3 tips to determine value of costume jewelry

jewelryIf you’re like most people who are downsizing or cleaning house, and you come across a drawer of costume jewelry, your first reaction may be that it’s cheap and worthless.

Not so fast!

This style of vintage ornamentation, which originated in the 1920s and exploded in the 1950s, could be worth a lot of money, depending on the workmanship and materials.

I recently visited a house full of items to assess the value for one of our upcoming auctions. On the kitchen table was a pile of costume jewelry the lady was going to donate because she thought it was worthless.

I quickly scanned what she had, and started pulling out pieces that weren’t, in fact, cheap costume jewelry but actually well-known brands. Some contained 14-karat gold.

When I asked how she got this jewelry collection, she told me that most of it was handed down from her mother and grandmother, and she thought it would be considered outdated junk jewelry. She was excited when I told her some of the pieces could be worth several hundred dollars.

With costume jewelry, it doesn’t have to be made of gold to be valuable. Antique and vintage costume jewelry can be super desirable on the secondhand market. We’ve sold single pieces of costume jewelry with no gold content for hundreds of dollars.

Finding out if you have valuable costume jewelry may not be easy to the untrained eye, but there are a few things to look for.

3 TIPS TO DETERMINE VALUE

  • Look for a jewelry mark. Most high-quality costume jewelry will have the company name or stamp. Trifari, Wiess, Coco Chanel and Monet are a few of the higher end costume jewelry makers. Granted, identifying the marks can be difficult to find without a jeweler’s loop.
  • Do you see green? Check if it has a green residue or the finish is delaminating. If so, its value is probably low.
  • Look for clear detail. Inspect the back of the jewelry and look carefully at the design details. If it’s sloppy or running together, it most likely is cheap, but if it’s clean and it has clear detail to it, then the quality may be higher.

If you’re unsure, your best bet is to take your jewelry to a reputable expert who can assess its value and suggest options for selling it.

Erik Hoyer co-owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale and J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Reach him at erik@ejsauction.com, www.ejsauction.com or@EJs_Auction on Twitter.

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