Six methods for dating costume jewelry are explored in detail, with illustrations and examples, to help collectors answer the question, “How old is this piece?”
- Dating jewelry from the maker’s dates of operation and the maker’s signature
Knowing when a manufacturer or designer produced their jewelry places the piece within a specific date range. A manufacturer and marks chart in an appendix at the back of the book provides dates of operation for most collectible costume jewelry.
The copyright symbol, ©, was used after 1955, when Trifari won a lawsuit against a company that had pirated one of Trifari’s designs. After 1955 most manufacturers ceased their prior practice of patenting designs and instead began copyrighting them.
Jewelry makers sometimes changed the design of their signature, or used a completely new signature. For example, “KTF” is an early Trifari signature from 1935 to 1938, when it was discontinued – but in 1954 “KTF” was used again, this time with a crown over the “T”. Variations in the signatures can be valuable tools for dating costume jewelry.
Sometimes makers added the year of manufacture or inventory numbers to their pieces. During World War II some makers used sterling silver since other metals were needed for the war effort. Pieces made between 1943 and 1948 are signed with the maker’s mark and “sterling”.
- Dating jewelry using patent information
Utility patents were issued for the mechanics and practical aspects of jewelry. Design patents were used to protect the designer’s creation of the piece of jewelry. Both contain detailed illustrations, and each type of patent is numbered and dated. The extensive appendix to the book has a Designers Chart that lists well-known jewelry makers and the designers who created jewelry for them. If you can find a patent number or date on your piece of jewelry, you may be able to date it using the chart.
- Dating jewelry by reviewing vintage advertisements
This book contains over 160 advertisements for dozens of makers, spanning the years 1943-1982. These beautifully illustrated ads not only show of the jewelry, but also show how it was worn. Vintage ads can be found in books, old magazines and catalogs, and can also be purchased individually on line. If you’re lucky enough to find your jewelry in a vintage advertisement, you’ll know for sure when it was made, or at least when it was sold. You can also look for pieces that are similar to or coordinate with yours.
- Dating jewelry by the style or design of the piece
Less efficient than the first three methods, using the style or design to try to date jewelry is described in general guidelines. The use of rhinestones, the various types of metal or plastic are used, the type of hardware and construction, and the theme of the piece can sometimes be used to get an approximate age. There is a great deal of detail in this chapter, with lots of tips and illustrations.
- Dating jewelry using books and the internet
If you haven’t started a collection of books about vintage jewelry, you will no doubt start one very soon. There are hundreds of books out there, and an online search will bring up many tempting titles. The internet provides a virtually endless supply of information, and it’s updated almost constantly. The author recommends that accuracy of information the internet be carefully checked for accuracy. Vintage ads can often be found for sale on the internet.
- Dating jewelry by provenance
“Provenance” means the origin or source. Dating jewelry by provenance can be done by talking to people who actually bought and wore the jewelry back in the day.
Most of this book is taken up by detailed charts and illustrations of costume jewelry the most prolific makers – Coro, Boucher, Hattie Carnegie, Eisenberg, Hobe, Lisner, Weiss, and many many others. The manufacturer and Marks Chart show describe the many signatures found on vintage costume jewelry.