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in costume jewelry
Vintage costume jewelry
varies widely in price and desirability. I am often asked what makes one
piece better quality, more expensive and more desirable than another, and below are some of the answers
along with examples.
Quality of materials~
Jewelry manufacturers used different quality materials… this is evident
even in the pieces we see today. Quality in rhinestones is determined best
by brilliance and clarity. The lead content and cut of Swarovski stones, for instance,
makes them incredibly brilliant and clear. Good rhinestones, like good
diamonds, sparkle beautifully, and inferior ones are cloudier and less
brilliant. Inferior stones can be the result of poor condition,
but it can also be lower quality stones that were used in the jewelry
Clear, very high quality stones with lots of sparkle and no foil damage
(darkening of stones).
A variety of sizes and shapes of rhinestones often increases design appeal and desirability.
Swarovski stones have a first-class reputation for sparkle, quality
Cloudy and/or grayed rhinestones devalue any piece of jewelry,
as do inferior quality dull stones. This additionally has a flat
bracelet and brooch and earrings in dazzling clear rhinestones.
rhinestone brooch. View
SWAROVSKI Christmas tree pin.
CLEAR rhinestone simple floral brooch with a flat design and dim
stones . #Y20731
Quality of design~
This may seem subjective but, just as in art, good design has quantifiable
elements: composition, use of color, use of material, attention to detail
and artistic merit of design. These pieces have it all!
Intricate well-balanced artistic design with layers of interest
Historical reference designs, figurals
Colorful cheerful design with very high quality enameling
Trifari "demi-lune" rhinestone pieces with unusual rhinestones
and graceful designs, and a degree of rarity
DeROSA 3" fur clip marked R DeROSA with a peacock surrounded by magnificent detail.
KRAMER regal brushed gold tone
winged crowned lion brooch with red cabochons and rhinestones, 3".
MB ENAMEL cherries
brooch with high quality enameling. View
wisteria purple demi-lune rhinestones 3-3/4" brooch (converted from a fur clip) #T18642
bracelet 7" by 1-5/8". #T18643
and violets fur clip #T21205. Backs
Detailed hand work work,
craftsmanship, mechanical elements and complexity all add to the desirability of pieces
Attention to detail
Unusual use of materials
Appeal of subject
COROCRAFT day and night blue cabochon and pave floral 4" brooch.
unsigned 1940’s vintage necklace with the slightly flattened larger glass
beads typical of this era. It matches the dress clip to the left. View
jelly belly trembler brooch, a hand holding a pale pink and cream enameled
orchid flower with aqua forget-me-nots wrist corsage with a glass pearl
center, circa 1945, a large 4" long. #Y38383
unsigned clear rhinestone links necklace with tiny pastel
porcelain roses and matching signed clip.
Intricacy of construction~
Flat, simple and average pieces with little dimension
and design were less expensive when they were originally made, and are not
desirable to collectors now.
The three pictures below are examples of lower quality jewelry. They are
wearable, and may even be marketable, but only at low prices.
simply designed rhinestones
Clear rhinestones floral brooch. #Y21211
RED rhinestones and
aurora borealis necklace, 14-15". View #Y21977
Clear rhinestones circle brooch.
These pieces show more complex design and use of
color, and they are more rare. Prices for these would be on the high end
range for costume jewelry.
Beautiful and intricate hand work
Creative use of unusual stones, 3-D design
Well designed combination of layers
HASKELL parure composed of purple faceted crystal beads,
chartreuse glass teardrops and poured glass leaves, it is enhanced by
rhinestones, artificial pearls and filigree work. The necklace is 14
inches long with a 3 inch pendant, matching 2-1/2" wide brooch 1-3/4" earrings. So typical of the things best about Haskell… the intricate
work, the wonderful colors, and the delicate detailing. ViewView
DeROSA rose bud
fur clip, invisible set rose colored glass, rhinestones and faux pearl, 4"
tall. This is a large piece with unusual elements and three dimensional
flower brooch with lovely purple glass beads, green
enameling and clear and purple rhinestones 3-1/2".
one-of-a-kind pieces and pieces with provenance which are also well made and in good condition
command the highest prices of all.
HASKELL/VRBA this fabulous
one-of-a-kind portrait pin was made for a Broadway play
by Larry Vrba when he was the designer for Miriam Haskell Jewelry.
MIRIAM HASKELL circa 1940 Frank
Hess designed necklace, bracelet, and three clips jewelry parure with
original illustration advertising art work by Larry Austin.
2-11/16" face motif fur clip made from the design shown at left. See
this piece in Harrice Miller’s "Confident Collector, 2nd Edition" on page
Jewelry that has been featured in books and magazines or has been
prominently worn or owned by well-known people has a cachet of its own.
BAKELITE heart and key brooch seen on the cover of
a 1940’s Life Magazine
Pieces with provenance.
BAKELITE red heart and key pin.
early Hess unsigned dress clip. Note the cast metal flower petals set with
VICTORIAN gold and enameled brooch with plaited thick
blonde hair under glass with extended pin stem, "In Memory Of"
encircling frame, and engraved on back, 1-1/2" by 2":
Ms Buchannan, died 12th Nov 1843
John Wilson died 4th June 1843
Seen in Christie Romero’s "Warman’s Jewelry, 3rd Ed, page 35 and in
Becker’s "Antique & Twentieth Century Jewelry" on page 106.
It also was featured in Southeastern Antiquing &
Collecting Magazine, August 2003.
Ann Southern 1941
This brooch looks like the
STARET bleeding heart brooch circa 1940. #S18228
Era or Maker Interest~
Jewelry that is strongly typical of it’s era and style is always popular.
But conversely, this can also be true of jewelry that is very atypical of a
designer or era. See JEWELRY BY THE DECADES
to help date your jewelry.
TYPICAL OF ERA
TYPICAL OF DESIGNER
UNUSUAL FOR ERA and DESIGNER
DRAGONFLY and poppy
lavender parure with glass beads, seed beads, petals and leaves.
enameled cast metal angel child brooch, 4". This is a large and heavy
piece with lustrous enameling, and unlike any Carnegie I have seen before.
Fashions and Trends~
What is on the TV and movie stars, what is being talked about by collectors, what is
on the fashion run ways… all these influence what is hot and what is not.
And like apparel, jewelry fashions may come and go with jewelry and
suite. Buying high quality, excellent condition, multiple pieces in a set
and/or unusual items is a good hedge against the trends of the times.
STACKS of BANGLES
VEGA enameled ring with a parrot
design and red, green and burgundy enameling and
(The Azurite is the blue material and the Malachite is the green material), size 10, 2-1/2". Azurite
was thought to be an aid to spiritualism by the Egyptians.
SHULTZ bakelite cream, black, red and white bangle stack, great
graphics and vivid colors. #Bscz17
brooch purple glass in an intricate and artistic setting. Exactly
and where she was made is uncertain, but she surely is a beauty. View
Personal Preferences and
In spite of all other factors, personal taste,
sentimental associations and general eye appeal count. Personal associations
and preferences often overrule all the other decision making points listed
above, so as it is often said, "Buy what you like". It will make either your
collection so much more distinctive!
Sentiment.. a piece reminiscent of
an special event.
SWAROVSKI red glass grapes and pave leaves brooch, a sentimental
favorite of mine as it marked a special occasion.
R DeROSA on each piece,
peacocks with enameling, faux pearls and rhinestones. A 6-1/2" by 1-1/4"
and matching 1-1/8" by 1" earrings and 3" by 2-1/4" dress clip View
huge 5" floral brooch with rose colored cabochon centers.