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Buying Vintage Costume Jewelry – What to Keep in Mind

Buying vintage costume jewelry at local estate sales is both appealing and intriguing. Costume jewelry is usually made with non-precious stones and metal, and gained popularity in the 1920s when famous designer, Coco Chanel launched a new line of bold statement pieces that were meant to be worn like art. Of course, these pieces were expensive and out of reach for many.

Taking a page from Chanel’s play book, Elsa Schiaparelli started a similar line, but made of fake stones, and a new plastic material called Bakelite. It is a very hard plastic that can be carved and polished, helping to create beautiful bracelets, and necklaces.

There are higher end pieces made by names like Coro, Eisenberg, Schiaparelli, Miriam Haskell, and Schreiner, or moderately priced pieces from Weiss, Kramer and others. Whether you’re looking to add to your collection, or find the right gift, you need to keep the following in mind before you buy.


Like with all vintage items, the condition is a factor when determining value, and the condition of vintage costume jewelry varies widely. Finding costume jewelry that is slightly worn is far more common. But what is unique to vintage costume jewelry is that it’s not uncommon to find vintage costume jewelry that was well taken care of, and that’s in pristine condition. These are a treasure and an excellent find!


Once you’ve found something that catches your eye, be sure to really inspect the piece to make sure small, yet important details, are still intact. Missing stones, clasps that don’t close properly, and chips are all signs of too much wear, and are difficult to replace or repair.

Who is the Piece for?

If it’s a gift, really think about what the recipient would wear and appreciate before you buy. Jewelry is personal, and collectors often have a favorite designer or era, so be sure you’re buying a piece that will be appreciated by its new owner.

And if it’s for you, review the quality and condition. If you love it - buy it.


Try to find out background information on the piece – details like the designer, manufacturer, and year/era of the piece. This adds to the value of the piece, especially if the piece will be given as a gift. It’s always fun to know the history behind a vintage item. This website is a great resource.

Collecting vintage costume jewelry is a fun hobby that should reflect the personality of its owner. So, if you’re on the hunt for some beautiful vintage costume jewelry, come to one of our upcoming estate sales to see if you can find your next piece! Click here to find our next sale.

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