Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fantastic fakes Get into the pleasures of oldtime costume jewelry

Forget the diamonds, girls! OK, don't forget them exactly, but don't overlook the next best thing — vintage costume jewelry.

Many wonderful designers from the 1930s, '40s, '50s and even '60s made beautiful, colorful and imaginative pieces. They started out as a way to offer affordable jewelry to the masses, and the good thing is, they are still relatively inexpensive today.
These pieces are great to wear, fun to collect and make terrific gifts. There's quite an assortment, too.
With all types of different looks, from Art Deco, to Victorian, Egyptian, Asian, Renaissance and quirky Pop Art, there's something to suit every taste.
Some of the more popular designs got their inspiration from nature, with flower themes, fruit, birds and bugs. Some were more elegant, depicting ballet dancers, crowns or swirly ribbons and bows. Others were simply abstract.
Designers from these years often used rhinestones to simulate the diamond effect. But they were so pretty, women didn't mind that they were "fake."
They could be clear rhinestones or colorful ones, creating striking, glittery looks on pins, necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
Other materials used included copper, wood, shell, enamel and Bakelite, an early plastic popular in the '30s and '40s.
These days, the fun of collecting vintage jewelry is in the search.
As most antique shops and flea markets offer some assortment, you never know what unique piece you're going to find. And prices can range from a few dollars to a few hundred if it's a rare, signed piece.
If you're in the market for vintage costume jewelry, keep the following in mind.
• Condition. The most common problem with most costume jewelry is missing stones. It's hard to spot on a first look.
Don't let the glitter blind you. Take a good, hard look with a jeweler's loupe, if possible, to make sure all are there.

If you're really in love, don't fret, it's possible to find a jeweler who could replace a stone, but of course you will pay for this service, so keep that in mind when pricing it out.

Other problems include broken clasps (or sometimes missing clasps), dents or scratches.


• Quality. When you pick up a vintage pin or bracelet, take note of how it feels. The better-made items will generally feel a little heavier than cheaply made ones.
Turn it over and look at how it was put together. After you look at enough of this type of jewelry, you'll get a feel as to which pieces show the better craftsmanship.
Are the colors bright? Do those rhinestones shine? Does the clasp look like it was professionally made?
• Signatures. Not all vintage jewelry will be signed, but the very good pieces generally are.
Familiarize yourself with some of the designer names. You'll soon be able to spot your favorites.
Some very collectible designers from these years are Haskell, Trifari, Florenza, Coro, Mazer, Boucher, Hobe and Vendome.
Of course, there are many more. Go online or get a book that will tell you the many different names to look for.
If you're looking for something special to wear this holiday season, remember, glitter never goes out of style.
Karen Orloff is a children's book author and co-owner of the Dew Drop Inn Antiques Center in Philipstown. Her column appears every other week. Reach her at

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