Tales from the Junk Pile

Don't know what that TFTJP is? Where have you been! Catch up with JCK's interview with Elisa.



Digging in the junk pile with my daughter Ruby! Going to the junk pile is such an interesting experience and I always find amazing stuff. FYI the junk pile is for THE TRADE (wholesale) ONLY. But many of you are curious and ask what it's like, so... 
So, there's four guys and one gal behind a tiny counter and they're watching the gold prices all day long. People "in the business" are constantly passing through. 95% are selling or actually "buying gold" (like, coins or bars.) Then there's the people like me, asking to "dig." They pull out a 20-30 pound pile of gold (9k-22k,) and I literally dig! There are usually 3-4 piles and each one takes about 20-25 minutes to go through. Your hands get really dirty, and watch out for those brooch pins! When you're done, they weigh it, check gold prices again, and tell you the price. The grand total always feels terrifyingly high...sometimes I leave there spending $20k...but when I get home I realize how many amazing pieces I got. It's fun being part of the crazy energy and listening to their conversations. They talk about sports, gold prices, bitcoin, what they did on the weekend, and who had covid (and which vaccine everyone got.) There's lots of banter and joking. They play classic rock, exclusively. They remember the names of all their customers and seem to really love their job. Whenever I'm there, I see Black, Indian, Asian, Jewish, and other ethnicities in the span of an hour...a total melting pot. It baffles me that the guys who work there don't seem to care at ALL about the quality of the gold in those bins. I often see Tiffany pieces and SO many antiques and heirlooms. But, that's not their modus operandi. They're all about buying low and melting high. Chains are ALWAYS tangled and items are often damaged (most people scrap things like a single earring, or stuff that isn't worth repairing.) If it's a simple repair, like a chain that requires a clasp, I buy it and immediately take it to my jeweler, who's down the block. And when I get home, I sort, weigh, price, photograph and offer it to you guys.


FAQs answered by Elisa

How long have you been selling vintage and antique jewelry?

I opened my first shop in November, 1993, in NYC, selling vintage clothing and antique jewelry, and quickly expanded to three stores. When I closed my last shop in 2011, I decided to phase out the clothing and exclusively sell jewelry.

Is everything you sell genuine gold and diamonds?

Yes! I clearly state in all my descriptions the gold karat and the type/size/weight of the stones. EVERY ITEM IS PROFESSIONALLY TESTED and I guarantee the authenticity of every item.

What about condition?

All my jewelry is in excellent condition, with no flaws, unless otherwise stated in the description. Of course, vintage and antique items will have patina (which I like, so I don’t polish) and minor wear, but nothing major.

What’s the difference between antique, vintage, and estate jewelry? 

Antique jewelry is over 100 years old. Vintage jewelry is over 20 years old. Estate jewelry is a term that refers to previously owned jewelry.

Where do you find your stuff? 

I’ve been a secondhand shopper all my life: all my clothes, furniture, books, art, and yes, jewelry, were purchased secondhand. So I've always been resourceful and expert at buying antique and vintage items. I buy jewelry at shows, online, from estates, when I travel, and, lastly, in NYC’s jewelry district, where I have dealer friends who source items for me on a daily basis. Many of my gold items are found in what I affectionately call “the junk pile” where I sift through pounds of gold and save antique and vintage jewelry from being melted! I also have a secret Paris dealer who sources amazing French jewelry for me and sends me shipments once a month.

Your items sell so quickly. How can I make sure I see them before they sell out?

New items drop on Instagram first, so turn on your notifications! That’s where you’ll see new items as soon as they’re available. Go to the @ChelseaGirl.NYC Instagram, click the bell in the upper right hand corner, turn on post and story notifications…and voilà!

How can I clean antique jewelry?

I like the natural patina of old gold, but diamonds can get dingy with wear, so we suggest gently cleaning your jewelry from time to time with warm water, soap and a soft toothbrush. Also, avoid wearing any pieces with stones while showering or swimming-- stones slightly expand when soaked in water, then shrink when dry, which can cause the setting to expand and therefore the stone to fall out. My daughter is always making this mistake 🙄

How can I pay?

We accept several different methods of payment, including most Amex/Visa/Mastercards, Paypal, Apple Pay, and Venmo.

Please note, Apple Pay only shows up when you use Apple's SAFARI browser, and Venmo does not show up on phones (only computers).

Can I pay in installments?

Yes! We offer to pay in 4 installments via a third party, 'SHOP PAY' when you are checking out.

Simply tap ShopPay's big purple button under Express Checkout. The following screen will explain installment terms to you, including:

Rates from 0%-36% APR. Payment options through Shop Pay Installments are subject to an eligibility check and are provided by these lending partners: affirm.com/lenders. Options depend on your purchase amount, and a down payment may be required. State notices to consumers https://www.affirm.com/licenses.

Please note, this is operated by a third party so we cannot change these terms. If you feel like you're a special case, contact us.

What shipping methods do you offer? Do you ship internationally?

All shipping info here. Yes we ship worldwide!

What about returns and refunds?

We accept returns within reason. All return/refund info here.


Whether you're a customer or journalist, feel free to get in contact:

➞  DM Elisa directly on Instagram (this is the FASTEST way to get a question answered!)

Have something a bit longer to say?

✉ Email info@chelseagirlnyc.com