Home > INFORMATION - Vintage & Antique Jewellery

INFORMATION - Vintage & Antique Jewellery


If you collect vintage costume jewellery, have a passion for antique jewelry and want to have an easy reference point I hope to be able to help with some facts, designer signatures, background information about jewellery manufacturers and artists and a list of jewellery terminology and definitions. I hope that this little cornucopia of information will be of interest and use to collectors and wearers of vintage jewellery. If you are looking at this information and feel that anything is inaccurate or you are a jewellery historian or collector who would like to add to what I have said or ask a specific question then please feel free to get in touch. If I can help with your enquiry I will and I would be delighted to learn from you!

One of the joys of collecting vintage jewellery is meeting some of the lovely dealers and collectors who are so willing to share what they know with others. There are lots of great websites out there and increasingly more blogs, discussion forums and on line jewelry groups. It is lovely to discover snippets of information and this knowledge adds to the enjoyment of our jewellery. The more we can learn, the more we can treasure our finds!  Wearing Jewellery is part of our social history and is a passion that goes back to the beginnings of mankind.  I am sure that jewellery will continue to play its part in our lives for ever!

The information I have here has been gathered from a lifetime of collecting and a couple of decades of dealing in vintage costume jewellery. I have learned the information that I share here from a whole load of sources - from conversations, museum visits, television and radio shows, reference books and documents, the internet, collectors society meetings and talks, specialist magazines and newspapers.

Please bear with me for this is an ongoing project and I hope that it will be a growing one...


AMETHYST -  This jewel or semi-precious gemstone is actually the purple variety of natural quartz crystal.  It generally has a naturally irregular colour.   A popular stone for hundreds of years, it features in early beads and over the centuries has been used in Ecclesiastical and Royal jewellery.  It was a particular favourite gemstone of England's Queen Alexandra who liked the pale coloured light mauve variety.  Amethysts feature in Suffragette Jewellery where the jewel was used to give a coded message within a piece of jewellery with the use of  Green, White and Violet (Amethyst) stones to spell out 'Give Woman Votes'.  The Amethyst was also used in Victorian rings where many stones spelled a discreet message.  An example would be 'Dearest' -diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and topaz stones set in a line.  In costume jewellelry purple and mauve jewels are popular and it is usually a faux amethyst that is used.  This would be a glass or crystal jewel in an Amethyst colour.  It is not unusual to find real amethyst stones in silver jewellery and it is one of the gemstones often used in artizan early mexican silver jewellery.

ART DECO - this term comes from the French "Art Decoratifs".  A major international exhibition -L'Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes -was held in Paris in the year 1925 and it was a celebration of modernity.  Other terms often applied to Art Deco designs are the French 'La Mode 1925', 'Style 1925' 'Paris 25' 'The Jazz Style' 'Jazz Modern' and even 'Style Chanel' or 'Style Poiret' after the important fashion designers of that time, Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret.  The sleek modern lines and the bright cheerful colours used in Art Deco design were a breath of fresh air after the depressing economic times and the sadness and destruction of World War One.  Woman were becoming independent for the first time and were wearing make up and enjoying  jewelry of all kinds including costume jewellery.  There was an interest in African Tribal and Aztec motifs, there was the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb which sparked a renewed interest in Eygyptian art, style and architecture.  Also it was the age of the machine with sleek industrial modern styles becoming de riguer.  Cubism and modern art was emerging.   It was the age of speed, with the development of cruise ships, motor cars and aeroplanes.  Many cities were growing with amazing buildings - my favourites have to be the Chrysler Building in New York and the Hoover Building at Greenford in London.  Technology allowed diamonds to be brilliant cut and baguette cut  for the first time and  platinum found its place as the metal of choice in precious jewelry; naturally paste costume jewellery was made to copy this new twinkling brightness. All of these things have added to the rich and interesting designs and motifs which feature in Art Deco Costume Jewellery.  I could write a book here but it makes more sense to refer to some which I enjoy and which are a ready source of reference for me: Art Deco Jewelry by Sylvie Raulet ISBN 0-8478-0622-7,   Art Deco - a design handbook by Bevis Hillier ISBN 0-906969-53-0,  Art Deco 1910 - 1939 from the V & A   ISBN 1-85177-388-6,  Art Deco by Iain Zaczek ISBN 0-75254-721-6


Buch and Deichmann (B +D) Denmark
Buch and Deichmann  (B&D) Denmark started up in the early 1970's. A designer by the name of Ketty Dalsgaard was inspired by the shiny rings from the moorings from fishing boats in Denmark and so created a range of bright coloured plastic bracelets. The collection then grew to include plastic pins and brooches, earrings, chokers and hair accessories such as combs and barettes and hair clips.   Made from Nylon, so unbreakable and robust, yet light and easy to wear,  the jewellery lines were carried in high-end department stores throughout the world such as Harrods, Fenwicks, Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdales.  Brooch designs included a bird in flight, a parrot with a diamante eye, butterflies and leaves. The range of colours and shades was enormous and there would be a colour to match any outfit.   It was easy to group together many chokers or bangles to create a trendy look.  The ranges carried on into the 1980s.  Today B and  D no longer manufacture jewellery but do produce reading glasses.



The Coro company was originally founded in New York at the beginning of the 20th Century by Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger.  Coro Inc went on to become one of the largest costume jewellery makers in the USA.  They manufactured in Providence Rhode Island and the Company also had offices and factories in other areas - namely New York and Toronto, Canada, England and Mexico.  The Corocraft English jewellery was made here from the 1930s and there are records for designs from this maker patented in England in the 1960s.  The dates given for Cohn and Rosenberger's Coro Company are usually 1900 - 1979 when this famous costume jewelry company went bankrupt in the US but manufacturing continued in Canada until the 1990s.


DRESS CLIPS - There are so many ways to enjoy your vintage dress clips. If you have a pair there are the obvious and traditional sites. Place  a dress clilp on the two corners of a square neckline  or either side of the ‘v’ or round neck on your frock or blouse; the indents on your coat lapel or jacket collar just like they did in the 1930’s and 1940’s. For a more modern approach, how about popping them onto soft ballet shoes and pumps or over the turn back cuffs on your sleeves; into the tiny top front pockets on your jeans or trousers or over your belt? Single vintage dress clips were a must in the Art Deco era placed on the ‘v’ neck or ‘v’ back of a garment or adorning a hat when positioned over a hat band.  They are super when used as hair slides just clip directly onto your hair barrette style. They work just as well on a hair band. For a pendant style necklace place your dress clip over a chain or bead necklace or onto a ribbon for an effective choker. As a scarf clip they are great and they become a brooch when pinned over a safety pin – just fasten the pin through the fabric of your garment from behind and secure your dress clip over the bar. As a vintage fashion accessory they are hard working and you will enjoy finding new ways to wear your dress clips. For a bride they could represent the ‘something old or something blue traditionally worn at a wedding or could even be used in the bride and bridesmaids’ bouquets. A competent florist will easily wire a dress clip into position.  Remember you can also use vintage dress clips in the home to decorate curtains and soft furnishings or napkins at the dinner table.  They would add a special extra little gift if fastened over a ribbon on your birthday and Xmas parcels. If you have a large collection of vintage dress clips you could even use them to create a sparkling and festive touch when clipped onto your Christmas tree!

Giardinetti jewellery -  Giardinetti means "little gardens" in Italy, where the design was introduced into some of the 18th century Rococo jewellery. A giardinetto (the singular) is any ornamental bouquet in a basket, urn or other container.  Any piece of jewellery, more often than not a ring or a brooch,  that has an intricate, openwork floral motif, consisting of multi-colored gems or maybe natural diamonds or marcasite stones arranged to resemble flowers in a vase, urn or basket .  There was a revival  of Giardinetti jewellery in brooch or pin form during the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s.

KEIM of London
A little bit of research has revealed that Keim of London were costume jewellery manufacturers in the 1940s.  I have found several pieces by them over the years mostly items with an art deco to 1950s style about them.  Keim had a factory in London W1 at Fitzroy Works, Fitzroy Square, 1 Conway Street. They exhibited at the 1947 British Industries Fair at Olympia where they were listed as Manufacturers of High Class Dress Accessories, Imitation Jewellery, Earclips, Buttons, Buckles and Clasps. Keim worked in Plastic, Base Metals and Silver and offered findings for jewellery too. They also made Leather Handbags and Ladies' Belts.



Majorica pearls or Mallorca pearls is the name given to man-made pearls.  First made on the Spanish island of Majorca over a century ago they are credible copies of natural pearls.  Majorica pearls are not formed in molluscs but are man-made using solid glass balls which are coated with a special paste.  The dull glass balls have a specific weight similar to that of a natural pearl.  These nuclei are then dipped into a special adhesive paste ( the recipe is secret!).  the paste includes oil, ground up fish scales and mother of pearl which together create iridescence.  The coated beads are then dried before being polished by hand to remove imperfections such as bumps and blemishes.  The special coating process is repeated as much as 30 times until a multitude of fine layers is formed over the bead to build up the required density and colour.  To make sure that the beads will be durable the layers are subjected to a series of processess, including applications of gasses and solutions to make them resist discolouration, chipping and peeling.

Majorica pearls are different to pearls created natural by oysters and other molluscs and are also different to cultured pearls in the following respects:

 The most important fact is that Majorica pearls involve no cruelty to a living creature. The Majorica pearls are mad-made and have very strict controls in their manufacturing process.  They are made over a series of several weeks but a real pearl will take years to create. All Majorica pearls are perfectly matched and round in shape whereas natural and cultured pearls will never have two exactly the same because of the intervention of mother nature!

The Majorica pearl is a branded product of good quality.  Majorica pearls are created in Manacor.  The resulting pearl jewellery tries to mimick the most perfect natural pearl in colour and iridescence.  Thus a Majorica pearl is the most precious pearl in the world that has been created entirely by man.  Experts keep the exact processes and formulas used a trade secret.  The testing process for Majorica pearls includes test carried out in tropical sunshine and even Arctic temperatures to ensure that the resulting pearls are durable in all climates!  The Majorica pearl is thus resistant to humidity, heat, perfume, beauty creams and natural body secretions like perspiration.


OJIME (pronounced oh-jay-meh) are functional beads which originated in Japan around the beginning of the 17th Century.  The word Ojime means cord fastener bead.  Ojime generally measure up to 1 inch in diameter with a vertical hole from top to bottom.  Ojime were not always carved, indeed originally they were quite plain.  Materials traditionally used to make them include fine metals, like gold and silver, bronze and copper and it is not unusual to find what is known as a ‘marriage’ where many metals are worked together to give a variety of colours.  All kinds of ivory, tusk, antler, tooth and bone were carved and since the ivory ban of the 1980s some contemporary copies of Ojime have been made from Mammoth Ivory. Precious stones such as jade and coral were popular as was lacquer but humble glass played its part too. Other natural materials including tortoiseshell, hardwood, nuts and seeds were also carved to make these Ojime beads.
  Ojime have a very specific role to perform in traditional Japanese dress. The traditional Kimono had no pockets  and so a box, with compartments, known as the Inro was used to carry essentials.  Things like coins, tobacco, a personal seal, acupuncture needles, medicinal herbs and other items used in Japanese culture at the time.   Both men and women would wear the Inro hung on a braided double cord on the Obi (which is the wide silk Kimono belt).   At the top of the cord, a large carved bead called a Netsuke (pronounced nets-kay) would be the counter weight which balanced the Inro.   The smaller Ojime  then served as a sliding closure or toggle which would secure the lid of the Inro and also prevent if from turning.
 The whole ensemble including the Netsuke, Ojime and Inro is known as Sagemono and the heyday for this being decorated and worn as a status symbol was the period between the end of the 18th Century and the end of the reign of the Emperor Meiji (1868 – 1912).  Japan was virtually closed to the West until the 19th Century. When Japan was opened to trade after 1854 the wearing of the Sagemono for anything other than traditional and ceremonial purpose began to decline as the Japanese gradually adopted western style dress.  However the superb decorative carving and work employed in the making of the Netsuke, Ojime and Inro has ensured they are highly valued and collected today. They are examples of the Japanese concept where no item is too small or unimportant to combine function and aesthetics. There is a Japanese saying:  “Nothing is beautiful that is not also useful, and nothing is useful that is not beautiful.”

Reference sources: The History of Beads from 30,000 BC to the Present by Lois Sherr Dubin isbn:0-500-27851-2 published by Thames and Hudson and Big Bead Little Bead.

Pietra Dura is the name of the technique used for multi coloured inlay work made from cut and assembled polished natural  hardstones .  The stones are fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle within a stone base.  Many  stones are used particularly marble, which is often the choice for the base . Precious and semi precious jewels are incorporated into some of the finest work.  Large items such as table tops for furniture and wall panels were made but it is also a technique used in fine jewellery.  The word comes from the Italian ‘pietre dure’ which translates as ‘hard rock’.  Pietra Dura as a technique, has its roots in ancient Rome where they used a similar idea to decorate floors  but true Pietra Dura developed with works appearing  in Rome in the 16th Century and coming to maturity in its finest form in Florence. The English term "Florentine mosaic" is sometimes encountered to describe such work, probably developed by the tourist industry when people brought back small items of Pietra Dura from their ‘Grand tours’ in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. In jewellery the work is often floral in design but amazing portraits and decorative pictures show just how beautiful and skilled this technique is. By the early part of the 17th century, smaller objects produced in Italy were widely spread throughout Europe, and as far East to the court of the Mughals in India. Here they imitated and reinterpreted in a native style.   In Mughal India, pietra dura was known as ’Parchin Kari’ literally 'inlay' or 'driven-in' work. Some of the finest examples of this can be seen at the Taj Mahal.Due to the Taj Mahal being one of the major tourist attractions, there is a flourishing industry of Pietra Dura artifacts in Agra ranging from tabletops, medallions, elephants and other animal forms, jewellery boxes and other decorative items. Today his art form is fully alive and thriving in Agra, India though the patterns in the designs are more Persian than Italianate.

Pennino Jewelry is  the name found on some vintage costume jewellery from the USA.  Pennino Jewellery was the creation of three brothers of Italian descent, they were known as the "Three Neapolitan Princes." They moved from their native Italy to New York and founded Pennino Brothers in 1926. Their jewelry was of good quality and design and as such was sold through high end department stores and jewellery shops. Pennino jewelry was always crafted with high grade rhinestones. The company closed in 1966.


The Victorian skirt lifter or 'Page'

You have to think back to the etiquette and the road conditions of the nineteenth century to understand why a device such as a skirt lifter would be necessary.  There were no tarmac surfaces and drainage of the roads was also not as we know it today. Garbage would litter the streets and the full skirted and very costly frocks of that time were easily soiled. You must remember too that washing techniques were basic and garments were often kept for a long while.  By the last quarter of the nineteenth century those clever Victorians had come up with a little gadget to hold up the skirt.  By inventing the 'Page' or skirt lifting device they helped ladies to preserve the fabric of their delicate frocks and to maintain them in a cleaner condition.  The Victorian Skirt lifter was an odd device, scissor like with pivoted arms and a cushioned grip.  This grip would be closed and released by the sliding of a device at the top of the skirt lifter.  An added bonus of using the cushion grip would mean that hands did not touch the delicate fabric higher up the skirt so again less laundry and wear.  In common with all Victorian inventions the skirt lifter was often a patented device and one of the most common patents was the Fyfes Patent.


Sophos Company History
The original company of Lambournes Sophos LTD was founded in 1868 producing Spats, Rigid Braces, Studs & Butttons for the menswear trade. Located on Great Charles Street, Birmingham the company moved in 1932 to larger premisses on Great Hampton Row.
Over the following years the company expanded the ranges to include; Cufflinks, Tie Slides, Armbands, Belts, Braces and Leather Goods.
In 1881 the company was aquired by the Arnold Wills group but remained trading from the Great Hampton Works in Birmingham.

In 1999 Magnificent Mouchoirs the London based Novelty Accessories Company was aquired by the Arnold Wills Group and in 2004 Mag Mouch as it had became known and Lambournes Sophos were merged as one company and relocated to the larger modern showrooms and distribution centre in Uppingham, Rutland.

Sweetheart brooches first made an appearance in the UK at the end of the Victorian era when they worn during the Boer War (1899 - 1902).  These small brooches and pins were worn initially by the wife or girlfriend of a military man when he was serving away from home overseas. This is fairly typical of the Victorian way of using items, often jewellery, to convey messages.  Early pins relate to regiments in the army or the navy and are found for many regiments and corps.     Naturally this sympathetic and patriotic gesture was taken up by the mothers, sisters, and other female family members and the brooches and pins were worn to show support of sons, brothers etc. Often the serving men would make brooches for the women dearest to them. With the massive conflicts of World War 1 ( 1914 - 1918) followed only a couple of decades later by World War 2 ( 1939 - 1945 ) there became a huge market for this kind of sentimental jewellery.   As women themselves joined the forces it was not unusual for them to wear a little pin on their frock with their own insignia, for example the WAAFS or the ATS, when they were not in uniform.  Commercial jewellers soon produced ‘sweetheart’ jewellery.  Initially the sweetheart brooches and pins had been made from the collar dogs, buttons and cap badges from the regimental uniform.  The designs were still taken from the official regimental badge but the sweetheart brooches were made in all kinds of metals to suit the class and purse of the recipient.  For the commanding officers' ladies there were exquisite brooches in platinum set with diamonds and precious jewels, gold was also used, although these high end pieces of jewellery are rarer.  Base metals and early plastics crop up often and naive items hand made from shell and bullet cases, known as trench art and carved Lucite brooches made from the gun turrets and windscreens of World War 2 aircraft are also found. Silver with enamel is a popular choice and many lovely brooches have been made in these materials. This is not a collectable limited to the British; there is a strong collector market for American patriotic jewelry and sweetheart jewellery too.  Today brooches, badges and pins with military connections are made, sold and discovered the world over.    


Ties first became part of a fashionable gent’s attire in the 19th Century.  Naturally since then there have been many items of jewellery introduced as tie-control devices.  Some of the earlier ones were patented and some innovative ideas were introduced in the form of a pin, tack, clip, clasp, bar, slide and chain.  All of these stick pins, tie pins, tie chains, tie tacks, tie clasps, tie bars, tie slides and tie clips were designed to do one simple job: to prevent a tie from flapping, falling or moving about and to ensure a neat appearance for the wearer. Tie accessories are made from all kinds of materials, predominantly metals so you find them in the precious Gold, Platinum and Silver as well as in base metal.  Tie accessories are usually decorative from conservative styles to the weird, wacky and wonderful.  Tie accessories follow the trends of their era so are good examples of a particular style or fashion – for example – Art Deco or the 1960s.  They are often set with a precious jewel such as a pearl, diamond, sapphire or ruby; a lesser stone or often the very smart mother of pearl and onyx are favourite inlays.  Tie accessories, in the same was as ties themselves,  can be used to show affiliation to a particular regiment or club or activity or sport, can be commemorative tokens and souvenirs.  Tie pins and clips can be made of all kinds of materials for their decorative element such as leather, wood, jet, and early plastics like bakelite, lucite and celluloid.  There is generally a metal element to them in all cases so that they are easy and practical to fasten.



Name brooches were a great favourite with Victorian and Edwardian ladies.  It is reputed that these old brooches and pins started out as name badges for the staff in large country houses and became popular sweetheart brooches for the sentimental Victorians.   Many such brooches were made in Birmingham, England's jewellery quarter and they are becoming most fashionable again with the resurgence of lovely old names that were popular in the 19th and early 20th Century.  Many interesting name and related brooches were made through the Edwardian period into the 1920's and there was a revival of these items during World War 2 and in the 1950s also.   Materials used to make name brooches generally include Silver, Gold, base metals and rolled gold wires. The name brooches can be set with real gems stones, diamante, paste or marcasite.   The names themselves can be applied as cut out letters or are pierced out, engraved, carved, enamelled and sometimes painted on.   Natural materials like ivory, bone, wood or Whitby Jet were used and also early plastics like Bakelite, Celluloid, Casein and Lucite.  It was also popular to make brooches with the words 'Mother' or 'Baby' on them.  Brooches were manufactured with initials on or letters which make up a name in the form of a puzzle – a great novelty in their time.  Victorian and Edwardian brooches are found with place names upon them, even places that relate to battles, jubilees and other events.  Some pins simply convey sentiments like 'Best Wishes', ‘Good Luck’, ‘Greetings’, or just simply ‘Souvenir’.   Some earlier name brooches had a locket or glass back enabling them to be used to hold a lock of hair or small portrait.   A category of collectable antique brooches have the word 'Mizpah' (an old Hebrew prayer which translated means 'may the Lord watch over us whilst we are apart’). It is also possible to find the ‘Mizpah’ on the reverse of a piece of jewellery.  I have seen Celtic brooches and also necklace clasps bearing The word 'Mizpah' sometimes it is so tiny that it looks like a hallmark or makers mark but with a jeweller's loupe you find out it is 'Mizpah'.