Dec. 2002 Book Review
Collectible Treasures Antique and Collectibles
Book Review Dec. 2002
Warman's Jewelry 2nd Edition by Christie Romero
Warman's Jewelry 2nd edition is an expanded update of the first edition.
It contains new information, new photographs and listings, but its basic
purpose remains the same: It is a "field guide" to styles and types of
antique, period, and vintage collectible jewelry currently on the market
in the United States. It is for anyone who owns old jewelry, whether it
is a collector's collection, a dealer's inventory, an heir's inheritance, a
packrat's accumulation, or a garage-saler's finds.
No matter how they've acquired it, most people want to know the same
basic things about a piece: how old it is, where and how it was made,
who made it, what it is made of, and the ubiquitous bottom line, what it
is worth. Jewelry has always been kept and worn, for many different
reasons, but only within the last fifteen years or so has conscientious
collecting (by style or period, material, country of origin, etc.) become
a major reason to buy. As greater numbers of collectors have entered
the field, there has been a growing need for more information about
the many varieties of collectible jewelry being bought and sold today.
Warman's Jewelry was written in response to that need. The second
edition continues in that tradition.
The focus of this book is American: what was made here, and what is
now available here. Americans tend to have an "inferiority complex
" when it comes to competing with what was produced in Europe.
This attitude is beginning to change with the burgeoning recognition
and appreciation of American talents and ingenuity. Several
categories are included which have not received a great deal of
attention in other price guides: American Arts & Crafts, mid-century
modernist American studio artists, '50s and '60s fine jewelry, and a
Special Collectibles section which covers Native American jewelry,
and the product of two regions which are closely tied to the U.S.:
Mexican and Scandiniavian jewelry.
Jewelry is the only art form where the "intrinsic" value of the materials
from which it is made can have greater value than the work itself.
Many beautiful and historically significant pieces have been destroyed
for their stones and metal, particularly after a certain style becomes
"outdated" or "old-fashioned." This usually happens before there is
retrospective appreciation for the style, before it becomes
Stones and metal are paint and canvas. Rare and beautiful stones can be
used to great effect to enhance a jewel. However, supply and demand,
and the public's perceptions, can alter value. For example, aluminum
was once a rare and valuable metal, and platinum was looked down
upon as "unripe gold." While our culture has consistently placed a
higher value on gold and precious gemstones (diamonds, rubies,
sapphires, and emeralds), other factors, such as craftsmanship, design
and designer, and provenance, as well as rarity and desirability, can
outweigh intrinsic value. The following table of seven criteria
( 3 Cs, 2 Ds, 2 Ss), with questions to ask when evaluating a piece of
jewelry, can be a useful aid:
Is it well-made, with attention to details and finish?
Are there any cracks, chips, dents, missing parts, metal corrosion,
or other damage? Are all parts original? Has it been repaired?
Is there evidence of lead solder on precious metal?
Especially important in costume jewelry, is/are the color(s) currently
fashionable, popular? In gemstones, is the color desirable for its kind?
Can the style be attributed to the period in which it was made? Can it
be attributed to a particular maker? Is the piece balanced and
proportioned? Does it have "eye appeal?" (this is a subjective
evaluation) Is it wearable?
Is the piece highly sought-after, currently in vogue?
Is this a rare item, or is it commonly available?
Is it a large or small piece? Is the size appropriate for the style?
(Large size is usually more desirable, but style and the wearer's
proportions should also be taken into consideration).
Note that age alone does not make a piece valuable. A badly made and
designed 150-year-old is worth no more today than it was when it was
first produced. If it is in poor condition, it is probably worth less! A
loupe or magnifier is an essential tool for examining a piece of jewelry.
Ten power (10x) is the standard magnification. In addition to detecting
alterations and repairs, a loupe is necessary to read hallmarks and maker's
marks, to evaluate condition, and to analyze materials (stones, metal,
enamel, etc.) and construction. It is important to scrutinize a piece
thoroughly, both front and back, in order to detect the clues that will tell
you what you need to know before you buy.
A word of caution is in order when buying gemstone-set jewelry. The public
has been conditioned to believe that the intrinsic value of all gemstones is
high and that jewelry set with them is expensive. To some extent this is true,
but the range of gemstone values is wide and variables are many. Unless you
have some gemological knowledge and have studied the complexities of the
market carefully, you can easily get burned. Your best defense against rip-off
is your own knowledge, but when in doubt, consult a gemologist (G.G., F.G.A.,
or C.G.A.) for gemstone identification, a qualified gemstone appraiser (who
should also be, or be associated with, a gemologist) for values. Another
caveat: Appraisers are not licensed or regulated by law, but some of them are
credentialed by recognized national appraisal organizations. Make sure the
appraiser you choose has had the proper training and experience.
In order to truly understand old jewelry, you must see and handle a lot of it.
Readers are encouraged to avail themselves of every opportunity to do so,
including attending shows, flea markets, museum exhibitions, and seminars,
conferences, and classes on antique jewelry. A unique opportunity to
enhance one's knowledge with lectures and hands-on experience takes place
annually in July, formerly at the University of Maine, now held at Rhode
Island College in Warwick, RI, near Providence: The Antique & Period
Jewelry and Gemstones Course, directed by Joyce Jonas. Inquiries about the
course may be sent to Joyce Jonas & Associates, Inc., 215 East 80th St.,
Suite 5K, New York, NY 10021-0539, (212)-535-2479,
Fax: (212) 988-0721.
The Gemological Institute of America and three national appraisal
organizations (American Society of Appraisers, International Society of
Appraisers, National Association of Jewelry Appraisers) respectively
provide specialized instruction in gemology and gems and jewelry valuation
theory and techniques. A correspondence course in jewelry appraisal, The
Master Valuer Program, is also available.
My own classes in antique, period and vintage jewelry are held in Southern
California at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, CA and at other locations
throughout the year, and annually at the Institute for the Study of Aniques
and Collectibles in Emmaus,Pennsylvania.
Another opportunity to see, handle and closely examine antique and period
jewelry is the auction preview. Christie's and Sotheby's in New York City
hold "important" and "magnificent" jewelry sales at which historically and
gemologically significant pieces are offered. If in-person inspection is not
possible, the color catalogs for these sales, which include biographical and
other pertinent information, are excellent reference resources. These and
the other auction houses whose names and addresses appear on a following
page, also offer a wide range of antique, period, and contemporary jewelry,
and were the sources for much of the fine jewelry pictured and listed in this
book. All of them hold previews of upcoming sales which are well worth
attending. Their catalogs, with prices realized, provide up-to-date market
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