March 19, 2009

Costume Jewelry Books by Brunialti

Everyday I learn a little more about all the things I collect. Whether it be on the web, reading books, talking to friends, going to flea markets or antique shows, it always amazes me the information that is available to us and much of it is free.

The second book I ever bought discussing vintage costume jewelry was written in Italian and I was a bit skeptical about buying it but I have never been more happy with a purchase and refer to this book frequently. The book is called "American costume jewelry" written by husband and wife team Carla & Roberto Brunialti. It covers the "golden age" of costume jewelry manufacturing 1935-1950. Even without understanding a word of Italian the way it is layed out actually gave me quite a bit of information, and of course I could not stop looking at the photos.

The first part of the book gives a biography of the jewelry manufacturers that are featured in the book through photos and information about each individual piece. I used babblefish to translate any text that I was interested in and although it might not have been exact, I certainly was able to understand the concept. Where applicable the patent number is identified.

Before 1955 designers filed for U.S. patents for their designs as in the beginning they found their designs being copied and produced by their competition. Around 1955 the now familiar copy right (c) symbol was used to protect their creations. Here is a link to a great site where you will find only jewelry patents. It is arranged by manufacturer and I use it quite frequently. It is fun to browse through just to see the designs of the period.

The Brunialti's next book called "A Tribute to America" is written in English and is not a rehash of their first book, but shows different individual jewelry pieces from each of the designers all of whom are highly collected today. Each book has tons of high quality photos of the most desirable vintage costume jewelry on the planet as it is collected around the world and not just the U.S.. Names like Coro, Trifari, Boucher, Joseff, Haskell, Reja, Staret and more. When I go antiquing sometimes I can't sleep at night thinking about which fabulous piece I might find tomorrow.

In both books, the photos are divided into sections by manufacturer. Every other page has a group of photos of individual jewelry pieces, each is numbered and the next page has a description about the piece including name and patent number where applicable. Many times you have a piece that will say Pat Pend which means a patent application was submitted and they were waiting for approval and the patent number. Many times I was able to determine the patent number by finding my piece in one of these books. If you want to look up the actual patent go to the website: and type in the patent number. Please note that if there are only 6 digits, you most likely will need to put a D in front of the numbers to designate the patent is a design patent.

I have included a brief slide show to show you the covers of each book, a small sampling of the photos and descriptions you will find in each book.

There are two new books out that you can get through Amazon, but I have not seen them so I am not sure if there is different pieces pictured and discussed or a rehash of their previous books. If anyone has these books would you please comment on this blog. Unfortunately Carla is no longer with us, but her passion lives on in print.
I hope you have enjoyed this.
Have a wonderful day!

March 17, 2009

Costume Jewelry Designer Albert Weiss

Since I put on my lovely Green Weiss leaf for St. Patrick's Day I thought I would give you some information about this creative designer.

Albert Weiss learned his craft working at the huge Coro Company. He opened his own company in New York City in 1942. He is well known for the use of high quality Austrian rhinestones with excellent clarity. He started using rhinestones that looked like the German Smokey quartz and it was termed “Black Diamond”. Many of his designs are wonderful insects and butterflies that are actively sought after by collectors. Some of his Aurora Borealis jewelry is truly stunning and innovative. You will find jewelry marked WEISS, WEISS Co. hang tags and boxes might have A.W. Co with the “W” in the shape of a crown. After about 1955 you will see the © symbol. Both Fred Rezazadeh and Judith Miller believe that Weiss jewelry is underrated and under appreciated.

I always look for his earlier pieces, an unusual design and anything with really beautiful rhinestones.
Here are photos of some the marks you will find on his jewelry.

References taken from “Costume Jewelry a Practical Handbook and Value Guide” by Fred Rezazadeh.

In the last few years there have been fakes being sold so be sure to look at the piece carefully. Here is a great article with photos helping you determine if the piece you like might be a fake.

If you are not familiar with Fred Rezazadeh's book, I have used it frequently for reference. There are some designers you will not find in other books. The are lots of photos and additional sections showing Unmarked Costume Jewelry, Imported Costume Jewelry, Gold Filled & Silver Jewelry, Other Metals, Plastic Jewelry and Bead & Simulated Pearl Jewelry.
I only used prices found in books as a guide to value not a definitive price. The market is changing daily.
Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 15, 2009

Jewelry Exhibits

I thought I would share this link to Jewelry Exhibits coming up this year. Many are in New York, lucky you if you live near there. The American Society of Jewelry Historians has great information and if you become a member you can go to the lectures they sponsor periodically. I have been to several and the speakers are always engaging with jaw dropping slide shows.

If you go to any of the exhibits feel free to leave a comment on my blog so we can live vicariously through you!

Click on the title to go to the dates and places of the exhibits.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 11, 2009

"The Jeweled Menagerie"

Figural jewelry always brings a smile. Perhaps it is because I have 9 pets and used to work at Lincoln Park Zoo. I though I would share this book called "The Jeweled Menagerie" with you. It is written by Suzanne Tennenbaum & Janet Zapta and has both whimsical and truly jaw dropping jewelery from the very finest names such as Tiffany, Boucheron, David Webb, Mauboussin and the list goes on. Birds, bugs, fish, rabbits, snakes, dragonflys and so much more. Gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, Oh My!

They go through the various periods of time starting with The Nineteenth Century and is up to the present. There is a chapter on Art Nouveau, Art Deco, 1930's-40's and of course the 1950'-60's. Every page has simply stunning photos and a great description of the jewelry of each period. You can see where some of the costume jewelry designers got their ispiration.

Of course when these fantasy designs are done in real gemstones and metals the prices are out of my reach, but there are lots of vintage costume jewelry designs that can also make you smile. My photo gallery will give you just a hint of the beauties shown in the book as well as some lovely faux jewelry that always get comments.

Check your local library network for books on both fine and costume jewelry. I assure you hours of fun reading about the times and so much fun looking at the pictures!

March 10, 2009

Accessorize your Spring Fashions w/ Jewelry

Are you thinking of Spring? Now that the sun sets later, I have Spring Fever. I was at my local shopping mall and of course stopped to look at jewelry both find and costume at various shops. I did not buy any jewelry but went home to look at the pieces in my jewelry box and can not help smiling. I love each of my brooches, necklaces and bracelets and have a story about how I came across each one. I shop at flea markets, estate sales, antique stores and also trade with my friends.

Some things I have learned along the way is to really look at the condition of the piece both front and back. I think every vintage and antique jewerly collector will tell you a horror story about finding something wrong with their piece once they got it home. Some stones were replaced and they did not match, the safety catch did not work properly, lots of the gold finish was worn off...and the list goes on. Be sure to take your time and carefully look at the front and back of the piece. Make sure the pin or clasp mechanism works readily by testing it several times. Try to bring the piece into the light and look for missing or mismatched stones, missing enamel or broken off parts. Feel around the piece for rough areas. It could be something was repaired or a break. Most times you cannot get your money back so be diligent and you will be happy for a long long time.

Great vintage pieces never go out of style. Just pick up a magazine with celebrities such as "People" and you will see movie stars wearing vintage brooches, necklaces and bracelets. Most are fine jewelry but there is lots of costume pieces that were made to look like the real thing.

Wishing you a wonderful day!

March 6, 2009

Marcel Boucher: Costume Jewelry Designer EXTRAORDINAIRE!

I was going through some of my books on vintage costume jewerly today and I thought everyone might like some information on one of the most highly sought after designer even today...Marcel Boucher.

Marcel Boucher is considered by most (including myself) to be the most imaginative designer of quality costume jewelry. His early enamel pieces are bold, wonderfully executed and even today is sought out by collectors from all walks of life including movie stars like Sarah Jessica Parker. Each one is a little "work of art". He started Marcel Boucher Ltd. In 1937 in New York and the name was changed in 1944 to Marcel Boucher & Cie. He was born in Paris, France where he designed for Cartier. He then came to work for Cartier in the U.S.. In 1930 he worked for Mazer Bros until he opened his own business. You will find two marks on his jewelry that can help you in dating some pieces. Prior to 1950 you will see MB with a Phrygian cap above the initials. Some folks call it a “rooster” if they are not familiar with this national symbol of France. The other mark would be BOUCHER. After 1955 the © symbol would also appear with his name. Most pieces by Boucher also have an inventory number. I have seen very little Boucher jewelry that I do not love, but his most sought after pieces are his fantasy enameled birds from the early 1940’s. He also had fabulous fruits and other figural pieces. Even his later pieces are beautifully designed and executed.
Click link to view some of our beautiful and fun Boucher jewelry:
References taken from Carla and Roberto Brunialti’s “A Tribute to America” and Judith Miller’s “Costume Jewelry” books।

Recommended Book:
A Tribute to America and American Costume Jewelry by Carla Ginelli Brunialti and Roberto Brunialti. These are incredible books that concentrate on costume jewelry from 1935-1950. You will see photos and information about Trifari, Coro, Boucher, Hobe, Haskell, Pennino, Reja, Eisenberg and many others. Many pieces have patent information and dates. American Costume Jewelry is in Italian but it still has fabulous photos and you can read the patent numbers.

Recommended Website:
To see a wide selection of his masterpieces and other creative designs go to
They are not affiliated with the company Trifari or me. They sell high end costume jewerly from the 1930's thru the 1950's and it is a great place to see a wide selection of the most desirable pieces.

Jewelry Term: En Tremblant
Most terminology for jewelry is French. Some of my favorite pieces are called “Tremblers” from the French Term En Tremblant (aw traw BLÃ) which means trembling. A part of the jewelry (usually a flower head) is mounted on a spring and it will “tremble” as you move. I have also seen it called Wigglers or Wiggies.

Many Rhinestones in jewelry have foil backing that can get damaged over time. The stones can start looking yellow or darken. If your jewelry gets wet, dry it thoroughly to avoid any problems. Rhinestones can also be expertly matched and replaced.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Marcel Boucher. He is featured in many books on costume jewelry so look in your library, Barnes and Nobel or wherever you like to shop.

March 4, 2009

Found the Maker of my Vintage Jewlery Brooch

I purchased a wonderful Scandinavian enameled brooch on Sunday and I did not recognize the makers marks. I have done a bit of research on one of my favorite sites for silver marks "Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Maker's Marks. It is the mark for Finn Jensen.

With a little hunting you can get lots of information about you vintage jewelry. Based on the design and construction you can determine a time period, (sometimes it is very broad) country of manufacture and even the maker. Pick up a few of your pieces and look at the back. Are there any markings? What type of closure does it have? These are some of the clues that will help you.
TIP: If you have inherited jewelry or other items that you do not care for, don't just throw them in the trash. Some items might be worth a few dollars and some a few hundred dollars. There might be someone out there who will treasure your item and give it a second life.

March 2, 2009

Vintage Costume Jewelry Finds

Yesterday my friend and I went to a local flea market and I wanted to share some of my vintage costume jewelry finds. Today I cleaned each piece and was able to admire the workmanship that went into each one. I love the diversity in my selections and was so lucky to be at the right place at the right time.

The first piece is an early Art Deco dress clip by Trifari. It has the very early mark KTF which stands for Trifari, Krussman and Fishel. The T in the middle extends past the K and F. For those of you who don't know what a dress clip is, it was popular in the 1930's and 1940's and was usually a broad hinged clip that attached to your clothing. Unlike today where the jewelry is held in with an actual pin that goes through your clothing. This clip is from the Art Deco period that was popular from the mid-1910's until the mid-1930's. Art Deco pieces are characterized by geometric lines and angular shapes, zigzags, bold colors, molded or faceted Czech glass beads, plastics and chrome. Sleek animals such as Borzoi and Greyhound dogs were featured in some designs.

The next photo is of a Chinese carved Cinnabar set consisting of a dress clip and screw back earrings. This is called a Demi Parure which is a set of two or three matching pieces of jewelry, usually consisting of a necklace, pin, bracelet, or earring. A full or grand parure would include all the matching items. Typically Cinnabar is layers and layers of laquer that is then carved. The color resembles the mineral Cinnabar thus the name.

I rarely come across Sorrelli jewelry and I was thrilled to find this gorgeous bracelet. I love the variety of stones both in shape and color all accented with a variety of colored rhinestones. Sorrelli is Italian for sisters which is most appropriate as the company consists of three sisters. All pieces are handcrafted from the original designs, worked by hand using no casts or jigs, done in a barn studio at their Pennsylvania home in Kutztown, PA. producing nearly 300 new jewelry styles per year and employing 12 crafters. The company started in 1982.

The final piece is a guilloche enamel piece from Norway. Guilloche: (pronounced ghi-LOWSH) is when an intricate interlaced pattern that is engraved by an engine-turned lathe. When a translucent enamel is applied, the engraving can be seen through the enamel. There is a lot of really beautiful Scandinavian jewelry using this technique.

March 1, 2009

Flea Market Day! Time for Costume Jewelry Hunting

I so look forward to Sunday. The first Sunday of every month there is a local flea market I like to visit. Waking at 5:30 or 6:00 AM and reminding myself why I am getting up so early. While I was trying to fall asleep I thought about all the beautiful vintage jewelry I might find. Perhaps an Art Nouveau plique-a-jour figural? Maybe some 1940's Marcel Boucher or Trifari?

So I did get up and met a friend at 7:00 AM and the hunt began. Going down each aisle you are bombarded with colors and sometimes music and the sound of negotiations for the best price. I wish I knew more about art as there are so many beautiful framed pieces but I am afraid I will over pay or buy a lithograph or print that is not an original. Instead I concentrate on what I know which is costume jewelry and enameled Scandinavian pieces.

Today I did find an Art Deco Trifari dress clip that is Pink and White and has the early KTF mark. I was so excited. I also found an enameled small swallow by David Andersen. A lovely braceleted marked Sorrelli and a wonderful Seahorse with marcasites and small Coral colored balls.

My friend collects lots of things and we looked at a lovely quilt but she thought the price was too high. We went back when we had finished with the other rows but it was gone by then. You snooze you loose. She also collects postcards but she has many requirements. They must be from a man to a woman and it must be a love note/letter that was post marked. She has some really amazing ones.

It is always amazing the myriad of objects to pour over. Pottery, ephemera, paintings, furniture, figurines, dishes, silverwear, handbags, hats, door knobs, sculpture and of course all kinds of jewelry. From glitzy rhinestones to real Victorian Gold and Platinum with rose cut diamonds, real Rubies, Emeralds and Sapphires. There were a few vendors that had some spectacular designer pieces but they are out of my price range. It is always informative and you can learn so much as many of the sellers know a lot about there wares. If there is time they will tell you exciting stories about how they found some of their pieces.

I know for some people the weather is still not that great so perhaps you enjoyed reading about today's adventure.

I will keep you posted of my next search.

Have a wonderful week.