Coco Chanel introduced the first vintage costume jewelry in the US with a line of large “statement” pieces designed to look like frogs and flowers. They were a runaway hit. Women loved the idea of bold, affordable jewelry that reflected the latest trends. Today, vintage costume jewelry is one of the hottest collectibles on the market, with thousands of women (and men) combing flea markets, estate sales and eBay to find classic pieces from the 20s through the 70s.
These 3 FOFs have turned their passion for vintage bling into pretty profits–not to mention hours of obsessive fun. They explain why it’s become so popular and how you can get started collecting your own.
Location: Austin, TX
Owner, Chic Antiques by Pamela Wiggins, collector and co-founder of Costume Jewelry Collectors International.
Favorite designers: Schreiner and Napier
Why are people so obsessed with vintage costume?
I think it’s being driven by the revival of the 50s and 60s look–Mad Men has something to do with it. But more than that, the designs are classic, the pieces are beautifully made–much nicer than most contemporary costume jewelry–and the brand names–Chanel, Dior, etc–are hot right now. Plus, it’s affordable. You can still get a vintage set from Trifari that looks dramatic and gorgeous for $100.
How did you get into collecting?
I went to an estate sale with my mother–who owned an antique shop–and bought some Miriam Haskell pieces that I knew were good quality, even though they weren’t really my style. I ended up selling them and I was hooked.
Why do you like Schreiner and Napier?
I like the blingy stuff from the 1950s. Schreiner used a lot of unique stones and creative designs. Napier made a lot of “boutique” jewelry in the 1950s–more upscale pieces made in limited quantities of 300-500. They’ve recently gained more of a following, but you can still get a nice set for around $150.
Location: New Jersey
Favorite designers: Ciner, Trifari, Sherman, Swarovski and Jomaz
How did you get started collecting?
I loved jewelry from when I was young. In my teens, I decided that rings would be my trademark, so I started looking for costume rings. I visited antique shops and flea markets, bought what I liked, and many of them ended up being collectibles. Eventually I had so much, I thought, this is something I’d love to go into business doing.
What’s your favorite part about being a collector?
It’s not a bread and butter business, but it is something that has afforded me the opportunity to connect with people all over the world. I’ve sold to people in Italy, Spain, Japan and Australia. Many times, my customers become my friends. I send them little hand-written notes with their orders.
Why are these your favorite designers?
They worked with the finest stones, and their superior workmanship and design contributed to the jewelry looking very much like “the real thing.” Many of the vintage costume jewelry designers designed for fine jewelry stores before they made the transition to costume jewelry. Their standards were high and they brought that standard to their costume pieces. Ciner is still in operation today and still producing fabulous jewelry that is often mistaken for ‘the real thing.’
I tend to gravitate to certain pieces from each designer that make a statement; the statement usually being, ‘You’re taking me home!’
Owner, Annie Sherman Vintage Jewelry
Favorite designer: Juliana
How did you get started?
I collected vintage jewelry most of my adult life. I just like bling. You know how women are. And with vintage jewelry there’s so much bling, and it’s affordable. I could not buy a big diamond as a young woman . . .
Tell me about the photo of Dolly Parton.
Oh, I just love her! She bought one of my pins. This is a photo of her with my friend when she received the pin. If I were ever to meet her in real life I would go weak in the knees.
Why do you love Juliana?
The bling! The pieces are not signed but very recognizable. One look at it you know what it is. The stones are bigger and it’s more flashy and colorful.