Archive for the ‘Costume Jewellery’ Category

Buying Vintage Jewelry Online

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Jewelry has been around since the early stages of civilization. In the beginning, it was used for magical protection, good luck, and warding off evils, but also for aesthetic purposes – we humans have been vain since the dawn of time! Considering how long jewelry has been around and the popularity it has enjoyed through the centuries, there is plenty of it on the market (although you won’t find any 75,000 year old beads on eBay…).

There are many people who collect vintage jewelry from all eras, and I have to say it is a pretty addictive hobby. For those just starting out (or even just shopping for a single piece), knowing where to begin can be tough. Where do you shop? What should you look for?

The First Steps

Going online to look is a natural first choice for many, and you can get a good start on educating yourself simply by browsing around. Vintage jewelry is hugely popular both among collectors and “regular shoppers” and there are plenty of forums online where you can learn a lot just from reading old threads, and of course also ask questions.

What Am I Looking For?

There are many that sell vintage jewelry on the internet, but the multitude of choices can be overwhelming. I find it helpful to decide on the style, material, designer and maybe even decade I want to focus on to help narrow things down a bit, for example: silver necklaces from the 1940s; Miriam Haskell bracelets; enamel Coro brooches; or maybe March birthstone charms in any material from any era.

Research, Research, ResearchBuying jewelry online: Parure

It always pays to be cautions, no matter where you shop. There are many fakes and “faux vintage” pieces out there, and sometimes not even the seller knows if what they have is the real deal or not. The best way to ensure that you get a true vintage piece is to learn as much about the design / designer / era as you can beforehand. Learn about materials, marks, signed and unsigned pieces, telltale signs, common fakes, etc. And remember that “vintage inspired” and “vintage style” is NOT true vintage.

Read as many books as you can; visit local antique shops and ask questions; surf the net and read up on tips and advice at sites like Vintage Costume Jewels and Collectors Weekly. If you find a piece of jewelry you want to buy but are unsure about when it comes to authenticity, ask in a forum. People are usually more than happy to help and offer advice.

Also check out the rating and reviews of the seller you are considering buying from. Do they offer any sort of proof of authenticity? Do they accept returns? Are the photos on their site clear and crisp, and are there closeups of each part of the piece (including hallmarks)? Contact the seller and ask questions about the item, and to see more photos. If the seller doesn’t get back to you, or doesn’t answer your questions directly, it is best to stay away.

Always pay with a credit card or PayPal. That way you are protected and there is a record of the transaction (and your money can be refunded). If the seller won’t accept either of these payment methods, I would not do business with them.

As long as you do your research and make sure to buy from a reputable seller, buying online is a great way to add to your vintage collection. And if you happen to end up with a fake piece that the seller refuses to take back, consider it a learning experience (as long as you didn’t pay a ton of money for it – in that case I would suggest contacting a lawyer).

And, most of all, have fun with it. It’s important to enjoy the process, and want to learn more, otherwise it’s just another job.


March Birthstone Charms And Pendants – Aquamarine

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

In the modern tradition, the birthstone for March is the gorgeous Aquamarine (in the mystical tradition it’s Jade and in all others Bloodstone – more on those in separate posts).

Morganite, Aquamarine and Heliodor

Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family, which also includes Emeralds (green), Morganite (pink – purple), Heliodor (yellow), Goshenite (Clear) and Bixbite (red, very rare). Pure beryl has no color – these stones get their different hues from impurities, and in the case of Aquamarine it comes from iron. The stones are also almost always heat treated which enhances the blue color by removing some of the green and/or yellow that may be present.

The word Aquamarine comes from the Latin aqua (water) and mare (sea) and it certainly is an apt description of the colors of these stones, which range from a pale light blue to deep greenish hues. They are fairly abundant and are mainly mined in Brazil, but also in Madagascar, India, Nigeria, Russia, China and the US.

The stones can come in huge sizes and it is not unusual to see large cut aquamarines of 40 – 50ct. Aquamarines can be quite affordable, but the price of course depends on size and quality. Greenish-blue ones with lots of inclusions are at the lowest end of the price scale, while clear (no inclusions), intensely sky and dark blue stones usually fetch the highest prices. Having said that, beryl sometimes have inclusions that produce rare asterism (star) and cat’s eye effects, and aquamarines with either of those can be quite costly.

Aquamarine Healing Properties

Aquamarines are said to protect seafarers, enhance communication, help you stick to your goals in life, become less self-centered, alleviate depression and anxiety, calm fears, promote tranquility and a light heart and boost creativity and intuition. Holding an aquamarine while meditating helps you focus and go deeper into the meditation. It is also believed to help with the immune system (allergies), the thymus gland, spleen, heart, throat, lymph nodes, eye inflammation, arthritis, and varicose veins.

In addition to being the birthstone of March, it is the planetary stone for Pisces, the state gem for Colorado, the birthstone for October in the Roman, Hebrew and Arabic tradition, and the 19th wedding anniversary stone.

I love aquamarine and always carry a small rondelle with me when I’m not wearing aquamarine jewelry – I find it calms and centers me, especially when I hold it in my hand. Give it try yourself and see what you experience.

As usual, I have selected a few favorite aquamarine charms and pendants:

Collage by Charms Guide

1. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine necklace pendant by Colorado-based artist Nancy Green

2. Sterling silver Donatella flower charm with an aquamarine dangle. From Macy’s

3. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine Tree of Life pendant by Florida-based artist Miss M. Turner of Phoenix Fire Designs

4. Vintage 14k gold bracelet with amethysts and aquamarines from Ross-Simons

5. Handmade silver and aquamarine owl charm by British silversmith and artist Caroline of Little Bird Studio 22

6. 14k white gold necklace with an aquamarine and diamond flower pendant from Angara

7. Copper, tin and brass Hamsa hand talisman with aquamarine, glass and Swarovski Crystals. From AmuletGifts.com

8. 14k gold and aquamarine bead charm from Pandora

9. Tiny sterling silver and aquamarine charm from The Black Bow

10. Handmade hammered sterling silver and aquamarine pendant by TatianaG

All content: © Charms Guide


New Charm Jewelry From Dolce And Gabbana

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana recently revealed their new fine jewelry collection, and it is stunning. We have seen charms from Dolce & Gabbana many times before, not least in this amazing wool clutch, but nothing quite like this.

The new 80-piece collection is all handmade 18k gold – white, rose and yellow -embellished with rubies, sapphires, black jade and freshwater pearls. The designers say they were inspired by their heritage, and Sicily in particular (one of the lines in the new collection is even called “Sicily”), and wanted to create jewelry that had the look and feel of heirlooms that have been passed down for generations. Italian supermodel Bianca Balti stars in the sultry ad campaign, and the pieces will retail for just under $1,000 to around $25,000.

The collection includes charm bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings, and is indeed loaded with imagery that is classic Italian, both religious and superstitious. There are both gold and handpainted ceramic charms with pictures of the Madonna, bejeweled crosses, charm necklaces that resemble rosaries, as well as hearts, beautiful filigree, and lots of good luck charms such as horseshoes, four leaf clovers, cornicellos, etc.

Take a look:

Photos: Dolce & Gabbana
Layout: Charms Guide


Christmas And Winter Holiday Charms And Beads – Christmas Trees

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Trees have held a special meaning for people since ancient times, and bringing evergreens indoors during winter is something that has long been practiced in many cultures. In some countries, they were thought to keep evil spirits, illness and ghosts at bay; in some they were symbols of deities, and in others, they were simply a reminder that summer – and another growing season – would return.

The Christmas tree as we know it is thought to have begun in the southern parts of 15th century Germany, where people brought fir trees indoors and decorated them with apples. The trees were an important part of the Winter Solstice celebration, and they were believed to keep evil spirits away (who were supposed to be particularly active on Christmas eve). Apples later turned into ornaments, and Martin Luther (the Protestant reformer) is credited with contributing the tradition of adding lights. The custom spread through Europe, but did not reach the US until the early 1800s, and even then, many here regarded them as pagan symbols. It wasn’t until the early 1850s, when a slightly doctored print of of Queen Victoria and her family (in order to “Americanize” them, Prince Albert’s mustache and the Queen’s tiara were removed) with their decorated Christmas tree was published in the US that the Christmas tree became popular.

There is also an interesting variation on the story on how the Christmas tree came to be: the story of St. Boniface. St Boniface was Christian missionary in Germany in the 600-700s, everyone agrees to that, but the thoughts on his impact on the Christmas tree tradition varies. Some say he cut down fir trees in the woods of Thüringen and used their triangular shape to demonstrate the trinity, and the people in the area started bringing the trees indoors, although they hung them upside down from the ceiling. Some claim that when St. Boniface returned to Germany after an absence, he found that the locals had revered to their pagan winter celebrations, which included the sacrifice of a young man under Odin’s oak tree. Enraged, he cut down the oak with a single blow of an axe, which impressed and scared the people. As the oak fell, it had narrowly missed a small fir tree, and when the frightened people asked St. Boniface how they should celebrate, he pointed to the fir and told them to bring such a tree, which symbolized immortality and peace, into their homes.

Today, a Christmas tree is an essential part of the holiday in many countries across the world, even some that are not mainly Christian. They certainly add an unmatched coziness to the celebrations, and every time I walk into a home with a decorated and lit Christmas tree, I feel like a child again – that happy excitement and expectation you always had for weeks (or even months) leading up to the big event.

Now that we’re properly educated on the subject :-) , here are some recent favorite Christmas tree charm finds:

Collage by Charms Guide

1. Sterling silver charm by Rembrandt

2. Sterling silver charm by Amanda Jo

3. Sterling silver charm with a gold star by Brighton

4. Sterling silver charm with marcasites and cubic-zirconias by Judith Jack

5. Enameled pewter charm by Jewelry by Aimee

6. Pandora charm bead in sterling silver with a 14k gold star

7. Sterling silver charm bead for the Lovelinks Petit collection. By Lovelinks

8. 18k gold charm with emerald and blue and pink sapphires by Tiffany & Co

9. Rhodium plated charm with metallic green epoxy and crystals by Swarovski

10. Sterling silver charm bead by Zable

For more Christmas-related charms, also see my Santa’s Sleigh charms post.

All content © Charms Guide


Links Of London – Charms, Bracelets, Rings, Cufflinks And More

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Links of London is a jewelry company based in the UK (as one would assume from the name). The company got started on what can best be described as a whim: in 1990, founder Annoushka Ducas designed some fish-shaped cuff links to be given as Christmas presents to the top customers of her Mothers’ fish business. After the holidays, she still had a number of them left, so she went into the luxury London department store Harvey Nichols and asked if they would be interested in selling them. They said yes, but only if she designed an entire collection, and Links of London was born.

Ducas started the company together with her husband John Ayton in 1991, and it became a huge success and recipient of many awards. In 2006, the couple sold Links of London for £50 million to Greek jewelry company Folli Follie, and in 2009, Annoushka Ducas started a new jewelry business – “Annoushka”.

Links of London continues its success story: their products can now be found in over 300 stores across the globe as well as online; the company was recently asked to create the official London Olympics 2012 jewelry line; and their pieces are worn by many celebrities, including Kate Middleton (or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is known these days) who wore their “Hope” white topaz earrings in the official engagement photos.

Two new collections are released each year, and there are currently 10 different lines of jewelry (each with a very distinct look), in addition to watches, a bridal collection and various gifts (frames, bags, bag charms, etc.):

The Links of London Jewelry Collections

Sweetie
The Sweetie line consists mostly of bracelets (but there are also a few necklaces, earrings, ringsand a watch) and the signature look here is rings stacked to form a bracelet or as part of one.

Friendship
As you would assume, this line consists of friendship bracelets, made from sterling silver and threads in various colors. There are single and double-wrap versions, most have silver “pins”, some have other silver designs like hearts, strawberries, and a tad startling, skulls. One really fun one that caught my attention is the Wimbledon Tennis Ball Friendship bracelet, which is made from tiny silver tennis balls woven together by thread in that neon yellow-greenish color of tennis balls.

Effervescence
This collection is made up of silver and gold “bubbles” and includes some really substantial bracelets, a few friendship ‘bubble bracelets” (my favorites), rings, earrings and necklaces.

20/20
The 20/20 line consists of interlocking rings in various designs and sizes.

Hope
The Hope collection is designed to emulate stone shapes and includes earrings, rings, pendants, a charm, and bracelets.

Camden
Camden is all about skulls – woven into bracelets, as pendants, charms and cufflinks.

Signature
The signature collection is one of the most understated and consists of charms, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and a ring in shiny silver with moonstones in gorgeous shades of orange and grey.

Silver Palm
Another discreet collection, this one inspired by bamboo. It’s all sterling silver and includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings.

Love Note
Love note features hearts, hearts and more hearts in white, yellow and rose gold, and the charms have amethysts and amazonites.

2012
The 2012 collection features the Olympics jewelry – charms, bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks, key rings, earrings, charm beads, rings and more – most celebrating Britain and/or sports in some way.

Feed Bracelets
A new line of friendship bracelets called “Feed” was recently launched. The bracelets are made from different colored cords with a single sterling silver bead in various shapes (water drop, dove, heart, etc.), each supporting a different hunger-fighting program through the FEED foundation. And if you happen to be in London, you can get your hands on one design with an 18k gold heart that is sold only at Harrods and supports food for kids in high HIV/AIDS areas.

Links of London for Men

Cufflinks
As you would expect from a company that got started thanks to a pair of cufflinks, the men’s jewelry include a quite extensive cufflink collection in fun, unusual and manly designs :-) such as skulls, moustaches, barbells, etc. The moustache cufflinks were created specifically for “Movember” – a yearly worldwide charity event that help raise money for research specific to men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, etc. – and 10% of the sales proceeds are donated to Movember.

The Men’s collection also include several friendship bracelets, rings, necklaces, watches and accessories (wallets, collar bones, etc.).

Links of London for Kids

There is also a line for kids, which includes jewelry (sterling silver charm bracelets sized for babies and young children), gift items (keepsake boxes, etc.), and these darling little miniature animal couples, each with the most adorable names: Harry and Helena Hedgehog, Percy and Patricia Pig, Orlando and Olivia Ostrich, etc. Too cute!

Links of London Charms

And last, but not least, there is of course their extensive collection of charms – which currently consists of around 350 designs. The charms are made from sterling silver and 18k gold, many are enameled, some have precious stones (diamonds, topaz, sapphires, etc.) and the designs range from cheeky to chic.

All photos: Links of London USA

All content © Charms Guide


Costume Jewelry Made From Recycled Materials

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Costume jewelry can be so many things; expensive designer as well as very affordable “no-name” pieces. Most often when we hear the term “costume jewelry”, we think of classic designer pieces from the 1920s to 1970s – Chanel, Miriam Haskell, Trifari, etc.

But it can also be new pieces – Merriam Webster defines costume jewellery as “jewelry designed for wear with current fashions and usually made of inexpensive materials“. And what could be more inexpensive than recycled items?

We are all trying to be good about recycling, re-using and upcycling these days, and some designers have taken this to new levels. All this creativity so inspiring! You’ll see that pretty much anything can be turned into wearable art, and once you’re done reading this article, take a look around your house – you will probably find plenty of potential jewelry supplies that you may not have noticed before.

I’m straying a bit here – these are not all charms or charm bracelets, but I just could not resist sharing them. Here are some of my favorite recent discoveries:

Postage
Chicago artist Betsy Treacy creates necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets from colorful vintage postage stamps from all over the world. Each piece is handmade and unique; no two are identical, and they make for great conversation pieces and gifts (how about a pendant made from a Norwegian stamp for your friend from Oslo?)

Photos: Betsy Treacy/Foxglove Accessories

Spoons
The husband and wife artist team behind The Cottage Path Boutique make beautiful bracelets from old silverplate spoons. The spoons are cut and shaped into two halves, and then connected with chain and rings. Some have charms, some don’t. They also make gorgeous pendants, earrings and key rings – all from old spoons.

Photos: The Cottage Path Boutique

Typewriter Keys
Michigan-based Joy of Joy’s Jewels turns old typewriter keys (as well as old cash register and pay phone keys) into bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, watch bands and cufflinks. Sometimes the bracelets spell out something, sometimes not. My favorites are (of course) the bracelets with one single key charm – so cute!

Photos: Joy’s Jewels

Coins
Coins have been used as charms for quite a long time. In the 1800s they were often used as romantic gifts or souvenirs and were known as “love tokens”. People would sand one side down and then carve a name or a message into it. Artisan Jessie Driscoll is taking this old tradition to new fabulous heights. Using vintage US coins, she sands one side, create designs by hammering and forging, and shapes the coin into a dome. Some are used “as is”, and on the altered pieces, you will see the original coin on the back. She creates charm bracelets (both loaded and with just one charm), bracelets without charms, necklaces, earrings, pendants, and key rings. I think they’re beautiful, and I’m not alone – her jewelry has been picked up by celebrities like Fergie, Liz Phair, Donna Karan and Avril Lavigne.

Photos: Jessie Driscoll

Plastic Bottles
These stunning pieces by award-winning Turkish architect Gülnur Özdaglar are made from recycled PET bottles. Gülnur started making jewelry (and home decor items) from PET bottles in 2008, and her aim was to create beautiful objects from discarded products, thereby encouraging others to do the same. If I could create things like these from my old bottles, I’d be thrilled!

Photos: Gülnur Özdaglar


Puffy Hearts – The Classic Silver Heart Charm Bracelet

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite types of charms: puffy hearts.

Puffy (or puffed) hearts are also known as répoussé hearts (more on that later) and first became popular in the late 1800s. They stayed in vogue until around 1910 when for some reason they lost their popularity, only to re-gain it in the 1930s – 1950s.

Today, vintage puffy hearts are much sought after fashion jewelry pieces. They are priced accordingly, and you can expect to pay quite a bit for a pristine Victorian heart charm or an enameled heart from the 1940s in perfect condition. Unfortunately, there are many fakes out there, some so good that there are times when even the experts are fooled, so if you are shopping for a vintage puffy heart bracelet, it pays to do a little bit of reading and research first.

Puffy hearts have hollow cores and are made either from two halves put together, or one piece of metal folded over. The designs are either répoussé (aka repoussage – a technique where the design has been hammered into the metal on the reverse, the side that eventually ends up as the interior of the heart, and shows up in relief on the front) or chasing (the design is impressed into the front of the heart, creating depressions).

Photo: General Whimsy

Victorian puffy hearts were mostly made from silver (or gold filled), sometimes with beaded edges, gypsy set (= flush with the surface of the charm) with precious, semi-precious or glass stones (cabochons or rose cut) vitreous enameled (the “lucky color” turquoise was especially popular and these gorgeous charms are some of my favorites), and often beautifully engraved. They were hung on rigid bangles or substantial link chains with adorable heart and key padlock clasps. Puffy heart locket charms (and pendants) were also very popular, and held pictures or a piece of hair.

Hearts from the 1930s, 40s are usually silver (the other precious metals were used for products needed in the war), and in the 50s silver or gold. They are most often hung on chain bracelets (thinner than the Victorian ones), sometimes with heart padlocks, sometimes with other clasps.

Photo: Sunday and Sunday

30s-50s hearts are often more “puffy” than the Victorian ones, and have glass or rhinestones, either gypsy set or simply glued in, sometimes engravings (hand or machine), vitreous or cold enamel, and guilloché. This term is often used as a name for a certain style of enamel, but it is in fact the name of the process itself, and describes a pattern or design machine-carved into the metal (and then covered with enamel). It is important to understand this distinction, because you will see many painted and enameled charms erroneously described as guilloché. If they don’t have that machine-cut pattern underneath the enameling, they are NOT guilloché. The machines used for this type of carving are not made anymore, and you won’t find any guilloché charms produced today.

The most prolific charm designer in the 40s and 50s was Walter Lampl, whose catalog at one point consisted of over 750 charms. The charms came in huge variety of designs and were made from sterling silver and 14k gold, often set with pearls, precious and semi-precious stones. The “flower of the month” puffy heart charm series was (and is) extremely popular. Each charm features a guilloché background, enamel, a painted flower and the birthstone of the month set above the flower. The Lampl Company also made amazing movable charms, and the charm bracelets celebrities were given at the end of each episode of “This is your life”.

He was also one of the few who hallmarked his charms, and they are easily identified. If you see WL in a shield (or the more obvious WALTER LAMPL, or LAMPL), you’re looking at a Walter Lampl charm. They are highly collectible and many sell for hundreds of dollars today.

You can also find reproduction puffy hearts from the 70s and on, made with old molds (or molds created from old charms, or just plain copies) but these have little or no value from a collector’s standpoint (yet…). There are many that are quite lovely and beautiful pieces of jewelry in their own right (and honest sellers will label them “repro”, “reproduction” or “vintage-style”), but if you are looking for vintage or antique pieces, it’s good to know that these are out there and be on the lookout for “antique” charms from the 80s…

Also, if you are buying an entire assembled vintage charm bracelet, be sure to inspect each charm, as well as the chain, closely. While some of the charms may be antique, others may be repros. There is nothing wrong with that of course, as long as the seller is up front about it, and you don’t pay premium price for something that is misrepresented to you. How can you tell? As I mentioned earlier, it is not easy. But there are a few clues to look for: anything rhodium-plated is not vintage or antique. Also inspect the embossed designs closely. Victorian ones are crisper, more detailed and deeper than those from the 40s, and modern day reproductions are even less so. Also, many contemporary charms are treated with chemicals to give them that vintage tarnished look. Try scraping lightly with a fingernail, and if the tarnish comes off, it’s a sign that it’s not vintage. This is not a foolproof method however, since you can also tarnish silver with the help of eggs (thanks to the sulphur), which leaves no residue.

But don’t let all this talk about fakes scare you off. Puffy hearts are wonderful little pieces of art, and the more you educate yourself, the more likely you are to end up with a true vintage treasure. To me personally, the more I know, the more I enjoy shopping for them – it almost becomes a sport to “spot the fake”. :-) Happy shopping!


Collecting Vintage Fashion Jewelry

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Vintage fashion jewelry (also known as costume jewellery) pieces have become increasingly popular collectors’ items over the past few years. It is easy to see why – there is a huge variety of styles to choose from, many are quite affordable, and it’s a collection you can wear and enjoy every day.

A Focused Collection
You can of course buy any vintage jewelry you like, but sometimes it’s easier to focus a collection around a certain theme and zero in on specific pieces, such as fashion jewelry necklaces, brooches, bracelets, charms, cocktail rings, earrings, etc.; a certain material like Bakelite, enamel, stainless steel, Swarovski crystals, wood, etc.; a particular motif such as frogs, elephants, flower baskets, etc.; a specific designer – Chanel, Coro, Miriam Haskell, Dior, Coppola e Toppo (or lesser-known names); a particular decade – you get the idea.

Signed or Unsigned?
For those who are just starting out collecting, the safest bet is to go with signed items (at least for pricier pieces). There is lots of gorgeous unsigned vintage designer fashion jewelry on the market (many pieces are even made by the most well-known and collectible designers), and they can often turn out to be your most valuable finds, but until you have developed an eye for a designer’s style and know that what you are looking at is in fact an unsigned designer piece, investing a lot of money in it can be risky (this advice can obviously be ignored if you have completely fallen in love with the item and don’t care if it’s the real deal or not!).

The best way to learn to recognize vintage designer jewelry is to study designs online, in museums, and in books. Also make sure to visit antique and vintage shops (ideally ones that specialize in vintage fashion jewelry) and ask questions about the pieces.

Parures, Diamanté, Pavé – Some Common Terms
Once you start exploring the world of vintage fashion jewelry, you will come across certain terms again and again, and it is good to know what they mean. Here are some that I had to look up when I first started getting into this:

Apple Juice – a semitransparent, yellow plastic
Bakelite – a type of moldable but sturdy plastic (made from formaldehyde and carbolic acid)invented by Dr. Leo Baekland. Popular in costume jewelry in the 1920s-1940s.
Cabochon – a smooth stone or paste with a rounded dome-like top and flat bottom
Demi-Parure – a set with fewer pieces (2-3), often containing a matching necklace, pin and earrings
Diamanté – diamond imitation made from rhinestone
Gilt – gold plated or dipped in gold
Japanning – a finishing technique that colors metal a dull or shiny black (an imitation of Asian lacquer)
Jelly Belly – a pin or brooch in the shape of an animal with a glass or lucite stone for a belly
Lucite – a transparent plastic (acrylic resin)
Parure - a set of jewelry (4-5 pieces), most often consisting of a matching bracelet, brooch, necklace, earrings and sometimes a ring
Paste – glass that has been cut and faceted to look like gemstones
Pate de Verre – also called glass paste or poured glass. Glass is ground into a paste, sometimes mixed with colors, placed in a mold and fired in a kiln, resulting in a dense frosted glass piece
Pavé – design term for stones placed so close together you cannot see the surface beneath them (it is “paved” with stones).
Pinchbeck – a gold imitation made from copper and zinc, invented by Christopher Pinchbeck
Prong setting – a setting where the stones are held in place by metal prongs (claw-like “fingers”)
Rhodoid – laminated layers of cellulose acetate, invented by designer Lea Stein’s husband in the late 60s
Russian gold – a coppery, matte antiquey-looking gold finish developed by Joseff of Hollywood in order to cut down on reflections from jewelry in films
Vermeil – silver with a gold plate coating

Where To Shop
You can find collectible vintage jewelry in many places – flea markets, yard sales, antique shops and shows, estate sales, online, auctions, relatives’ attics, etc. With the vast amount of vintage fashion jewelry on the internet, it is tempting (and easy) to buy online. But beware – there are lots of fakes out there, and many are even stamped with the supposed designer’s name. When starting out, I recommend buying pieces in person rather than online, Find a reputable, well-renowned dealer in your area (and in places you are traveling to – do your research well ahead of time). Buying “live” gives you a chance to closely inspect each item, and learn more about it from the seller.

Having said that, I would like to mention that an inexpensive piece presented to you as designer vintage costume jewelry does not necessarily have to be a fake. Many stunning pieces are surprisingly affordable, especially those that were mass-produced.

Inspect The Jewelry
Always make sure to examine each piece closely (with a magnifying glass) and be on the lookout for cracks, scratches, missing pieces, fading, and obvious repairs. Is it of good quality or does it feel flimsy? Are the stones firmly set (and how – prongs? glue?) or are there loose pieces? Prong-set stones are preferable to glued, because the glue can dry over time, causing the stones to come lose. Make sure the clasp works.

Maintenance And Care
When wearing your vintage jewelry, be careful with it and avoid it coming in contact with lotions, hair spray, soap, perfume, etc. (not easy, I know). Clean it with a soft cloth and use a q-tip or very soft toothbrush to get dirt out of hard to reach places. Store the pieces in jewelry boxes (one item per box, unless you have set, in which case I prefer to keep them together) lined with acid-free paper.

I hope I have inspired you to explore the world of vintage fashion jewelry. Even if you don’t want to turn into a full-blown collector, it is a lot of fun browsing for it, testing your knowledge and see if you can pick out a certain designer’s work, and finding a gorgeous item to be enjoyed for decades. And they make beautiful gifts.


Using Vintage Jewelry To Make A Charm Bracelet

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Vintage jewelry can be so many things – expensive designer as well as very affordable “no-name” pieces, estate and costume jewellery, etc. The term “vintage” usually describes jewelry that has been owned before, but opinions differ on which specific era or years they hail from.

Some good sources for finding vintage jewellery include antique and consignment stores, flea markets, estate sales, auctions, yard sales, online, and older relatives’ attics. Prices vary widely; you can find old buttons for pennies and end up spending thousands of dollars for designer vintage fashion jewelry. Stores and flea market vendors mark their products up, and at auctions, prices can escalate quickly as the bidding begins. At a yard sale on the other hand, the seller wants to get rid of the stuff and not have to pack it up again at the end of the day, and if you arrive close to the end of the sale, you may be able to negotiate even better prices (although you also risk missing something that sold earlier in the day).

You may find a vintage piece you love to wear just the way it is, but you may also find jewelry you only like certain elements of. Or you may find you want to use old pieces in a new way – for example, old sparkly earrings can be re-made into pendants, vintage buttons and beads can become charms, antique watch faces can be hooked together into a bracelet. We are all trying to be good about recycling, re-using and upcycling these days, and it’s not only fun to create jewelry this way, but also a great way to give old, forgotten pieces new life.

Perfect examples of this are the stunning vintage cluster earring bracelets from Auckland-based designer DotStitch.

Photos: DotStitch

She also makes rings and necklaces, and I asked her how she came up with the idea for the bracelets and where she finds her supplies. She graciously agreed to share her story with us:

I began making these bracelets early in 2010. I have always loved vintage and antique costume jewelry and I was first inspired to make something using these pieces by the gorgeous statement necklaces I had seen that used vintage components. Then one Saturday I went to an artisan market and a lady was selling cute button bracelets using a bracelet base and stacks of buttons and beads.

At the time I only had about 30 or 40 vintage earrings that came from my Mother’s costume jewelry collection and various charity shops. It was enough to put together a bracelet. You know the little feeling of excitement you get when you create something that you know is right? I got it and I was hooked. It took several tries before I got the technique right, so that the earrings were not damaged and sat flat on the base and that the bracelets were robust. Finally, around six months after seeing the button bracelets, after sourcing supplies and researching glues and most importantly, wearing a couple of my own bracelets to test their durability and “wearability” I was ready to go.

I started DotStitch in August 2010 and I love it! It’s just wonderful that people purchase the items I make. I have already had several commissions for wedding jewelry and more recently a lady has asked me to make a bracelet out of a special pair of her Mother’s earrings that her Mom used to wear when she went dancing with her Dad. Such a great idea!

I find a lot of the earrings on ebay. Also, estate sales, charity shops, vintage shops and curiosity shops can be great sources.

Inspiring, isn’t it?

Another great example is the charm bracelets by Michigan artist Pamela Ball of Curly Girl Boutique. She uses a mix of new and vintage fashion jewelry to create these fabulous pieces:

Photos: Pamela Ball

So how do you make a traditional charm bracelet using vintage jewelry supplies?

If your going all vintage, you need to find a chain of some sort, vintage jewelry findings (a clasp, head pins and jump rings), and trinkets to use as charms. The chain does not necessarily have to be an old bracelet – it can be a necklace, fob or pocket watch chain, anything you find and like. The clasp can also come from any type of old jewelry piece, as long as it hooks together somehow.

And now the really fun part: the charms. If you’re like me, you’re probably always keeping an eye out for pieces that can be used as charms, and it really is an ongoing process. Say you want to create a blue and silver charm bracelet – in my case, I would dig through my collected trinkets to see what I have that would work, and then supplement them with new (vintage) purchases. Or, maybe you find that you have 4 equestrian-related pieces that can be re-worked into charms, and decide to do an entire horse-inspired bracelet with those pieces as your starting point. If you don’t have jewelry boxes full of charms already, start searching for items that would be perfect for the bracelet. Be warned though: this “hunting for charms” is a very addictive hobby!

Once you have all your components, lay out the chain and position the charms along it (do not attach them yet). Move them around until you like what you see, and start attaching them with the help of head pins and/or jump rings. Or, if you prefer items that attach with a lobster clasp, Thomas Sabo charm style, put a small clasp on each charm and then attach them to the bracelet (make sure the chain you have works for this before you start though – the chain openings can’t be too narrow). Add the clasp, and you are all set!

For more detailed instructions on tools and how to attach charms, see my “Putting together a traditional charm bracelet” and Make a charm bracelet from silver rings posts.

To see more examples of how old items get a new life, check out my post about costume jewelry made from recycled items


Costume Jewellery

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Costume jewellery encompasses adornments of all kinds (necklaces, charms, earrings, pendants, charm bracelets, brooches, rings, bangles, etc.) made from inexpensive materials and intended for wear with current fashions. It is also known as junk or fashion jewelry, but the former is quite a misleading term, since many vintage pieces were made from high quality materials by well-known designers (and are sought after collector’s items today).

The term costume jewelry is rumored to have been coined by Coco Chanel in the 1920s or 30s. She developed a collection of unconventional, colorful and bold jewelry pieces meant to finish off an outfit without breaking the bank. The jewelry was made from materials like faux pearls and glass and was an instant hit

If we think of costume jewelry simply as more affordable jewelry, then it had certainly existed before the 1920s (the Victorian era is a prime example). But what Coco Chanel did was to turn it from something you would buy because you couldn’t afford the real thing (and hope nobody noticed) into a chic and contemporary fashion statement. Women were not ashamed to flaunt the fake pieces because they were not meant to be passed off as precious jewels – they were an appreciated art form in themselves.

In addition to being affordable, a huge advantage of costume jewelry was (and is) that you didn’t have to get it insured, lock it in a safe and only take it out on special occasions, and fear that it got scraped or nicked when you did wear it. Chanel wore her pieces everywhere, including on the beach. And when styles changed, you could just get rid of your old pieces and buy new ones to match the look of the moment.

Around the same time, Italian-born designer Elsa Schiaparelli (famous for her trompe l’oeil sweaters and surrealist-inspired dresses, such as the lobster dress she created with Salvador Dali) also developed a line of costume jewelry. Hers was also big and bold, but more on the Dada-inspired side. As an interesting side note, one of her jewelry designers was Jean Schlumberger, who later became vice president of Tiffany & Co.

Elsa Schiaparelli bracelet. Photo via So Suburban Chic

Other 1930s well-known designers who developed their own lines of costume jewelry include Emanuel Ciner, Cartier, Trifari, Boucher and Eisenberg. Many of the designs were bold, colorful and quite “blingy”, but you could also find more delicate designs intended for the more conservative customer.

The 1940s saw more abstract and industrial-inspired jewelry, and, with many materials taken off the market for war-related production, jewelry made from Bakelite and Lucite jelly bellies (many made by Coro and Trifari) were introduced. Miriam Haskell created beautiful jewelry from wood, shell and beads, and Marcel Boucher (who previously worked for Cartier) designed gorgeous enamel pieces.

Miriam Haskell Wood Earrings. Photo: Bag Borrow or Steal

Costume jewelry’s popularity continued to rise, and in the 1950s, it reached new heights. Post-war optimism and joie de vivre abounded, and designers were once again able to get their hands on materials that had been unavailable during the war. Hollywood movie stars wore costume jewelry both on and off screen, rhinestones were everywhere, and pearls of all colors continued to be extremely popular.

The charm bracelet was in style again, and the leading manufacturer at the time was Walter Lampl, who designed a huge collection (around 750) of both costume and high-end, many of them puffy silver heart charms. Costume jewelry designers picked up on the trend, and many made charms in different materials. Trifari and Schiaparelli continued their popularity, and some of the other notable jewelry designers of the 50s include ModeArt, Napier, Dior (who had a whole bunch of famous designers working for them), Alice Caviness, Sherman, Hobe, Sarah Coventry, Hollycraft, Joseff of Hollywood (who designed the jewelry worn in huge productions such as Gone with the Wind), and Schreiner.

Photo: Jennifer Lynn’s timeless jewelry

In the 60s, mod, hippie and ethnic jewelry was in style, and popular designs included flower-power and op-art. Materials such hemp, plastic, paper, and Lucite in neon-bright colors were all the rage. Trifari, Coro (under the name Vendome) and Schreiner were still very popular, along with other designers such as Kenneth Jay Lane, D&E, and Coppola e Toppo.

The 70s saw a drop in the enthusiasm for costume jewelry, but designers such as D&E, Kenneth Jay Lane were still popular.

In the 80s, shows like Dynasty and Dallas once again brought big, bold costume jewelry into the limelight. Designers such as Larry Vrba (who was head designer at Miriam Haskell in the 70s), Robert Sorrell and Eric Beamon, as well as fashion houses like Lagerfeld, Delacroix and Balenciaga created colorful, over-the-top pieces to complement clothes.

Today, almost all fashion designers like Dior, Prada, Valentino, Badgley Mischka, Armani, Yves St. Laurent, etc. have their own line of costume jewelry. Trifari, Coro, and Kenneth Jay Lane are still creating costume jewelry. You can find their pieces in their own stores, large department stores, and, of course, online.

There is also a huge market for very inexpensive, no-name costume jewellery. Many small businesses buy this type of jewelry and re-sell it. If you want to buy wholesale costume jewellery, you need to have a tax ID number, which you can get from the IRS (available for free for registered businesses of any size). If you want to sell costume jewelry at fairs, online, or in a store, this is definitely the way to go. Wholesalers usually have all types of jewelry available, and it can be very affordable.

For those who, like me, have a fondness for the designer costume pieces from the past and are fascinated enough by them to do a bit of research (and perhaps want to start a collection), the best advice is to read as much as you can about the designer(s) you want to focus on. Look at pictures of their jewelry so you get a feel for their style and the materials they typically used. Read up on trademarks.

There are lots of gorgeous unsigned vintage pieces out there (and many were designed by the big names), but until you have trained your eye enough to recognize a piece by a particular designer, the best way to ensure you are buying a quality designer piece is to look at the stamps or signatures.

Regardless of whether your tastes run to vintage or modern, there is a piece (or many pieces, in my case!) of costume jewelry out there that is perfect for you and the outfit you want to match it to.

Also, don’t miss my post about goregous modern costume jewelry made from vintage and/or recycled items.