Beginner’s Guide to Vintage Jewelry Research

Do you have an old piece of costume jewelry lying about? Perhaps it was your grandmother’s? Or maybe you found something special at a thrift store and would like to know more about it. Have you ever wished you could pick the brain of a longtime vintage jewelry dealer about a piece’s history? 

Jewelry Research Websites

It turns out that many dealers have generously shared their knowledge with the general public. Take a look at these encyclopedic sites. They are a great starting point when researching a mystery piece of jewelry. You might just find enough information here to identify your jewelry: 

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry is owned by Jane Haley Clark and is based in Albuquerque, NM. You will find a large library of vintage jewelry information on this site. This is the place to start if you want to identify a mark, learn about a designer, or look up an old ad or catalog.

Illusion Jewels is a comprehensive site covering vintage jewelry designers, ads, and catalogs. They also have a lot of information on maker’s marks. It is the creation of Dotty Stringfield, owner of Illusion Jewels, and contributor Pat Seal. 

Elizabeth M. Rowlands, who owns Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry, put together a wonderful resource. It includes a collection of vintage jewelry ads to get a feel for different eras and perhaps spot a piece you own. She also has a glossary of jewelry terms and a list of patents with pictures for identification. 

Jewelry Research Books

Perhaps you have diligently scoured these sites yet questions remain about where your piece is from and who made it. Time to hit the books! Turn to the historians, researchers, collectors, and dealers who have written enough books to fill a specialized library on vintage costume jewelry identification. Here are a few to get you started.

  • Warman’s Costume Jewelry Identification and Price Guide by Pamela Y. Wiggins with photography by Jay B. Siegel (2014). Pamela Wiggins is a jewelry appraiser and dealer who has written extensively about vintage costume jewelry.
  • Inside the Jewelry Box: A Collector’s Guide to Costume Jewelry by Ann Mitchell Pitman (2004). Ann Mitchell Pitman based this book on a news column called “Inside the Jewelry Box” that she began in 1997. She has spent more than 30 years collecting and writing about vintage jewelry. 
  • Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840–1950 by C. Jeanenne Bell, G.G. (5th edition, 1999). Jeanenne Bell is a well-known jewelry appraiser and dealer. You may have seen her on Antiques Roadshow! She has a knack for making specialized knowledge accessible to a general audience. 

I hope this list helps you as you search for the story behind your jewels. A wealth of information is out there for you, thanks to the experts who have taken the time to create amazing resources for collectors.

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