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Sarah Coventry created something that other vintage costume jewelers could not, a comfortable space to sell their jewelry. With the use of home parties, these pieces sold well and wide.
History of Sarah Coventry
Charles H. Stuart owned Emmons Home Fashion, but wanted to dive into the jewelry world. In 1949, he did just that by starting the brand Sarah Coventry. It is thought that he named the brand after his granddaughter’s first name, Sarah, and the family hometown of Coventry, England. Their office was headquartered in New York City, but they eventually expanded internationally with offices and manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Belgium.
The most unique aspect of Sarah Coventry, was how Charles decided to sell these pieces of costume jewelry. Rather than pay for a retail space, he decided to create home parties or fashion shows. He would contract both men and women who would host parties, similar to Tupperware and Avon parties of the time. Here, clients would be surrounded by friends, trying on jewelry and helping each out there favorites. It was a great way to get people comfortable and excited to buy jewelry!
This was a time period when men were returning home from WWII, taking back some of the jobs that women had participated in. Many women jumped at the opportunity to start making money again, perhaps in a way that still allowed them continue to devote time to being housewives and mothers.
It was easy to become a host for Sarah Coventry, as the demonstration kits were offered up front at no cost, with comprehensive training offered as well. Hosts were given generous incentives, such as limited edition host sets of jewelry! It is said that Stuart also gave away some of his pieces at game shows and beauty pagents. This form of marketing was vital to the company, gaining exposure and therefore popularity.
Another unique aspect to Sarah Coventry is the fact that they didn’t design or manufacture the jewelry themselves. They were very much part of the decision making process though, choosing designs from freelancers that they felt would represent the brand best.
This company was sold to a Chicago firm in 1984, as Sarah Coventry was risking bankruptcy. Sarah Coventry jewelry took back production in 2003, creating modern versions of their vintage designs. These pieces were sold online, at home shopping networks and even at some home parties. This new take on the brand didn’t stick and was closed in 2008.
Sarah Conventry Designs
As mentioned, Sarah Coventry never created their own designs. This strayed from the common practices of the time, as most costume jewelry brands were creating their own designs. Choosing to go with freelancers, Sarah Coventry was able to see many designs, in order to decide which best portrayed their brand properly.
Sarah Coventry created pendants, brooches, necklaces, rings, bracelets and sets of jewelry. Their pieces were fun costume jewelry, with lots of character and charm. Most of the vintage pieces were made at much higher quality than the more modern copies.
Many Sarah Coventry pieces had some element of nature, whether it be a floral or a sunburst. The Bittersweet brooch and earrings are a great example of this. The metal is stylized into a leaf design with orange and red teardrop shaped pieces as the buds. Another example is the Kathleen brooch and earring. Here we see a sunburst design, with a carved green rhinestone center and white rhinestones in the rays.
During the late 70s and early 80s, Sarah Coventry started creating women’s wristwatches. These watches were made with quartz movements, silver wire or perhaps a gold toned band. Sometimes you will find some with a small diamond on the 12 number.
Materials used by Sarah Conventry
The main design feature of Sarah Coventry pieces are really their materials. Many of their pieces included larger cut stones, such as cabochons and marquise-cut, rather than the smaller clusters of stones that was typical in costume jewelry of this time.
The use of rhinestones that was common during this period can be seen in Sarah Coventry pieces, as well as in the form of hanging beads. Some pieces also are comprised of colorful enamel, making them a bit more fragile. Many of their pieces were made of bright and colorful components!
Most of Sarah Coventry pieces are made with gold plated or silver toned metals, similar to other costume designs of the time. The stones were all mostly imitation gemstones and rhinestones, with a few diamonds thrown out here and there.
Most Collectible Styles
Some of Sarah Coventry’s most popular styles are those that are color based. An example would be their Blue Lagoon pieces. We’ve seen both brooches and earrings, separate and as a set. These items are made of aurora borealis colored rhinestones, cut into marquise shapes. The purplish blue colors are placed next to smaller, solid blue and purple colored rhinestone pieces. The iridescent and solid color pieces come together to create a vibrant movement of colors.
Earlier we mentioned how hosts would get limited edition host sets of jewelry. These pieces are highly collectible, as they technically were not offered to the public at that time. One example is a bracelet, earring and necklace set, comprised of large, faceted, rectangular smoky colored stones. There are a few small rhinestones throughout the carved silver colored metal.
How to Tell a Genuine Sarah Coventry Piece
When looking to purchase a Sarah Coventry piece, there are a few things to look for to ensure the item is authentic. First, there are a few collector’s books out there that have images and descriptions for you.
- Sarah Coventry Jewelry: An Unauthorized Guide for Collectors by Monica Lynn Clements and Patricia Rosser Clements is a good resource with nearly 400 images.
- Fine Fashion Jewelry from Sarah Coventry by Jennifer A. Lindbeck can be another good resource.
An important thing to consider when purchasing Sarah Coventry, is to look at the Maker Marks. There are five that we’ve seen most often:
- "Coventry" - First use 1949
- "Sarah Coventry" - First use 1949
- "SC" - First use 1950
- "Sarah" - First use 1951
- "Sarah Cov" - First use 1953
These five seemed to all start early on in the brand’s career, starting around 1949-1953 and continuing on until the company was first sold.
Also, you’ll want to be sure the piece actually looks vintage, since the company did start reproducing old designs in the 2000s. The manufacturing was of higher quality on true vintage pieces, and the item should have an older feel to it.
Buying Sarah Coventry on Etsy
Etsy is my favorite place to buy vintage jewelry, the website offers a great user experience and there are many knowledgeable sellers.
Some tips for shopping for vintage jewelry on Etsy:
- Make sure you search within the Vintage section.
- Look for shops with lots of positive reviews.
- Read the shop's "Shipping and Policies" tab before making a purchase decision.
- Read reviews and buyers feedback, only buy from shops with consistently happy customers.
- If you find a shop you like, add them to your favorites so you can find them again.
- Be specific in your search keywords.
Buying Sarah Coventry on eBay
There is a huge selection of vintage jewelry available on eBay. Here are some tips for shopping on eBay:
- Investigate the seller, look for positive reviews and knowledge of vintage costume jewelry.
- Ask questions. Message the seller and ask them how they acquired the piece.
- Look for a Makers Mark in the photos.
Vintage costume jewelry is always fun, both to collect and wear. Sarah Coventry jewelry is just that, fun! Brightly colored and easy to wear, purchasing Sarah Coventry should be a must for your vintage costume jewelry collection.
[Learn more: The Best Vintage Costume Jewelry Brands]
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below, I always answer!