Vintage jewelry is often called fake jewelry or costume jewelry. It is made of non-precious stones such as rhinestones and inexpensive metals such as gold plate as opposed to fine jewelry which is made of silver and gold and precious stones.
Vintage jewelry can be anywhere from 20-100 years old, but the 1940s and 1950s marked an era of abundance of affordable jewelry that imitated the offerings of high-end designers. Vintage or costume jewelry was designed to be worn with a particular outfit for a short fashion season, and was priced so man could afford it. Prices for vintage jewelry pieces currently range from 10 dollars to over 500. Vintage jewelry holds its value well, and many nice pins, brooches, or necklaces can be purchased in the 20 to 50 dollar range.
1940s Vintage Jewelry — Flowers and Bows
War-time restrictions on certain metals led to the use of gold plating and sterling silver in jewelry-making. In the 1940s the use of simulated stones was also common. Flowers, scrolls, and ribbons and bows were popular designs for brooches,pins and other pieces of jewelry.
Classic designs were created with gold-plated silver and simulated stones such as faux emeralds, sapphires and rubies to fashion elegant brooches and pins .Clip earrings were also in fashion throughout the 1940s, as well as necklaces, bracelets and chokers fashioned from rhinestones, simulated pearls, and artificial stones made of glass or plastic.
1950 Vintage Jewelry — The Era of Faux Diamonds and Pearls
Jewelry of the 1950s is similar to that of the earlier decade, but with several new developments and more variety in style. In the 1950s glitzy, Marilyn Monroe-style pieces came into style. Sets containing matching necklace and earrings, or necklace, bracelet and earrings were popular. Often, these were made of clear rhinestones to mimic the look of diamonds.
Pearls, both cultured and simulated, were another 1950s favorite, and were often fashioned into long ropes and chokers and came in a range of colors from white to pink, blue and smoky gray. Glass beads, button-style earrings, and screw-back earrings were also worn.
Pins and necklaces with starburst designs that look like fireworks became popular in the 1950s. The aurora borealis iridescent crystal was introduced in 1953, and many 1950 pieces can be identified by this multi-hued sheen. Weiss also introduced the smoky gray rhinestones called “black diamonds.”
Buying Vintage Jewelry
When collecting vintage jewelry, design, condition, appeal, and uniqueness of the piece should be considered. Signed pieces are always more valuable than unsigned. Some 40s and 50’s brands include Ledo, Monet, Trifari, Coro, Eisenberg, Weiss, and Mazer, to name a few.
Places to Find Vintage Jewelry
- antique shops
- ebay and online auctions
- garage sales
- estate sales
Some modern companies duplicate old designs. Some tips to consider:
- pins are usually longer on older pieces
- older glass is often of better quality
- many older pieces are prong set, not glued in
- the clasps are smaller on much vintage jewelry
- watch out for missing sets
- watch for sets that have been replaced by different stones from the original
- Ettinger, Roseann. Forties & Fifties Popular Jewelry. Atglen, PA:Schiffer Books, 1994.ISBN 0887405606
- The Allure of Vintage Costume Jewelry
- Vintage Costume Jewelry Designers