With all this attention being paid to vintage rhinestones, baubles and beads, reference guides are bound to follow suit. There are dozens of jewelry titles available for collectors to pore through for information, and new guides being released regularly. I'd like to introduce you to three new titles that all impart sound advice for collectors and feature an abundance of beautiful vintage costume jewelry.
Inside the Jewelry Box
If you're an Antique Week subscriber, you may recognize the title of this book as a column regularly seen in the publication. Author Ann Mitchell Pitman has been sharing her love and knowledge of vintage costume jewelry with her readers since 1997. When she had the opportunity to take some of her favorite columns and compile them into a reference to share with others, she ran with it.
The result is a book that includes color photos of jewelry ranging from common pieces to items rarely offered for sale to collectors, and they're accompanied by sound background text to educate the reader. In fact, Pitman's book is one of the first to address the "Juliana" jewelry craze, which refers to a type of long-collected unsigned jewelry manufactured by Delizza & Elster in the early 1960s. When collectors learn to recognize the manufacturing style of these pieces, primarily bracelets with a five ring and band construction, they can assign a name to unsigned pieces making buying and selling much easier to accomplish online.
All in all Inside the Jewelry Box (Collector Books) is a great introductory reference for collectors interested in jewelry dating from the '40s through the 1960s. The discussion on discerning quality in jewelry and the vintage magazine ads in the back of the book are high points. The only drawback to this title, as with many collectibles reference guides, is the pricing information included. While some of the prices are in line with what collectors are paying for vintage costume jewelry these days, many are on the high side.
Costume Jewelry: Indientification and Price Guide
Imparting coverage on jewelry from the Victorian period through the 1960s, Leigh Leshner's latest book goes beyond basic glitz to deliver a great overview on styles, periods and manufacturers popular with jewelry collectors today. This is Leshner's third book for Krause Publications, and in my opinion, her best work to date.
One of the useful aspects of adding this book to your reference library, especially for beginners or dealers wanting to learn more on the topic, is the section on rhinestones. With history, descriptions of cuts and shapes and good examples of varied settings incorporated in rhinestone jewelry, the neophyte will definitely appreciate this information. A section on jewelry materials with photo examples helps to define commonly confusing terms as well.
If you're a visual learner, you'll more than appreciate the abundance of large, detailed full color photos in this reference guide. Even though I've been collecting and selling jewelry for years, I thoroughly enjoyed perusing this book several times for a visual treat as well as an educational experience.
Miriam Haskell Jewelry
While most costume jewelry books produced in the past have been overviews of the hobby in general terms, Miriam Haskell Jewelry (Schiffer Publishing) focuses on the pieces produced by one company from the 1920s through the present. And the cream of the crop collections shown in the book are nothing short of spectacular.
This book is a gem for collectors looking for reliable text and beautiful photographs, but would also interest anyone enamored by high style and vintage fashion. Original design artwork (see the sketch on the cover for a preview) adds an interesting element to one section of the book. But, experienced collectors and beginners as well will relish the information provided on unsigned Haskell pieces produced from 1926 through the mid-1940s. The photos exhibiting manufacturing techniques of unsigned pieces is not only useful, but surprising in some cases.
The only drawback to splurging on this hardcover book (the retail price is $59.95) is that it doesn't include pricing for common Haskell pieces found most frequently in antique shops and on eBay today. But, honestly, I wouldn't let that keep me from buying it. The information on unsigned pieces alone with well worth the price, and a single sleeper buy made with your newfound knowledge will recoup the price of the book and then some.