SPONSORED Today we have the privilege of getting to know Gemma of Gem Bank 1973 – a UK-based antique & vintage jewelry treasure trove that sells the most incredible pieces! Gemma is 3rd generation in the jewelry business and has taken things online to all those worldwide jewelry fanatics, like me who live in the US but dreams of shopping the incredible jewels of the UK. If you’ve ever been antiquing in Europe, you understand! Their Instagram account continues to provide — giving new items daily, with wonderful videos, lots of details and shots of the items being worn. And for those inquiring minds, they offer layaway which is something I really enjoy using as a buyer.
I wanted to learn more about this shop, so I asked Gemma all the important questions, which she kindly answered. Hope you enjoy!
What got you started in the antique business?
If I am completely honest – it is all I’ve ever known – my family have been in the antiques trade for 3 generations!
As a child I spent most of my school holidays at various antiques markets and in my parents antiques shops. Although at that time antique furniture was a huge success I always loved the magic of antique jewellery. I did go to fashion school but always found my way back to jewellery.
We had a stand at portobello market for many years and every single week I’d turn up with my little chihuahua “Gucci.” He was a well known favourite to every passer by. Before lunch time every week, it was guaranteed I would’ve spent my wages in advance from my days work. One of the pieces I still have to this day, a sterling silver misers purse on a chain. I thought it was the best thing ever at 16.
Tell us a brief history of Gem Bank 1973? How did you come up with the name?
Gembank1973 – so the name is pretty terrible in all honesty and has little to no meaning. My parents hadn’t really ventured online too much , and I decided to take my side of the business online , not really thinking it would come to much , and used a computer generated name! The business grew and people got to know me as Gembank1973 so I thought I was in too deep to change. I wish I could say something more fun, it’s not even my birth year, just random numbers.
In any given year, where do you travel to find antique jewelry to sell?
My dad and step mum have always done the majority of the buying, travelling around South Africa, all over the USA , and across Europe. Ive been lucky enough to come on lots of these trips however lately we’ve found it impossible to buy at markets, fairs or auctions as people demand such high prices and rightly so, with antiques becoming rarer by the day. We are lucky enough to have many connections who actually come to us to sell their pieces , lots of which come from titled lords and ladies within the UK! I prefer working this way as it usually means no-one else has seen the items we have up for sale.
Do you have any stories about how you acquired a certain piece of jewelry?
Where to start – I remember one time purchasing a mixed lot in a local auction room for around £50.00 only to find it held a set of natural pearls, as you can imagine that was a pretty amazing day for me.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve also been on the other side and bid on things blind (without viewing the item in person) thinking I’m getting something wonderful and its turned out to be a complete DUD! With most auction rooms your bid is final, so you are stuck with something.
Any jaw-dropping or memorable pieces you’ve sold throughout the years?
I have been fortunate enough to have handled many, many pieces of outstanding items. From Cartier to David Yurman and from modern to items from the 17th century. So many pieces stick in my mind, one of which was a diamond riviera necklace, which was breathtaking, we also had an incredible Cartier fire opal and navette ring, some of the Georgian pieces with their provenance are exceptional. It would be impossible to pick one.
Your favorite piece of jewelry?
My favourite piece(S) of jewellery are all my antique jewels passed down through our families’ generations. Even the “not as valuable” pieces, just knowing their history and what they have meant to our family over the years is just incredible. I keep them in the safe in their original boxes and don’t often wear them and will pass them down to my daughter.
I also have daily favourites – I LOVE bracelets – the more the merrier and I love to mix golds, I also love a statement ring (or two), I wear a large gold French bulldog and an Essex bee crystal that always gets a lot of attention on IG, along with as many antique gold chains as my neck can handle.