The dawn of cocktail rings dates back to the roaring 20’s, when women were freer than their Victorian and Edwardian counterparts, drinking during prohibition and flaunting their verboten cocktails in illegal speakeasy’s.  To highlight their new-found independence and defiance of social restrictions, women started wearing rings with large stones that sparkled along with their alcoholic drinks.  Like champagne, these rings were full of sparkles and bubbly with personality.  The cocktail ring enjoyed a renaissance during the 1960’s and 70’s, and they have also made a reprise in the new millenium, far bigger and bolder than ever.  Some of the Hollywood and LA wearers makes you wonder how they stay on the finger or how one can even maneuver a cup of coffee with a 30 carat rock on their hands.  Explore the world of vintage cocktail rings online…it will make your eyes sparkle and perhaps bring back that wanton flapper feeling.

Next year (2015) will mark 125 years since Napier moved its costume jewelry & accessories company to Meriden, CT, and I have been immersed in Napier since the recent publication of Melinda Lewis’ iconic book, “The Napier Company: Defining 20th Century American Costume Jewelry” (Fall 2013).  My online shop collection has now grown to 45 pieces of this company’s vintage beauties, the largest and longest standing costume jewelry producer in U.S. history.  From the Art Deco period to the chunky and bold 1980’s, Napier dominated the jewelry counters of most fine department stores, from Filene’s to Macy’s to Bloomingdale’s.  Not to mention, who doesn’t remember their silver plated wares, such as the piggy bank (popular baby shower gift), the chic sterling diaper pins (engravable for silver-spooned tykes), or their barware (jiggers, cocktail shakers, etc.)?  …Which are now making a comeback, thanks to retro-homage TV shows like AMC’s Mad Men.

Napier developed many of the classic styles that became staples for the American woman’s working and cocktail party wardrobe, from the Gucci-link designs to their infamous and best-ever made charm bracelets from the 1950’s-60’s.  Feast your eyes on a fashion timeline that might recall your mother’s or grandmother’s favorites!

Napier 1950's moonglow fruit charm bracelet

Napier 1950’s moonglow fruit charm bracelet

Napier 1968 Eugene Bertolli design set

Napier 1968 Eugene Bertolli design set

 

Napier 1940s sterling silver bracelet

Napier 1940’s sterling silver swirl bracelet

Napier 1950s chatelaine earrings

Napier 1950’s over-the-ear chatelaine earrings

Napier gauntlet bracelet

Napier 1955 flexible gauntlet bracelet

 

Napier Gucci link bracelet

Napier “Gucci” link anchor bracelet

Napier bell earrings

Napier 1950’s Bell Chime earrings

 

If you’re a vintage costume jewelry collector or a passionate fan, then I would like to suggest some staples for your collection.  By staples, I mean “must haves”…pieces that are classic, versatile and at the foundation of what’s available in vintage jewelry.

First, I would have some small, medium and large sized clear rhinestone brooches, in silver, gold and black japanned settings for diversity.  Weiss is always a great choice, as well as Kramer of New York, Sherman, Schreiner, Eisenberg, Juliana, Ledo and Polcini.  These clear, diamond-like stunners pop on black, vivid and jewel tone hues like nobody’s business!  They always add a touch of panache with the added bonus of glamorous sparkle for the evening.

The second staple are a pair of elegant drop earrings, either (0r both!) with clear rhinestone or paste stones.  A second pair of chandeliers would be another basic choice.  For these type of earrings, I have a penchant for old Napiers, 1960’s Kenneth Jay Lane, Hattie Carnegie, Art Deco, Edwardian & Victorian, Sherman, Schreiner, Miriam Haskell’s crystal pieces, Weiss, and Eisenberg.  I would also suggest a pair of black jet crystals set in a japanned setting…fabulous statement makers!

St. Labre Christmas tree pin

Vintage Tannenbaums are becoming more popular among costume jewelry collectors, and the prices are rising, despite our sluggish economy.  As I’ve said to many about vintage jewelry in general, they are a better investment than the stock market, especially these days!

For example, in the past few months I’ve sold in my online shop: a very rare Eisenberg crystal tree for $560, a Miriam Haskell tree for $525, a De Nicola tree for $385, a Nolan Miller for $325, the Mylu Peppermint stripe tree for $300, an Austrian tree for $175, a Hollycraft for $165, an MV-signed arbor for $158, and a Kramer of New York candle tree for $140, just to name a few!

So if you want to start your own Christmas-inspired 401K, I suggest you start with the following die-hard, solid investment designers (in alphabetical order):  Art, made in Austria, Avon, Beatrix,  Brooks, Corocraft, Eisenberg, Hollycraft, Johnette Jewelry (JJ), Lia, Mylu, Napier, Pell, Swoboda of California, Tancer II, Trifari, and Weiss.  You can purchase these trees for anywhere from $5 to $100 online, or if you’re lucky, from a thrift store, flea market, antique shop, or trade show.

All these designers have trees in collector books/price guides, which are referred to as “book pieces”.  The Christmas tree go-to “bibles” all collectors use are Mary Morrison’s “Christmas Jewelry” and Nancy Trowbridge’s “Christmas Tree Pins”, as well as Kathy Flood’s Warman’s figural tomes and her own two-volume set of unsigned & signed pins, the second of which is being released this holiday season.

Corocraft twisted trunk Christmas tree pin

Also, you can get a jump-start on today’s designers trees, which will gain value in the near and far future, such as Dorothy Bauer, Lunch at the Ritz, R.J. Graziano, Eisenberg Ice, Kirk’s Folly, Swarovski, and Vero. Eisenberg Ice also makes gorgeous snowflake brooches, of which the premium ones cost $75-$150 each.

If you want to get fancy and like’em rare, designers such as Miriam Haskell, DeNicola, Cadoro, Hattie Carnegie, Cristobal of London, Hobé, Erwin Pearl, Original by Robert, Stanley Hagler, St. John, St. Labré, Lea Stein, Vendome, Larry Vrba, Warner, Yosca, and Zentrall are what you want to put on your wish list (As well as pie-in-the-sky list, too!).

New, high-end designers include Stuart Freeman, Blair Delmonico, Judy Clarke, and La Heir, among others.  For Christmas tree pin collectors, ’tis the season all year round!

Next blog entry will be about:  Unsigned Christmas tree beauties!  STAY TUNED!