Collecting vintage costume jewelry is an pleasurable pastime for many. Some of us take it very seriously, researching and collecting brands that are not only beautiful, but also collectible.
In this article you will learn about the best vintage costume jewelry brands for collecting. These are the most sought-after designers in the vintage costume jewelry world. Their work is high-quality and stunning. They were the gems of their day, and their jewelry is just as beautiful today as it was in the past.
What is Costume Jewelry?
Costume jewelry is jewelry made to look like fine and expensive jewelry, but is made out of more affordable materials.
Fine jewelry contains precious metals (gold, silver, platinum) and precious stones (diamonds, rubies, emeralds). It is expensive because the materials are rare. Whereas costume jewelry creates the same look using abundant materials such as rhinestones, semi-precious stones, and plated metals.
A Brief History of Costume Jewelry
Before the 20th century, women wore jewelry made of precious and semi-precious stones and metals as a way to flaunt the wealth and status of their husbands, jewelry was mostly worn by the rich to convey their societal standing. Early in the 20th century, new materials and industrialization brought experimentation into forms of jewelry whose sole purpose was an expression of style rather than wealth.
The term "costume jewelry" was coined in the 1920's, but the movement can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Many jewelers during this period were looking for alternatives to diamonds, which were in high demand, but were very rare. In 1724, a jeweler named Georges Frédéric Strass developed a special leaded glass that could be cut and polished to twinkle like a diamond. By 1892, Austrian jeweler Daniel Swarovski developed his fine crystal rhinestones that could mimic the facets and luster of precious gemstones.
In the 1920's Coco Chanel launched a line of bold “statement” accessories. This jewelry was unlike anything that had been done before, and was a big hit. Following this trend, Elsa Schiaparelli created a line of jewelry inspired by the Dada art movement, with large fake stones on bold bracelets.
Much of this costume jewelry was made of a hard plastic resin known as Bakelite, which was invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. Bakelite could be carved and polished into desirable shapes for beads and bangles, and was extremely popular in the 1930's and 40's.
Best Place to Buy Vintage Costume Jewelry
If you are wanting to start a collection, or expand your own, I recommend shopping on Etsy or Ebay.
Why shop on Etsy and eBay?
- Wonderful shopping experience. Easy to navigate and search.
- Huge selection of vintage items.
- Support small businesses.
- Unique and high-quality merchandise.
- You can read feedback and ask questions.
- Directly message sellers.
- Sellers located in various countries.
A VIDEO ABOUT VINTAGE COSTUME JEWELRY DESIGNERS
WHAT ARE THE TOP NAMES IN COLLECTIBLE COSTUME JEWELRY?
These are the brands that will fetch the highest price and are highly sought after:
- Christian Dior
- Miriam Haskell
- Sarah Conventry
- William De Lillo
Now let's talk about each of these brands in more detail:
The Most Collectible Vintage Costume Jewelry Brands
Coco Chanel brought costume jewelry to the mainstream. She turned undesirable costume jewelry into a hot fashion trend by sporting costume jewelry herself, jewelry that was bold and flashy. Coco Chanel was rarely seen without a heaping pile of pearls around her neck. Coco believed that jewelry should be a mix of fine and costume jewelry so the wearer could pile up inexpensive jewels to pair perfectly with their ensemble.
Chanel costume jewelry uses the highest craftsmanship, utilizing fake pearls, chains, beads and glass in their designs. Oversized Maltese crosses were incorporated into large cuff bracelets, brooches and necklaces made of faceted glass stones set-in gilt metal were favored.
The most valuable vintage pieces from Chanel are the beautifully created Gripoix (Pâte de verre) pieces. In 1920, Coco Chanel commissioned Suzanne Gripoix to create Byzantine jewelry for the House of Chanel. Molten glass was poured into molds and the results were outstanding, creating beautiful jewelry that is highly sought out.
[Learn More: Guide to Vintage Chanel Jewelry]
In the 1930's Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the most popular fashion designers in Paris. Her signature color was dubbed, "Shocking Pink". She collaborated with several artists to design her jewelry, including many surrealists.
Her post WWII pieces utilize large, unfoiled glass stones in unusual shapes. Pieces from the 1930's are very rare, pieces from the 1940's and 1950's are easier to find.
[Learn More: Buying Guide for Vintage Elsa Shiaparelli Jewelry]
Eisenburg began in 1914 as an apparel company, but in the 1930's they started marketing jewelry pieces, and they still make jewelry today.
Eisenburg is known for high quality craftsmanship and for using high quality materials, their earliest pieces were marked as "Eisenburg Original", newer pieces were marked "Eisenburg", or "Eisenburg Ice". The company was famous for its very-authentic looking replicas of 18th-century fine jewelry.
Eisnenburgs most in demand jewelry is sterling silver pieces created in the 1940's.
[Learn More: Buying Guide for Vintage Eisenburg Jewelry]
Ralph DeRosa created jewelry during the Art Deco period of the 1930s. He was one of the earliest manufacturers of quality costume jewelry that utilized new materials and local craftsmanship.
DeRosa is known for top-quality, innovative designs. Much of DeRosa's pieces are not marked, making the signed pieces very much in demand.
Look for the coveted hallmark, "R.deRosa."
[Learn More: Buying Guide for Vintage Ralph DeRosa Jewelry]
Founded in the 1910's by Gustavo Trifari, Trifari has been one of the most respected producers of costume jewelry in the United States since the 1920's. Their use of invisible settings for stones created a level of craftsmanship and technique not seen before in costume jewelry.
Many popular pieces from this company include their crown pins from the 1930's to the 1950's. Some of these crown pins featured brightly colored cabochons or clear crystal rhinestones. Another very collectible item is Trifari's "Jelly Belly" pins, animal pins with a "belly" consisting of a solid Lucite "pearl" with settings of sterling silver or gold plate.
Collectors love Trifari's floral pins from the 1930's and the fruit and vegetable pieces from the 1950's.
[Learn More: Trifari Vintage Costume Jewelry Buying Guide]
Pronounced Ho-Bee, Hobe has been creating fine quality costume jewelry since the 1920's. This company created costume jewelry that was excellent quality, they utilized gold and silver plated settings and quality stones.
The original, family run Hobe company stopped making jewelry in the early 1990's, however there is a Hobe company that still exists today.
[Learn More: Hobe Vintage Costume Jewelry Buying Guide]
Dior's costume jewelry was designed to complement his fashion line. The company hired well known designers to create jewelry that matched the quality of the clothing, these designers were known as ‘paruriers’ – makers of accessories to compliment the couture collections.
Christian Dior costume jewelry was heavily influenced by floral motifs and most pieces are signed and dated.
[Learn More: Guide to Vintage Christian Dior Jewelry]
Coro Jewelry is one of the most recognized American jewelry companies. Based out of N. Y. & Providence, R.I., the company was founded by Emanuel Cohn & Carl Rosenberger around 1901 or 1902 in New York. Coro created jewelry to suit every taste and budget. They are known for their delicate, yet sturdy construction, and high quality craftsmanship.
Coro is a great brand to start your vintage jewelry collection with. They used over 100 styles of marks and stamps, and also produced jewelry under other brand names such as CoroCraft, Cellini, Vendome, and Francois among many others.
Their most in demand pieces include the "Coro Duette", a double clip that can be combined into one brooch and their "Jelly Belly" pieces - figural pins with a rounded middle made out of polished Lucite.
[Learn More: Buyer's Guide to Vintage Coro Jewelry]
One of the most popular and collectible names in costume jewelry, Weiss was created in 1942 by a former Coro employee, Albert Weiss. Weiss is known for its exceptional quality and elegant rhinestone pieces including, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, and earrings, they are also known for their use of smokey rhinestones and enamel work. In 1971, the Wiess company went out of business, making their jewelry very collectible.
Because they are so popular, Weiss reproductions are common, for this reason you must be diligent in researching a piece before you buy it. Real Weiss pieces have smooth backings, whereas fakes will often have a textured backing. Weiss stamps are usually strong with clear lettering.
[Learn More: Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry Buying Guide]
Lisner jewelry has only recently become collectible, when in the 1990's collectors realized that Lisner's clever shapes and bright colors possessed a unique beauty.
Unlike some of Lisner's competitors, the jewelry the company produced in the 1950s and 60's had a timeless and modern look, utilizing clean, sharp edges. One of the most sought after lines is their molded plastic oak-leaf jewelry, which was only produced for five years in the 1960s.
Lisner jewelry takes inspiration from nature, incorporating leaves, fruits, and flowers into their designs.
[Learn More: A Buying Guide to Vintage Lisner Jewelry]
Marcel Boucher started as a jewelry designer for Cartier. Boucher founded his own company in 1937 and made a name for himself by creating imaginative and bold enameled pieces that were individual works of art. He created brooches shaped like fruits, animals, and human figures.
The most valuable jewelry from this line are Boucher's fantasy bird pieces from the 1940's.
[Learn More: A Buying Guide to Vintage Boucher Jewelry]
From its inception in 1926, Miriam Haskell Company was a hit with stylish women in Manhattan. Handcrafted floral-themed costume jewelry, and intricate necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pins were popular. Haskell utilized faux pearls, Austrian crystal beads, blown glass beads, rose montees, as well as gilt findings and filigree.
Vintage necklaces are among her most sought after pieces.
[Learn More: Miriam Haskell Vintage Costume Jewelry Buying Guide]
Henrietta Kanengeiser came to the US from Austria in the 1900s. She changed her name to Henrietta Carnegie after learning that Andrew Carnegie was the most successful person in America. Her jewelry designs were wild, giving a touch of flair to otherwise conservative outfits. She commissioned a variety of talented jewelry designers to create her pieces.
Carnegie pieces tend to stay away from all-paste copies of gemstone jewelry. She utilized plastics, enamels, and gilt metals. This company is known for its attention to detail and creativity.
Hattie died in 1956, so jewelry from before then is the most valuable, they are worth collecting even if they are damaged or are missing rhinestones.
[Learn More: A Buying Guide to Vintage Hattie Carnegie Jewelry]
Florenza was founded in 1948, they specialized in gold-plated metal bracelets, brooches, rings, necklaces, and earrings in Victorian revival and renaissance styles.
They are known for their cameos, which were hand carved into glass, shell, and resin, often in a design that was branded as Wedgwood Mocha. Florenza deigned its own jewelry as well as manufactured jewelry for Coro and Wiess.
[Learn More: Vintage Florenza Jewelry Buying Guide]
Kramer Jewelry Creations was founded in New York City at the height of World War II. Kramer favored flowers, especially organic-looking floral designs made with colored enamel or gilt petals and leaves. Some of these flower brooches had rhinestones set in "trembling" centers.
Kramer was known for its intricate and artistic pieces made out of gilt metal, rhinestones, glass, and enamel. Other designs include pieces dripping with rhinestones in vibrant colors, as well as geometric patterns and animal figures.
During the 1950s and 60's Kramer produced jewerly for Christian Dior. These are the most collectible pieces from this brand.
[Learn More: Vintage Louis Kramer Jewelry Buying Guide]
Sarah Coventry utilized a grassroots approach to selling jewelry, utilizing house parties as a way to get people interested in their jewelry. Contestants on games shows and beauty pageants were gifted jewelry. This word-of-mouth technique made Sarah Coventry one of the most popular jewelry brands of the mid 20th century.
Sarah Coventry jewelry tends to feature cabochons and marquise-cut rhinestones. Base metals were usually gold-tone or silver-tone.
Collectors especially prize pieces from the 1960's and 70's.
[Learn More: Sarah Coventry Vintage Costume Jewelry Buying Guide]
McClelland Barclay was an Art Deco jewelry designer, along with an artist and sculptor. In his early years, he worked as an illustrator for Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping creating military recruit posters.
Barclay designed jewelry from about 1932 - 1938, using both goldtone metal and silver paired with high-quality rhinestones. Barclay jewelry incorporated new "Verneiuil" human-made synthetic gemstones like sapphires and rubies.
Pieces are marked with Barclay's signature. He occasionally marked items with "Mac" which is believed to be the mark he used for individually commissioned pieces.
[Learn More: A Buying Guide to Vintage McClelland Barclay Jewelry]
Jewels by Bogoff was founded in the 1940s by Henry Bogoff and became one of America's leading costume jewelry manufacturers. Bogoff created original pieces as well as replicas of high-end jewelry.
Bogoff had a reputation for very high quality, and Jewels by Bogoff guaranteed every piece for life. By the 1950s, Bogoff was the third largest costume jewelry manufacturer after Trifari and Coro.
Rhodium frameworks and hand-set stones were used to mimic the look of high-cost designer fine jewelry.
[Learn More: Buying Guide to Vintage Bogoff Jewelry]
William de Lillo
William de Lillio was a Belgian designer who worked for Lois Comfort Tiffany before establishing his own company in 1967 with former Miriam Haskell designer Robert F. Clark. Together they created innovative and high-quality work.
The use of Swarovski crystal beads and stones in their jewelry is simply breathtaking. Vintage costume jewelry by William De Lillo is often stamped "deLillo" and fetches a high price.
[Learn More: Buying Guide for Vintage William De Lillo Jewelry]
DeMario was founded in 1945 and only produced jewelry until the early 1960s. The company never had a large scale production and served mostly a small Northeast US market, making their pieces rare and valuable.
DeMario created unique jewelry, combining beads, faux pearls, and rhinestones in myriads of colors.
[Learn More: Vintage DeMario Jewelry Buying Guide]
There you have it, a list of the top collectible vintage costume jewelry brands. I hope this helps you in your hunt for valuable pieces to add to your collection.
What is your favorite brand? Are there any that should be added to the list?
16 thoughts on “The Best Vintage Costume Jewelry Brands”
This is really helpful information. You’ve put it all in a nutshell. And this makes it so much easier to find nice vintage jewels such as Trifari, Swarovski fine crystal rhinestones and Christian Dior. I wouldn’t have thought to look for these items on Etsy. Its nice to hear a little history on each one of these to.
This is truly a nice Article
I love the review, Especially the history part
But I have one question ask. You see I have not bought on Etsy before, so buying there does is get delivered to Africa,Nigeria to be precise and how long will it take to get there
Hi Matron, it depends on the seller. There are people selling on Etsy from all over the world and they each have their own shipping policies. There is a tab within an individual Etsy shop that lets you read that shops shipping policy, some of them ship anywhere in the world 🙂
Thanks alot for taking your time to explain the various kinds of vintage costume jewelry brand, though i am not really into jewery but i do know someone who will really appreciate one, please can you help me out in selecting one of the jewery that will wow a lady when she sees it? Please i will love a feedback..
Hi Seun, it depends on the particular style of said lady 🙂 Costume jewelry is often pretty bold, so it takes a certain kind of person to wear it. Christian Dior jewelry is quite beautiful and classic. I think any women would like something by that designer 🙂
Let me know if you have any other questions!
I only recognized about 3 names in your list. I was not one of these people, but when I had a flea market booth, a few of the vendors were big on ‘costume jewelry’. I didn’t quite know why then, but I can guess why now. LOL
Thiee history facts you shared, are amazing. I would’ve never guessed the history behind any of these pieces of jewelry nor their makers.
I will definately be checking out your Etsy link, thanks for the lessons,
Thanks for stopping in Laura!
I really enjoyed watching your video of the famous costume jewellers of the last hundred years.
You show some truly amazing pieces, many of which do certainly appeal to me, but some really do not! I particularly like the butterflies, and the beautiful gold-coloured rose.
I can definitely see the appeal of collecting costume jewellery, and as you say, their sparks really does rival jewellery made with precious stones and metals. Their intricacy has to be seen to be believed, and I really would recommend all your visitors to watch the extremely informative and well-made video.
Very many thanks for this post
I have read so much about shopping Etsy, however, I haven’t really familiarized myself with the site. This post has given me added reasons to take a closer look at the site. One of the reasons I would love to check out Etsy is that you mentioned that they have unique and high-quality merchandise. In 2012, I ventured into the jewelry selling business. I ordered some merchandise from a Chinese wholesale site. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I lost a huge sum as the goods sent did not match the description even though the seller was highly rated. Does Etsy offer some form of escro services to protect buyer’s money? How can you know a verified seller to deal with?
Etsy does offer some buyer and seller protection. If something goes wrong with your transaction, Etsy does help with their Case System. You can read about their policies here.
I love the list of vintage jewelry designers & brands that was featured in your article. There’s quite a few more that I would love to see added in the future and a great place to start would be adding the highly sought and collectible Schreiner Jewelry. Oh, you surely have to include DeLizza & Elster Jewelry that created Juliana and Napier in your next list too!
Hi Jamie, More brand guides are coming soon!
Very interesting article, however some other makes I have come across are
Cartier (I believe most are less of costume jewellery but more high end precious stones etc)
Guilloche – all I known is they work with precious metals/enamel
Jewelcraft – a name I have come across but not seen examples as yet
Julianna D&E – another name I have come across but not seen examples as yet
Strobl – I have a brooch marked Strobl with blue/white painted flowers which is gilt coloured metal
I would be interested to know if you have come across these brands
Hi Dee, thanks for your comment 🙂 I have heard of Cartier, (I wrote an article about the brand) they are more of a fine jewelry brand rather than a costume jewelry brand. I have heard of Napier (click to read more) and Jewelcraft. Pippin, Stobl, Julianna D&E, and Guilloche are new names to me. I will have to learn more about them and write some guides for their jewelry!
Love for jewellery never ends, thank you for sharing your collection and tips .