When a piece of jewelry is signed jewelry it is like it has a personal stamp to make it recognizable and individual. Engraved with the name of the jeweler or the jewelry house, a technique that originated in the Art Nouveau period in about 1860. These signatures on vintage jewelry really make the pieces special.
There are collectors across the globe that will pay top dollar for vintage signed pieces. Very unique items can be found in auctions like Christie's, Sotheby's, Bonhams, Doyle and more, and you will be surprised when you see the numbers certain items get sold for.
Does signed vintage jewelry have a higher value than un-signed jewelry?
Yes, yes yes! If you are lucky enough to have your hands on a piece of vintage signed jewelry then be safe in the knowledge that a small signature on your signed jewelry will be adding between 50 to 300 percent to the value! There have been occasions where collectors have received pieces with what looked like scratches in the jewelry. In one instance under closer inspection, a scratch turned out to be ‘Van’ from the Van Cleef & Arpels signature collection. This particular item of jewelry ended up having a value of over $250,000.
What are the most valuable signatures?
If you really want to check the value of your signed jewelry lookout for the most well known in the world of fine antique jewelry, Cartier, David Webb, Bvlgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co, amongst many more. These are some of the names behind the most valuable fine antique jewelry, they represent intricate craftsmanship and quality fit for a Queen. The presence of a signature on the fine antique jewelry doesn’t always mean a huge increase in value. A signed piece of Jewelry from Cartier, if perhaps it was a mass-produced item would not increase the value significantly. However, if it were a Cartier signature embedded into a fine vintage Cartier antique such as the well sought after ‘Panthere De Cartier’ collection then the story would be very different, adding potentially even tens of thousands to it's value!
The forgotten Jewels
It is not only the famous jewelry houses to look out for however. There are many vintage jewelry houses that simply went out of business over time. Forgotten by the public but not by the collectors! Aletto Brothers, Kieselstien-Cord and Raymond C Yard to name but a few of the forgotten brands that you should keep an eye out for.
Gone but not forgotten
Then there are the jewelry houses that have completely changed their style over the years. Take Bvlgari for example, what they are today is so far from what they were in the 50’s that if you come across a signed piece from that decade, any collector would be excited to get their hands on it!
How do you examine vintage jewelry?
Practice, practice, practice. Being able to spot a genuine piece is not a skill you will acquire overnight and will require significant training of the eye. Start with a jeweler’s loupe (10 x magnification) to be able to really study signed vintage jewelry
How do I know if a signature is authentic?
Get to know your signatures. A new signature will appear just that way, be too clear and bright. Some designers like Cartier for example have changed their signature significantly over time, so be sure to know the difference before dismissing a different looking Cartier signature on a piece of fine antique jewelry. Another tip is that Cartier originally drew a faint line first and the signature was written on top of the line. So what may look like a scratch could be a sign of something much greater.
If there is no signature does that mean it is not genuine?
Not necessarily…. When dealing with fine antique jewelry you cannot guarantee that the piece will have maintained its signature. Over time the signature can partially if not completely fade away. But there must be another way to authenticate the piece to maintain its value.
Where to start when collecting signed Jewelry
Like any collection, it is important to know what you want to look for. Whether that be starting a collection from a jewelry maker or a particular period. The art nouveau period within Cartier was a particularly outstanding genre for example. Know your niche and let the treasure hunt begin!