Recently author Jacqueline Rehmann said that as a collector, the only thing she likes better than finding a new piece of vintage jewelry is getting a new book on the subject.
Jackie, the last time we talked you promised some tips on choosing great reference books.
All books are not the same! Some have spectacular photographs but are thin on information. Some are disorganized and make it difficult for the reader to sift through the information. Before buying, it is important to read reviews. Sometimes they are helpful; sometimes not. But it’s a starting point.
I agree. Recently I purchased a lot of Kenneth J. Lane jewelry from an estate. Some of my price guides had a few pieces featured, but I needed more. I read the reviews for Kenneth Jay Lane Fabulous by Nancy Schiffer. Some reviewers complained that the pieces featured were not his early pieces but instead the pieces he sold on QVC—it was exactly what I was looking for! What was meant as a negative review actually gave me the information I needed and the book has been a wonderful resource for dating these pieces!
Talking with others is another way to find the right book. The Jewelry Ring is a friendly and welcoming email discussion forum for jewelry enthusiasts, collectors, experts and historians. All of their archives are open to the public. There are also other websites, blogs, and Facebook pages devoted to jewelry collecting and all are great ways to stay connected with savvy collectors and dealers and get informed opinions on which books may be best for you. I correspond with lots of jewelry folks so we are always talking about new books–what to buy and what not to buy. For instance, I am anxiously awaiting the publication of a new Napier book that I found out about in a CJCI mailing.
Word of mouth is a great way to find out about new books. Recently I heard from Kathryn Atkins, owner of Ruby Lane shop GoGo Vintage that there was a new Sarah Coventry book on the market that she found useful in listing, Identifying Sarah Coventry Jewelry: 1949-2009 by Sandra Sturdivant and Shirley Crabtree. There are some companies like Trifari, Coro and Sarah Coventry that named their sets and having those titles is a big advantage in bringing in collectors. Jackie, I find myself buying more books, more frequently the longer I am in business!
I buy new books often and am always on the lookout for new or old books that I don’t have. I sometimes look for used older copies to help keep costs down, especially of the "classics" like Jody Shields’ book "All that Glitters" (Rizzoli International Publication). Collectors should also be on the lookout for copies of the VFCJ and CJCI journals (now both retired). These magazines are absolute treasures of information and it was constantly updated. They also fostered a sense of community among collectors which I greatly miss.
Do you see any gaps or lacking areas in the reference books available today? I know as a seller I would like to see more reference books featuring some of the newer high end designers like Daniel Swarovski, Nolan Miller and Joan Rivers. I do appreciate books like Rhinestone Jewelry Figurals, Animals and Whimsicals by Marcia “Sparkles” Brown which have a few of those pieces featured.
As a collector I’d like to see a comprehensive book on Trifari. I love Hattie Carnegie jewelry and think this would be a great area to expand. One could add DeNicola and some KJL pieces to a Carnegie volume since the pieces are often similar and without signatures, even the experts have trouble figuring out who made what. I’d like to see (or write!) a book on 1960’s jewelry that includes everything from rhinestones to the fabulous Mod pieces. What a decade that was!
Jackie, please tell us, as a collector, which are your favorite reference books and why?
Along with those I have already mentioned here’s my list. Some are out of print and only available on the secondary market.
Plastic Jewelry of the 20th Century, Lillian Baker (Collector Books): As far as I’m concerned she was one of the pioneers in this field.
Jewelry of the Stars: Creations from Joseff of Hollywood, Joanne Dubbs Ball (Schiffer): Another pioneer who wrote great books!
Fabulous Costume Jewelry: History of Fantasy and Fashion in Jewels, Vivienne Becker (Schiffer): A jewelry historian, her well-researched volumes are worth the investment.
American Costume Jewelry, Art and Industry-2 Volumes Carla Ginelli and Roberto Brunialti (Schiffer): Prepare to drool over some of the pictures.
Copper Art Jewelry: A Different Lustre, Matthew L. Burkholz and Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan (Schiffer): The only book that I know of about copper jewelry—excellent!
Costume Jewelry Figurals, Kathy Flood (Krause Publications): Always clever and entertaining, her books are a fun read.
Mid-Century Plastic Jewelry Susan Maxine Klein (Schiffer): Ravishing photos, well researched—if you like plastic jewelry get this book.
Faking It Kenneth Jay Lane and Harrice Simmons Miller. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.): Fun read, good insight into Mr. Lane’s design inspirations.
Celluloid: Collector’s Reference and Value Guide Keith Lauer and Julie Robinson (Collector Books): The best (only?) book about celluloid ever published.
European Designer Jewelry Ginger Moro (Schiffer): This volume is a classic; no library is complete without it.
Bakelite Pins, Karima Parry (Schiffer): Tips on recognizing fakelite and great photos.
Classic American Costume Jewelry, Volumes 1 and 2, Jacqueline Rehmann (Collector Books): I have first-hand knowledge on this one! Well researched, lots of primary source documents; Vol. 2 has never before seen photos of the Elzac factory from Eliot Handler.
Well it looks like I have some more shopping to do! Thanks for the information and insight. And for those reading the blog, we would love for you to add your own favorites to the comments!
Cindy Brown is the owner of Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane
Jacqueline Rehmann has loved costume jewelry since she was a child and is the author of two books on jewelry and has also published numerous articles in a variety of antiques publications, as well as the former VFCJ journal and Costume Jewelry Collectors International (CJCI).