Antique Costume Jewelry

Antique Costume Jewelry

With vintage jewelry, you can expect quality and craftsmanship that’s far superior to today’s costume jewelry. Primarily American made, most of the pieces were originally produced in the Northeastern United States. Vintage costume jewelry was made using a mixed base metal, and then triple-plated with either gold or silver. The result? Even pieces that are decades old won’t easily tarnish. And, because the base metal is farther away from the skin, people with skin sensitivities are often able to wear vintage jewelry (Note: sterling silver and gold filled pieces are higher quality than plain gold and silver plated pieces; we always note if a piece falls into one of these categories in the product descriptions). Conversely, modern costume jewelry manufacturers only plate costume jewelry one time, so it is more likely to tarnish quickly and cause irritation to sensitive skin.
antique costume jewelry 1

Antique Costume Jewelry

The term “costume jewelry” was coined in the 1920s, but jewelry and ornamentation made out of non-precious materials have been worn since ancient times. While it is sometimes labeled as “junk,” “fake,” or “fashion” jewelry, costume jewelry often incorporates workmanship and materials on par with, or better than, fine jewelry.
antique costume jewelry 2

Antique Costume Jewelry

Stoking the interest in costume jewelry was the emergence of Hollywood as a fashion trendsetter. In particular, movie-set jewelry like Eugene Joseff’s creations for “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Casablanca,” which could pass as opulent gems, were highly influential. Even Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, and Joan Crawford made public appearances wearing stunning rhinestone necklaces, while First Lady Mamie Eisenhower donned costume jewelry for her husband’s inaugural ball in 1953.
antique costume jewelry 3

Antique Costume Jewelry

Let’s start with the term vintage, which typically refers to jewelry that is at least 20 years old. We do not sell antique jewelry, which is defined as at least 100 years old. Many of the styles you’ve probably heard about — Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Retro — originated during the early 1900s and are considered antique. In turn, these early eras inspired the design of vintage costume jewelry from the 1950s-1990s.
antique costume jewelry 4

Antique Costume Jewelry

Even fine jeweler Emanuel Ciner transitioned to costume jewelry in the 1930s, making the finest hand-crafted pieces possible. Ciner used Swarovski crystals and plated the metal that held the sparklers in places with 18-carat gold. Interlocking crystal squares were a hallmark of Ciner costume jewelry, as were tiny turquoise seed pearls, as well as Japanese faux pearls made of glass coated multiple times with a special glaze.
antique costume jewelry 5

Antique Costume Jewelry

We source vintage jewelry that features the original design, with conditions that are consistent with vintage style and age. While you may find vintage costume jewelry from other sources, we find it’s oftentimes damaged, or the original design has been modified. In our experience, many vendors re-purpose lots of jewelry, meaning they mix up the designs by mixing and matching different elements from multiple pieces into new, franken-jewelry. At Sweet & Spark, we prefer to let the individual charm and beauty of a piece speak for itself.
antique costume jewelry 6

Antique Costume Jewelry

In 1941, four brothers—Alfred, Anthony, Joseph, and William Gaita—founded the Pell Jewelry Company on Long Island. Pell was a major user of Swarovski rhinestones, which were set rather than glued into brooches shaped like animals, flowers, ribbons, and flags. Pell jewelry could be found in blue-collar stores such as Sears, J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward, and it also produced pieces for Avon and Sarah Coventry. For years, Disney costume jewelry was made by Pell, as was Miss America’s crown. Pell also had a fine-jewelry line, which it sold out of a showroom in the Empire State Building.
antique costume jewelry 7

Antique Costume Jewelry

In the conservative ’50s, a time when matching sweater sets were considered proper, women wanted their jewelry to match, too, so costume jewelry was produced in “parures,” with matching earrings, brooches, necklaces, and sometimes bracelets. These jewelry sets are technically “demi-parures,” as they are too small to be considered a full suite of jewelry.
antique costume jewelry 8

When it comes to cleaning vintage costume jewelry, the number one rule is not to get rhinestones, pearls, enamel or other delicate designs and details wet. The best way to clean these types of jewelry is to dust with a dry, soft toothbrush or aerosol keyboard spray can. An equal mixture of Windex and water is great for pieces that are gold or silver plated. For sterling silver, we love using sunshine cloths to polish. Learn more about caring for your vintage jewelry on our blog here.
antique costume jewelry 9

Still, the concept of costume jewelry, per se, wasn’t introduced until the late 1920s, when Coco Chanel launched a line of bold “statement” accessories. Made to look like large flowers or frogs, these pieces were meant to be worn like art rather than as indicators of wealth. Her jewelry was wildly different from anything that had come before—it was a tremendous hit. Riding the same wave of inspiration, Elsa Schiaparelli created a line of jewelry with large fake stones on bold bracelets whose designs were inspired by the Dada art movement.
antique costume jewelry 10

Often, you may hear vintage jewelry referred to as “costume jewelry.” This usually refers to pieces that make a big style statement, and are not made of real gold and/or precious stones.
antique costume jewelry 11

Other popular materials frequently used in vintage jewelry include glass, shell, wood, Lucite, celluloid, enamel, Bakelite, imitation pearls and stones, tiger’s eye, and opals. Most of the rhinestones and other stones used in the designs are glass and semi-precious, versus in modern costume jewelry, which typically uses acrylic rhinestones.
antique costume jewelry 12

Our collection features a mix of signed and unsigned pieces. If a piece is signed, it means that somewhere on the actual design, the original designer has signed their name, much like a logo. This usually doesn’t happen on today’s costume jewelry. However, signed pieces do not necessarily indicate higher quality than unsigned pieces — vintage jewelry is often high quality, regardless of who made it!
antique costume jewelry 13

Around the same time, Miriam Haskell made intricate hand-crafted floral jewelry that was the toast of the Manhattan socialite scene and adored by Hollywood stars like Crawford and Lucille Ball. Her high-quality pieces incorporated gilt filigree, faux pearls, Swarovski crystal beads, Murano blown-glass beads, and rose montées, which were precut crystals mounted onto a silver setting with a hole or channel in the back. Eisenberg & Sons were also noted for their high-quality costume jewelry, particularly their replicas of 18th century fine jewels and the figural rhinestone pieces set in sterling silver.
antique costume jewelry 14

Blue Velvet Vintage offers select vintage costume jewelry for a unique accent to modern or vintage clothing. Pretty signed pieces by Coro, Regency, Trifari, Lisner and Kramer, brooches, pins, necklaces and earrings, plus a fun collection of vintage inspired and retro jewelry.
antique costume jewelry 15

This pot metal piece fastens to a garment with a double-pronged clip known as a fur clip to collectors, but found in patents noted as a pin clip. Value: $146.25 (Vintage Costume Jewelry Show – Austin, TX 10/06)
antique costume jewelry 16

The value of vintage costume jewelry varies based on the style, designer, how rare it is, and when it was originally manufactured. We take all of these characteristics into account when pricing our collection. Since we are on the hunt 365 days a year, we know the likelihood of ever finding the same piece again is very small, and consider the rarity of each piece when pricing it, too.
antique costume jewelry 17

Alfred Philippe, trained as a fine jeweler at Van Cleef & Arpels, was one of the top innovators in costume jewelry during his stint as Trifari’s chief designer between 1930 and 1968. He brought his invisible-setting technique to smoothed non-precious stones known as cabochons, often incorporated into the hugely popular Trifari Crown pins.
antique costume jewelry 18

The 20th century brought about a sea change in how jewelry was perceived and used. Before then, women adorned themselves with jewelry made of precious and semi-precious stones and metals as a means of flaunting the wealth of their husbands. Therefore, jewelry was mostly worn by the rich to convey their standing in society, although it could also symbolize one’s religious affiliation, the state of a romance, or a period of mourning.
antique costume jewelry 19

Starting in the late ’40s, high-end Parisian designers like Christian Dior took to costume jewelery, too. Dior was an early champion of Swarovski’s aurora borealis rhinestones, which were introduced in 1955 with an extra dimension of shimmering thanks to a chemical salt treatment that iridized the glass.
antique costume jewelry 20

During World War II, the rationing of metal forced many costume jewelers such as Trifari to use sterling silver in their pieces, forcing their prices up. When the war ended, Trifari wished to return to inexpensive metals so it promoted its new products by dubbing them Trifanium, which was simply a basic metal that could be given a no-polish rhodium plating.
antique costume jewelry 21

The ’50s and ’60s also saw a revival in the sentimental Victorian Era charm bracelet, a trend popularized by Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. Naturally, costume jewelers got in on the charm-making business, as young girls and women would add charms and lockets to their bracelets to signify meaningful moments in their lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *