Learn about how to value costume jewellery, with our ValueMyStuff valuations and appraisals experts. Discover what to look out for and how it can impact value.
It is generally true that, because of its lack of intrinsic value from its materials, much costume jewellery is only as valuable as it is wearable. As with fine jewellery, fashion and favour play a big part in the value of costume jewellery but equally, there are many famous names whose reputation and craftsmanship regularly command four-figure sums.
Valuing 20th Century Costume Jewellery
Costume jewellery by the famous names of the 20th century including designers like Dior or Schiaparelli and jewellers like Coro or Joseff of Hollywood is the jewellery most likely to fetch high prices. Pieces which evoke their era or designer may be collectible; the variety ad ambition of costume jewellery design means that settings play a large role in this. For example, jewellers like Trifari using invisible settings while Hagler and Haskell utilised hand-wired beaded pieces. Costume jewellery is likely to be bought for wear and so multi-purpose pieces, such as those with double clips, and matching sets will also be more desirable.
Identifying the maker of a piece of costume jewellery is usually fairly easy if somewhat unreliable. Without the hallmarks of precious metals, makers’ marks are particularly important and most are clearly stamped. In some cases, jewellery associated with a fashion designer bares the mark of the maker, for example Maison Gripoix who made jewellery for some of the top European designers. Early pieces attributed to fashion houses like Schiaparelli may also be unsigned. Unfortunately, the simple nature of the marks has also made some vulnerable to forgery and so the design should be consistent with the mark and an expert opinion may be needed.
Valuing Early Paste Jewellery
When it comes to pieces from the 19th century or earlier, condition and quality are key. Pieces from the Georgian period (that is, the 18th century up to c.1790) are rarer and more pleasing on the eye with a softer sparkle. The 19th century generally saw more imitative jewels and the popularisation of novelty jewellery. As with 20th century jewellery, parures and demiparures (sets of jewellery designed to be worn together) have enhanced value. Older jewellery can be harder to wear in the modern day and so pieces like brooches will hold less value as wearable jewellery than, for example, earrings. Paste jewellery lacks the hardness of fine jewellery and so pieces of all ages are vulnerable scratching which can ruin the jewel’s appearance and reduce the value of the piece. Similarly, over-polishing of gilt metal which is common in costume jewellery should be avoided; the value of ‘Russian gold’, used in many 20th century pieces, in particular is greatly damaged by over-polishing.