12 Excellent Reference Books for Collecting Vintage Costume Jewellery in the UK
You have a thirst for knowledge and want to know more about the vintage costume jewellery in your collection. But which book to buy if you are living 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 brief guide of 12 books to give a good over view of knowledge from Victorian through to the eighties and beyond. Actually 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 jewellery. However there are no specific books ever written for the majority of the mass produced signed costume jewellery made by UK companies or made for the UK market apart from Wilson and Butler.
1. Costume Jewellery: A Collectors Guide by Caroline Behr (Miller’s) (ISBN 1-84000-373-1)
A good place to start with a general over view and time line from Victorian, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, 1950s, Czech, Austrian and some designers. Easy to read and has good photographs. Hand bag size and ideal to read on the train
2. Vintage Costume Jewellery: A Passion for fabulous Fakes by Carol Tanenbaum (ISBN 1-85149-511-8)
A must to buy and has the time line with expanded information. Includes Art Nouveau, Birmingham silver, machine, intro to Bakelite and plastic and a glossary. Loads of good photographs but none of the backs (a must for identification but rarely included in any book)
3. Secrets To Collecting Jewelry: How to BUY MORE for less! by Leigh Leshner (ISBN 0-89689-180-1)
Again a time line and over view through history but an absolute gem of a book because it has shows the backs and mechanism or findings that are essential to dating jewellery. This book looks at style and materials with specific photographs. Prom jewellery, art plastic, retro, manufacturing methods, Scandinavian, cameos. Mostly brief information but a very good visual guide. US book with $ price guide (2005). Another fabulous book to read on the bus or train as fits into your bag.
4. Jewels and Jewellery Clare Phillips (V & A) (ISBN 978-1-85177-535-4) or Jewellery: The Decorative Arts Library edited by Janet Swarbrick (ISBN 1-902328-13-2)
Could not decide which of these UK books was the most informative. So have I have included both
Jewels and Jewellery contains materials, a chronology of styles and manufacturing and distribution. Photographs of museum and pieces. Includes silver filigree, Berlin Iron, pearls, glass and enamel. Faith jewellery, cut steel, mourning and love jewellery not just jet or bog oak. Lalique, Ashbee, Liberty Cymric, Wilson, Gaskins and a time line pre Victorian to the 2000s.
Jewellery is a visual celebration of the world’s great jewellery making techniques. From the ancient world until 1989. Full of information and photographs with more specific references to Jewellery in the UK.
5. Popular Jewelry of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s by Roseann Ettinger (ISBN 0-7643-2470-5)
Three decades of jewellery showing fashion and political trends that influenced the designs. US book with $ price guide (2006) The majority of vintage jewellery found is from this period and so makes this book invaluable to read. Well illustrated with pieces that are recognizable here in the UK. Including Mod jewellery, eastern influence, Pop Art, novelty, revival pieces, love beads, Art Metal, jade, plastic, wood and pave. The author has produced other reference books on other decades which are well worth investing in.
6. Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry by Leigh Leshner (ISBN 0-87349-954-9)
Bakelite is rare to find in jewellery in such quantities and variety as in the States. It is useful to recognize and see the variety of designs plastic has been used or with other materials. Celluloid, Lucite, thermoset, thermoplastic, laminated, reverse carved are more commonly found here in the UK and easily over looked. This book does make you look at plastic accessories in a whole new light. Does not contain enough information on galalith, the early plastic type that is more common in the UK. For this read books on Jakob Bengel.
7. Collecting Costume Jewelry 303: The flip side Exploring costume jewelry from the back by Julia C Carroll. (ISBN 978-1-57432-626-0)
This is the book that gets to the basics must have knowledge of vintage costume jewellery. The different components including the stones and cabochons that can be invaluable in dating and hardware clues that can be missed. Cameos, rhinestones, signed jewellery and photographs of the signatures, art glass, pin backs and so much more. I look at this book and always find something that I have not noticed before. One of my most valuable books in terms of knowledge. Also has a section of designers including Jonette Jewelry Co (JJ) that are not always found in other books. US book with $ price guides (2010)
Julia Carroll has produced other books including Costume Jewelry 101 and 202 in this serious. Both books are well worth having for reference as well.
8. Baubles, 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 an abundance of vintage jewellery imported into this country from Bohemia up until the Second World War and then in smaller quantities after. Still available to find and collect but prices are rising. Sections on buttons, filigree, glass beads, plastic and glass cameos, 1930s, enamel and more importantly the history. After reading this book it has helped me date and identify cameos, filigree brooches and brightly coloured rhinestone jewellery of the 1920s and 30s. 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 small packet guide is full of cameos in materials other than shell. Shell is the most collected cameo jewellery type but for me it did not have an appeal. I wanted to know more about the glass, plastic, metal and gemstone cameos that I was finding. How to identify the materials used and when were they made. This book has an abundance of photographs covering a huge amount of cameos in these materials and more importantly recognizable for the UK market. US book with $ price guide (2003) For more in depth information on cameo jewellery then obtain any of the editions of Cameos: Old and New by Anna M Miller.
10. Victorian Jewellery by Margaret Flowers (No ISBN)
Not a book on vintage but antique jewellery that is now out of print but still available in several editions. First published in 1951 but well worth reading. Insight into the Victorian influences and seen in revival pieces. Birmingham’s role in mass produced jewellery. This book is often sited in later books as being influential. Has the Victorian period in 3 parts and each section has the most used motifs of that period. Did make me laugh at the sheer snobbish attitude of the author at times but well worth reading. Few photographs and mostly in black and white that are not that clear.
11. Scottish Jewellery: A Victorian Passion by Diana Scarisbrick
Scottish jewellery is found in abundance in the UK. From the mid nineteenth century with the rise in popularity, had factories in Scotland and England churning out designs and pieces in the thousands. This continued into the late twentieth century mostly in Birmingham. This book is a good introduction. Not as in depth as could have been and do not expect information on vintage Scottish souvenir jewellery 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 to recognize Scottish motifs.
12. Warman’s Jewelry: Fine & Costume Jewelry 4Th Edition by Kathy Flood (ISBN 1-4402-0801-8)
This is the 4Th edition of the Warman’s Jewelry Identification and Price Guide. So 3 other books to obtain and read. In this edition two centuries are covered with pearls, figural, cameos, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and plastic. The difference between Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian jewellery. Again page after page of jewellery photographs. Good mix of fresh antique, vintage and modern jewellery. A mix of world wide designs hat I found applicable to the UK. US book with $ price guide (2010)
This is just a brief reference of general books for vintage jewellery that will change as more books come onto the market or I discover out of print books. Then there are more specific books on Bengal, Avon, Sarah Coventry, Egyptian Revival jewellery, Haskell, D & E, Wilson & Butler and so many more to read
Even with this amount of information I still feel that I have just skimmed the surface. As said previously there is a lack of information on jewellery from Ciro Pearls, Sphinx, Exquisite, Miracle, Hollywood, Thomas Le Mott and many other companies that mass produced jewellery in this country in the twentieth century, which is now very collectible world wide.
This article is copyrighted and may not be used in any part without our permision.