Vintage jewelry designers were very creative in their use of stones. Rhinestones of all shapes and sizes were used, with chaton, marquis, navette, oval, emerald cut, square, baguette and tear shaped being the most common. By far, he most commonly used was the round chaton, and the clear shade was most widely used, but color variations also were plentiful and are now in great demand.
Some designers, such as Schreiner, actually mounted the stones upside down, so that the foil or the pointed back, showed instead of the color. These design techniques allow later collectors to identify pieces which were unmarked, since many designers made use of both signed and unsigned pieces.
Rhinestones were mainly foiled, but unfoiled ones were also used by some high end designers. The stones had to be of top quality to reflect the light without the benefit of the foil. Juliana is a designer who often made use of unfoiled stones. Aurora borealis stones were used starting in the early to mid 1950s when the technique was developed by Swarovski. They became widely used from 1955 through the 1960s, when they faded from popularity a bit.
Early designers also used other stones in their designs. Glass was very common, as well as vintage plastics such as celluloid, bakelite and thermoset were also popular mediums. Milk glass and Art glass and various molded glass stones, such as fruit salad were also used by the top designers.
Precious and semi precious stones were also used, but not to the same degree as rhinestone, glass and vintage plastics. Art and BSK often used jade in their designs. Florenza is well known for the use of shell cameos in their designs.
Faux pearls, glass pearls and baroque pearls were also widely used. Miriam Haskell and Marvella designs are well known for the use of pearl in their jewelry, but all early designers used them as well.
When choosing pieces for your collection there are some things to keep in mind to insure that you get the best value:
- Don't choose cloudy, darkened or chipped stones, and don't choose pieces with missing stones unless you have exact replacements.
- Try to find designs with a nice variety of shapes, colors and sizes within the same piece. This gives more dimension to the design and jewelry such as this is more widely collected, so it will increase in value more than a piece with just a single color or shape of stone.
- Choose stones with prong settings, channel settings, bezel settings, or dog tooth settings instead of those that are glued if possible
- Look for interesting specialty stones with nice color variations and interesting design effects.
Check back soon for the next chapter in this series - Types of metal settings used. Also, be sure to visit Vintage Jewelry Lane for great selections in pieces using all of these stones types.
Previous blog posts in this series:
1. Collecting Vintage Jewelry - Where do I start?
2. Collecting Vintage Jewelry - What is the condition?