How to Identify Signed Jewelry

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Signed jewelry is jewelry that has the designer’s name stamped or incised on it. Designers “sign” both fine jewelry and costume jewelry. This article will focus on vintage costume jewelry. It’s a good idea to be able to identify signed jewelry – especially vintage jewelry. Knowing the history of a particular brooch or necklace adds to its interest. And a signature on an item of jewelry also adds to its value (at least 30 percent by some estimates).

Collect books about vintage jewelry such as Judith Miller and John Wainwright’s "Costume Jewelry" and Marcia S. Brown’s "Signed Beauties of Costume Jewelry." You also can get hold of auction catalogs featuring vintage jewelry. These are sometimes offered for sale on online auction sites. Or search for online catalogs that feature vintage earrings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets.

Study the photos of the jewelry featured in the books and catalogs. Combine this with visits to antique shops, estate sales and jewelry shops that feature vintage jewelry. Take along your magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. Look for “signatures” on the underside of jewelry you find attractive. They are easy to locate. (Many are readable even without a magnifying glass. Some pieces are stamped with the designer’s full name, while others are stamped only with initials or logos.) After a while, you will become familiar with the look of certain designers; names such as Weiss, Trifari, Sarah Coventry, Matisse and Monet will become familiar – and recognizable – as will their “signatures.”

Begin to collect your favorite vintage designer or designers. If you’re fortunate, you may even spot a valuable piece at a garage sale or consignment shop selling for a song. Your knowledge of the added value assigned to signed jewelry may also help you choose modern signed jewelry with an eye to making a good investment. (Signatures on jewelry generally make a piece more valuable.)

Tips & Warnings

  • When collecting vintage signed jewelry, avoid broken jewelry. Soldering and other repairs generally detract from a piece’s value.
  • Buy pieces you love. That way, whether or not the jewelry increases in value, it will remain a pleasure to own.

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