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Learn How To Identify Unmarked Costume Jewelry Before Going To Auction

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
costume jewelry

When you find beautiful pieces of costume jewelry at auction, it can be hard to avoid bidding on them. This is especially true if the pieces are marked. But, what do you do if the jewelry is unmarked? The best way to get a good deal on unmarked costume jewelry is to know how to identify it.

Why is knowing this important if jewelry is worth money anyway?

Although this type of jewelry is bound to sell for something, you could be missing out on a large sum if you don’t know what you have. Smart shoppers know what to look out for when attending an auction. The goal is to seek out items called “sleepers” that look basic or are unmarked. These are actually worth a lot of money. Here are some other benefits of knowing how to identify unmarked costume jewelry.

  1. People can make attribution mistakes. It is possible that a seller genuinely doesn’t know the true worth of a piece of costume jewelry that should sell for more or less.
  2. Knowing how to identify unmarked pieces can give you a research advantage over other bidders. You could know more going into an auction than they do.
  3. For sellers, knowing the value of a piece means that you can ensure buyers you are trustworthy and make as much money as possible.

The basics of identifying unmarked costume jewelry

A lot of this comes with practice and experience. The more you attend auctions, do research, and purchase or sell costume jewelry, the more you will know. But, there are some general things you can keep in mind when attending an auction.

At one point, there were jewelry manufacturers known as “jobbers” that would make orders for distributors. They would mold the markings into the pieces or attach them to the jewelry. This means that you could come across many unmarked pieces that can be attributed to different companies. For example, some Kenneth Jay Lane brooch designs were also made for the company Hattie Carnegie.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some manufacturers used the same design techniques and components many times. You will need to familiarize yourself with these. One great example is the company DeLizza & Elster. Most of the jewelry sold by this manufacturer only had hang tags to identify it. Knowing how DeLizza & Elster designed their pieces will allow you to pick them out of the crowd. Selro, Schreiner, and Miriam Haskell are other companies that design unmarked costume jewelry.

Is it possible to identify every unmarked piece?

The short answer to this question is, sadly, no. There are just too many examples of vintage costume jewelry, especially unmarked, to be successful. Collectors often don’t mind having these pieces, though, because they are no less beautiful than their marked counterparts. If you are coming up short on basic design research, look at the clasp, stones, embellishments, and even metal types. These may give you some extra clues.

Auctions in the Texas Panhandle

If you are interested in finding vintage and antique items at auction, High Plains Auctioneers can help. We host a variety of auctions both online and in-person, including estate and antique auctions where you can find a plethora of interesting items. Give us a call at (806) 244-6776 for more information and check out our Upcoming Auctions.