Did you know that the best varieties of collectibles in the jewelry world are gorgeous vintage costume jewelry pieces?
And the reason for this is the fact that the jewelry is not only beautiful but also quite affordable compared to the real jewelry options.
But there are many options of costume jewelry in the market, and most of the time, fakes will be passed off as genuine vintage costume jewelry.
Then there is the challenge of the markings and how most of the best vintage costume jewelry pieces are unsigned, which presents a bigger challenge when it comes to identifying the genuine vintage pieces.
So, how do you identify real vintage costume jewelry varieties when they are unsigned?
Why is there so much unsigned vintage costume jewelry?
The reason why there are so many unsigned varieties of vintage costume jewelry, despite the jewelry holding great value, is because signing and hallmarking jewelry was not a thing then, and goldsmiths or jewelry creators just made jewelry without thinking much about it.
At the same time, costume jewelry is not made using premium quality metals, which means that no mind is put into making the jewelry.
Some of the companies that made the vintage costume pieces made use of paper hang tags instead of stamping the costume jewelry, which was the case for jewelry from the 1940s and the 1950s. All this made the signing of the jewelry a big challenge.
It’s also important to note that jewelry over or about 100 years is considered antique jewelry – meaning this is jewelry from the 1900s. Jewelry from the 1950s to the 1990s is also considered a vintage piece.
Essentially, vintage jewelry is inspired by antique jewelry designs, which remain prominent to date. These pieces often feature and are inspired by enamel, fauna, flora, figurals, rhinestones, as well as kitschy motifs.
These vintage pieces are also known as costume jewelry pieces, and they are all the pieces that feature big statement pieces. They are not, however, made of real, solid gold and/or high-value precious stones. So, how do you identify the unsigned pieces of vintage costume jewelry?
9 tips for identifying unsigned vintage costume jewelry
Generally, the ability to correctly identify pieces of jewelry and to name the era it’s from and the materials it’s made of will require more of a practiced eye, authoritative documentation, as well as very in-depth knowledge of the output by the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, the biggest challenge and mistake made around the jewelry happens when you come across unsigned jewelry. In such cases, you’d have to look for more things about the jewelry, such as the design and construction of the clasp, to determine when it’s from or who made it.
But even this is not a fool-proof option because hardware alone is never the most reliable clue to go with because many jewelers purchased their jewelry findings from the same manufacturers.
Therefore, being able to carefully analyze all the elements of the jewelry – design, materials, construction, and jewelry quality – to determine who made the jewelry.
Below, we take a detailed look at some of the famous creators of the unsigned costume jewelry options and what to expect.
1.Louis Rousselet: Bead Maker & Jewelry Designer
If the jewelry was made by Rousselet, it’s likely that it is an unsigned vintage costume jewelry piece. This jewelry-designed and infamous bead maker is known for its huge variety of vintage costume jewelry pieces.
This designer from 1922 is known for the glass beads and pearls available in different styles and colors. The beads come in different styles like the iridescent ones, foiled ones, and even the lamp-wounded swirls in multi-colored designs.
These pieces from more than 50 years ago stand out from the brand, despite the pieces not being signed. The company also supplied their handmade beads across the world, with Rousselet producing some of the most opulent varieties of jewelry for the couturiers from 1945 to 1975.
Some of the big brands they worked with include Chanel, Christian Dior, Schiaparelli, Jean Patou, Lanvin, Robert Piquet, Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, and Balmain. Other designs were also sold to leading French department stores like Saks Fifth Ave.
The most unfortunate thing about this brand is that despite the successes they attained, the fact that the pieces were unsigned was really a big deal.
2.Rousselet Earring Clasps
The Rousselet earrings clasps on the apple-green glass bead earrings from the 1950s are an example of unsigned and valuable costume jewelry pieces, and they are identified by the fact that these barrel-shaped beads feature striations that make them easy to identify.
The glass beads are not only lovely but also boast the best construction design.
The earrings have a horseshoe-shaped clip. And the wiring of the glass beads on the metallic support was more of the signature feature for the earrings, and it’s what to look out for to identify the piece easily and unmistakably. As a result, you can find this signature on most of the Rousselet necklaces.
It’s also worth noting that this type of earring clasp is not limited to specific jewelry maker’s designs. This is the case because when it comes to Rousselet, for example, the brand also made metal structures, settings, and clasps, and they may have sold the hardware and even their beads to other jewelry makers.
This is rather unclear, and it’s the uncertainty that comes from the parts used to make the vintage jewelry.
There is also the fact that you can find two pairs of earrings by different brands, each with the Rousselet horseshoe clasps, and this makes you wonder who actually made them.
- Rousselet’s Necklace Clasps
The other feature that stands out from this iconic brand known for some of the most beautiful vintage costume jewelry is the design of the necklace clasps.
Although the clasps come in different designs, the most common designs for the clasps include the beehive-shaped barrel clasps or the embellished box clasp.
These clasps do, however, have the Made in France mark on them, and it can be a little misleading. Like the beaded earrings, the necklaces also feature cylindrical beads and cylindrical-shaped clasps in more of an overall geometric design.
So, how would you identify the vintage Rousselet costume jewelry?
In addition to the paper label signatures, some of the Rousselet costume jewelry will feature different signatures like Made in France, Modèle Déposé, or Louis ROUSSELET or LR on them. But even these signatures are not present in all pieces of jewelry by Rousselet.
But you’re still not likely to find a signed piece by Rousselet, which means that when you’re buying the costume jewelry by the brand, you would want to be very cautious about the pieces in question. Many pieces attributed to Rousselet are not actually by the brand, so be a little cautious.
Eisenberg is a brand that started out as a clothing company that specialized in making pins that were necessary for their evening dresses/ gown. The pins soon proved very popular, and the company opted to start selling the pieces separately.
Eisenberg pieces are not signed, but they are easily identifiable by the fact that the brand creates jewelry using fine-quality pieces that are made of Swarovski Rhinestones.
They also featured large statement pieces, which were known for the boldness of their designs and the elements. You also have the early 1940s figural pins that remain the best collectible pieces.
Eisenberg also boasts rhodium-plated metals with bezel settings and prongs, and these were equally popular.
But despite some of the vintage pieces lacking signatures, some of them from 1930-1945 was marked with the Eisenberg Original mark, and in 1945, they were marked with the Eisenberg Ice mark.
Hobe is the other big vintage costume jewelry brand that dates back to 1887 to date. Hobe was founded in New York by a Parisian goldsmith’s son.
The pieces are, however, easy to identify, thanks to the design and the materials used to make the jewelry. Hobe pieces are made of gold vermeils or gold-plated silver, pastes, platinum, as well as semi-precious stones. They are feature exotic designs, as well as reproductions from the jewelry that was owned by European royalty.
This is a jewelry brand that dates back from 1937-to 1972. Marcel Boucher created exquisite jewelry designed from learning some of the finest skills in jewelry from the masters Cartier.
As a result, the pieces created by Marcel were often mistaken for being real Cartier pieces even though they were costume pieces. Marcel was born to French, and he soon became one of the finest designers of costume jewelry in the US. The features of their work include;
Innovative designs that boast exquisite levels of metalwork and the rhinestones are cut and made in bold colors resembling precious gemstones and with nicely done colorful enameling. The enamel colors were shaded expertly.
Some of the pieces were marked, though, and the jewelry by Boucher had the MB stamp, Boucher, Marcel Boucher, and Marboux. The pieces are also priced competitively, and though they can be undervalued, they are worth your investment.
5.Hollywood’s Eugene Joseff
Hollywood’s Joseff lived between 1905 and 1948, and he is an iconic name that is known to have designed the best of costume jewelry for the biggest Hollywood film studios, although the brand sold some copies to their star-struck fans.
Essentially, the jewelry designs were mostly made of Russian gold, which is made of a semi-matter copper-gold finish that had a rather minimized flare when exposed to the studio lights.
Generally, there were signed pieces, but not all were signed. But if you are to identify what the differences are between the real Joseff jewelry and the fakes – the fake pieces are most brightly polished. Also, know that if the Eugene Joseff signature is in block letters, then it means that it was made between the 1930s and 1940s.
6.Elsa Schiaparelli: 1890-1973
Elsa Schiaparelli was the founder of one of the earliest fashion houses in Paris and was quite famous in the 1920s, and from the brand’s debut, the brand dived into costume jewelry, creating some of the most cutting edge fashion pieces.
Despite creating the most iconic costume jewelry designs, the earlier pieces by Elsa were not signed, but the later versions were signed. For the unsigned pieces, Elsa’s signature was the color of the jewelry – they had a shocking pink color that stood out at that time when the famous Coco Channel little black dress was the de rigueur.
Generally, these pieces were identified by their quirky, highly-prized, and also surrealist-inspired design. In addition to this, Elsa’s designs were largely inspired by the planets, the milky way, and also the celestial lights. Also, her uncle was the infamous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli that discovered the infamous canals of Mars.
Regarding the designs from the 1950s, a time when Elsa lived and worked in New York, her costume jewelry pieces largely featured the floral and abstract designs made from colorful glass and stones.
With many of the designs by Elsa being unsigned, there have been multiple fakes produced to date, making it very hard to identify real pieces of vintage costume jewelry by Elsa Schiaparelli.
Weiss is the other big name where vintage costume jewelry is concerned. This jewelry creator not only ran one of the most successful jewelry companies but also boasted the most exquisitely designed foliate, floral, figural, and fruit designs of jewelry only using the Australian Crystal rhinestones. Unfortunately, the jewelry was unmarked, and there are many versions of fake Weiss Costume jewelry in today’s jewelry scene.
To identify the original designs, you have to look out for different features like
- Settings made in antiqued gold tones.
- And the most convincing reproductions by Weiss were from the German Smoky Quartz Crystals, better known as the black diamonds. These stones were set in silver and gold alloys, some of which were enameled. The ones from the 1960s were dull black and regarded as japanned pieces.
Although they were undervalued for a long time, the prices have been going up.
This jewelry company ran from 1927 to 1981 in New York City and was run by the brothers Joseph and Louis Mazer. Their designs were the affordable alternatives and simulations of the more expensive jewelry, which were initially unmarked.
And it wasn’t until 1946 when Joseph went out on his own and set up his own company, that he started to sign his jewelry Jomaz.
To identify Mazer costume jewelry, you first need to keep in mind the fact that costume jewelry pieces by Mazer Boucher were all designed way before he established his own jewelry company in 1934. Some of the designs that stand out from Mazer include the foliate, floral, ribbon-and-bow motif accented with the finest of Sea Maze Faux pearls, and in other cases, the best of the Australian Rhinestones. These stones all come in the most sophisticated settings and cuts.
And like the rest of the unsigned vintage costume jewelry pieces, Mazer’s pieces are relatively affordable but still very valuable.
Miriam Haskell is the other big name in the world of jewelry, specifically vintage costume jewelry, and the brand lived from 1899 to 1981.
Miriam Haskell is known for creating some of the most elegant costume jewelry options, which were not only fashionable but quite prestigious, even more than the fine antique jewelry options.
Thanks to this high regard for jewelry, Miriam Haskell’s jewelry has been worn by people of all walks of life, including celebrities.
- The vintage costume jewelry by Miriam Haskell is to be worn and treasured, and unfortunately, even the jewelry by this brand was unsigned. And to be able to easily identify the Haskell jewelry, you’d be looking out for components like the roses montees and fake pearls. The rose montees are flat-backed pieces of rhinestones set up in the cluster.
- Often, the pearls will be attached to a gilt metallic chain, as well as some of the most innovative and complex hard-wired pieces, all set in place professionally. Loss or any damage to the pearls and/or the rhinestones will, unfortunately, lower the value of the jewelry.
The other versions and brands of unsigned vintage costume jewelry options include:
Alce Caviness Crystal Necklace and the Bracelet set
These crystal necklaces feature strands of pearls, and just about everyone owned these back in the 1950s. This was the most versatile style of costume jewelry, and even the most fashionable individuals wear these crystal pearl necklaces in the world today.
Bogoff Rhodium-Plated Rhinestone Bracelets
The Bogoff bracelets might be harder to find in the market today, but they are also unsigned, and you can find some of these on eBay.
Knowing what to look for is an important consideration to keep in mind when it comes to determining the value and the time the costume jewelry is from.
If you think that any of the pieces you have is by the designers mentioned above, you will know exactly what to look out for.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.