While everyone will always covet beautiful diamonds, what we know today as ‘costume jewelry’ is many times more stylish. Coveted and highly collectible, vintage costume jewelry can easily be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars — if designed by some of the greats like Sandor, Miriam Haskell or Coco Chanel. Mlle Chanel was actually the first to popularize the inclusion of costume (or fashion) jewelry in the 1920s. Chanel loved wearing jewelry herself but always said that it should be worn to decorate rather than telegraph wealth. She was convinced that too much money killed luxury. Her pearl jewelry consisting of rows of pearls arranged in chokers, brooches and pendants became classics.
While a jeweler’s mark on a piece is great to have, there are many designers who didn’t initially sign their jewelry. Miriam Haskell didn’t have a mark on her jewelry until around 1947… her work, both pre and post mark, remains one of the most collectible vintage jewelry lines. A few of her trademarks are intricately hand wired designs, beautifully hand done bead work (with beads from France and Italy) and her signature filigree backings.
But design trumps all… if you have a unique piece that’s well made with no mark, it can still be considered a standout find. Case in point: the bright yellow enameled necklace pictured above. This is so well made that each crescent is scored on the back where it’s not visible when wearing.
And often designers feel they can take more risks with costume jewelry so the designs are often much more artistic with costume pieces rather than, say, a diamond necklace which can be beautiful, but often a bit conservative because of the cost of the gems.
Mlle Chanel may have said it best: “Costume jewelry is not made to give women an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful.”