I think the latter is most useful for drawing attention to my shop and items. Really, I don’t think either brings my shop many direct sales so I don’t pay for ads. I pin on Pinterest and I try to use good tags and SEO, although this seems to be forever changing. Locally I just talk to people about my shop, hand out cards and get quite of lot of ‘word of mouth’ recommendations.
Margie: It is hard to develop good customer service online. Is there something you do special for your Jewel Bird Vintage customers and if so, what is it?
Sally: I guess these are just basics but I try to be nice, polite and helpful. I often have long exchanges of convos with potential buyers, giving lots of details, measurements, descriptions, and histories. Because of time zones, this is often in the middle of the night, and then they decide not to buy after all – but sometimes they do and it’s worth it!
I have clear terms and conditions regarding shipping times and costs, returns, and refunds (even if people don’t read these!). It helps to have an FAQ for details that don’t come as standard in the Etsy standard T&Cs.
I always package my items securely and try to ship items the next day. I include a packing slip and usually a card, sometimes with an appropriate message.
Margie: What is the best advice you can give someone else about selling vintage items?
Sally: Be really honest in describing and photographing your items so that buyers know exactly what they are getting. Point out any flaws but above all emphasize the positive – say and show what is unique and beautiful about your item.
Margie: What is the best advice anyone gave you about buying and selling vintage items?
Sally: My partner, who knows nothing about vintage jewellery, but is a pillar of support to me, tells me I need to promote myself, my knowledge and skills. He wants me to network more.
Also, he’s always leading me off in new directions to find things for my shop. He once dragged me kicking and screaming to a sale at a donkey sanctuary. I thought it would be a complete dud but turned out to be a fabulous source of vintage finds. I learned to be a bit bold and inquisitive in my searching. It may not work out but it might be the pot at the end of the rainbow!
Margie: Sally, after having Jewel Bird Vintage on Etsy for some time, do you have a hint that you are willing to share about buying for or selling online? If so, what is it?
Sally: It is easy to get disheartened or frustrated with all the changes on Etsy, especially with all the ups and downs of sales when you are counting on earning a living from your shop. Yes, you have to adapt and go with the flow sometimes and embrace change. You need to be prepared to take advice and even criticism from others. Yet, don’t lose your sense of purpose or pride in your own individuality and uniqueness. Set yourself some goals (little ones n 2019 I’m going to invest more in my shop. My plans are to increase my stock, improve my listings, tags, and photos. I want to explore new ideas for both buying and selling my vintage jewellery. This is where it starts!!
One of the really great things about Etsy is meeting buyers and sellers from all over the world. It is always interesting to see how we are different and how we are the same.
Sally’s shop, Jewel Bird Vintage, got our interest because of the lovely British and European flavor and items. Thank you, Sally, for showing us your wonderful vintage finds and telling us your story.