Beware: New Reproduction Jewelry

Fakelite, contemporary reproduction Bakelite jewelry, is causing even expert dealers in Bakelite jewelry to make mistakes, and it has the potential to cause a dramatic decrease in value of Bakelite jewelry collections. History has shown us that when reproductions are introduced into the marketplace in, any area of collecting, the result is a negative impact on the value of those collections.

If you are doubtful that there are people are out there who actively and knowingly market reproduction costume jewelry including plastics, as authentically old and do so for profit, here is an interesting post we found on a site where trading partners for companies in India were being solicited:

Buy Lead - WANTED : Bakelite bangle bracelets: US based Company seeking supplier of Bakelite Bangle Bracelets that pass the United States testing processes with Simchrome and 409 All Purpose Cleaner. Seeking Bakelite Bangle Bracelets in all widths, and 2 1/2" (inside diameters), Carved if available.

Online jewelry dealers are often not only buyers of antique and vintage costume jewelry, but they are collectors as well. Whether buying or selling, everyone needs to be aware that costume jewelry is experiencing a rising tide of fakes, reproductions and 'reissues,' due to the increase in value of classic vintage pieces in this collecting niche. Fakes and reproductions are currently being marketed either as 'vintage' original plastics; as original pieces signed by a known maker like Weiss, Eisenberg, Lisner or Coro, or as anonymous but authentic pieces from an earlier time period, and in a recognizable style, like Victorian or Art Deco.

As the above advertisement indicates, fakes of Bakelite jewelry do exist, and the old method of 'testing' is no longer sufficient to accurately identify an object's age. In addition to testing, other characteristics must be considered when determining the authenticity and age of a piece. Today’s chemists can easily duplicate the original formulas used to produce plastic jewelry of the past; and modern manufacturers can re-create molds and produce authentic looking plastic jewelry complete with hand-carved details and in the original colors.

Just as a knowledgeable collector/dealer of glass or pottery will observe other factors besides the obvious maker's mark, the collector of costume jewelry should also train the eye to concentrate on aspects like color, design, execution of decoration, quality of manufacture, and the overall 'look' of a piece, and not rely solely on a single characteristic, such as the ‘test’ for plastic jewelry. For other types of costume jewelry, the biggest trap the buyer should avoid is depending solely on a visible makers mark for identification. Collectors and buyers should keep in mind that fake makers marks, often an exact replica of the original mark, can easily be applied during the manufacturing process, just like adding a rhinestone or a finding.

Antique and vintage jewelry often will have a patina, a fine coating of oxide on the surface of the metal and is one characteristic that should be considered when evaluating the age of an item. Keeping in mind that a patina can also be added by using any number of products specifically made for the purpose of artificially ‘aging’ a piece of metal. Items without patina usually look new and shiny. Other characteristics common to reproduced jewelry items are cheap construction, no rhodium plating, and/or the item contains stones not used by the original manufacturer. And often, because the piece has a little pad of metal on the back that says 'Weiss' (or some other makers name), the tendency is to assume the tag is correct.

Sadly, the time for making assumptions in the field of collectible costume jewelry has passed. If you take the time to search the Internet with such keyword searches as 'Fake Weiss' or 'reproduction costume jewelry', you might be surprised at what you will find. Just because a ring made in 1650 can be expected to have rose cut stones, or it would be appropriate for a brooch from 1880 to have a simple C clasp, doesn't mean rose cut stones and simple C clasps can't also be made today. Be advised, careful consideration of all possible characteristics expected to be found in a piece of antique or vintage costume jewelry is required if one is to accurately authenticate and date an item.

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