Jewelry Collecting

Hello! If you are a fan of Kirks Folly, Joan Rivers, Kenneth Jay Lane (KJL), Nolan Miller or any of the other great costume jewelry designers, I’ll help you with some tips to help you become a more savvy collector.

For the last fifteen years or so, the most collectible costume jewelry has been the designer lines that are available on either QVC or HSN. Even if the designer only has a short run on these networks, the jewelry gets maximum exposure and thus develop a cult following. Prior to appearing on television, both Kenneth Lane and Nolan Miller designed for high-end clientele. If you weren’t wealthy or a Hollywood figure, you could forget about owning their jewelry. Now their jewelry is considered mainstream for middle-class collectors – even we can look glamorous! Prior to Joan Rivers starting her classic collection, if you were a Faberge fan you could purchase faux eggs and necklaces from The Museum Store or other high-end places – for a high-end price, of course! Joan Rivers brought to us better knock-offs at an affordable price. Then she copied classic Cartier and other vintage designers, giving us affordable options for any era of jewelry that caught our fancy.

Kirks Folly is in a class by itself, as its concept is fairly original – fairies, angels, nature and celestial, designed with charms and dangles and and a whimsical twist.  They were the first fantasy line of jewelry to be taken seriously and to be a major player in the industry.Those that don’t understand or appreciate the Kirks Folly appeal may not realize that the Kirks were trendsetters, ushering in an era of intricate enamel work on pins, changeable necklaces. It’s hard to imagine but in the early days of Kirks Folly, some women were actually frightened to wear the large, flamboyant pieces to work, whether it was a pin, necklace, earrings or a fascinating watch. Today Kirks Folly is accepted and recognized everywhere, and their styles have been “copied” by the more conservative designers mentioned above. Let’s be blunt – many designers have ripped off the Kirks Folly look and reinvented it as their own. Of course, all of these designers borrow from each other – everyone has their version of a flower pin, a celestial necklace, a changeable bracelet – with their unique stamp on each design.

The Big Four, as I call the above, have remained steady in their popularity during the last two decades. I attribute this to the fact that they have remained at QVC, where they have a chance to be introduced to new clientele. Back in the early days, QVC was thought as the “classy” shopping channel as opposed to  HSN (aka Home Shopping Network). This viewpoint has pretty much changed over the years, particularly with the permanent success of the Suzanne Somers jewelry line at HSN. She remains their top costume jewelry seller just as Joan Rivers is at QVC. There are other famous names that have found a permanent home at either shopping network (or have moved between one and the other) and that includes Bob Mackie, R. J. Graziano and Erwin Pearl. Most of these designers have boutiques or sell in high-end department stores so their street traffic clientele is a mix of the elite and middle class.

Other celebrity designers have enjoyed shorter runs of popularity with their jewelry lines. The overall collectibility and long term value of the pieces may not be as high as with the Big Four mentioned above. However, for purposes of your own collection, the tips below can be applied to any jewelry line!

1. Educate yourself about your jewelry designer. This can be done in the following ways: read books written by the designer, such as Jewelry by Joan Rivers, or Faking It by Kenneth Jay Lane. You’ll see what some of the vintage pieces are so you can watch for them. And also, you’ll enjoy seeing how they re-do and/or reinvent new pieces based on the old.

2. Check the designer’s own website, if they have one. Joan Rivers, for example, keeps a helpful list of all her Faberge egg extenders, Victoriana pins, etc. both retired and current, so a new collector can refer to it while building a collection.

3. Check the QVC or HSN webpages for any sales, last clicks or closeouts on your favorite pieces. Every piece of jewelry gets retired at some point, and if you watch carefully, you’ll be able to grab some treasures at a heavily reduced price.

4. Watch those websites for any other sales, such as free shipping or other perks that might make it more affordable to buy. Also watch for birthday or anniversary shows, where prices are often dropped on a few select pieces. Also, each shopping channel has a special value of the day, and when that sells out, there is often one discounted item on subsequent shows during that day. If your designer has a show that day, you can find a ‘one time only’ deal that is of great value.

5. If the designer has a boutique or mailing list, get on the list so you get mailings or emails about any sales, new products or personal appearances. They will often tell you their website address while on the air, or go to their website or boutique.

6. If the designer sells in department stores, make sure you know when the store has its annual or bi-annual blowout sale, or jewelry sale, or offers a coupon good on jewelry, etc. Get on the email lists of these stores as well. The after holiday sales can be awesome – I have found wonderful KJL pieces marked down as much as 50-75% off in jewelry clearance sales at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, for example.

7. Sometimes the same pieces are offered on the shopping channel and in the stores. Without a sale price, the store will generally be priced far more expensive than on the shopping channel. The fun of going to a store is that you can see the pieces “in person” and perhaps get a better idea of which ones you “must” have in your collection.

8. If you live on the east coast or near the outlet stores of the shopping channels, check them out as you can often pick up your favorite designer jewelry at a heavily discounted price. And get on their mailing list as well.

9. Watch the middle-of-the-night close-out shows on the shopping channels, where they blow out very limited quantities or odd stock that is being retired. There are often clearance prices to be had but you have to order quickly sometimes and not delay.

10. This tip is the most important. Once you have educated yourself on the above 9 tips, check out Ebay, which is a treasure trove for secondary sales of designer costume jewelry. You can find rare pieces on Ebay that may be sold out or unavailable elsewhere, or have been retired. In this case you may want to pay a premium price to get the piece. But very often you can add to your collection at a lower price than you would pay if purchasing retail or on a shopping channel. The beauty of Ebay is that once someone posts a very collectible piece and it goes for a high price, other sellers notice and are likely to post the same piece if they have it, which tends to go for a lower price.  Once you learn the ebbs and flows of Ebay, you may find it the most valuable source for adding to your jewelry collection.

Let me make one last recommendation about the pins in your collection. They can remain hidden in your jewelry box or the original boxes they came in. But, since they are works of art, they should be displayed as such. You will have far more appreciation of them if you can see them daily! One idea is to get a large throw pillow, fasten your pins onto it and then put the pillow on display. Another idea is to take a large picture frame, carefully remove and discard the glass, cover the backboard with stuffing covered with black velvet, push the backboard back into the frame, hang the frame, and design an arrangement of your pins on it!

Jewelry is fun – so you should have fun and be creative with your collection. Good luck with your treasure hunting!