12 Excellent Reference Books for Collecting Vintage Costume Jewellery in the UK

You’re hungry for knowledge and you want to learn more about the old costume jewellery that you have. What is the best book to purchase for those who live within the UK?

There are numerous reference books to choose from and most have been made on the US by authors who have a collection based inside the US. How specific is that to our readers here in the UK?

So here’s a brief guide of 12 books to give a good over view of knowledge that spans from Victorian through to in the 80s and on. Actually there are more than 12 books here, because certain authors have written more than one book that’s useful.

This guide should cover the general unsigned pieces and Jewellery Jobs some jewellery that is signed. However there are no specific guides written specifically for the majority of massively produced costume jewellery signed by a costume designer manufactured by UK companies or specifically exclusively for the UK market, apart from Wilson and Butler.

1. Costume Jewellery: A Collectors Guide by Caroline Behr (Miller’s) (ISBN 1-84000-373-1)

It is a good starting point with an overview and time line of Victorian, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, 1950s, Czech, Austrian and some designers. Easy to read , and has good photographs. Size of the handbag is ideal for reading on trains.

2. Retro Costume Jewellery: A Passion of fabulous Fakes written by Carol Tanenbaum (ISBN 1-85149-511-8)

A must to purchase and has the time line and expanded information. Includes Art Nouveau, Birmingham silver, machine, intro to Bakelite, and plastic as well as an index to glossaries. A lot of great photographs, but none of the backs (a must for identification however, it is not often included in any book)

3. How to Collect Jewelry and how to get more for less! Written by Leigh Leshner (ISBN 0-89689-180-1)

Another time line and over view through history but an absolute gem of a book because it shows the mechanisms and backs as well as findings that are essential to dating jewellery. This book looks at style and materials with specific photographs. Prom jewellery, art plastic Retro, manufacturing methods, Scandinavian, cameos. The majority of information is short, but a great visual guide. US book with price in dollars information (2005). Another great novel to enjoy on the train or bus as fits into your bag.

4. Jewels and Jewellery Clare Phillips (V & A) (ISBN 1-855177-535-4) or Jewellery: The Decorative Arts Library edited by Janet Swarbrick (ISBN 1-902328-13-2)

I was unable to decide the one of these UK books was more informative. This is why I’ve included both

Jewels and Jewellery comprises items, a chronology of styles and manufacturing and distribution. Photos of pieces from the museum. Included are silver filigree, Berlin Iron, pearls, enamel and glass. Faith jewellery Cut steel, love and mourning jewellery that’s not only bog or jet oak. Lalique, Ashbee, Liberty Cymric, Wilson, Gaskins and a time line pre Victorian to the 2000s.

Jewellery is an artistic celebration of the world’s most renowned jewellery making techniques. From the ancient world up to 1989. Full of information and photographs along with details about Jewellery in the UK.

5. Popular Jewelry of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s by Roseann Ettinger (ISBN 0-7643-2470-5)

Three decades of jewelry demonstrating styles and trends that affected the designs. US book that includes a price guide (2006) The majority of vintage jewellery found originates from this time and so makes this book invaluable to read. Well illustrated with pieces that are recognized within the UK. The book includes Mod jewellery, oriental influences, Pop Art, novelty items, revival pieces beads, Art Metal, jade plastic, wood, and pave. The author has also produced reference books about other periods that are worth investing in.

6. Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry by Leigh Leshner (ISBN 0-87349-954-9)

Bakelite isn’t often seen in jewelry in the same quantity and with the same variety as the United States. It is useful to recognize and see the variety of designs that plastic is used in along with other materials. Celluloid, Lucite, thermoset and thermoplastics, laminated and reverse-carved are the most common found and in UK and easily over looked. This book can make you look at plastic accessories in a different light. There isn’t enough information on galalith, the early plastic kind that is more popular within the UK. To learn more about this, read books on Jakob Bengel.

7. Collecting Costume Jewelry 303: The flip side , exploring costume jewelry from the back by Julia C Carroll. (ISBN 978-1-57432-626-0)

This is the book that will teach you the essentials to have knowledge of vintage costume jewellery. The various components, including gemstones and cabochons which can be extremely valuable in dating and hardware clues that might be not noticed. Cameos and rhinestones. Signed jewellery and photos of signatures, art glass, pin backs and so much more. I go through this book and am always surprised by something I have not noticed before. One of my most useful books when it comes to knowledge. It also contains a section about designers, including Jonette Jewelry Co (JJ) that aren’t usually found within other publications. US book that includes price guides (2010)

Julia Carroll has produced other books, including Costume Jewelry 101 and 202 in this serious. Both are worth having for reference and also.

8. Baubles, Buttons and Beads: The Heritage of Bohemia by Sibelle Jargstorf (ISBN 0-88740-467-7)

This is another gem of a book; as we had an abundance of antique jewellery imported into this country from Bohemia from the time of during the Second World War and then in smaller quantities following. There is still plenty to discover and buy, but the prices are increasing. Sections on buttons, filigree glass beads, glass beads and glass cameos of the 1930s, enamel and more importantly the history. This book has helped me to date and determine cameos, filigree jewelry and dazzling coloured rhinestone jewelry that was popular in the 1920s and 30s. Hand-finished and machine-made clippers for dresses and the various types of finishes that were used.

Sibylle Jergstorf has also written books on beads and glass that are a treasure.

9. Cameos: A Pocket Guide by Monica Lynn Clements and Patricia Rosser Clements (ISBN 0-7643-1728-8)

While there are many books on cameos, this small packet contains a wealth of cameos in materials other than shell. Shell is probably the most sought-after cameo jewellery type but I did not find it to make sense. I was interested in knowing more about the glass, plastic gemstone, metal and cameos that I was finding. How can I tell which materials were that were used and how they were created. This book contains a wealth of photos that cover a vast amount of cameos in these materials , and is also is recognized by UK market. UK market. US book with $ price guidelines (2003) For more information about cameo jewellery , you can purchase any of the versions in Cameos: Old and New by Anna M Miller.

10. Victorian Jewellery by Margaret Flowers (No ISBN)

It’s not a book about vintage but antique jewellery that is now out of print , but available in different editions. It was published in 1951 and is it is well worth reading. An insight into Victorian influences as seen as a revival piece. Birmingham’s role in mass produced jewelry. This book is often mentioned in later books as being influential. It covers the Victorian period in 3 parts and each section includes the most frequently used themes of that period. It made me laugh at the total snobbery of the writer at times but well worth reading. A few photos, mostly in black and white which aren’t as clear.

11. Scottish Jewellery: A Victorian Passion by Diana Scarisbrick

Scottish jewelry is everywhere in the UK. From the mid nineteenth century as the popularity of the jewellery increased there were factories situated in Scotland and England making pieces and designs that were in the hundreds of thousands. This continued through the latter part of the 20th century, with the most significant being Birmingham. This book is an excellent introduction. It’s not as thorough as it would have been, and do not expect information on vintage Scottish souvenir jewellery made from Miracle, The Ward Brothers, Exquisite or Hollywood. Pages of photos of agate and silver brooches and bracelets. However, the book is made more complicated by the photos guide at the end of the book. A great book to begin to learn about Scottish themes.

12. Warman’s Jewelry: Fine & Costume Jewelry 4Th Edition by Kathy Flood (ISBN 1-4402-0801-8)

This is the 4th version of Warman’s jewelry Identification price Guide. So 3 other books to read and acquire. This edition covers two centuries. are covered in pearls cameos, figural Art Nouveau, Art Deco and plastic. The distinction among Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian jewellery. Again page after page of images of jewelry. Good mix of fresh antique, vintage and modern jewellery. A variety of international designs that I have found to be applicable to the UK. US guide with $ price guide (2010)

This is a short overview of the most common books on antique jewellery. It will be updated as more books come onto the market or I discover out of print books. Then there are more specific books on Bengal, Avon, Sarah Coventry, Egyptian Revival jewellery, Haskell, D & E, Wilson & Butler and so many more to go through.

Even with this volume of information , I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. As I mentioned earlier, there is a dearth of information about jewellery made by Ciro Pearls, Sphinx, Exquisite, Miracle, Hollywood, Thomas Le Mott and many other companies that mass produced jewellery in this country in the twentieth century, which is now extremely collectible across the globe.

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