Costume Jewelry: Confusing Fakes and Copies IIBy Mark Chervenka & Roma Agan
Costume Jewelry: Confusing Fakes and Copies
The so-called jelly belly fakes have now been joined by another generation of fraud costume jewelry which includes imitation enamel pieces. This article will examine this group of impostors and list the features you need to identify and avoid them.
Almost all the major differences between the new and pieces shown in this article are due to old pieces being essentially handmade and the reproductions being mass produced as rapidly as possible. All the new items shown, for example are molded, or cast, as one piece. Vintage 1920-1940 originals almost always are made of a number of die struck pieces soldered together (see Figs. 14-17). Once you know the signs of hand work, detecting the mass produced fakes is relatively easy. Here are the main features to look at.
The new pins shown in Figs. 1 & 2 are extensively "enameled". It is relatively easy to identify these pieces as fakes with a simple 10X loupe. The telltale clue is the obvious brush strokes (Figs. 4 & 5).
True enamel was applied as a powder then fired at high temperatures which melted the powder into a smooth glass-like coating. No brush marks are ever found in fired enamel. The fakes are simply cold painted with ordinary paints and a brush.
In addition to looking for brush marks in enamel work, closely inspect all chips and scratches. True enamels were applied over a dark dull primer or undercoating. Chips in true enamel almost always show the dull under coating below. The new "enamels" do not have the undercoating. Chips or scratches in the new nonenamel paint show the shiny metal surface below (Fig. 3).
Prongs & Mountings
Generally speaking, new prongs are wider, thicker and longer than 1920-1940 originals. The new prongs are molded as part of the entire piece and must be made larger to survive being removed from the mold. New prongs in Fig. 7, for example, come up over the top of the stone. Original prongs hide less of the stone and are generally only long enough to secure the stone to the mounting. Unbent prongs also indicate a fake (Fig. 6).
Virtually all authentic marks are die stamped into the metal. All the new marks are molded into the new piece when it is cast. The most obvious clue of a cast mark is a bar or box surrounding the name (Fig. 9). This feature would never be found on vintage originals. Generally, stamped marks are always much sharper and cleaner than the cast marks (Figs. 10-11).
There is a huge variety of marks used by various vintage companies. The Eisenberg mark in both Fig. 12 and Fig. 13 is correct. However, the mark was used in different ways during different time periods. You cannot use marks for dating unless you know when and how original marks were applied. That is why marks alone are not a reliable indicator of age.
If you only occasionally buy costume jewelry, a black light inspection may be the easiest overall test to catch the majority of fakes in this article. The fake Eisenberg tag in Fig. 12, for example is glued, not soldered. This is an obvious clue to a fake but almost impossible to detect with the eye alone.
To the eye, the prongs in Fig. 6 look convincing until the black light shows the large stones are glued. Once your attention is called to the glue, closer inspection reveals the reproduction prongs are for show only, they have no real function.
Black light is also of some use in identifying the new enamel. Almost all true enamel looks the same color under black light as in normal light. Many new colors will turn black or very dull under black light.
Most reference books on costume jewelry show at least some 1920-1940 Christmas trees which can sell for $100-$500. The two trees in Fig. 18 are legitimate Eisenberg's an unsuspecting buyer bought as vintage pieces. How can these pieces be identified as modern?
First, Christmas trees prior to 1940 are quite large, usually 3" to 4". The vast majority of trees on the market today have been made since 1950 and are half that size. The trees shown are each under 2". The next fact to consider: Eisenberg didn't make Christmas trees until the 1980s. Despite the authentic mark from a legitimate maker, these pieces were not the ca. 1930s originals the seller claimed.
Checklist for Costume Jewelry
Original vintage factory and designer names are almost always die stamped, not cast. Use a reference book to compare what authentic marks were used and how they were applied. Never base age on marks alone. Most fake and reproduction mountings are one-piece castings; originals are mostly assembled from many parts soldered together. Use a black light to check for glued stones and glue used in assembly. Don't rely on a single test for age–use several tests.
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