Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry: A Buying Guide

If you are looking to add some Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry to your collection, you have come to the right place. Here you will learn about the history, jewelry marks, materials used, most collectible pieces, and tips on how to buy.

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.

weiss vintage costume jewelry - Vintage Albert Weiss1958 ad

Image from Illusion Jewels

Brief History of Weiss Costume Jewelry

Albert Weiss was born in New York City. He grew up poor and so was determined to make good, for himself and his family. He went to college to study accounting, but had to quit—it was the 1930s and he needed to get a full-time job. His very first interview was with Coro Jewelry. He got the job and discovered a talent for jewelry designing. He had an unerring eye for intricate detail, classic designs and appealing color schemes. His business sense also turned out to be a great advantage. Albert went on to become a manager at Marvella Jewelry and then on to being responsible for the whole business at Grad and Schrager Jewelry House. By 1942, he opened his own jewelry company: “Albert Weiss” on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

He followed Coro’s example of having lines in varying price ranges so that ladies of all financial circumstances could enjoy his jewelry. Albert will always be known primarily for his exquisite rhinestone designs. He used the finest of Austrian rhinestones, because their higher lead content out-dazzled any others. He also gained famed for his “black diamonds,” smoky rhinestones that simulated German quartz.

Albert retired in 1969. His son, Michael, tried to keep the business going, but it closed two years later.

Weiss Jewelry Designers

We only know of one designer employed by Albert, Charles James, a fashion designer. He didn’t last long. As bold as many of Albert’s pieces were, Charles’s work was too bold.  

Albert bought pieces from contract or freelance jewelry designers and from wholesalers, most notably Hollycraft, previously known as Hollywood Jewelry Manufacturing Company, which explains the many different styles that made up the Weiss collections. 

Jewelry Marks

  • 1942:   "WEISS" in block letters; “Weiss" in script; “Albert Weiss” in block letters on metal
  • 1947:   “Weissco”
  • 1950:   “AW Co” with an enlarged W and a crown (very rare mark)
  • 1951:   “Weiss” with a copyright symbol
  • 1952:   “Weiss” in block letters on a cartouche (scroll-like design)
  • 1954:   “Weissco NY”
weiss co ny mark
WEISS hallmark
weiss mark

Materials Used

  • “Black diamonds,” smoky gray rhinestones that looked like German smoky quartz.
  • Swarovski polychromatic aurora borealis crystals
  • Aurum rhinestones, shiny metallic gold-tone rhinestones with flat backs
  • Rivoli stones, foiled faceted crystals
  • “Ice,” clear rhinestones
  • Rhinestones in deep, bright colors
  • Faux gemstones
  • Indian sapphires
  • Glass moonstone cabochons
  • Jadeite
  • Glass pearls
  • Enamel
  • Japanned metal
  • Brushed gold
  • Gold plate
  • Rhodium-plated silver-tone
  • Hinged thermoplastic clampers

How to Spot Fake Weiss Jewelry 

When inspecting jewelry to see if it is an authentic Weiss design, flip it over and look at the back. It should be shiny and not textured. Be wary of vintage dealers selling large collections of “Weiss” jewelry. Since very little was made initially, it would be improbable to find a vast collection of it in one space.

Is Weiss Jewelry Valuable?

Scarcity increases the value of all retail products. This is true for Weiss. The small company did not produce a lot. True quality in artisanship has equally increased the price buyers are willing to pay.

Items that fetch top dollar include the Black Diamond line from the 1950s. The collection features gray Austrian rhinestones and small clear crystals. You’ll find Mid-Century designed chokers and other necklace styles priced at the $200 to $300 mark. Clip-on earrings and brooch sets run about $150. If brooches aren’t your style, you’ll be able to purchase Black Diamond collection clip-on earrings individually for about $20-$50. If you want a full Weis Black Diamond parure, you may be lucky to find a complete set of a necklace, bracelets, brooch, and earrings.

Christmas tree brooches are highly collectible and are made from gold or bronze-plated metals. Expect to pay close to $200 to $300. The Weiss 3-candle Christmas tree brooch in geometric style contains a multitude of colored rhinestones. It also comes in 5 or 6 candles. Candles are represented with clear baguettes.

Another Christmas tree pin variety is the 5-tier aurora borealis pin, in textured gold. Appearing to sit on a slant, it features decorative cut-outs along with rhinestones, in red, green, blue, and pink. The Sugar Plum Tree appeared in ads in 1964. It contains large ravioli rhinestones with deep pointed backs, enabling 16 faucets that sparkle.

Other valuable pins to search for include ‘Japanned” pins, enamel flower pins, and Space Age brooches. The finish or Japanning or black lacquer, on a work of jewelry, small metal boxes, or even furniture refers to the European imitation of lacquer work produced in Asia. Look for flowers, fruits, and butterflies, with rhinestones. As for Space Age brooches these were crafted with moonstones, jadeite beads, and pearls made from glass.

One pin every collector would like for their jewelry box is the Painted Enamel Easter Eggs Brooch. It is extremely rare.

Weiss’ hinged clamper bracelets hug the wrist in style. Comparatively these pieces are the best value. Large prong set rhinestones capture the light. You will find vintage vendors selling these beauties between $50 and $75.

Weiss Earring Value

You will find Weiss clip-on earrings on the market for between $20-$50 per set. Florals are popular motifs such as daisy earrings set in silver-tone metal, with prong-set yellow rhinestone petals and an orange center.

Beautiful aurora borealis rhinestone earrings appear in floral motifs. The “Black Diamond” and clear white rhinestone earrings are available in numerous designs. Look for interesting cut rhinestones including pear, round, or marquises to replicate fine jewelry.

Weiss Christmas Tree Pin History

Albert Weiss was the first jewelry designer who decorated Christmas tree motifs with rhinestones. New Christmas tree pin styles came out every year during the 1950s and 1960s, Today, Weiss Christmas tree pins are highly collectable. 

Most Collectible Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry

  • Albert’s “Black Diamond” line with its smoky gray rhinestones is his signature series.
  • His Christmas tree pins, particularly his original five-candle tree.
  • Hinged clamper bracelets made with colored celluloid studded with rhinestones.
  • Japanned pins: Maltese crosses studded with “black diamonds”; figurals of butterflies designed with lovely faux gemstones; and brooches from his “India Inspired” Collection.
  • Enamel flower pins, but the real “coup” would be finding the rarest enamel, a Painted Enamel Easter Egg Brooch.
  • “Space Age” Brooch made with moonstone surrounded with glass pearls and jadeite beads.

Weiss Brooch Guide

Below is a list of the current brooches available for sale online. The most collectible brooches are the Christmas tree pins and the rarest one is the Easter egg pin. 

  • Weiss 3-candle baguette Christmas tree brooch in geometric gold-tone metal
  • Weiss 5-candle baguette Christmas tree brooch in geometric gold-tone metal
  • Weiss 6-candle baguette Christmas tree brooch in geometric gold-tone metal
  • Weiss 5 Tier aurora borealis rhinestone pin in textured gold with rhinestones
  • Weiss 7 Tier aurora borealis rhinestone pin in textured gold with rhinestones
  • Gold-toned Christmas tree pin with green rhinestones and multicolored rhinestones “lights”
  • White enamel Christmas tree brooch in gold-tone metal
  • Pink rhinestone Christmas tree in gold tone
  • White rhinestone Christmas tree in gold tone
  • Multicolored rhinestone Christmas tree in gold tone
  • Red enamel Christmas candle pin with clear rhinestones in gold tone
  • Christmas candle brooch with red and green enamel and multicolored rhinestones
  • Enamel holiday sled brooch in gold
  • Christmas bells pin with red and green enamel holly and ribbon with rhinestones
  • Green and red enamel Christmas wreathe with holly in gold tone
  • Green and red enamel Christmas wreathe with a candle in gold tone
  • Poinsettia Christmas flower in red and green enamel on gold-tone metal
  • Wreathe pin in gold tone with clear rhinestones
  • Wreathe pin in gold tone with red, green, blue, and light brown rhinestones
  • Gold-tone glass pearl and jadeite bead "Space Age" brooch
  • Gold tone sunflower brooch with studded green rhinestone center and leaves
  • Dark blue enamel and light blue rhinestone wreath pin in gold tone
  • Purple enamel flower pansy pin with small clear rhinestones
  • Green enamel Christmas holly with red berries pin
  • Painted enamel Easter egg brooch
  • Silver tone bumble bee with light blue rhinestones
  • Maltese cross brooch with green enamel set in gold tone enamel
  • Butterfly brooch with pink and purple rhinestones
  • Leaf brooch with clear marquee halo rhinestones
  • Silver tone pin with a light blue rhinestone flower on a ribbon of clear rhinestones
  • “Black Diamond” wreath brooch in silver-tone metal and rhinestones
  • Clear rhinestone pinwheel pin in silver tone
  • Peapod pin in Japanned setting with glass faux pearls and rhinestones in pave
  • Round gold-tone pin with blue, green, and pink rhinestones both gem and cabochon cuts
  • Silver-tone ribbon brooch with teardrop-shaped clear rhinestones
  • Gold tone flower brooch with pin and green rhinestones
  • Daisy pin in Jappaned setting with a clear rhinestone face and green rhinestone leaves
  • Gold flower pin with green rhinestones in two tones
  • Crescent moon pin with pink aurora borealis and lavender rhinestones
  • Butterfly brooch in gold tone with “Black Diamonds”
  • Maltese cross brooch with “Black Diamonds”
  • Pocket watch motif brooch with “Black Diamonds”
  • Gold donkey pin with pressed glass green ears
  • Swirl brooch with blue aurora borealis rhinestones on a silver tone setting
  • Strawberry pin with pink aurora borealis rhinestones on a silver tone setting
  • Floral leaf pin with blue aurora borealis rhinestones on a silver tone setting
  • Star pin with pink rhinestones on gold-tone metal

Tips for Buying Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry

  • Weiss produced a great deal of unsigned jewelry, so you must tread carefully lest you by-pass a treasured collectible.
  • Of course, as with all vintage jewelry, condition is important; however, because of the scarcity of Weiss pieces, condition is not as important as it is for other designers.
  • The surest way to spot a fake is to look at the back. The back of real Weiss jewelry is a smooth, reflective metal, not the textured back of other inexpensive contemporary jewelry.
  • There are thousands of listings for Weiss jewelry on eBay—too many for the small, short-lived company to have produced. It doesn’t mean the dealers are fraudulent—they often don’t know the items are fake. And there are the dealers who do know.
  • When dealers’ inventories are all Weiss, all in pristine condition, and there are multiple identical items, run, don’t walk, away.
  • When dealers “imply” in an advertisement that the items are authentic, ask them to confirm that and the large majority will be truthful. Human nature is apparently such that lying in an ad doesn’t seem as wrong as lying directly to a potential customer.
  • There is new “Weiss” jewelry around, made in Rhode Island. Do not be fooled by it.
  • To learn more about how to spot a fake piece of Weiss Jewelry, have a look at this article on vintagecostumejewels.com.

Conclusion

“The greater the effort, the sweeter the reward” perfectly fits collecting Weiss jewelry. It is not as readily available as many other vintage designers, you will search longer, but the thrill when you succeed in your “treasure hunt” is unsurpassed. Make your path to your Weiss treasure smoother by working with only reputable, proven dealers and avoid the angst of trying to decide if an item is real or fake.

For beautiful examples of vintage Weiss, see the Weiss pages on Etsy. 

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6 thoughts on “Weiss Vintage Costume Jewelry: A Buying Guide”

  1. I have the Weiss Christmas Tree set of pin and clip on earrings that were my mother’s. Do you have any idea the value of this set?

    Reply
    • Hi Mary, thanks for your question. From what I have seen for sale on Etsy and eBay, a set like that can sell for $130 – $200. Is it signed?

      Reply
  2. I am looking through my Mom's old jewelry box and having fun looking up the history of her vintage brooch collection. I remember her wearing so many of them when I was a little girl. I've been discovering some treasures! One of her favorite brooches that she often wore was this Weiss golden swan, with a pearl eye and jadeite body. It is about an inch tall. Thank you for the informative article. I will wear my Mom's brooch with pride!

    Reply
  3. I have crossed swords brooch. This brooch is black with black rhinestones. cWEISS is marked on the back. The only comparable I have found on the internet show is brooch on a paper card with Albert Weiss. The question I have is this really Weiss. Several of my jewelry friends are questioning the mark with the c symbol before Weiss. Also did you have an idea of value?

    Reply

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