So what actually makes vintage costume jewelry unique and potentially valuable? Even when talking about the collectible costume pieces, all of the jewelry is mass-produced using cheaper materials than used to make the finer jewelry. Mass-produced and made from inexpensive materials, costume or fashion jewelry was essentially the cheap but gorgeous alternative to fine jewelry.
In spite of their humble origins, the vintage pieces produced in factories using semi-precious materials are now considered collectibles worth well beyond their original price. If you know what you are looking for and can distinguish the worthless knock-offs from the genuine Eisenberg necklaces and other top pieces, then you can literally make a great living simply by collecting.
To determine the value of any vintage piece, there are five things you need to look at:
Supply of Design in Market
Demand for the Particular Design
Originality of Design
Materials and Quality of Construction
The vintage jewelry was produced by dozens of manufacturers who all produced batches of varying size. Production runs tended to be reliably large for big companies like Coro and Brooks. Smaller production batches, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, were more common to see from companies like Barclays and McClelland.
Signed and many unsigned pieces by small companies like Barclays will tend to command greater value on the market for no other reason then their relative rarity. Still, careful research is required because even larger manufacturers sometimes manufactured specialty batches. These were smaller batches making the pieces more valuable than others produced by the same company.
In addition to supply considerations, the overall demand for the pieces also plays a critical role in price determination. Signed vintage necklaces, brooches, and even earrings by Miriam Haskell are currently the hot items in the market. If you want to collect vintage jewelry and make money, then you need to do a little homework and find out which pieces are in demand and which are not. Popular designs are not always liked by investors but they tend to be the ones that collect because they are extremely more profitable.
So away from economic considerations like supply and demand, what actually affects value determination? If all other variables are held constant, the originality of the design itself will ultimately determine its value and be the primary source of demand. In fact, more advanced collectors often select unsigned pieces for their collection because unique, well-designed pieces are always in demand.
A large portion of the entire vintage costume stock is unsigned since having been made by some of the most respected companies in the industry. The unsigned pieces tend to be undervalued and the most profitable to collect and one sure way to identify a particular manufacturer is by design. Some manufacturers consistently produced pieces of exceptional design and are highly coveted by collectors like those made by Bogoff and Hollycraft.
Craftsmanship and stone quality will directly determine the overall success or failure of any design. On vintage jewelry, the type and quality of the gemstones is of particular importance to final price determination. Gemstones of exceptional quality were consistently used by a few of the major manufacturers. Some of the best manufacturers to seek out when collecting vintage costume pieces for profit include:
Lastly, the final condition of the piece will play a key role in value but not always the greatest. Oftentimes, demand and supply play the largest forces in the pricing of vintage costume jewelry.