The term "fashion jewelry" (also called "costume jewelry") usually describes bold, stylish and expressive statement pieces made from non-precious materials. Through the years, fashion designers and costume jewelers have set new trends with different designs, using more affordable materials like glass, paste, rhinestones, etc. For collectors and for those who love to accessorize, vintage fashion jewelry is here to stay.
Among the wide array of sometimes outrageous but often elegant vintage pieces, fashion jewelry necklaces are one of the most popular. Some of the most sought-after designers andCredit: Cattie Coyle Photography costume jewelers recognized in their respective eras are Coco Chanel with her famous faux-pearl and glass bead necklaces; Miriam Haskell’s exquisite handmade pieces with gold wiring, elaborate filigree, and antique gold finish; and Christian Dior's pieces combining faux rubies and emeralds with sparkling rhinestones. And the unique masterpiece creations of Henry Schreiner are really works of art - intricately hand-made large jewelry with layered stones and unconventional color combinations.
When buying (any) vintage jewelry, always check for the condition of all parts of the piece. Look for darkened (or missing) stones, broken locks, chips, scratches, and other damage. And there is no shortage of faux vintage pieces on the market, so if you’re shopping for a true vintage or antique, you want to check the weight (old pieces are heavier), and ask the seller lots of questions like whether the finish and all stones are original, where they got them from, etc.
Credit: Cattie Coyle PhotographyVintage pendants for necklaces come in all materials, designs and shapes. When inspecting a necklace with a pendant, don’t look at just the chain and clasp. You want to make sure that it is the original pairing and that the entire piece is made by the same designer. If you are not sure of the quality, look for the designer’s mark. Having said that, not all high-end pieces were signed by their makers (there are many unsigned Schreiner and Miriam Haskell pieces on the market, to name a few), so it’s a good idea to read up on the specific designer you are shopping for before heading out so you can identify features typical of their designs.
If you are a new collector of vintage jewelry, the smartest way to learn is to find the best dealer in your area and get to know him/her. Don’t hesitate to ask them for advice on how to recognize authentic and fake gems, telltale signs of certain designers, and how to identify restored or embellished pieces.
I firmly believe that vintage fashion jewelry will never go out of style. Who can resist those bold colors and the intricate craftmanship? Not only are they fun and gorgeous accessories (most of the time!), they can also be fabulous investments for the future.