I recently read a post on a vintage jewelry social media page that was kind of scary.
It seems that people are selling costume jewelry clasps and other “findings” that bear the name of famous designers.
Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
Honest vintage costume jewelry dealers may need a particular fold-over clasp in order to repair a genuine necklace or bracelet without resorting to a non-original substitution. And the honest dealer will state that the repair has been made using genuine designer findings.
My camphor glass necklace, for example, is missing its bail. But I won’t sell it unless and until I find that exact piece or one that’s close enough that it won’t reduce the considerable value.
(By the way, if you come across the original findings (Esemco 10K) to attach this to its chain, please let me know!)
But careless or dishonest dealers can use those same pieces to create a “genuine” Haskell, Boucher or Monet.
And several outraged vintage jewelry dealers are reporting that they’ve seen fake Miriam Haskells and Monets being passed off as the genuine article.
So how can you know that you’re buying (or selling) the genuine article?
Research the designer’s marks.
In an earlier article, for example, I wrote about the fact that Georg Jensen and his protégés always signed or marked their jewelry. An unsigned piece is probably not a Jensen.
You need to consult a list of authentic marks in order to evaluate an item you’re thinking of buying or selling.
Study the designer’s style.
The more you see and touch the real thing, the less likely you’ll be fooled by a copy or a fake. The best thing is to get a book about the designer, or examine genuine pieces online and in vintage or antique stores.
Look for inconsistencies.
Once you know the style, materials and dates of the designer, beware of any inconsistencies. This may not indicate a fake, but it should get your antennae up!
If you know the history of the designer and the company, you can spot warning signs. Marcel Boucher, for instance, added a copyright mark in 1955. So if you see an earlier “Boucher” with that mark, the piece is either a sloppy repair or a fake. In addition, the back of the jewelry around the catalog number should be polished in pieces made before the mid-1950s. If it isn’t, it’s a newer piece or not genuine.
Even a “better” piece can be a copy. If you know, for instance, that Monet worked only with gold-tone metals, you won’t be fooled by a 10K or 14K “Monet” necklace.
Another warning sign is an offering for a “one-off” or “custom” designer piece.
“Rare” usually just means that the seller couldn’t find any examples (or only one or two) in the marketplace.
But a “unique,” “different” or “one-of-a-kind” Ciner could have been upcycled using a combination of original and new findings. Believe it or not, it may actually be worth a lot of money because of the materials used. And it may be a true work of art.
But it won’t be a genuine Ciner. An honest dealer will state that the piece isn’t entirely original.
Demand provenance in writing.
Sometimes it’s easy for a seller to prove that a piece is genuine – it’s been in the family forever. Get that statement in writing.
In other cases, the seller may have a receipt from their own purchase. That would be a good thing to have, as well.
And finally, know your seller!
Bracelet clasps break. Necklace bails go missing. That’s part of life – and one reason people get rid of their jewelry.
An expert knows how to make the repair so that the item won’t lose its value. They will search for the exact match – and state that the finding is an “authentic” replacement.
A vintage dealer you trust is almost as important as the vintage items you buy!
If you love learning about antiques as much as I do, follow the blog so you won’t miss the next article. And enjoy the hunt!