Appraising Costume Jewelry

They say that “all that glitters is not gold” — but vintage costume jewelry may have significant value! Many people think that if jewelry is not made of gold, silver or diamonds, it is just “junk jewelry.” That’s not necessarily true.

Your Aunt Carolyn may never have bought expensive jewelry, but did she have a passion for glitter and flair? Remember the pieces she wore on those “special nights out” or perhaps her prized favorites from Christmas and other holidays?

We are seeing a demand for collectible old pieces that offer striking design and glitter. The collectors’ marketplace is trending toward a greater appreciation for old jewelry pieces. Fine costume jewelry, it seems, never goes out of style.

When Simplified Lives is helping someone downsize, we often recommend that retro and nostalgic jewelry be passed down or gifted as heirlooms to a daughter, a niece, or perhaps given to an old friend, to whom a glittery piece of jewelry would bring back wonderful memories.

As for value, vintage costume jewelry from the 1920s through the 1970s can be in great demand. But before you start going through Grandma’s or Auntie’s jewelry box in search of treasure, we should point out that the opposite can also be true. There is a great deal of costume jewelry in circulation of limited value. Condition is important; some missing rhinestones or faux pearls can be replaced, with little loss of value, but missing items may depreciate the value of jewelry sets or suites.

I can share some insights from our consultant Steven Fusco, of Associated Estate and Appraisal Company, and a certified appraiser who conforms to the Uniform Practices of Professional Appraisal Practices (USPAP). He notes that the first things appraisers look for when valuing vintage jewelry are the makers and designers. Trifari had an exceptional group of designers — including Alfred Spaney, Alfred Philippe and Norman BelGeddes – whose pieces hold value. The Coro Company’s design director, Adolf Katz, worked with Gene Verri to create pieces that are now sought after by collectors. Miriam Haskell, of New York City, designed highly collectible floral-themed costume jewelry. Some designers and manufacturers, such as Albert Weiss, made their own creations, now avidly sought by collectors.

There are even clubs dedicated to jewelry collections of Bakelite and Catalin! This older, plastic jewelry has long been collected and some collectors pay thousands of dollars for rare pieces.

Before you decide that nobody cares about costume jewelry, ask your family members if they would like to have a piece. And before you just toss out costume or vintage jewelry, let a professional appraiser take a look at the jewelry box. You might be surprised how much costume jewelry can be worth!

By Valerie Achorn

By Valerie Achorn

Valerie Achorn, M.P.A., President of Simplified Lives has many years of experience managing moves for clients around the country. Holding a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Harvard University, Valerie brings a broad management background and savvy networking skills to Simplified Lives.