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Vintage Costume Jewelry: Great Small Business Opportunity!

Feb 3, 2008
Authentic costume jewelry, originally made popular during the "Roaring Twenties", is considered a hot collector's item today and has rapidly appreciated in value in recent years. Vintage costume necklaces, bracelets, and other pieces were purchased by American soldiers in French boutiques and brought home after the first world war. U.S. companies began dominating costume jewelry design and manufacturing from the late 1920's onward. Signed vintage costume necklaces, rings, and other pieces are worth more money. Some popular American companies known to produce high quality and highly collectible pieces include:

Trifari
Eisenberg
Art
Carnegie
Coventry

But why are some costume jewelry pieces more valuable than others and how do you identify the collectible pieces? The very first true costume jewelry appeared on theatres throughout Europe before being brought back to the States by American G.I.'s returning home from World War I. American manufacturers began dominating the industry from the 1920's onward. Trifari, Coro, and dozens of American manufacturers soon began producing the designs and pieces that are some of the most prized collectibles on the vintage market today. If you know what you are looking for and can distinguish the worthless knock-offs from the genuine Eisenberg necklaces and other top pieces, then you can literally make a great living--while having fun in the process! Value is determined by:

Rarity of Piece
Demand
Design
Quality of Construction and Materials
Current Condition

The supply of vintage pieces is not evenly distributed which is a large reason why there is so much diversity in pricing. The jewelry itself was supplied by dozens of manufacturers. Batch sizes could vary dramatically from one company to the next. Coventry, Coro, and other larger manufacturers often made thousands of pieces for every design. On the other side of the coin, McClelland, DeMario and many of the smaller players might only produce a few hundred of each design. When other pricing variables are held constant, signed pieces from the small companies tend to be worth more money. Still, careful research is required because even larger manufacturers sometimes produced specialty batches. These were smaller batches making the pieces more valuable than others produced by the same company.

A piece of jewelry can be rare but command little demand for some reason or another which will greatly affect value. Basically, the higher the demand, the greater the price and vice versa. For anyone looking for the hot items right now, signed Miriam Haskell vintage jewelry is the best bet despite being a bit eccentric in design. Being able to identify the hot items from the pretty imitators is what separates the successful collectors from the mere hobbyist. Avid collectors tend to include popular pieces in their collections because they are more profitable. In many cases, the collector doesn't even like the particular piece!

So what factors actually affect the demand for any given piece of jewelry? Demand for a piece is stimulated most by the actual design of the jewelry. Seasoned collectors will not hesitate to shun a signed piece in favor of an unsigned one featuring a unique and impressive design. Ultimately, the unsigned piece often proves profitable because it commands greater demand. A large portion of the entire vintage costume stock is unsigned despite having been made by some of the most respected companies in the industry. Being able to identify quality or exceptional designs is one way to spot the unsigned but valuable pieces. Some of the most profitable unsigned pieces by manufacturers who consistently produced high quality designs include those by Holycraft and Florenza.

The quality of the stones and craftsmanship will ultimately determine the success and overall popularity of any design. In particular, the gemstone quality is of particular relevance to the value of any vintage piece of jewelry. Gemstones of exceptional quality were consistently used by a few of the major manufacturers. Jewelry designs by Bogoff, Weiss, and Eisenberg tend to be high value collectibles primarily because of their exceptionally high quality.

Unless you happen to stumble across an unsigned Eisenberg piece, you will find it hard to find this high-quality jewelry at bargain prices. If you are trying to find some profitable pieces to purchase at cheap prices but still command a lot with serious investors, look for jewelry made by these companies:

Danecraft
Kramer
Bogoff
Weiss
Monet

The final component of the value determination is based upon the current value of the jewelry. Expect lower values for vintage costume pieces that have discoloration, rust, excessive wear marks, or even lost stones. Despite having noticeable signs of wear, most vintage jewelry pieces are still worth more today than when they were originally sold. But if you know how to locate the unsigned gems hiding in flea markets and online auctions every day, then you can really make a bundle collecting vintage costume pieces--even those with excessive signs of wear!
About the Author
Sandi Kapiszka is a vintage costume jewelry collector specializing in period sets.
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