In this article, you will find a quick list of the most rare, collectible, and expensive vintage costume jewelry pieces from various designers and brands.
What is Vintage Jewelry?
Jewelry is considered vintage if it is at least 20 years old. If it is over 100 years old, it is considered antique.
What is Costume Jewelry?
Costume jewelry is a class of jewelry that uses semi-precious stones, plated metals, glass, wood, beads, and other materials to create the look of fine jewelry. Costume jewelry allows people to adorn themselves with jewels at an affordable price.
The most important factors in considering the value of vintage costume jewelry are:
- Rarity - how rare is the jewelry?
- Condition - is the plating or enamel worn? What is the condition of the stones?
Valuable Costume Jewelry Brands
The most collectible and expensive costume jewelry brands include the following:
- Miriam Haskell
- Sarah Coventry
- Yves St Laurent
Let's have a look at each of these brands and their most valuable pieces.
Expensive Vintage Costume Jewelry Designers and Their Most Valuable Pieces
Albert Weiss produced bold, vibrant, high-quality costume jewelry from 1942 to 1971. Compared to other companies of that time, Albert’s business was small and was open only for a brief period of time. However, he and his jewelry had a sterling reputation, nationally and internationally. Since there were considerably fewer pieces made, it is difficult to find these treasures today. But it is worth the hunt—his jewelry is magnificent and as “trendy” today as it was in the past.
Most Valuable Jewelry From Weiss
- Figurals such as birds and animals - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Dark, japanned pins in the shapes of Maltese crosses - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Enamel work - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
Eisenberg Jewelry is among the finest costume jewelry ever made and a favorite of many collectors. The quality is exceptional in design, materials and workmanship. In fact, the workmanship was so superior that the jewelry has held up really well throughout the years. As have the designs that are as fashionable today as they were when they were created.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Eisenberg
The Hobe company created costume jewelry with extreme care and craftsmanship. With a nod to the past, these pieces are both historical and classic.
Most Valuable Jewelry From Hobe
- Reproductions of 16th- and 17th- century European fine jewels
- Floral pins produced in the 1930s and 1940s - Shop on Esty - Shop on eBay
- Filigreed bracelets and pins - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
Coro Jewelry is most noted for its collection from the 1930s to the 1950s featuring brooches, double-clip brooches, necklaces and bracelets. Its great success was due to the quality of their designs, the affordability of the pieces and the appeal to a wide range of consumers.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Coro
- "Jelly belly" pieces - Shop on Esty - Shop on eBay
- Sterling silver pieces marked MEXICO - Shop on Esty - Shop on eBay
- The "Coro Duette" line - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
Intricate and ornate, Miriam Haskell jewelry is known for their artistically designed looks. These pieces are conversation starters, as they are big, bold and beautiful!
Most Valuable Jewelry from Miriam Haskell
- Clearly marked (signed) pieces - Shop on Esty - Shop on eBay
- Pieces with the horseshoe stamp, as there are not many of them - Shop on eBay
- Pieces from the 1940's through to the 1950's
Hattie Carnegie’s jewelry features bold and colorful necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings, and sets. Instead of producing fabulous fakes as many of her colleagues did, Hattie’s designs and materials were innovative and distinctive.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Carnegie
- Animal brooches made of Lucite - Collectors covet the fish and long-horned goats, but the anteater is the most prized of all - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Tremblers - flowers or butterflies on springs that trembled or vibrated as the wearer moved - Shop on Esty - Shop on eBay
- Egyptian revival pieces - Shop on Esty- Shop on eBay
- Pieces designed before Hattie Carnegie's death in 1950 - these are worth collecting even if they are not in good condition
The Trifari brand is well known for their fine costume jewelry. Their pieces were created with the highest craftsmanship, in order to emulate high end jewelry.
Most Valuable Jewelry From Trifari
- Fruit Salads - known as tutti frutti - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Clip-Mates - first patented double-clip brooch - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
There was a time when Lisner jewelry was the quintessential “junk jewelry,” selling for $1 to $5 back in the day. but the pieces were cleverly designed and well made. For the past several years, it has greatly increased in value, particularly the pieces produced in the 1950s and 1960s. Collectors came to realize that the clever shapes and bright colors of the company's cheaply made plastic leaves and baubles possess a unique beauty.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Lisner
- Molded plastic oak-leaf jewelry - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Matching sets of pins or necklaces, and bracelets or earrings - Shop on Etsy - Shop on Ebay
Most Valuable Jewelry from Sarah Conventry
- Pieces from the 1960's and 70's
- Color-based pieces:
Marcel Boucher was one of the most talented designers and manufacturers of American costume jewelry in the 20th century. His jewelry was notable from the very beginning due to the excellent design and high-quality materials. It was commonly mistaken for precious jewelry.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Boucher
The Ciner Company’s commitment to handcrafting costume jewelry the traditional way has made the firm a collector’s secret for more than a century
Most Valuable Jewelry from Ciner
- Pieces with high-quality fake pearls that were made in Japan. These faux pearls were made of a glass coated multiple times with a special glaze to achieve the glow of cultured pearls - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Figural pieces shaped like animals and flowers - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- Jewelry with tiny turquoise seed pearls - Shop on Etsy- Shop on eBay
- Chokers and Bracelets featuring crystal squares in interlocking zigzag patterns
[Read: Vintage Ciner Jewelry Guide]
Louis Kramer was a gifted designer who combined unusual techniques and materials to make truly stunning pieces. He favored flower designs in colored enamel or gilt petals and leaves and jewelry sets in vibrant-colored rhinestones, many of which are as fashionable today.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Kramer
Yves St Laurent
Yves St Laurent is known for eclectic and eye-catching jewelry - creating bold and colorful pieces. In the 1980s, with the resurgence of costume jewelry, Yves embraced faux stones, sets of matching faux jewelry, and large pieces with large stones or swinging elements. Yves’s designs were eccentric and controversial in his time, but became classic styles still seen today.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Yves St Laurent
Chanel brought costume jewelry into the mainstream. The original intention of costume jewelry was to mimic fine jewelry for those who could not afford the real thing. Chanel changed this concept; she advocated that jewelry should be worn to decorate, rather than display wealth. She broke away from the established traditions of when and where jewelry could be worn.
Most Valuable Jewelry from Chanel
- Vintage jewelry and handbag hardware is 24k gold plated, which raises the value on vintage items since the brand discontinued gold plating a few years ago. - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
- pieces marked "CHANEL" with three stars beneath - these were huate couture pieces.
- Early baroque and Byzantine styles using Gripiox glass - Shop on Etsy - Shop on eBay
[Read: Guide to Vintage Chanel Costume Jewelry]
Tips for Purchasing Vintage Costume Jewelry
- Only buy costume jewelry that is in more or less mint condition.
- Look at the back of the piece of jewelry, if there is green rust, it means the jewelry has already been damaged.
- Look for signatures to verify authenticity.
- Extremely worn plating, missing stones, missing parts, darkened or cloudy rhinestones, clasps that don't work properly, and chipped or scratched enamel all lower the value of a vintage piece.
- Look for signs of quality such substantial weight, smooth plating and sparkling stones.
- Avoid obvious repairs such as sloppy soldering and haphazard stone replacements.
I hope this list helps you find costume jewelry that will hold its value and remain highly collectible. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!