The Ultimate Guide to European Vintage Costume Jewellery Brands

 

Interested in collecting vintage and antique jewellery? Check out our
illustrated guide to the top European costume jewellery brands to look out for..

 

1) CHRISTIAN DIOR

 

Christian Dior  was a very prominent and influential designer of the 1950's. His fashion designs were
accessorised with opulent feminine jewellery, including asymmetrical crystal necklaces, animal pins
and tremblers specially commissioned for each collection. At first he created jewellery for specific
clients such as Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, however jewellery designs were soon being produced
under licence for Dior and sold in luxury stores. Dior was insistent that the quality of the jewellery would
match that of the clothing. Only the best designers were used including Mitchel Maer, and Robert Goosens
 Dior developed the aurora borealis stone with Swarovski in 1955. Floral forms were a
signature element in his work. Other forms were circus animals, unicorns, and fish. Dior pieces were always 
signed and dated and Dior vintage jewellery is much sought after by collectors. After Dior's death in
1957 Yves Saint Laurent  was appointed as chief. He was followed by Mark Bohan, Gian Franco Ferre
and John Galliano.The Dior fashion house remains a major global brand today.  For more on Dior click here.



Ddior 1963 red crystal necklace 1950's Mitchell Maer dior necklace   Dior crystal choker necklace
1963 Dior red crystale necklace      1950's Mitchel Maer for Dior necklace       Dior crystal choker


2) YVES SAINT LAURENT

 

Yves Saint Laurent  became the lead designer  for Christian Dior in 1958 at the age of 21.
He  started his own fashion house in 1961. His early earlier designs were considered very
flamboyant and outrageous, however, by the early 1980's his designs were seen as  classics in
the fashion world. His began his jewellery line in the 1970's . It was theatrical and colourful
 in line with his wild clothing collections. The jewellery included ethnic beaded pieces,
metal medallions, and whimisical enamels. Moving forward  jewellery collections had a high
quality opulent 
ethos with intricate patterns, elaborate metalwork, midnight hues and
saturated tones. Designers such as Robert Goosens produced beautiful quality pieces for YSL
which are much sought after today. All jewellery is signed with the YSL signature. For more on
Yves 
Saint Laurent click here

 
  YSL Bronze HEART brooch
Rare YSL multi crystal necklace    Rare YSL Arabesque style necklace    YSL bronze heart brooch/pendant

                                                                                   
3) GIVENCHY

 

The Givenchy fashion house opened in Paris in 1952 led by directory Hubert de Givenchy.
It quickly became very influential and its elegant modern pieces were worn by famous film stars
such as Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn. Givenchy jewellery is typically made from
heavy silver and gold plated metals, often adorned with glass, rhinestones, lucite, plastic beads
and faux pearls. They are usually signed pieces. Givenchy retired in 1995 and John Galliano
became the lead  designer, followed by Riccardo Tisci in 2005. Since 2017 Givenchy has been
owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH and the current artistic director is Claire Waight Kellar.

Givenchy roman coin gold plated necklace   Givenchy gold crystal hearts necklace   Givenchy logo necklace and earrings

Vintage Givenchy roman coin  n  Givenchy crystal hearts necklace      Vintage Givenchy logo necklace 
gold plated necklace                                                                                and earrings

4) CHRISTIAN LACROIX

 

Christian Lacroix was born in 1951 and originally studied history of art before becoming a
fashion designer . He opened his French fashion house in 1987. From 1989 he produced haute
couture collections and ready to wear costume jewellery to accessorise his clothing lines. The
jewellery featured gold pieces in arresting shapes set with vibrantly coloured faux stones. Typical
Lacroix pieces were jewel encrusted crosses and heavy ornate charm bracelets, all were signed.
The fashion house went into administration in  2009.


  La Croix ethnic inspired necklace  La Croix gilt and enamel earrings

Lacroix 1980's earrings                  Lacroix 1970's ethnic                       Lacroix  gilt, enamel and                                                                                                                                  inspired necklace                        crystal earrings

5) LEA STEIN
 

Lea Stein was born in Paris in 1931 and trained as an artist. She made buttons for the fashion
industry and with her husband (a chemist) they began making buttons, using a material similar
to Bakelite. This involved a process where layers of coloured cellulose acetate were bake bonded
together. In 1969 Stein used this process to make costume jewellery adding fabric, lace, and metallic
inclusions between layers to vary the composition of each piece. The end result was high impact
'plastic' jewellery. Each piece was unique. Signature pieces are the 'Fox ' pin. Most sought after by
collectors are those from the L'ile aux Enfants range, and early pieces such as the 'Tennis Lady',
'Rolls Royce', 'French Sailor', and saxophone.
More Lea Stein information here.


Lea stein fox pin  lea stein rolls royce pin  lea stein tennis brooch

Lea Stein fox pin                            Lea Stein Rolls Royce pin             Lea Stein brooches inc. tennis
                                                                                                             brooch - bottom right.

6) THEODOR FAHRNER

 

This German costume jewellery company established in 1855 is know for it's Art Deco work,
however, it also produced jewellery in many other styles. In the early years of the 20th century
Fahrner was a leading figure in jewellery design, employing a series of influential designers to
work for the firm. The 'TF' trademark was introduced in 1901 and Fahrner began to export to
England through Murrle, Bennet and Co. His work for this firm was often geometric or abstract,
featuring elements such as stylised birds or plants. Items were marked with the stamps of both
companies. When Theodor  Fahrner died in 1919 the company was sold to Gustav Braendle.
In 1922 Braendle's new collections featured marcasite and enamel jewellery, combined with
semi precious stones. The firm's fabulous Art Deco pieces were given much acclaim.  The
geometric designs reflected the essence of the Art Deco movement and the Jazz age. Other
pieces inspired by the Viennese painter Anton Kling used more expensive materials including
semi precious stones and pearls. This type of Fahrner 'art jewellery' fetches high prices today.
Green agate and black enamel combined with coral and onyx became signature colours for
Fahrner and the Art Deco period.


Theodore Farhner art deco pendant  Theodor Farhner 1920's art deco necklace   Farhner stylised silver and marcasite rose brooch

Fahrner Art Deco pendant           Fahrner 1920's art deco necklace     Fahrner stylised silver and 
                                                                                                               marcasite rose brooch


7) CHANEL  

 

Coco Chanel opened her first fashion boutique in Paris in 1912.  She promoted a chic new look
for women with comfort and simplicity at its core. She began to produce jewellery decorated with
inexpensive imitation stones and pearls, so that her clients could afford to accessorise and
personalise their outfits. The jewellery was made to emphasise the faux quality of the stones. Strings
of faux baroque pearls created a glamorous excessive look. By the 1920's her jewellery featured charm
bracelets, jewelled belts, and gold and beaded chains. The jewellery featured clear and synthetic stones
combined with real gemstones. They were designed to enhance the simple and elegant nature of her
fashion collections. She collaborated with Maison Gripoix whose designs featured poured glass stones.
She aslo worked with the Duke of Verdura to create some of the firm's classic pieces inlcuding
enamelled and jewelled Maltese cross cuffs. After a 15 year self imposed exil in Switzerland during
World War 2 she made a Parisien comeback. From 1955 onwards she worked with Robert Goosens
creating iconic designs such as Byzantine style crosses on long chains of beads and pearls. Goosens
also used rock crystal to lend delicacy to inexpensive pieces. For collectors the most desirable pieces
are Maltese cross cuffs and pins, rosary style beaded pearl necklaces by Goosens, and floral inspired
necklace and earring sets by Maison Gripoix.

Chanel maltese cross cuffs    Chanel goosens poured glass brooch     Chanel pearl necklace by Goosens
Chanel maltese cross cuffs           Chanel brooch by Robert Goosens   Chanel pearl detail necklace
                                                                                                                   by Robert Goosens

 

8) JAKOB BENGEL

 

Jakob Bengel's German company was founded in 1873 and first made watch chains. However, in the
late 1920's they began to make art deco costume jewellery. Some pieces were decorated with 
crystal or rhinestones and were intended to be worn with silk or velvet cords which were fashionable
at the time.Most of the companies output however, comprised bold pieces in chrome and geometric
shapes made of coloured Galalith. These were usually hung on 'brickwork' chains which highlighted
the machine aesthetic of the jewellery. These pieces were created by top designers such as 
Willhelm Wagenfeld. They were extremely popular both in Germany and abroad. Bengel had his
own makers mark (an oval depicting a cannon and a pyramid of cannon balls), however this is rarely
seen on exported pieces. When World War 2 started the production of Galalith for non essentials was
prohibted  and the company ceased production .


Jakon Bengel red necklace   Jakob bengel silver bracelet
 Two Jakob Bengel necklaces and a bracelet  using red galalith and silver.


9 ) CRISTOBAL

 

Cristobal is an internationally acclaimed retailer of costume jewellery. The firm was 
founded in 1986 in London by Steven Miners and Yai Thammachote. In the late 1990's
four limited edition designs were released.These were known as 'The Butterfly Collection',
'Secret Garden Collection', 'The Xmas Collection', and 'The London Collection'. The London
collection comprised mostly necklaces while the first 3 were mostly pins. All four collections featured
beautiful high quality Austrian rhinestones (dating from the 1940's and 50's) in bold new settings.
They are very sought after by collectors.

Cristobal butterfly brooch  cristobal by gripoix poured glass brooch  Cristobal london xmas tree brooch
Cristobal butterfly rhinestone pin    Cristobal by Gripoix poured         Brooch from "the Xmas collection"
                                                        glass brooch


10) BUTLER AND WILSON

 

After their market stall proved successful Nicky Butler and Simon Wilson opened a shop in London's
Kings Road in 1972.  They designed costume jewellery based on their knowledge of period treasures
and their experience in handling vintage and antique jewellery.  They reinvented vintage designs for the
modern market. Influences came from vintage, Oriental and Indian design.  Favoured materials were
crystals, pave set rhinestones, faceted beads, semi precious stones and quartzes. Bases included rhodium,
gunmetal, and gold and silver plated metals. Teddy bears, champagne glasses, spiders, bows, crowns, lizards
and monkeys all feature in the firm's work.  The power dressing of the 1980's required bold costume jewellery
and Butler and Wilson contributed with huge jewelled bib necklaces and diamante brooches and pins.
Celebrities snapped up the jewellery. Butler and Wilson's charming Xmas range including Santa's and reindeers
is very popular. The early work is much sought after including the teddy bear, spider and lizard pins.

 

11) COPPOLA E TOPPO

 

In the late 1950's and the 1960's ornate beaded jewellery became the height of fashion. Jewellery designer
Lyda Toppo started up her costume jewellery company in Milan, Italy in 1946, where she worked with her 
brother Bruno Coppola. The early work comprised multi strand strings of beads .They used locally sourced
Murano beads and Austrian crystal. The delicate use of graduated coloured beads became a signature of the
company. Clasps were higly ornnamental , and often heart shaped. The style of the company was tailored and
classic. Necklaces and bracelets used exquisite beads with the companys signature 'Made in Italy by Coppola
e Toppo' stamped on the clasp. Earrings were usually marked with a cut out star on the clip. Coppola and Toppola
jewellery is highly sought after and very expensive . In 2006 a New York auction house sold a collar and two
bracelet demi parure for £7200.

 

12) VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

 

Vivienne Westwood is famous for her collections of punk rock and bondage inspired clothing. Born in 1941, she
started designing professionally in 1971. During the punk era Westwoods's designs inlcuded bicycle chains,
safety pins, and spiked dog collars worn as jewellery. Her 1980's jewellery line was much more sedate in 
comparison. It featured hearts, bows, and traditional royal symbols such as crowns and orbs. The jewellery was
created from silver or gold plated pewter and was decorated with faux pearls and Swarovski crystals


13) LANVIN

 

Jeanne Lanvin was born in 1867. She started her career as a milliner and then joined the
Paris Syndicat de la Couture (a school for aspiring designers) in 1909. She proceeded 
to become one of the most influential designers of the 1920' and 1930's. These days the best
known Lanvin costume jewellery is a range of metal and plastic pendants. These were made
during the 1960's and 70's and exhibited geometric forms which reflected the space age ethos
of the time. A particularly sought after item is an interchangeable pendant necklace worn often by
British actress Keira Knightly in the early 2000's .

 

14) GOOSENS

 

Robert Goosens was a renowned  French based jewellery designer. He served  an apprenticeship
in jewellery
 making in his youth where, he perfected the techniques of engraving,  casting
and embossing semi-precious and simulated stones into silver and gold metals. He went on to
work with some of the top jewellery brands, producing beautiful quality jewellery over a career
spanning decades . Goosen's designs were strongly influenced by artifacts in paintings seen in
Paris musuems. He travelled a lot often bringing back stones including amethysts, sapphires,
rubies, chalcedony and coral. Rock crystal was a stone that featured in his designs and became
his favouite material. He is 
probably best know for his work with Chanel. He helped create many of the
iconic Chanel pieces such as her Byzantine crosses and three hoop earrings. Goosens also created
other jewellery inspired by ancient civilisations for several famous brands including Yves Saint Laurent,
Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.

 

15) GROSSE

 

Henkel and Grosse was founded by Heinrich Henkel and Florentine Grosse
in Pforzheim, Germany in 1907. Initially the company made only gold settings. 
However, from 1920 they began making costume jewellery for the European market,
moving into the American market from the late 1920's. After Word War 2 the company
became know as "Grosse". In 1955 it became the main manufacturer for Dior. They were
employed to create four annual collections. The jewellery comprised gold and rhodium plated metals
prong set with clear and coloured rhinestones, lapis, turquoise, ruby and faux pearls. From 1958 
all the jewellery was signed and dated whether from the Dior or Grosse collections.

 

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