Vintage Earrings Make Striking Fashion Statement
I had a chance to see the Oscar-nominated movie “The Post” last weekend and enjoyed the vintage fashion and timely topic of the film very much, along with great acting by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, among others.
One of my favorite moments in the film was when Streep, who plays newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, removes her clip-on earring to answer the 1970-era desk phone.
If you’ve ever worn clip-on earrings as opposed to pierced, you know exactly why she did it. Those old phone receivers were big, and clip-on earrings get in the way. Even today when I wear clip-on earrings to work, I have to slip them off to answer my cell phone efficiently.
No woman would leave the house without her earrings back then, and typically they were screw-back or clip-ons; pierced ears were just coming into vogue and mostly with the younger generation. I remember piercing my ears with self-piercing earrings that I bought at Goods Department Store, probably on my lunchtime from Wheeling Central. (A strange, slow way of doing it before the piercing gun system came about.)
Of course, the other way to pierce ears was with an ice cube and sharp sterile needle, the method I used when I helped my younger sister out. (She still blames me for the crooked result!)
Vintage earrings, pins, bracelets, necklaces, sweater guards and dress clips remain in fashion today and offer a special bit of glamour and interest to a woman’s attire.
Ladylike jewelry was a necessary accessory in days gone by. Scatter pins and earrings, charm bracelets and necklaces were worn daily in the 20th century. By the late 1960s, fashion had changed and trends brought less ladylike looks and a hippie, mod fashion like long dangling pierced earrings — but still earrings were important.
Sweater clips to hold a cardigan together, so that the sweater can be worn on the shoulders like a cape, also was a popular costume jewelry item back then but is one that you rarely see today. It is more of a vintage bye-bye.
Jewelry was piled on, with bracelets, necklaces, pins, earrings and pearls combined to give a dressed-up look, even during the day or at church. It was Coco Chanel who suggested that you simply remove one of the multiple pieces before leaving home to achieve elegance.
I have dozens of earrings, pins, bracelets and necklaces that I inherited in my mother’s big jewel box (actually an antique spool chest where she kept her treasures). It’s the perfect place to store costume jewelry!
Some earrings have patent numbers, which is useful for dating jewelry if there is no other mark. Our patent numbering system began with a patent issued in 1836.
Other marks on earrings include country of origin or manufacturer names, like Coro, Weiss or Haskell (three that I own).
Coro costume jewelry is so popular that there are collector books on it, with details on identification and values. The company started doing business about 1900 and became the largest of all costume jewelry manufacturers, so it’s not hard to find a favorite piece to collect.
Coro used many different names or marks, including Coro, Coro Craft (Coro is written in script) and the Pegasus emblem. Another of its top of the line marks was Vendome. Many designers worked for Coro before it went out of business in 1979 after 80 years of making costume jewelry.
The name Coro came about after the two founders of this company, Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger, opened a small shop on Broadway in New York City in 1902.
Another big name, Miriam Haskell, is tops in vintage, and many collectors seek this name on the back of her fancy clips and pins. Haskell Jewels began in 1926 and is still producing costume jewelry today.
When buying vintage costume jewelry, make sure you look at condition (no stones missing), eye appeal and craftsmanship. Size is important, too, since large pieces are usually more desirable and priced higher. Vintage jewelry can be found at shops, estate sales and online.
I find vintage jewelry perfect when you’re bored with your fashion statement. Just remember: “A woman can be over dressed but never over elegant.” — Coco Chanel
For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail .com or by writing in care of this newspaper.