You have a thirst for knowledge and want to know more about the vintage jewelery in your collection. But what book to buy if you live in the UK?
There are hundreds of reference books to choose from and most have been written in the US by authors who have a collection based in the US How specific is that to us in the UK?
So here’s a short 12-book guide to give you a good overview of knowledge from the Victorian era to the eighties and beyond. In fact, there are more than 12 books here, because some authors have written more than one book that is useful.
This guide should cover general unsigned pieces and some signed pieces of jewelry. However, no specific books have been written for most of the signed costume jewelery mass produced by UK companies or for the UK market, apart from Wilson and Butler.
1. Costume Jewelery: A Collector’s Guide by Caroline Behr (Miller’s) (ISBN 1-84000-373-1)
A good place to start with an overview and timeline of Victorian, art deco, arts and crafts, 1950s, Czech, Austrian and some designers. Easy to read and with good photos. Handbag size and ideal for reading on the train.
2. Vintage Jewelry: A Passion for Fabulous Counterfeits by Carol Tanenbaum (ISBN 1-85149-511-8)
Essential to buy and has the timeline with expanded information. Includes Art Nouveau, Birmingham silver, machine, introduction to Bakelite and plastic, and a glossary. Lots of good photographs but none of the backs (a must for identification, but rarely included in any books)
3. Secrets to Collecting Jewelry: How to BUY MORE for Less! by Leigh Leshner (ISBN 0-89689-180-1)
Again, a timeline and overview through history, but an absolute gem of a book because it shows the backs and the mechanism or finds that are essential for dating the jewelry. This book looks at the style and materials with specific photographs. Graduation jewelry, artistic plastics, retro, manufacturing methods, Scandinavian, cameos. Mostly brief information but a very good visual guide. American book with price guide in dollars (2005). Another great book to read on the bus or on the train, as it fits in your bag.
4. Jewelry and Jewelry Clare Phillips (V&A) (ISBN 978-1-85177-535-4) or Jewelry: Decorative Arts Library edited by Janet Swarbrick (ISBN 1-902328-13-2)
It could not be decided which of these UK books was the most informative. So I have included both
Jewels and Jewelery contains materials, a timeline of styles, and manufacturing and distribution. Museum photographs and pieces. Includes silver filigree, Berlin iron, pearls, glass and enamel. Jewelry of faith, carved steel, jewelry of mourning and love, not just jet or swamp oak. Lalique, Ashbee, Liberty Cymric, Wilson, Gaskins, and a pre-Victorian timeline to the 2000s.
Jewelry is a visual celebration of the world’s best jewelry making techniques. From the ancient world to 1989. Full of information and photographs with more specific references to jewelery in the UK.
5. Popular Jewelry from the 60s, 70s and 80s by Roseann Ettinger (ISBN 0-7643-2470-5)
Three decades of jewelry showcasing fashion and political trends that influenced the designs. US Book With Dollar Price Guide (2006) Most of the antique jewelry found is from this period, so this book is invaluable to read. Well illustrated with pieces that are recognizable here in the UK. Including Mod Jewelry, Oriental Influence, Pop Art, Novelty, Renaissance Pieces, Love Beads, Art Metal, Jade, Plastic, Wood and Pave. The author has produced other reference books from other decades that are worth investing in.
6. Leigh Leshner’s Artistic Plastic Jewelry Collecting (ISBN 0-87349-954-9)
Bakelite is rare to find in jewelry in such quantities and variety as in the United States. It is helpful to recognize and see the variety of designs in which plastic or other materials have been used. Celluloid, Lucite, Thermoset, Thermoplastic, Laminate, Upside Down are most commonly found here in the UK and are easily overlooked. This book takes you to see plastic accessories from a whole new perspective. It does not contain enough information on galalith, the type of early plastic that is most common in the UK. For this read books about Jakob Bengel.
7. Collecting Costume Jewelry 303: The Other Side Exploring Costume Jewelry from Behind by Julia C Carroll. (ISBN 978-1-57432-626-0)
This is the book that gets to the basics you must have knowledge of vintage jewelry. The different components, including stones and cabochons, can be invaluable for dating and hardware clues that can be overlooked. Cameos, rhinestones, signed jewelry and signature photos, art glass, pin backs and much more. I look at this book and I always find something that I hadn’t noticed before. One of my most valuable books in terms of knowledge. It also has a designer section that includes Jonette Jewelry Co (JJ) not always found in other books. US Book With Price Guides from $ (2010)
Julia Carroll has produced other books such as Jewelry 101 and 202 in this series. Both books are also worth having for reference.
8. Ornaments, buttons and beads: the heritage of Bohemia by Sibelle Jargstorf (ISBN 0-88740-467-7)
This is another gem of a book; as we had a large quantity of antique jewelery imported to this country from Bohemia until WWII and then in smaller quantities afterwards. It is still available to search and collect, but prices are increasing. Sections on buttons, filigree, glass beads, plastic and glass cameos, 1930s, enamel, and most importantly history. After reading this book, it has helped me date and identify brightly colored cameos, filigree brooches, and rhinestone jewelry from the 1920s and 1930s. Hand-finished and machine-made dress clips and the different finishes used .
Sibylle Jargstorf has produced other books on beads and glass that are invaluable.
9. Cameos: A Pocket Guide by Monica Lynn Clements and Patricia Rosser Clements (ISBN 0-7643-1728-8)
Although there are many books on cameos, this little package guide is full of cameos in materials other than the shell. Shell is the most collected type of cameo jewelry, but it had no appeal to me. He wanted to know more about the glass, plastic, metal and gemstone cameos he was finding. How to identify the materials used and when they were manufactured. This book has a large number of photographs that cover a large number of cameos in these materials and, more importantly, they are recognizable to the UK market. US Book with Dollar Price Guide (2003) For more detailed information on cameo jewelry, get any of the Cameos: Old and New editions by Anna M Miller.
10. Margaret Flowers Victorian Jewelry (no ISBN)
It is not a book about vintage but old jewelry that is now out of print but still available in various editions. First published in 1951, but worth reading. Knowledge of Victorian influences and seen in revival pieces. Birmingham’s role in mass-produced jewelry. This book is often ranked in later books as influential. It has the Victorian period in 3 parts and each section has the most used motifs from that period. It made me laugh at the author’s snobbish attitude at times, but it’s worth reading. Few photographs and especially in black and white that are not so clear.
11. Scottish Jewelry: A Victorian Passion for Diana Scarisbrick
Scottish jewelery is in abundance in the UK. Since the mid-19th century with the rise in popularity, it had factories in Scotland and England producing designs and parts by the thousands. This continued until the end of the 20th century mainly in Birmingham. This book is a good introduction. Not as in depth as it could have been and don’t expect information on vintage Scottish souvenir jewelry from Miracle, The Ward Brothers, Exquisite, or Hollywood. Pages of photographs of agate and silver brooches and bracelets. But complicated by the photo guide at the end of the book. A good starter book for recognizing Scottish motifs.
12. Warman Jewelry: Fine & Costume Jewelry 4th Edition by Kathy Flood (ISBN 1-4402-0801-8)
This is the fourth edition of the Warman Jewelry Identification and Pricing Guide. So another 3 books to get and read. In this edition two centuries are covered in pearls, figurines, cameos, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and plastic. The difference between Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian jewelry. Again, page after page of jewelry photographs. Nice combination of old, vintage and modern jewelry. A mix of hat designs from around the world that I found applicable to the UK. US Book with Dollar Price Guide (2010)
This is just a brief reference to general vintage jewelry books that will change as more books come on the market or you discover out-of-print books. Then there are more specific books on Bengal, Avon, Sarah Coventry, Egyptian Renaissance jewelry, Haskell, D&E, Wilson & Butler, and many more to read.
Even with this amount of information, I still feel like I’ve just skimmed the surface. As stated above, there is a lack of information on jewelry from Ciro Pearls, Sphinx, Exquisite, Miracle, Hollywood, Thomas Le Mott, and many other companies that mass produced jewelry in this country in the 20th century, which is now highly collectible in all the world.
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