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Vintage Costume Jewelry: Hidden Value To The Trained Eye

Feb 9, 2008
Never mistake vintage costume jewelry with the cheap reproduction jewelry you see in most malls and department stores. In fact, vintage costume necklaces, bracelets, and other pieces were originally purchased by American soldiers in French boutiques, and brought home after the First World War. Trifari, Coro, and dozens of American manufacturers soon began producing the designs and pieces that have turned into some of the most prized collectibles on the vintage market today.

Unlike the fashion jewelry produced and sold today, vintage pieces have dramatically appreciated in value over the years and are expected to continue doing so in the future. Buying low and selling high is very possible in the world of vintage jewelry collecting, but identifying the most profitable pieces is an art all of its own. Investors need to look at five main areas to assess value of a vintage piece of costume jewelry:

Demand
Market Supply
Craftsmanship
Design
Condition

From basic economics we know that higher demand will lead to greater price points, and ultimately raise profits for the investor. Signed vintage necklaces, brooches, and earrings by Miriam Haskell are currently the hot items in the costume jewelry market, but being able to identify the valuable items from the pretty imitators is what separates the successful collectors from the mere hobbyist. Remember, the most popular designs are not necessarily the prettiest or most unique but they will tend to be more profitable to collect.

So why do people like some pieces but not others? Novice collectors tend to focus exclusively on signed pieces, but often the unsigned, well-designed pieces prove to be the most profitable to collect. In truth, the vast majority of vintage costume pieces are actually unsigned. Simply knowing what makes a stunning design unique can help you identify the unsigned pieces and optimize profits. The exceptional quality of jewelry designs from companies like Hollycraft and Bergere make unsigned pieces from these companies both easy to recognize and very profitable to collect.

The type and quality of gemstones used is typically the most relevant factor to the price of a vintage piece of costume jewelry. The majority of vintage costume pieces are indeed made with relatively inexpensive semi-precious materials, but seasoned collectors know that a few companies went all out and only used exceptionally high quality gemstones in their jewelry. Try locating pieces from companies like Eisenberg or Bogoff as they almost always used the best stones possible. Other designers who have excellent craftsmanship and design with great potential to buy low and sell high include Kramer, Danecraft, and Trifari.

Last but certainly not least, the condition of the jewelry plays a critical role in its value. With some pieces nearing 100 years old, it is quite common to find vintage jewelry showing significant signs of wear including scratches, peeling, discoloration, and even missing stones. But while some degree of wear is expected, it is not the only factor that determines price. Collecting vintage costume pieces is still a very profitable venture for anyone knowing how to identify the truly profitable pieces.
About the Author
Sandi Kapiszka is a vintage costume jewelry collector specializing in period sets .
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