Saturday, March 29, 2008

How to Spot Good Costume Jewelry #2

Your Grandma’s fake jewelry probably isn’t junk, but just how valuable is it?

When shopping in flea markets or rummaging through garage sales, Dumpdiggers can spot vintage costume jewelry from well known designers of the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s. If you are shopping for items in a local market to sell to collectors in a global market, there is nothing better than good fake jewelry.

In Canada, look for pieces by Gustave Sherman of Montreal 1947 -1981. Sherman was a jewelry designer and manufacturer who worked as a jewelry salesperson right after WWII in Montreal – this is important. He became a retail sales expert first, and was very knowledgeable in what people were buying, and what jewelry best complimented Montreal clothing styles. With no formal training as a designer or a businessman he opened the Sherman Jewelry Company in Montreal in 1947. At that time he had just one employee, Jimmy Koretza, a Hungarian jeweler who must have provided the expert craftsmanship for Sherman’s exquisite designs.

The company flourished in the 1950s, and Gustave Sherman soon became Canada's foremost jewelry designer. His firm was known for creating very high quality pieces that rivaled the real thing. He used only the finest Swarovski cut crystal, even when cheaper alternatives were available. Daniel Swarovski and Gustave Sherman were friends; the Swarovski company cut stones to spec for Sherman pieces and provided him with "reverse foiled" rhinestones. Sherman vintage costume jewelry was expensive when it was made, and it should be no surprise that it is expensive on eBay today.

How can you identify Sherman costume jewelry?

There is a wonderful Guide to Sherman at Family where the authors have gone to great length to photograph and present helpful details.

Here are some quick tips for Dumpdiggers: Sherman pieces are usually monochromatic colour schemes – the signature colors are Siam Red, Fuchsia, Rose, Peridot, Emerald, Sapphire, Black and Topaz, as well clear and Crystal Aurora (which is Swarovski’s Aurora Borealis stones developed in a partnership with Christian Dior). Round stones include both brilliant cut and chatons. Baguettes were used, but not as commonly as other stone shapes. And the stones are always prong set, never glued. The bracelets had safety chains and hidden clasps. Sherman costume jewelry was known for its meticulous design.

Each piece is usually stamped "Sherman" or SHERMAN somewhere, but experts today acknowledge the signature sometimes came separately inside the box from Birks, for example, and as a result there are many unsigned Sherman pieces today. The signature stamp on necklaces in often on the dangle and not on the clasp. If your necklace is missing the dangle, it could be an unsigned Sherman. The oval nameplate is found on earlier pieces (1950s), while the square plate was introduced in the 1960s.

What happened to the Sherman Jewelry Company?

Because Sherman’s jewelry was of the highest quality, production costs were also very high, and the finished pieces were pricey. The simple designs and easy to fabricate items were often sold at good profit to Montreal and Toronto department stores, while the more elaborate designs were distributed directly to small upscale jewelry shops and boutiques.

Somewhere in the 1970s, Sherman lost touch with his customers. When the market was trending towards silver and gold tone plate jewelry, Sherman continued to make high quality, high end jewelry with Swarovski crystal. When eventually he did incorporate more gold and silver in his jewelry, he used the real thing, and if you remember your history, the late 1970s is when the price of gold rose to over eight hundred dollars an ounce. The Sherman Jewelry Company closed its doors in 1981.

Sherman jewelry is highly collectable and sells well on eBay. The japanned pieces with purple, red, black and yellow stones are especially desirable. Marshall Gummer believes that Sherman cuff bracelets are the best investments, and online auction prices will confirm that these items in particular have doubled in value three times in the last five years.

Found jewelry must be cleaned as meticulously as it was manufactured. Do not spray Windex directly onto your jewels or submerge anything in soapy water. Do not hold your pieces under running water from a faucet - rhinestone jewelry with foil backing should never be submerged in water.

Use an old (soft) toothbrush that will not scratch the surface of the plate, or the gems. Be particularly careful with Aurora Borealis stones as they can be easily scratched. Dab some Windex on a cloth or tissue. Make sure it's not too wet – the cloth should have just enough moisture to get the dust off the piece. For the hard to get to places, use a Q-tip with tiny little bit of Windex. Squeeze the excess wetness out of the Q-tip so that it's barely damp.

After you clean your jewels, leave them out to dry for at least an hour, and make sure they're completely dry before you box them again. Moisture increases the oxidation of all metallic elements and it will even work to deteriorate the quality of the crystals themselves. It can make them cloudy.

Here is an example of some cloudy jewels for sale today. This is vintage signed Sherman figural leaf brooch on eBay that features premium Swarovski crystals in a rhodium plated setting. This piece is in overall good condition with the exception of the cloudy crystals shown in the photo. The brooch still shines well and is otherwise quite beautiful. It measures 2 1/2 inches long by 2 inches across at the widest, and has a domed appearance. If the buyer replaces the cloudy stones they will have a stunning piece. Check the link to see the price – it was $18.00 US at the time of this post, with a day and half left in the auction.


is me said...

wow! glad I found your blog! my jewelry is nothing like the classics, but I love the vintage! The more I find out the more I love it! Thanks for adding to that knowledge.

grunge-queen said...

Jeeps, I Google "How to find a fake Sherman" five seconds ago as I came across some dubious "Sherman" clip-ons in Value Village earlier today ... and your site is the first that shows up! Either you truly are amazing at what you do with SmoJoe(and I don't doubt that you are)and/or there's a some major blogging Karma happening here ....