Friday, February 26, 2010

Chanel Jewelry for a Song

Vintage signed Chanel costume jewellery circa 1985-2000.

Assorted vintage pieces of jewelry in the Rue Cambon style.

Chanel jewelry is highly collectable. Since the Chanel Boutique line was launched in 1983, Chanel jewelry has been fashionable and held resale value better than most other designer jewelry. While the most coveted pieces of Chanel jewelry are those from the 1950s and 1960s when Chanel herself still the designer, pieces from the 1980s to the present have a look and presence that most other brands lack. Second hand Chanel jewellery can be purchased at better re-sale shops consignment stores for less than half of what the original cost would have been.

When Chanel jewelry is good, it is very good, however a limited number of pieces exhibit manufacturing flaws and inferior quality. I’ve noted pieces with the “nacre” off the plastic pearls, and others where the gold plate bubbled and flaked off or wore off after minimal use. This is rather unfortunate considering that many pieces are in the $1500-$2000. range. In spite of this, most pieces are of fine quality, and the design and proportion make pieces from other designers and manufacturers look ill conceived, clumsy, and lacking style.

The Chanel look is unquestionably chic and desirable. The very high retail prices give it an additional aura of exclusivity. However, those women who have Chanel taste but limited budgets can conjure up the look if they really want to. Here’s the plan:

Haunt vintage stores, flea markets, and antique shows. Know the Chanel vocabulary. The vocabulary consists of: 1) pearls 2) gold chains 3) cabochon jewels 4) a heavier, more generous scale 5) pieces based on medieval or Baroque originals 6) camellias and gardenias 7) lion heads 8) lucky 4-leaf clovers 9)cross or quatrefoil motifs 10) wide cuffs 11) rustic and hammered finishes

Chanel lion left. Miriam Haskell right.

Anonymous clover pin left. Chanel clover pendant, circa 1990, right.

Chanel silk gardenia/camellia left. Vintage circa 1955 celluloid gardenia flower head brooch and ear clips,right.
Some people feel that the Chanel look must incorporate the double CC logo and are not accustomed to looking at Chanel designs without it. It really doesn’t have to have the logo. In fact Chanel herself rarely used it, and the way it is enlarged and plastered on so much today would likely be considered vulgar and undesirable by Chanel. So many of the CC logo bags seen on the street are counterfeits, so the prestige of the logo has become pretty diluted. Chanel wanted quality to speak quietly for itself, and luxury to be recognized by those with taste. She never felt that the Chanel presence had to shout. It was understated and discreet but still unmistakably Chanel. So if you follow the “vocabulaire” and find vintage examples, you will likely pay a minute fraction of the price of a signed designer piece, and the quality and look will be as good, if not surpass them. It is important to remember that design is more important than a brand name when you select a piece of jewellery or clothing.

If you don’t feel inclined to go on the treasure hunt that flea marketing often can be, stick to foolproof pearls. Artificial pearls of the Majorca, Miriam Haskell or Carolee brands are better quality and far less money. And you won’t have to worry if they’re ever lost, damaged, or stolen. In the most memorable photo portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy at the White House, she is wearing very inexpensive fake pearls. Considering that the French considered her the most elegant woman in the world, nobody should have a problem wearing faux. Save the money for tickets to the opera, a good piece of art, or your kid's education.
Hammered finish vintage faux topaz pin, unsigned.

Here are a few examples. Do you think these inexpensive thrift store finds look as good as the Chanel pieces?

Anonymous thrift store jewellery in Rue Cambon style.
Photographs and text copyright of Square with Flair™

1 comment:

  1. So delighted to see you are finally up and posting! I really enjoy your pieces over at E&E Life.