Gorgeous collectible vintage costume jewelry can add a wow factor to any outfit. Not only are the pieces beautiful, but they are more affordable than their real counterparts.
Brands of Vintage Costume Jewelry
Faux pieces of jewelry have been around for hundreds of years, this style of jewelry began to gain traction in the 1920s when Hollywood utilized costume pieces in movies and prominent women, such as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and stars like Marilyn Monroe, wore various designers' costume jewelry in public. Many designers created costume jewelry during the 20th century, from Napier to Sarah Coventry and more. Just a few brands to collect include:
Hattie Carniegie was an immigrant to the U.S. from Austria. Her jewelry designs feature Swarovski crystals, gold mesh, florals, and animals. The Carnegie logo is stamped on pieces made both by her company and those commissioned outside her company; the logos may simply be her name, her initials, or even "Miss Hattie". A set of three sea-based pins were sold at LiveAuctioneers for $200.
Coco Chanel's 1920s creation of "statement" jewelry and accessories that were more artful than expensive kicked off the fashion jewelry craze. Coco Chanel costume jewelry is a classic brand iconified by gorgeous brooches and, in later years, gold-plated and faux pearl pieces. Vintage Chanel pieces sell for several hundreds of dollars, especially necklaces. Look for the backwards and fowards"C" letters with overlapping backs.
Coro was started by Emmanuel Cohn (Co) and Carl Rosenburger (ro), although they employed designers to create the jewelry. The company went through several name changes, from Coro to Corocraft to Vendome, and most pieces were marked with "Coro". Vendome pieces are considered "better" than the rest. The line is famous for the Duettes pin, figures, and patriotic pins, among other more common designs. If you find a rare piece, then it may be worth one to two hundred dollars. For example, the Persian Horse Rider pin and the Military Hat brooch were both sold for around $100 on eBay.
Christian Dior utilized the creation of Swarovski crystals in costume jewelry, especially the "aurora borealis" rainbow stones. Many famous designers worked in the costume jewelry division of Dior, including Kramer, Henkel and Grossé, Josette Gripoix, and more. Marks would feature the designer name, often with "for Christian Dior" or "Dior by" and similar notations. Sometimes the country of origin was included as well, depending on the designer. Florals and fine-looking pieces are common. A crystal sapphire necklace sold for $250 on eBay.
Jonas Eisenberg immigrated to Chicago and began a clothing company. With each article of clothing came a jewelry accessory. The costume jewelry because popular enough to be sold separately by his sons, and the clothing line was eventually discontinued. Enamel jewelry and rhinestone Christmas tree pins are very popular. Early jewelry does not have a mark, but in later years, the mark was the name Eisenberg or a letter "E" on pieces. The Experts on the Antiques Roadshow valued a set featuring brooch, bracelet, earraings, and necklace at around $1,300 in 2013. On eBay, individual pieces range from around $15 to around $100, with some sets costing several hundreds of dollars.
Hobé costume jewelry is known for being tasseled, beaded, and having floral designs. The company was started by Jacques Hobé in Paris, but William Hobé, his son, is most well-known for designing costume pieces used in Hollywood and worn by actresses after he moved the company to America. The marks for this jewelry have undergone several changes. Early 1900s marks feature very tall letters "H" and "b" in various shapes from triangular to oval. In later years, the name may be a more standard size and simply stamped on the back of the piece. The pricing depends on the piece, but a rare tulip design clamp bracelet recently sold for just under $170 at Ultimate Adornment and Collectibles.
Miriam Haskell's jewelry highlighted floral designs using Swarovski crystals, faux beads, and other popular materials of the time, many utilizing nature for their designs.. Electroplating was a common feature of this jewelry maker and pieces can be worth anywhere from $150 to $400. Haskell was not a designer, but instead hired experts to make pieces. Few costume jewelry designs in this brand carry a maker's mark; if there is one, it is rare and features a horseshoe; otherwise, it would be identified by the Haskell name.
Elsa Schiaparelli started as a fashion designer but also made costume jewelry pieces as well. Often, her pieces were Surrealist and some of her more famous ones were part of the "Shocking Pink" collection. Large pieces, nature, and animals also factored in. Early 1900s pieces were not signed while later ones had her last name. Though Schiaparelli quit making jewelry in the 1950s, it was manufactured through the 1970s since the company name and rights were sold. Pieces on eBay regularly sell for at least $40 and many are around the $80 to $120 mark. Sets go for more.
Many Trifari pieces were also designed to look like more valuable fine jewelry. Trifari crown pins and Jelly Belly animal brooches are highly collectible pieces today that were created by designer Alfred Philippe. Some pieces are sterling silver, while others are made from a material known as "Trifanium". Expert Judith Miller considers pieces by Philippe for Trifari highly collectible. Trifari is still in production today through the Liz Claiborne company. Its original mark included a small crown, which evolved into the name with the copyright or trademark symbol. Rare and well-preserved Trifari pieces and collections regularly sell at LiveAuctioneers for anywhere from $600 to $2,000 or more, while eBay pieces can garner anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars.
What to Look For in Collectible Costume Jewelry
- Condition - Look for pieces that are in excellent condition with no repairs; determine whether jewels or beads were glued in or are held in with prongs. Missing parts and rust (green in vintage pieces) are a bad sign.
- Materials - Vintage jewelry is made out of a variety of materials, from glass to plastic to reisn to Bakelite, and a variety of metals, of which brass was common. Faux pearls were popular in the mid-1950s and vintage rhinestone jewelry often included faux diamonds.
- Brand and design - Identifying vintage costume jewelry marks is the best way to tell who made it and whether it's collectible. However, you also want to look for more unusual designs, especially those that represent various style movements like Art Deco.
- Rare and/or well-known - Like other vintage and antiques, the fewer pieces produced means the more collectible it is. Additionally, well-known pieces used in Hollywood movies or worn at famous events are valuable.
Something else to look for are matching sets; this means the earrings, bracelet, necklace, pin, and/or ring all have a similar theme and were sold together in pairs or larger groupings.
General Value of Vintage Costume Jewelry
While many unknown vintage jewelry pieces can be purchased on yard sales for a dollar or two, or online for around $20 to $50, there are some brands with pieces worth into the hundreds of dollars, depending on designer and style. When sold in lots by large auction houses, collections can garner over a thousand dollars.
Start Your Vintage Jewelry Collection Today
Whether you're looking for a vintage brooch or you just want beautiful and unusual necklaces, vintage jewelry can be a boon. Check local estate sales, online resellers, and of course, your grandmother and mother's jewelry box!