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Congratulations again to Nancy for her correct answer to last week’s contest: WHY? Her answer was so good, in fact, that I’m using it to kickstart this post. The question was: Why would you collect these pieces marked “La-Rel”, “Pell”, “Coro”, and/or “Weiss”, among others? Answer: Because these are highly sought after costume jewelry designers. Particularly the Coro Duette pieces, Weiss enameled & Japanned pieces and La Rel for traditionally-styled rhinestone pieces. Pell is known for its association with Disney and the Miss America pageants.

A quick bit about each designer that was featured.

La Rel: La Rel is the trademark for La Rel Originals founded in New York City circa 1953. The company manufactured an assortment of rhinestone jewelry in subdued traditional designs. Average to above average quality. Not very common on the market. Usually marked “La Rel” or “La Rel Originals”. Early pieces may also include the words “rhinestone magic”. (source)

Pell: Pell was founded by the Gaita brothers in New York in 1941. They Suspended operations during WWII. Their jewelry is well constructed with quality material, and they’re still in business. Usually figural pins are found on the market.

Coro: Also known as “Corocraft”, “Coro Craft”, and “Vendôme” in their signature. Founded in 1901 by Emanuel Cohn and Gerald Rosenberg in New York. By mid 1920s Coro was the largest manufacturer of costume jewelry. Ceased production in 1979. (source)

Weiss: Albert Weiss was a Coro employee during the 1930s. In 1942, he established the Weiss Company in New York City. The company did so well that by the 1950-1960 era, some of its work was contracted out to Hollycraft. Ceased operations in 1971. Their jewelry was high quality with superior Austrian rhinestones – which were handset. Weiss introduced the gray rhinestone that started the Black Diamond trend, and also started Christmas tree brooches. Not all Weiss pieces are signed. They also manufactured jewelry for wholesale to stores such as JC Penney and Sears & Roebuck, who sold them in their own presentation boxes. Not uncommon on the market. Prices will continue to rise. (source)

While all of this is greatly important for these particular pieces of jewelry – it does bring up the larger point: Signed jewelry matters. Why?

You can date your piece. Many manufacturers cycled through marks or signatures, so you can get an idea of when your piece was from. For jewelry from companies like Trifari and Coro, look for patent numbers – as all of their jewelry designs are patented and/or copyrighted!

You have an idea of their worth. Though jewelry by Avon and Sarah Coventry is widely available and collected, not much of it has significant value.

You can get better information. Knowing who made your piece means you know a bit about their business practices. Where were they located? Where did they get their stones from? Was their jewelry all machined or artisan made? The answers to these questions can guide you to better understanding the pieces place in the market.

Remember: Costume jewelry wasn’t meant to last. Department stores had scads of options, and it was expected that women would buy at least one set of jewelry per outfit. This jewelry was meant to be lovely and rich looking – but disposable. The fact that a lot of the costume pieces out there today still exist is remarkable in itself. Add to that the craftsmanship, attention to detail, rich rhinestones, and general scarcity – and you have the perfect reason to get interested and start collecting!

The internet has a lot of great data available at your fingertips. Since I was a magpie of a child – everything sparkly caught my eye – my family and friends invested in a number of reference books. Through researching individual pieces, I’ve accumulated a knowledge bank that I access while out sale-ing. If you’re wanting to have a meaningful collection of costume jewelry, I suggest the books I’ve listed below, or head to your local library and see what they’ve got!

Have you entered this week’s contest: HOW? It’s not too late!

~Lainey

Thanks to BitzofGlitz.com for having such amazing information on vintage jewelry designers! Additional information gleaned from Collecting Costume Jewelry: 202 and Fun Jewelry.