The History of Vintage Costume Jewelry Brands

May 17th, 2013

vintage costume jewelry main image

Vintage costume jewelry is perhaps the easiest way to wear vintage for any modern woman of any background, style or size.

You can be a top-level executive CEO and wear a pair of Trifari vintage earrings with your power suit. Or, you could be an underground DJ spinning in Tokyo with a piece of Monet from the ’70s hanging like a Flava Flav chain from your neck.

There’s no limits to the “who” behind the “how” of vintage costume jewelry. Whatever style suits your fashionable needs can and will be fulfilled by the digital marketplace. As illustrated in my e-book, the 100 Best Vintage Shops Online, “jewelry-only” online vintage shops are fast becoming a trend.

Maintaining and listing jewelry is easier than styling and shooting a human model. Plus, vintage costume jewelry is easy to buy and easy to wear – there’s rarely a “size” required!

While brands like Gems TV offer real silver jewelry at affordable prices, the truth I’ll stand behind is that vintage costume jewelry is the best way to find a piece of top quality jewelry engraved with affordable legacy and a commitment to craftsmanship that lasts.

The history of costume jewelry is an illustrious one. Most seasoned #vintagelovers credit Coco Chanel with popularizing costume jewelry, as she introduced faux jewels to wear with each of her collections. The lesser-valuable jewelry was nicknamed “costume” because Chanel encouraged her clients to only wear the jewelry with one of her outfits for one season. Talk about limited!

It was thanks to 1950s fashion that costume jewelry rose in prominence for the everyday woman to wear. As necklines dipped lower and hair became shorter, the need to wear earrings, bracelets and necklaces every single day became not just a trend, but outfit protocol.

Decorating your look with jewelry was no longer optional. Beginning in the ’50s, it’s safe to say that jewelry was as ubiquitous on a woman as wearing a pair of shoes!

I didn’t share every single vintage costume jewelry designer in this post – or every single fact! What do you know that I didn’t share? Please spread the #vintagelove and knowledge in the comments!

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Vintage Costume Jewelry: Monet

vintage costume jewelry ad

Monet Advertisement, 1968

Founded … Monet was founded in 1919 by brothers Michael and Joseph Chernow as a monogramming business. Monogramming was a huge trend in the 1920s. The company did so well that in 1934 they hired a designer with a background from Cartier. The designer, Edmond Mario Granville, would remain with the company until his death in 1969.

A brief back story … Monet can be thanked for many technological advancements in jewelry production. The “friction” ear clip and the “barrel clutch” for pierced ears were invented by Monet.

But most importantly, Monet can be thanked for making “tailored jewelry” trendy in the 1970s. These were crisp, clean gold and silver plated pieces without stones that were suitable for everyday and business wear.

It’s safe that say that the smooth style of this new costume jewelry trend was because more and more women were entering the workplace in middle to upper management roles in the ’70s.

They weren’t the secretaries – think Joan from Mad Men – wearing bling bling to the work place to sit and be pretty. No. They were fast becoming boss ladies and their wardrobe decisions shifted to reflect that.

Value today … Modern Monet is easy to purchase from any department store jewelry counter. Liz Claiborne has been the owner of the trademark since 2000.

The Monet insignia was not on jewelry before 1955, so if you find a piece of Monet without the name inscribed you’ve potentially found a pre-1955 piece.

The “Monettes” line was for teenage girls that due to limited production, is harder to find today.

For more information … The History of Monet on Collector’s Weekly – Vintage Monet Jewelry Collecting by Vintage North

vintage costume jewelry by monet

Vintage Monet Costume Jewelry on Etsy

a vintage costume jewelry bracelet by monet

Vintage Monet Costume Jewelry Bracelet on Etsy

vintage costume jewelry necklace by monet

Vintage Monet Costume Jewelry on Etsy

Vintage Costume Jewelry: Coro

vintage costume jewelry ad

1950s Coro Advertisement on Etsy

Founded … Coro was unofficially first founded in 1901 by Emanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberg. They opened a small accessories on Broadway in NYC. “Coro” was born in 1943 and originates from combining the first two letters of their last names.

A brief back story … Coro’s collections were designed by a collection of designers who were often unknown names in a competitive industry. Many of these designers started with Coro and went on to produce their own lines. Coro marked jewelry with the designer’s name only in rare instances.

Look for other vintage jewelry by designers Francois, Gene Verecchio, Oscar Placco, Robert Geissman and Mass Raimond. Each were designers for Coro before founding their own lines.

Vintage value … Because Coro shuttered in 1979, finding Coro costume jewelry is an accomplishment within today’s competitive market. The company shined with its jeweled designs in the 1930s-1950s. But with the change in trends – women began wearing beads in the ’60s – Coro’s market share collapsed and after 78 years in business, they silently closed their doors.

For more information … The History of Coro Jewelry on Jewel Collect – Everything You Need to Know About Coro Trademarks – Names of Coro Jewelry Lines

coro cocktail ring

Vintage Coro Costume Jewelry on Etsy

vintage costume jewelry earrings by coro

Vintage Coro Costume Jewelry on Etsy

coro fruit clip on earrings

Vintage Coro Costume Jewelry on Etsy

Vintage Costume Jewelry: Trifari

vintage costume jewelry trifari advertisement

Vintage Trifari Jewelry Ad

Founded … Trifari was founded in the early 19th century teens by Gustavo Trifari, an Italian immigrant son. It later became a three-partner brand that was so successful, many historians of vintage costume jewelry would surely tell you it was Trifari that made costume jewelry so mainstream in the first place.

A brief back story … Trifari is perhaps the most celebrity-catered brand of the vintage costume jewelry industry, having adorned the likes of first lady Mamie Eisenhower (who famously wore Trifari costume jewelry lookalike pearls to both of her inaugural ball) and Madonna.

If you’ve discovered a piece of Trifari from the 1940s World War Two era, you may have your hands on a piece of sterling silver. Reason being, war rations prevented the use of metal so Trifari was forced to use sterling instead, tripling prices of the Trifari products. In the 1940s, Trifari made the corps emblems for the British Royal Air Force.

Look for Trifari’s “Jelly Belly” pins from the 1940s. These are pins of animals like seals, poodles (the rarest), roosters, etc. with a solid Lucite pearl set in sterling silver or gold plate in the animal’s belly.

Trifari is particularly valuable for vintage costume jewelry thanks to its connection with French designer Alfred Philippe, who also designed for Van Cleef and Arpels.

Value today … Beginning in the 1970s, Trifari’s ownership shifted from Hallmark, to Crystal Brands, to Monet, which went bankrupt in 2000 and is now owned by Liz Claiborne.

Purchasing a piece of Trifari today is not purchasing the quality it was yesterday, considering pieces are made abroad and not with the intents of dressing First Ladies at their inaugural balls.

For more information … The History of Trifari on Healthy Pursuits Hub Pages and an interview with Trifari jewelry designer  Diane Love on Sarara Vintage Couture 

1970s gold necklace by trifari

Vintage Trifari Costume Jewelry on Etsy

vintage trifari costume jewelry broach

Vintage Trifari Costume Jewelry on Etsy

trifari vintage ring costume jewelry

Vintage Trifari Costume Jewelry on Etsy

Vintage Costume Jewelry: Avon

avon jewelry collectibles book

Avon Collector’s Book Available on Barnes & Noble

Founded … Out of this list, Avon is the oldest, having been founded in 1886 as a perfumer. Avon is a brand representative of female empowerment because founder David McConnell established Avon with the intent of offering women the opportunity to go into business for themselves as consultants for the company.

Originally known as California Perfume Company, “Avon” became Avon in 1929. The name was officially changed to Avon, products in 1937.

A brief back story … Avon was a perfume and makeup company without jewelry until 1963. Jewelry was introduced as  “free gift” with purchase. The jewelry became popular and so wise to listen to their customer’s demands, Avon launched jewelry in the 1970s as its own line of product.

Value today … Considering jewelry was only a small portion of the Avon business in the ’60s, finding a piece of Avon from this era means you’ve found a highly collectible piece.

For more information … Avon Jewelry  – Avon Vintage Costume Jewelry Marks By Date – Avon Costume Jewelry History by Mandy Heth of Baubles & Bits

vintage costume jewelry avon necklace

Vintage Avon Costume Jewelry on Etsy

vintage costume jewelry by avon

Vintage Avon Costume Jewelry on Etsy

vintage costume jewelry avon necklaceVintage Avon Costume Jewelry on Etsy


More Vintage Costume Jewelry

Vintage Costume Jewelry from My Grandmother’s Collection
Vintage Costume Jewelry History from Collector’s Weekly 
The History of Napier Costume Jewelry from Collector’s Weekly 
Vintage Costume Jewelry for Sale on eBay
Vintage Costume Jewelry for Sale on Etsy

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Facebook Comments


  1. Fantastic article Sammy! Must share!

  2. Sammy,

    Thanks so much for featuring my Trifari salamander in this magnificent blog. It looks like I’ve got a new daily blog to read!

    I’ve tweeted, pinned, faved and shared this with my Etsy teammates.


  3. Thanks so much for featuring some of the jewelry I offer,3

  4. Michele says:

    Sammy, I love your site! It is fantastic!

    Thank you so much for featuring my Monet goldtone mesh choker in your wonderful blog! I am so flattered to have it included among the other pieces too!

    I am tweeting this as well as posting to FB and sharing it on Pinterest too!

    Thanks again!

  5. Michele says:

    Hello again! I forgot to mention that the Monet Mesh Choker is available at my etsy shop The Vintage Cornucopia!

  6. Laura Mae says:

    Well-written article, Sammy! We really enjoyed it. :-) Keep on rocking it!


  7. Sammy says:

    spreading it! Spreading it sister!

  8. Sammy says:

    Thank you so much Michele! Thanks for sharing and have a great Memorial Day weekend and wear lots of vintage costume jewelry ;-)

  9. Sammy says:

    Your salamander made me smile so much ;-)

  10. Fröken H says:

    You’re so full of knowledge! Thank you for sharing :)

  11. Rachelle says:

    i found an old ring of my grandmothers and it has the name KIMBERLY engraved in it. i cant seem to find any info on rings like this. it is a vintage 14K white gold white sapphire ring from what she told us. do you know anything about this brand of rings?

  12. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work.

  13. Jennifer Williams says:

    Sammy, I am a collector and reseller of all things vintage. I found this blog post searching for vintage costume jewelry brand names, researching some older pieces than the designers you feature in this post. I am wondering if you have other similar posts about designers from earlier periods. I am very interested in learning more about your services and I have ordered the sample chapter of your book. Thanks for your love of vintage!

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